52 Homesteading Skills in One Year: Project #20: Raising ducks
Some people dream of owning fancy cars or taking exotic vacations. I dream of raising ducks. (Yeah, I know. You’re shocked.)
So when my husband recently arrived home to find six ducks and a duck house in our yard, he didn’t even look surprised. I think he has simply resigned himself to the fact that his wife is determined to make his life as
difficult fun as possible.
Raising ducks – How to
Find a source
We bought our ducks from Rick’s Funny Farm in Amherst, Nova Scotia. I highly recommend Rick Goodwin as a source for ducks. He takes pride in his operation and is very friendly and knowledgeable.
Now if you’ve ever seen a duckling, you know just how irresistible they are with their big, webbed feet and fluffy, down feathers. I had planned to buy three ducklings. But when I got to Rick’s Funny Farm I succumbed to their cuteness and ended up with six – four Khaki Campbells and two Saxonys both of which are eggcellent egg layers.
Build a duck house
I am fortunate my parents are supportive of my farming aspirations. In fact, it was my dad who accompanied me to pick up the ducklings and even built this awesome duck house, which makes me smile every time I look out the window. Check out this guide to duck houses from HGTV.
Purchase a heat lamp
You will need to invest in a heat lamp to keep your ducks warm for the first few weeks. I used the brooder hen pictured below and highly recommend it.
Food and water
Ducklings also need food, water and, if you are giving them any fresh greens or other treats, grit. Ducks don’t have teeth so they use small rocks to help break up their food.
Note: Unlike chickens, ducks need to rinse their nostrils and face so they can’t have a typical chicken waterer. A simple solution is to cut a hole in a bucket or a water jug.
Once the ducks are around six to eight weeks of age and are fully feathered, they can be moved outdoors with shelter from predators at night.
To swim or not to swim
Although I’ve read ducks don’t need access to swimming water, they sure love it and I think it helps keep them cleaner and free from bugs.
We don’t have a pond, but the ducks have their own kiddie pool as well as a running stream (okay, it’s really a ditch) where they splash around on a daily basis.
What I wish I would have known about raising
You’ll give them baths in your tub
I don’t think my mom (who must have the cleanest house in all of Moncton) realized the ducks would be taking daily baths in her tub. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but it really is so much fun watching them swim and dive and waddle around.
Ducks like to shake their tail feathers
Ducklings take particular joy in shaking their poop as far and as wide as possible. Yup, it’s true. They like to “shake their tail feathers”.
You’ll need ear plugs
I didn’t realize that sleeping next to six ducks for three weeks would entail me waking up at night to their peeping and resorting to ear plugs. Ducklings can be surprisingly loud. Keep them in an area separate from where your sleeping such as the garage.
Of course, their cuteness makes up for all of these minor hardships, right? I mean, come on. Who can resist these faces?
If you’re thinking about welcoming ducks to your farm, here are some of the reasons I wanted to try raising ducks.
Why raise ducks?
They eat slugs…and other bugs
I’ve already witnessed my ducks chowing down on slugs, worms, flies and even June bugs. They also forage for a large part of their food. If you have a garden, you know how helpful a few slug eating machines could be. Their manure also makes excellent compost.
You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency.
— Bill Mollison
The very finest eggs
Ducks lay bigger, more nutritious eggs than chickens. In fact, duck eggs are the newest, coolest, foodie fashion.
Compared to chicken eggs, duck eggs are about 50 per cent bigger, they are more nutritious, they last longer in the fridge thanks to their thicker shells and they will make your cakes rise like a dream. What’s not to love?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what they taste like because I’ve never had one – yet. But those who have, tell me they taste similar to chicken eggs.
Now I know what you are thinking – “Kimberlee, this sounds like one big advertisement for your eggs.” You got me! I am shamelessly promoting my pasture raised eggs. You want some, right?
They are TOUGH
Everything I’ve read says that ducks are more hardy and disease resistant than chickens. Rick Goodwin, the duck breeder from Rick’s Funny Farm, told me not to be surprised if I see the ducks hanging around outside during a snow storm. Our previous chickens didn’t even like to walk in the snow.
So what do you think? Have you considered raising ducks? Have you ever tried or would you try a duck egg? Which do you like better – chicken or duck eggs? I’d love to hear your thoughts.