Thursday, 8 May 2014

Keeping Ducks!

Ever since a young and impressionable youth watched the Adventures of Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century, Daffy Duck has always been my favourite Looney Tune. You can keep your Bugs Bunnys's, your Tweetie Pie's and even your Foghorn Leghorn. When it comes to easily angered waterfowl, Daffy Duck is the best there is.

This love of a cartoon duck has clearly continued throughout my life, as ducks continue to be my favourite all these years later. There is something enviably enjoyable about watching a duck bob around on a pond or hearing their mocking irreverent laughter echoing from the garden. As such, this week's Flyte so Fancy Chicken Blog turns its attention to what you will need for keeping ducks.

Keeping Ducks
Ducks in the Flyte so Fancy Garden
The first (and perhaps most obvious) question about ducks, is water. Here at FSF HQ our ducks and geese live down in the poultry paddock with our chickens, where we have a nice big pond which they happily splash around in. However how much water do ducks need? Well, they do need access to water, a small pond or kids paddling pool works well. They need access to this all the time, whether they are enclosed or roaming free. The ducks will clean their bills and feathers in the water so they do need something to dip their toes in. Anything larger than a washing bowl is fine as they need to be able to dunk their heads to wash their eyes. This is important.

Duck and Goose Housing
Puddleduck Duck House
When it comes to duck housing there are a few different options. There are the smaller variety for putting onto floats and sailing out to the middle of a larger pond for predator proof duck islands. The second is the larger sort. Duck houses don't come with perches or nest boxes like a chicken coop would, as ducks are a little less fussy, but what they do need is plenty of room inside and a flat floor. Most breeds of duck require a ramp for entry as duck feet are designed for swimming not climbing, however some breeds such as Carolina's and Ringed Teal have no problems climbing. Otherwise making sure that the pop-hole is large enough for access (tall doors are especially necessary for Runner ducks as they don't like to dip their heads) and their is plenty of ventilation, the only other consideration is access for cleaning, as ducks do tend to be 'mucky' birds. A good absorbent bedding, like HempBed-E is a must. Ducks can share housing with chickens, but they need an area without perches inside the coop for themselves.

Timber Waterfowl Housing
Small Classic Duck House
There are specific feeds available which are aimed at waterfowl and have correct level of protein and nutrients for happy ducks. However, if you are putting the feed into a feeder you need to make sure that it is one with plenty of access. Unlike chickens who peck at their feed, ducks shovel it with their long flat bills, so you need a feeder that gives them room to make this shoveling action. Most people opt for a trough or tray. Equally with a drinker they will need this room for their bills to move. Even if your ducks have access to a pond it can still be a good idea to put out a source of fresh water for them to drink. The Galvanised Bucket Drinkers prove very popular as a drinker for ducks, as they cant get into it to make it dirty.

There are some great duck breeds for the duck keeping starter;
  • Standing erect, Runner Ducks are unusual to look at, and run rather than waddle (hence their name). They have a tendency to lay their eggs wherever they feel like it, but they are a good layer, producing around two hundred eggs a year. 
  • Aylesbury Ducks are the classic white duck with a yellow bill, they are however slightly less prodigious at laying eggs (about a hundred a year) but wonderfully pretty to watch bobbing about. 
  • Call Ducks are small but noisy waterfowl. You will need to clip their wings to stop them flying away but are a petite and friendly duck and are great for small gardens. 
Hatching Ducklings
Flyte so Fancy Ducklings
While not as prolific at laying eggs as chickens are, duck eggs are extremely delicious and come in some really wonderful shades of colour. For those of you thinking of getting a few ducks to waddle around your garden and have any more questions, leave us a comment, give us a ring for a chat or I can heartily recommend watching the Daffy Duck classic cartoon "Duck Amuck", just to see how much fun keeping ducks can be.

That's all Folks!

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