Win a copy of The Prairie Homestead Cookbook this week in the Cooking Forum forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
  • Dave Burton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Steve Thorn
  • Eric Hanson

Raising happy adult ducks

 
Posts: 4
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Long-time duck appreciator turned duck caretaker after I came across two very thin and friendly ducklings someone dumped at a park a few months ago. They are fully grown now (pekin male and what looks to be a khaki or khaki-hybrid female), and they are being raised as pets (some eggs would be a nice bonus though). I'm getting my PhD studying bird behavior, and am fully aware of the breeding behavior of male ducks. No eggs yet, but they are definitely trying to get there. I haven't observed anything that I would consider aggressive or harmful to the female yet (their little pair dances in the kiddie pool are pretty cute). I just had a couple questions in regards to making sure my ducks (mostly the female) have a happy life:

1. Has anyone had success with just a pair of ducks? Or are more female ducks in my future a strong possibility?
2. Is there any enrichment that may help my male keep his mind off other things? Maybe learning tricks (they already know "duck house" means go to their hut), or some type of puzzle/food activities? They have a little pool in a fenced in area near my house, but I saw a coyote on my property so now I'm nervous about leaving them unattended. Other than letting them roam around the yard I'm not doing any other enrichment.
3. Are oyster shells necessary for ducks?
 
pollinator
Posts: 281
Location: SE Oklahoma
44
hugelkultur duck forest garden
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Amanda Beckman wrote:Long-time duck appreciator turned duck caretaker after I came across two very thin and friendly ducklings someone dumped at a park a few months ago. They are fully grown now (pekin male and what looks to be a khaki or khaki-hybrid female), and they are being raised as pets (some eggs would be a nice bonus though). I'm getting my PhD studying bird behavior, and am fully aware of the breeding behavior of male ducks. No eggs yet, but they are definitely trying to get there. I haven't observed anything that I would consider aggressive or harmful to the female yet (their little pair dances in the kiddie pool are pretty cute). I just had a couple questions in regards to making sure my ducks (mostly the female) have a happy life:

1. Has anyone had success with just a pair of ducks? Or are more female ducks in my future a strong possibility?
2. Is there any enrichment that may help my male keep his mind off other things? Maybe learning tricks (they already know "duck house" means go to their hut), or some type of puzzle/food activities? They have a little pool in a fenced in area near my house, but I saw a coyote on my property so now I'm nervous about leaving them unattended. Other than letting them roam around the yard I'm not doing any other enrichment.
3. Are oyster shells necessary for ducks?



Hi Amanda. Success meaning getting eggs or reproducing? I lived on a place that had about 160 ducks. He never culled the males so some didn't have females and others had from 1 to 3. I have 2 young pairs now, but they just started mating and no eggs, yet.

Ducks love dried soldier flies and meal worms. I buy mine off of eBay. Mine eat sprouts I get from SerenitySprouts. I put Agrilabs VITAMINS & ELECTROLYTES PLUS on their sprouts daily. I get that from eBay, too, but you can buy these things at farm stores and some feed stores.

They need oyster shell when they're laying eggs. Predators are always a major problem. The day I was gifted with my 4 ducklings (by someone who knew I planned to get ducks -- but AFTER I was set up for them) - I bought 2 Livestock Guardian dog puppies.

I have electric poultry netting and used 1 fence to split it diagonally. The puppies are on one side (until they're more mature and calmer) and the ducks on the other. I also have fishing line criss-crossed above the fence to deter hawks.

And I have Night-Guard repellent tape strung up all the way around to deter all kinds of predators. It flashes really brightly off the outdoor light when the wind blows (and it blows most of the time here). But the puppies (which are now 50-65+ lbs each) are the primary reason I haven't had predator issues.
 
Amanda Beckman
Posts: 4
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Gail,

Thanks for getting back to me. I guess by success I meant have people had one female and one male, and the female didn't end up being bullied or injured by the male? Or are more female ducks in my future? It seems like you had a few more than a pair of ducks though! I haven't tried sprouts with them yet but I have a garden and could easily start growing some. And I will definitely get some oyster shells today. I will also look into night guard. Their enclosure is pretty sturdy (plywood on two sides and top and bottom, hardware cloth on the rest with no seams on the outisde), but maybe some night guard would be good for their fenced in yard I let them in. As for predator protection via a guardian animal, I would love to get some donkeys but that will probably require a lot of convincing to get my partner on board! Thanks again.
 
Posts: 84
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
13
cat dog duck trees urban fiber arts
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome, Amanda! And welcome to the wide world of silly ducks!

As far as getting frisky, there's not much you can do about it unless you separated them. The drake is larger than the hen, so I'd make sure they have plenty of water in their pool. That will make it easier on the hen because she'll be buoyant and there will be less stress on her body. Ducks will mate on land. I'm telling you - ducks are frisky! But a kiddie pool should be fine.

I do not recommend separating them. Ducks are social, and they do much better when there are at least two.

I must emphasize that no amount of enrichment in the world will keep them from mating. But that's okay. Look to see if the hen is missing feathers on the back of her neck. Hens have a mating pose where they stretch out their necks horizontal to the ground so the male can get a grip on the back of their necks. It's an invitation. They also will bob their heads sometimes. The head bobbing indicates that they're happy, ready to play, and/or ready to mate. I haven't seen the head bobbing indicate aggressive behavior.

As far as enrichment - ducks love frozen peas. The go nuts over them. They might eat them out of your hand. Once they understand that peas are the best thing ever, you can throw a handful or two into their pool. Peas are also a good source of niacin - ducks need niacin to help them maintain good bone health.

My ducks roam around my yard - I don't have a homestead. I live in the city and have ~.75 acre where they free range. I also have a lab mix who keeps an eye on them, especially now that the days are very short. I had 20 ducks. I processed four, and so far I haven't lost any to predators. I think that's mainly because it's hard for a raptor to navigate around the trees in the yard. Our main predator is raccoons. My dog has treed some at dusk. I don't have any electric fencing, but I do lock them up tightly at night.

Thanks for this thread!

ETA: Presently I have two adult females and four adult drakes. There were eight drakes. They didn't hurt the hens, but they got aggro with each other. The hens have paired off with two drakes. The hens are fine, and the drakes are fine. It's better now that there are fewer drakes.

I also have ten younger ducks that haven't reached sexual maturity. Those broke out as five drakes and five hens. So far, everyone is doing fine and living in the same house when it's dark outside. They put themselves to bed.

Ducks have distinct personalities, so I can't assume that the younger drakes are going to be cool with the hens or with the older drakes and hens once they reach sexual maturity. As of now, everyone is doing well.
 
Amanda Beckman
Posts: 4
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Beth,

Thanks for replying! I should clarify, I'm not trying to prevent them from mating. I'm just trying to prevent injuries to my female (neck wounds, stress). I dont think he is obsessively trying to do it yet, so I'd like to try to keep him from developing that habit. I definitely agree that animals have distinct personalities, so hopefully he stays polite.

They love their frozen peas!! They were a little bow-legged and wobbly when I first got them but a niacin supplement and lots of peas prevented them from having any leg or walking issues as adults.

Thanks again.
 
gardener
Posts: 1367
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
407
duck books chicken cooking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Having more females to the number of males may help "spread the cheer", but not necessarily. Sometimes a male chooses a favorite and the only thing that's helped with that in my duck house and run was moving a set of nest boxes just forward enough that the girl could hide behind them for some peace and quiet! The male needs to "mount" the female, so something like a 2 ft piece of pipe might do the job if it was a just large enough diameter for ducks to go through singly as an example (which I've heard someone used for Canada geese, but I haven't actually used for my ducks.) I like to have all my infrastructure like nest boxes easy to remove for cleaning, so using them to create two little "quiet spaces" has worked well.

My run has a ramp up to a shallow stock tank for spring to fall use. The benefit of a stock tank with proper fittings compared to a wading pool, is that I have added a long pipe which I can move to whichever plants downhill from the run would be willing to soak up poopy water (a bamboo patch in my case). Ducks go through a *lot* of water, so planning where that water is going to go is helpful. It's on my list to try some cattails on the down-slope portion where their drinking buckets go, as that area tends to get really damp also. My hope is that the cattails will soak up the moisture and nitrogen and give me biomass for composting, mulching or other uses. Granted, I've got about 15 ducks, rather than just two, but ducks *really* love water, so it makes sense to get multiple uses from the water if possible.

Many duck breeds form mated pairs, so it is actually possible that to introduce more females to your pair will do more harm than just giving the girl an "away corner". That said, I try to get my Muscovy ducks to raise my "Noisy ducks" (anything Pekin related), because even though they don't speak the same language, they do learn manners. I've had issues with incubator hatched roosters that didn't learn manners to the point that I had to cull them. Roosters we got who'd been raised by "real moms" would woo their hens and dance for them rather than just jumping them. The difference is obvious if you put the male with a new female and watch his reaction. I've had less opportunity to do this with the ducks, although it will happen soon as I've got some young incubator hatched, human raised ducklings that are just getting their adult plumage - I'm hoping it will go well, but I'm also prepared to cull if necessary and I understand that's very hard for some people to contemplate. I just don't abide rape, regardless of what type of animal is doing it!
 
Amanda Beckman
Posts: 4
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Jay,

Thanks for info! I didn't realize domestic ducks formed pairs. Since getting these two, I don't think I've ever seen them more than 3 feet apart. I like your ideas for using the water, making something where I can move the water around is definitely on my list! I'll be sure to post if I come up with some new training or enrichment activities for them!

 
Gail Gardner
pollinator
Posts: 281
Location: SE Oklahoma
44
hugelkultur duck forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Amanda Beckman wrote:Hi Jay,

Thanks for info! I didn't realize domestic ducks formed pairs. Since getting these two, I don't think I've ever seen them more than 3 feet apart. I like your ideas for using the water, making something where I can move the water around is definitely on my list! I'll be sure to post if I come up with some new training or enrichment activities for them!



It really depends on the duck. Right now I have 4, 1 male Buff (I think), 1 male Pekin and 2 female Pekins. They seem to have paired off with 1 female to 1 male. But strangely, one of the females seems to be kind of a loner duck. The three others bed down together in the daytime and she is off to herself. But at night, they all 4 sleep as close to the LGD puppies as they can.

And I see the smaller Pekin female swimming often. But the other 3 don't seem that interested in swimming. That is kind of weird, too. But where there were so many ducks, who knows how many liked to swim vs how many didn't? There was no way to tell with that many.
 
Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!