Raising Ducks: Choosing Breeds, Feed, Housing and More

Domestic ducks provide excellent meat and eggs, and — look out, slugs! — ducks are a great means of natural pest control for your garden. Find out how to get started with this multipurpose livestock.


| September 27, 2010



Natural Living Book

From teaching you how to preserve your garden harvests to how to reduce your energy consumption, “Natural Living” is a terrific resource for families and individuals looking to move toward a more gentle, green and self-sufficient way of life.


COVER: GAIA/OCTOPUS

The following is an excerpt from Natural Living: The 21st-Century Guide to a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle by Liz Wright (GAIA/Octopus, 2010). Whether you want to begin your journey to a more self-reliant life in the garden, in the kitchen, in the chicken coop or even in the wild, Natural Living has advice and inspiration to help you get started successfully. This excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Raising Your Own.” 

Domestic ducks not only produce a large number of good-sized, rich eggs, but they also make good table birds. They are increasingly popular with self-supporters, and they can also help you rid your land of slugs and snails as they forage.

Choosing a Breed

All domestic breeds (except the Muscovy) originate from the wild Mallard, but they have been developed for specific purposes. Most ducks still have a strong utility element — they provide meat and eggs — although there are exceptions. Like chickens, ducks are divided into bantam, heavy and light breeds, with the heavy breeds being better suited to the table and the light breeds providing the high egg layers.

Bantam Breeds 

The best known of the bantam breeds is the Call duck, so named for its loud and persistent quack. It makes a great pet, but is not a good layer. The Crested Miniature, which is an exhibition type, lays a useful 100 eggs a year, but the Silver Appleyard Miniature not only lays well but is also meaty for its size. The Australian Spotted also lays well and matures fast. Bantam breeds are good flyers and need to have their wings clipped.

Light Breeds 

kathy
10/1/2010 1:40:21 PM

I agree, ducks are great and provide high quality meat and eggs. But if you are new to ducks, and thinking about free ranging a flock there are a few more things you should know. If there are any low, wet spots in your yard the ducks will soon turn it into a giant stinky, muck pond. We just had a rain and the water accumulated in a 4ft x 4ft spot in the front lawn, the next morning the area was dabbled out to about 50ft x 50ft, the grass was gone, the clean rain water was gone, and the muck the ducks made went down about a foot. Ducks can squeeze through cracks, so if you have a garden make sure to fence it properly or you will not have any veggies at all, not even carrots or beets, they will scoop them out of the ground with their beaks. I know, one day my ducks got into the garden, all the carrots and beets were gone. The ducks just left holes, like cicada holes, in the ground. Plucking ducks is no fun, I pluck chickens and turkeys all the time, no problem. Ducks are the work of 10 chickens. It is better for me to just cut the breast meat and legs from the carcass for skinless boneless meat, which is excellent. One more thing, no matter how far back you are from the road all ducks will eventually want to sit right in the middle of that road.






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