The Khaki Campbell Breed: An Ideal Duck for Small Farms

Reader Contribution by Michael Feldmann
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The Khaki Campbell is a great general-purpose duck for small farms as only a few of them are needed for a constant supply of eggs and meat to the table. They are excellent layers, providing an average of 300 eggs a year, more than the average chicken, and having reliably great-tasting meat.

This breed is known for being a good forager, which makes its eggs very nutritious and tasty. Despite their wild ancestry, Khaki Campbells are quite tame and can be let out of their pen to forage on slugs, worms, ticks, and snails in the garden or pond. Khaki Campbells are an attractive breed, resembling one of its close ancestors the wild mallard. They are an easy duck to raise and have a tame and pleasant character. And, unlike chickens that lay eggs at any time of the day or night, ducks lay eggs at the morning time (my experience is usually around 9:00 in the morning). The reliability makes collecting eggs easier.

Like all ducks, Khaki Campbells love and need to have access to water, so it is best to build a small pond. A little plastic baby pool or a used bathtub also works well to make a swimming place for them. They are energetic ducks and need plenty of space to move around and to forage.

History of the Khaki Campbell

The Khaki Campbell was bred in England in the 1800s by Mrs. Adele Campbell, who wanted an attractive duck breed to supply both eggs and meat for her small farm. They were bred by crossing an Indian Runner that was an exceptional layer with a Rouen of good size. The resulting duck was then bred with a wild Mallard to develop hardiness and a good foraging and brooding instinct for her breed.

The resulting breed was presented to the public in 1898 and proved to be an excellent duck for both eggs and meat. And probably the best duck for small farms.

Caring for Ducklings

When you first bring your new Khaki Campbell ducklings from the store, your house is full of happiness. The Khaki Campbell duckling is a small, good-natured animal; a gentle and responsive pet. Be prepared to purchase a few; Khaki Campbell ducklings need the company of their own kind and should not be kept alone.

Find a suitable incubator. After you get acquainted with your new ducklings, you should find a suitable incubator for them. Plastic containers, cardboard boxes or a large glass aquarium are suitable for this purpose. The box should have good insulation as the ducklings need to be kept warm. Don’t choose a box with too many holes in the sides or bottom. Line the bottom of your incubator with wood shavings or clean towels. Avoid newspapers or slippery materials. The chicks are still very unsteady on their feet in the first few weeks and can easily slip and injure themselves quickly on surfaces such as plastic or even newspaper.

Heat source. Ducklings need to be kept very warm for the first few weeks of life. So, you need to buy an incubator lamp from a pet store and clip it over your incubator. Use a 100-watt lightbulb to start with. For very young ducklings, this should generate the right amount of heat. Make sure that part of the incubator is further away from the heat so the ducklings can retreat and cool off. Make sure the light bulb isn’t too close to your ducklings. Otherwise, you could suffer from the high temperatures or even burn yourself if you touch the light bulb. If your incubator is very shallow, you should use a piece of wood or other sturdy support to hang the lamp a little higher.

Water. Make sure you have plenty of water. Place a drinking bowl in your incubator. Choose a very shallow bowl in which your ducklings can hold their beaks but not their entire head. Ducks prefer to be able to keep their nostrils free while drinking. If you give them access to deep water, they could climb in and drown. Change the water every day so your ducklings don’t get sick from contaminated water.

Feed. Feed your ducklings with duck starter. The ducklings will not eat anything for the first 24 hours after hatching as they are still absorbing nutrients from the egg yolk. Then they eat duck starter, a food made up of tiny grains specially designed for rearing chicks; you can buy it at the pet store. Buy a plastic food bowl, fill it, and place it in your incubator. If the ducklings eat very slowly, add some water to the food to make it easier for them to swallow. You can add a small amount of sugar to their water for the first few days to get them off to a good start with lots of energy.

It is also recommended to feed weak ducklings with egg yolks. Very weak ducklings may need a few extra egg yolk nutrients before they are ready for a duck starter feeding. Feed them the egg yolks made from mashed duck eggs until they’re more interested in grain foods.

Housing Khaki Campbell Ducks 

The space required per duck in the barn is between half a square meter and one square meter. A duck coop must be light and dry. In addition, the coop should be protected from drafts and at a comfortable temperature.

To prevent predators such as racoons from breaking in, you have to make the ducks’ coop safe. The best way to defend ducks from predators is to lock the duck coop at night. An eye hook is a good choice for it. You can also build a wire fence around the duck coop. And it’s also a good idea to build a duck coop off the ground on stilts. This both will greatly prevent predators from entering.

The duck coop must include the following:

Size. The duck coop should be 4 square feet of floorspace per duck. Since ducks usually sleep on piles of bedding on the floor, they need enough space to be able to get comfortable. The coop should also be at least 3 feet tall, with vents along the top near the roof to allow for good air flow.

Flooring. A piece of inexpensive vinyl covering above the floor will make cleaning easier and also prevent water from spilling onto the floor. So, you can leave water in the coop overnight.

Entrance and exit. The opening door of your duck coop should be enough for two ducks to enter and exit at the same time. Because ducks often like to be pushed and shoved, and can get stuck if the door is too small.

Sleeping area. Ducks, unlike chickens, do not need roosting to sleep and rarely use nesting boxes, they preferring instead to nest in the corner on the floor. So, you need to put bedding on the floor of the duck coop. Pine shavings work fine for bedding, but I very recommend using straw instead. Straw has excellent insulation properties during the cold winters, warming ducks; it also holds its shape better so they don’t go to sleep on cold floor. The straw also does not get wet like wood shavings when wet, and does not contain mold like hay.

Food and water area. The ducks must be provided with food and water at all times. It is best to offer the ducks fresh food and water every day in a certain area of the duck coop. You should always clean the containers daily to keep pathogens away.

Water and Feed for Ducks on a Small Farm

Ducklings can be fed regular chick feed. (Make sure this is not a drug, because the ducklings eat more than the chickens and there is a risk that they may overuse the drug.) However, ducklings have higher niacin needs than chickens, so add some brewer’s yeast to the feed. to help them digest food. building strong bones.

Raw oats can also be slowly added to their feed for added protein and nutrients until a 25% oats to 75% feed ratio is achieved. You should also use grit in the form of commercial chick grit or coarse dirt to help the ducklings digest their food.

Treats. Healthy treats like dandelion greens, chopped grass and weeds, worms, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, peas, and moistened oatmeal are all favorite for ducks. Ducks don’t like to eat wilted or trampled greens, so I treat them directly to their bowl of water, where they happily scoop them up with their bills.

When they eat, the ducklings grab a pile of food, then dip it in water to moisten and swallow. Their food will get wet and should be replaced away daily. Wet and moist food can contain mold and bacteria, especially in a warm brooder environment.

I use and very recommend using simple chicken feeder that can be bought at pet store or tractor supply. Chicken feeders ensure less spillage, regulate feeding and they restrict food fights. Now, if you have a bully in your duck coop then we suggest you get more than one chicken feeder so that everyone gets their share. It’s also a good idea to place their food under a heating lamp, where the heat will dry them out a bit.

A very small duckling will drink about half a gallon of water a week. By seven weeks, ducklings are drinking half a gallon of water a day, so make sure their water is always full. Handle your ducks as often as often as possible. Bring them treats and soon they will literally be eating out of your hands! 

Water is Essential for Our Ducks

Ducks and water are inseparable friends. One of the most important things you can do to keep your ducks healthy is to provide them with an unlimited supply of clean fresh water. They need water to digest their food, to dip their head in water to clear their nostrils and keep their eyes clean, and they need to be able to preen in the water.

Each duck will drink about 4 cups of water every day. So, if you have a just four ducks, that’s one gallon of water to drink every day.

If you have space to give them for swimming, they will absolutely very love it. You don’t have to dig a huge pond; a little plastic baby pool or a used bathtub also works great to make a swimming place for your ducks. They will dirty this water, and they will do it faster than you think! When holding the ducks, they cannot be prevented from getting into a pool of water and swimming. They toss sand and dirt into the water and drop food into it while eating. The small pool works great because it is easy to drain and quickly filled with a hose.

About once a week, I prefer to clean the pool with a dishwashing brush and a little vinegar to keep algae out.

Health Issues

Ducks generally are susceptible to fewer diseases than any other poultry. And this is a great advantage when raising Khaki Campbell ducks, although the health of ducks largely depends on the proper care and management system. If you manage a healthy rearing method and provide them nutritious food and fresh water, they don’t get sick at all.

Keeping these various points in mind, you can easily be able to care for your small ducklings, build a safe and secure duck coop, feed and water properly, and finally have fun with your ducks.


Michael Feldmannis a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’s MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.


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