How To Raise a Pet Duck

Everything you need to know about duck care

Three ducklings

Preplanning is essential in raising happy, healthy pet ducks. If you want to be able to handle your ducks, you will need to acquire them young and spend lots of hours handling them while they are ducklings. Before purchasing, ensure you are up to the task of raising and maintaining ducks; contrary to popular belief, it's not the same thing as keeping chickens or other birds.

To keep a duck as a pet, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have enough space to keep several ducklings happy? Ducks are social birds and should not be raised alone. You will need at least a minimum space of 10 feet per adult duck.
  • Is my yard a good home? Ducks will need shelter and a place to swim.
  • Can I keep them safe? Ducks have several natural predators: owls, hawks, foxes, snapping turtles, dogs, etc. Providing them with a large source of water can help protect them during the day. Locking them in a secure shelter at night might also be necessary.
  • Do I have the time and resources to take care of them? Ducklings take considerable care in the beginning. Make sure you're up for the challenge. Also, make sure you can easily obtain the right food. Make sure you have everything prepared before making a purchase.
  1. Housing your pet ducks:
    • Keep ducklings inside for the first four to five weeks. If the weather is warm, they can move outside when they are two to three weeks old.
    • Ducklings raised without a mother will need an artificial heat source. A heat lamp positioned in one corner of the cage works best. Position it so they can escape the heat if things get too hot. If you find them huddled underneath the lamp, they are too cold. If they are crowded away from the source, they are too hot.
    • An old playpen is perfect for housing young ducklings. You might need to wrap the sides with screening to prevent them from escaping. You can use a plastic children's pool (not the inflatable kind). Line it with an absorbent material (such as sawdust) and suspend a heat lamp over one corner. You can use a cat-litter scoop to clean up droppings daily. The pool can then be used for the ducklings later on.
    • Make sure the flooring isn't slippery when wet and allows the ducklings good footing to move.
    • Ducks should always have some type of shelter that will protect them from sun, rain, snow, a hail. An inexpensive lean-to can be constructed by propping a piece of plywood up on two logs.
    • Adult ducks can survive in temperatures below zero as long as they have liquid water.
  2. Feeding your pet ducks:
    • Ducklings need a feed with 20-22% protein for the first three to five weeks. After that, they do best on a feed with 16% protein. Adult ducks need about 14-16% protein when they aren't laying, 16-18% when they are laying.
    • Game bird starter feed is a good source and can be found at most farm supply stores. After five weeks, game bird grower should be used.
    • Do not feed chick starter; it does not have the right nutrients. It can cause deformities in growing ducks.
    • Ducklings also need a source of fresh chopped vegetable greens, especially when they are kept inside. You can feed them weeds from your garden or purchase mixed greens from your grocery store.
    • Never feed your ducks without providing them with plenty of water. Ducks use the water to help them wash down the food and clean the vents on their beak.
    • Mix the feed with cracked corn when the ducks are adults, especially in the winter. Cracked corn is easier for ducks to digest than whole corn.
    • Bread, popcorn, and chips are not healthy for ducks. Consider them "junk food." 
    • Ducks can also be fed chopped hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, bugs, garden snails, worms, night crawlers, mealworms, bloodworms, and floating coy food.
  3. Water for your pet ducks:
    • It shouldn't be surprising that ducks love water. This is why you should provide water when raising pet ducks. However, water can be deadly to ducklings. Use specially designed bird waterers (which can be found at any farm supply store) or a very shallow dish in the beginning.
    • Always make sure the ducklings are capable of escaping any water source you place in their cage. Overturned terracotta pots placed in their pool or water dish provide the perfect "escape" should they become tire and be unable to climb out.
    • Expect your ducklings to play in their water dish, especially if no other water source is available. Positioning the dish at the other end of the cage from their heat source will keep the area under the heat source dry. Ducklings usually sleep under the heat source.
    • Ducks tend to tip their water dishes and get them very muddy. Be prepared to wash their dish quite often (at least twice a day).
  4. Swimming and pet ducks:
    • Ducks can survive without water to swim in, but not happily.
    • Ducklings are unable to produce the oil that waterproofs their down until they are 3 or 4 weeks old. In the wild, the mother duck will oil their feathers for them. Careful consideration should be given to motherless ducklings who are allowed to swim before then to ensure they do not become chilled or drown.
    • If you do not have a pond in your yard, consider purchasing a plastic wading pool. You will need to construct some means for the ducks to get in and out safely, especially when they are young.
    • Any artificial pond will need a good filtration system. You'll want to change the water if it gets too cloudy or dirty.

Now you know how to raise a duck. Remember to always practice proper pet care and seek professional help when necessary. If you're hatching eggs to get ducks as pets, make sure you know the correct way to handle and care for the eggs.


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