Caring For Ducks

Muscovy & Pekin Duck
Muscovy Duck (left) and Pekin Duck (Right)

Pet Ducks - General Information:

Ducks are friendly, playful garrulous, loquacious, talkative and inquisitive companions and in appropriate backyards they make great pets. Most breeds of domestic ducks, including Pekin and Indian Runner Ducks are descendants of wild Eurasian Mallard ducks. Muscovy Ducks (with the red bumps -caruncles- around the face) come from South America. Many varieties are good egg layers.

Housing and Husbandry For Ducks

Water – ducks love water! They love dunking their heads and they need water to be able to feed. They love bathing. Have clean water and deep water bowls available at all times. Ponds should be available, at least some of the time. Provide a roosting area, e.g an old tyre or an elevated platform. Provide a soft surface to walk and stand on to protect their soft feet.

Place food and water dishes so that ducks do not pass droppings in to them. Ducks will “beak” shiny objects and often ingest them. Lead and zinc poisoning is a common disease in backyard ducks. Ducks need protection from predators more so at night. A fox proof enclosure is essential.

Duck Diet

Foraging in the garden and getting table scraps partly sustains ducks but additional feed is needed. Commercial duck and chicken pellets are used for birds being fed to produce meat, eggs and liver pate and so can be too high in nutrients for pet ducks if fed as their sole food source long term. We recommend a combination of the following.

WATER – Ducks drink five times more than the amount of food they eat and use water to wash their food. Have adequate water  be available at all times.

  • PELLETS – Feed some formulated chicken or waterfowl  pellets
  • GRAINS – Mixed grains like barley, wheat, rice are suitable.
  • VEGETABLES – Dark leafy green and yellow vegetables (spinach, silver beet, carrots, beans, peas, broccoli, seeding grasses etc.) are good sources vitamin A and important if feeding predominantly grains which are low in Vitamin A.
  • PROTEIN – A protein source (eg meat, legumes, fish or egg) is needed,  especially for good egg layers.
  • LEFT OVERS –  Human food and table left overs  like fruit, multi-grain bread, pasta or rice etc can be fed.
  • Avoid chocolate, caffeine, alcohol or avocado as these may be toxic.

Diseases of Pet Ducks - As Seen By Duck Vets!

  • Attacks  from dogs, foxes and other predators are number one for our “duck vets”
  • Heavy metal toxicity from ingesting metallic objects containing lead and zinc seen commonly by  Avian vets
  • Pododermatitis  (‘bumblefoot’) a deep long standing infection and inflammation of the foot usually made worse by standing for long periods on hard surfaces. Seen by bird vets
  • Bacterial infections.
  • Female reproductive problems such as egg yolk related peritonitis;
  • Botulism, paralysis caused by a bacterial toxin in stagnant pools & decaying organic matter.
  • Phallus(penis)  injuries in males – Male ducks have a penis-like structure called a phallus  used for mating that may be injured when protruding.
Post reproductive surgery Duck
Post-op. Duck recovering after reproductive surgery.

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