Raising Ducks 07.01.2008

Ducks: Frequently asked questions

Some basic information about raising ducks and why we do it.

Why do you have ducks?
That’s two questions, really: why ducks, specifically, and then just why. The first question is easier: Campbell ducks are prolific layers but are small, personable, and easy to handle, perfect for homestead-scale egg production. They have, I believe, much nicer personalities than chickens. The second question, usually posed in a tone of disbelief, is a bit tougher. The short version is that we like animals, enjoy their company, and enjoy and feel good about taking a hand in our own sustenance.
Do you have a farm?
No, we have an acre and a quarter (half wooded) in a rural neighborhood about a mile from the Durham, N.C., city line. Whether this is rural or suburban is a matter of some debate.
Do you have a homeowner’s association?
No. We wouldn’t have bought the house if there had been a homeowner’s association! And because we are in an unincorporated part of the county, there are no ordinances against keeping livestock. In theory, we could have a cow, I suppose.
Do you have a pond?
No, we do not have a pond. The ducks have a plastic baby pool which we refill every evening.
How many eggs do they lay?
Their first year they laid almost an egg a day per duck, or four dozen eggs a week from seven ducks. They gradually declined after that. Now (at age six) they each lay a few eggs a week in the spring, and nothing the rest of the year.
What do you do with the eggs?
Eat them, but not all of them, obviously, when they were laying at peak production. We gave or sold the rest to friends.
Don’t they need a male to lay eggs?
No, not unless you want more ducks. A drake is needed to fertilize the eggs, but — just as with any other species, when you think about it, including humans — the females will produce eggs whether or not there is a male present.
Are duck eggs like chicken eggs?
Pretty much, yes. Eggs from Campbell ducks (our breed) are about the size of extra large chicken eggs. They are a bit richer than chicken eggs and have a full and somewhat deeper flavor. (See my duck egg primer for the full story.)
Don’t the dogs chase them?
Our old dogs didn’t. The new ones do, but they’re learning not to.
Do they smell?
Not much. You certainly don’t notice any smell when you walk out in the yard. Their bedding gets a little stinky in summer, so we change it every couple of weeks. But because ducks drink so much water, their manure is fairly diluted and does not smell nearly as bad as chicken manure.
How can I keep one duck happy?
As far as I know, you can’t. Ducks are social animals that are happiest in a flock, and one duck living alone with humans is not likely to be happy or well-adjusted.

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