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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7 Responses to Ducks: Frequently asked questions

  1. George Swager says:

    We started with four ducks two drakes and two hens. We were getting two eggs a day. We eliminated the drakes and about two months later we started only getting one egg per day. Then one of the hen started getting a lot darker in color a looking like a Drake and this duck is getting larger. What is going on with this duck?

    • David says:

      I had a hen that did that after several years. Greenish tinge, thick neck, curly tail feather, voice changed, even got protective of the other hens. Apparently ducks have only one functioning ovary, and if it stops producing hormones, the hen develops all the secondary sex characteristics of a drake — as well as the behavior, since they’re ducks and I guess can’t remember anything else!

  2. David says:

    I just bought 5 and have no clue what gender they will be. If I have both, how will I know which eggs are fertile and which are edible? SO hope they are all drakes or just 1 female or two.

    • David says:

      When they reach adolescence and go through their second molt to get their adult feathers, any drakes will have male plumage — the greenish head and curled tail feather, and their voices will change and be distinct from the hens. It’s quite difficult to tell when they are chicks, requiring checking their vents, and I believe you can injure them if you try and don’t know what you’re doing (I haven’t tried).

  3. Cheryl says:

    Can my nine Khaki Campbells find their way back home? It seems they have wandered off?

    • David says:

      Cheryl, I’m sorry your ducks have gone missing. Whether they make it home on their own may depend on how long they’ve been coming back to the same place at night and whether that’s deeply ingrained in them. But I probably wouldn’t count on them finding their way back if they’ve wandered into new territory; I haven’t found Campbells to be all that bright.

      • Cheryl says:

        Thanks for the quick response. We’ve had them and they’ve roamed our property, always staying nearby for about 18 months. I haven’t seen them for 5 or 6 hours. Keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll show up at dinner time, they love their feeding time. Again thanks for your response.

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