Feeding your Ducks
Feeding your duck a complete and balanced diet is essential to ensure they live a long and happy life. Ducks should be fed a commercially prepared age appropriate food as their main diet.
Read the information sheet about feeding your Ducks
Ducks have simple housing needs. They need to be shut up when you are not at home in a secure pen or house that will protect them from predators. Foxes are the main predator and are common in Canberra. They also need to be protected from stray dogs. To be secure, housing must have solid sheeting or welded mesh (with wire at least 1.2mm thick) on the roof, floor and walls. Ducks need at least 1.5 sq metres area per duck in their house or pen if they are to be confined in it during the day. For a night house 0.5 sq metres per duck is enough.
Duck housing should be out of the sun and should provide wind protection. Ducks don’t really like to be in direct sun. Metal housing in particular should be insulated or shaded to avoid it becoming dangerously hot inside. Housing must also be well ventilated. A simple three-sided shelter with a mesh base, front and door is suitable. The open side should face North, to get the Winter sun and avoid cold, wet Southerly winds
Your duck house or pen should be easy to clean. Ducks poop a lot. Rice hulls are an excellent pen surface for ducks as they are soft but last a long time and also drain very well. Rake the rice hulls over each day. Do not use bare concrete or pavers over more than one third of the pen floor or your ducks will develop sores on their soft feet.
Inside the house, provide a ‘private’ spot for a nest (a sturdy cardboard box on its side, or an old lawnmower catcher will do). Keep the nest topped up with clean mulch, wood shavings or straw. Ducks often bury their eggs in the nest. Ducks don’t need a perch – they will sleep on the floor.
Keep their food container inside the duck house under cover so it doesn’t get weto. Keep the water and food at least a metre apart to discourage them from dribbling water in their food. Ideally, put the water over an area that drains well. Sitting the water container over a drainage pit or platform wider than the water container and filled with smooth pebbles is ideal.
Ducks kept in a clean environment and fed good food are generally very robust and hardy animals.
Ducks rarely suffer from intestinal worms or mites (especially if they have regular swimming sessions) but they need be wormed every 6 months with a poultry wormer. Inner South Vet uses Wormout tablets at 1 tablet per 2 kg, the same as chickens.
Ducks are clumsy and are prone to tripping over things, and are easily injured.
Ducks kept on a rough or hard surface can develop foot ‘ulcers’. Swellings or sores on their feet or limping need attention from a vet.
Don’t ever give mouldy food to ducks – mould spores can cause respiratory diseases or sudden toxic reactions in ducks.
Keep their water clean – change drinking water every day. But don’t worry that they turn their new, clean water brown within minutes – that’s normal!
Feeding ducks is not the same as feeding chickens. Read our Feeding Your Ducks Information Sheet.
Ducks and your garden
Ducks love to forage around a garden. They search in mulch and under plants for tasty grubs and worms. They should do a great job of removing snails and slugs from your garden. Ducks like to eat grass, so they will enjoy grazing on lawn and keeping the weeds down. You will need to fence them out of your vegetable garden or they will eat it all!
Ducks do not dig (unlike chickens) but they will make little holes in soft or wet earth with their bills, ‘drilling’ for worms. Let the ducks in when you are digging in you veggie garden– they will have a wonderful time finding earthworms and other treats.
Ducks love water and use about a litre of drinking water per duck per day. They need water to keep their eyes, bills, feet and feathers in good condition. The water should be deep enough for them to stick their whole head into and to wash their body. The water container needs to be shallow so that the ducks can get out again if they happen to climb in.
They love pools where they can climb in and splash. A kids pool (clam shell) or a tub about 20cm deep is perfect. Supervise access to swimming water until you are sure that the ducks can get in and out of the pool easily. Old baths are not ideal because they are slippery inside and ducks can find it hard to get out. Although ducks are great swimmers, they can still become waterlogged and drown.
- Ducks are almost fully grown at about 12 weeks of age.
- Females will start laying around 6 or 7 months of age.
- Ducks usually live till around 8-10 years of age.
- Ducks (females) quack but drakes (males) only make a soft raspy sound and are very quiet
- Always move slowly around ducks and don’t chase them – you may cause leg injuries. They don’t like sudden, fast movements and are easliy frightened.
- Most ducks usually don’t like being picked up and cuddled. If you need to pick one up, hold the wings closed and pick it up by the body. Tuck the duck under your arm, supporting them under the tummy and keeping their wings shut. Keep their bottom pointed away – you don’t want to be pooped on! Don’t pick a duck up by the neck, feet or wings – you hurt them.
- To tame them, sit quietly and use tasty treats and get them eating out of your hand.
- Ducks moult every year in late summer. They will gradually lose all and grow brand new ones. Drakes also go through a partial moult in early summer.
- Ducks usually lay eggs in late winter, spring and early summer. The eggs can be used for anything that chicken eggs are used for. Ducks usually lay their eggs early in the morning.
- Ducks are very curious animals and like to come to watch whatever is going on.
- Ducks can be awake or asleep any time of day or night (unlike chickens which sleep through the night).
Thanks to Dr R. Eggins for her valuable duck information. Dr Eggins is a passionate duck enthusiast, living locally.