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    Raising Ducks for Eggs: 9 Things to Know

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    Looking for a feathered flock that provides breakfast? Chickens have long been the standard starter poultry for backyard flocks but ducks are gaining ground.

    Duck eggs are about 30 percent larger than medium chicken eggs, which means three duck eggs are equivalent to four chicken eggs. Duck eggs also have 30 percent more fat, 50 percent more vitamin A and twice the amount of cholesterol as chicken eggs.

    Their higher fat content makes duck eggs ideal for baking—but the delicious eggs can also be eaten scrambled, fried or over easy or used to make omelets, frittata or quiche.

    Here are nine things you need to know about raising ducks for eggs.

    Research duck breeds

    Hatcheries and local farm stores sell multiple breeds of ducklings that differ in size, coloring, temperament and purpose: Like chickens, ducks are classified as layers, meat birds or dual purpose breeds. If your goal is eggs, these four breeds are egg-cellent layers:

    • Khaki Campbell: These lightweight ducks weigh less than five pounds and start laying eggs as early as five months old; they can lay between 250 and 340 eggs per year.
    • Silver Appleyard: Considered a heavyweight breed that can reach up to eight pounds, these colorful ducks lay 220 to 265 white eggs per year.
    • Pekin ducks: One of the more popular (and recognizable) breeds of backyard ducks, Pekins have iconic white feathers and yellow beaks and weigh in at a whopping 10 pounds. Females can lay up to 200 white eggs per year.
    • Indian Runner: Their upright bodies come in a range of colors, including white, buff, chocolate, gray and black. These docile, lightweight ducks weigh as little as four pounds and can lay upwards of 250 white eggs per year.

    Set up the brooder

    Once you’ve decided on the best laying breed for your needs, start preparing to bring home your first flock of ducklings.

    Similar to chicks, ducklings need a safe (heated) brooder for the first few weeks of their lives.

    Fill the brooder with pine shavings, wood pellets, paper towels or other bedding and prepare to clean it often. Ducklings are much messier than chicks and will splash water all over, requiring frequent brooder cleaning.

    Your brooder should also have a heat plate or other heat source. Keep the temperature at 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week and then reduce it five degrees each week for the next three weeks. Ducklings are hardier than chicks and can be moved outdoors after just four weeks. 

    Choose the right feed

    Ducklings need a higher protein feed than chicks so make sure to start them out on the right diet. Look for a “waterfowl starter” that contains 18 to 22 percent protein for the first eight weeks and then switch to a “grower” feed until ducklings reach six months old. Adult layer breeds need duck feed with 16 percent protein.

    It’s important to feed duck food, not chicken food, because ducks need extra niacin to support bone growth and the wrong diet can lead to niacin deficiencies.

    Look for un-medicated feeds. Since ducklings are ravenous eaters, medicated feed can result in too much medication. Ducks are also less susceptible to coccidiosis so medicated feed isn’t necessary.

    Offer healthy snacks

    Ducks are excellent foragers, vacuuming up snails and slugs and noshing on weeds and other fresh greens when allowed to free range. In fact, ducks raised on pasture will forage for a higher percentage of their diet than chickens.

    You can also provide nutritious snacks like zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, apples and fresh fruits and vegetables as well as brown rice, scrambled eggs and mealworms. Remember, these are snacks and shouldn’t be offered in place of commercial duck food, which provides the essential nutrients ducks need for good health.

    Keep the waterers full

    Ducks rinse their bills frequently to help flush out their nares (nostrils) to prevent sinus infections. The water basin must be deep enough for the flock to dip their bills. The frequent dunking of their heads also dirties the water so expect to provide refill their buckets with clean water several times a day.

    While adequate supplies of fresh, clean drinking water are a must, a pond is not a requirement to raise ducks—but they do love paddling around in the water so consider providing a kiddie pool for them to explore.

    Create a secure space

    Ducks are vulnerable to raccoons, possums, foxes and other predators. When it’s time to move them out of the brooder, a secure enclosure covered with hardware cloth or a run with aviary netting and an electric fencing are essential. At night, ducks will need to be tucked into predator-proof housing.

    Thanks to their wide, webbed feet and short legs, ducks cannot waddle up a ramp to enter a coop. Since most domesticated duck breeds can’t fly, the flock needs ground-level access to their sleeping quarters.

    No boys required

    Male ducks, called drakes, are not required for egg production. Drakes are only needed to fertilize eggs; if you have no plans to hatch ducklings, you don’t need a drake. Your ducks will happily lay eggs without any help.

    Drakes can make excellent additions to a flock but the right male-to-female ratio is essential. Aim for one drake per five females to avoid over-mating, which can take a toll on female ducks.

    Prepare for an egg hunt

    While chickens will lay egg in nesting boxes, ducks prefer making their own nesting areas—and their nests are often outside the coop. You’ll likely have to go on a mini hunt to collect their eggs.

    Enjoy the show

    Ducks are happy-go-lucky animals that will bring a smile to your face with their splashing, waddling, quacking antics and you’ll be delighted to have a backyard flock.