Top 10 Duck Questions Answered

by Meghan H

Published March 14, 2022

Jeff and Kendra sat down on The Coop podcast recently to answer a few of the most common questions we get about raising ducks. 

1. When Can I let my ducklings swim?

We recommend waiting until your ducklings are at least a week old so that they develop the oil needed in their feathers. This oil helps keep the feathers dry. 

2. Can a duck regrow its bill if it is damaged?

Bills that have been damaged may grow back, but there will likely be some deformity. Damage to the bill happens sometimes in ducks raised in wire cages. We recommend wire that is no more than 1-inch by 1-inch square for the cage.

3. How do I integrate my young ducks into a flock of chickens?

Jeff recommends keeping ducks and chickens separate due to the different housing needs. Ducks love water and are much messier than chickens. If you do decide to integrate ducks into chickens, use the same technique for establishing a pecking order as we explain for integrating new chickens. 

Indian Runner Ducks - Meyer Hatchery

4. Do I need to clip my duck’s wings?

Most of the duck breeds that Meyer Hatchery sells are too heavy to fly as an adult. The Mallard is the one exception. Clipping a duck’s wing feathers will temporarily prevent flight. After the duck molts and regrows feathers, it may be able to fly again. 

Pinioning the distal wing joint is a permanent way to prevent flight. It is a surgical procedure of the “wrist” joint where the distal portion of one wing is removed.

5. How can I tell the gender of my ducks?

Jeff says just buy all males or all females and sexing is easy! Just kidding! The best way to tell is to let the ducks grow to maturity, then the drakes will develop a drake feather at the base of the tail that curls upwards. In most duck breeds, the sound of their voices are different between the genders; females have a louder true quack sound, while males have a raspier sound to their voice.

6. Can I feed my ducks bread?

You can, but we don’t advise feeding bread to ducks. Bread to ducks is a sweet treat that they love. It’s like feeding candy to children then expecting them to eat their dinner. Feeding too many treats to your ducks may cause them to eat less of their ration, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies. Make sure you are not feeding them moldy bread also.

Magpie Ducklings - Meyer Hatchery
Khaki Campbell Ducks - Meyer Hatchery

7. Can I raise my chicks and ducklings together in the same brooder?

The short answer is no. We all know how much Jeff likes short answers! We love to see many species all free-ranging together in a pasture, but raising ducks and chickens together can be quite challenging. Drakes can be aggressive, especially during mating season. Keeping your ducks in a separate coop than your chickens can help everyone get along and keep them all healthier.

8. I’m not interested in ducks for eggs, but what about raising them for meat?

Many people are “either/or” on their reason for raising ducks. The Pekin is the top choice for raising them for meat. Many of the other duck breeds are good for raising ducks for eggs. The best laying breed for a high number of eggs is the Golden Layer hybrid or the White Layer hybrid. For heritage breeds that can be dual-purpose, the Khaki Campbell is probably your best bet.

9. Why is niacin so important to ducks and no other poultry?

Well, it isn’t that other poultry do not need any niacin, but ducks simply need a lot more niacin than chickens. Ducklings that are fed regular chick starter instead of waterfowl starter may develop signs of a niacin deficiency. Leg deformities, neurological problems, low weight gain, and difficulty walking may be some of the signs of a niacin deficiency.

10. What is the purpose of ducks on a homestead?

Ducks can serve a few purposes such as egg production, meat production, weed control, and aesthetic reasons. Many people just like the look of having ducks on their pond!

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