The Small Home Flock
In areas where poultry raising is allowed and space is available, a small flock of ducks can be kept in the yard of a household at a low cost. Except for a brooder, which is needed for the first week or so, the main facilities and equipment needed to get started are a simple structure, such as a partially-enclosed shed, inexpensive fencing, a feed hopper or trough made of wood and a simply constructed watering device.
The shelter should be located on a high, well-drained area of the yard. Whenever available, sandy soil is preferable for the duck yard because it drains quickly after a rain. The earth floor of the sheltered area should be bedded with straw, shavings or similarly dry absorbent material. Low fencing (about 61cm) is satisfactory for Pekins, since they do not fly, but not for Muscovies, which are adept to becoming airborne. If predators are a problem at night, the open areas of the shed and pen may have to be covered with inexpensive netting or wire mesh.
Raising Ducks on Open Ponds
Ducks may be kept successfully on open ponds, provided a nearby dry sheltered area is available. Ducks kept on ponds may obtain part of their food from plant and animal life in and around the pond, but supplemental feeding will probably be necessary. In tropical areas it is common to combine duck raising on ponds with fish farming. Ponds are stocked with fish such as Tilapia which are raised for human food.
Manure from the ducks provide nutrients for growth of animal and plant life which the fish consume. The number of ducks kept on ponds must be limited to prevent an over-supply of nutrients and overgrowth of plant life which will cause depletion of oxygen in the water and kill the fish. Usually both the ducks and fish are given supplemental feed, which on commercial duck/fish farms is often a nutritionally complete pelleted ration.
Herding Duck Management
In Indonesia, herded flocks under the care of a single herdsman usually range in size from 90 to 130. During the day, a flock of ducks, usually mature females, is allowed to search for food in harvested rice fields and other areas where food is plentiful. At night, the flock is returned to a confinement, usually a bamboo pen, where eggs are laid during the night. Eggs are collected and sold, or used for food by the herdsman’s family.
The major part of the diet of herded ducks consists of whole grains and snails, plus small amounts of insects, leaf material, crabs and frogs. It is the job of the herdsman to move the flock, as often as necessary, to areas where food is plentiful. Portable fencing and other equipment is moved with the flock to each new location. A grassy area with some protection, such as provided by trees, is selected as a base camp where the fencing is set up. Supplemental feed is given to herded ducks only when the food supply in the fields is inadequate.
Commercial Duck Production
A thorough discussion of modern commercial duck production is beyond the scope of this web page. More in depth sources of information can be found in Publications. Commercial duck housing is usually one of two types: total confinement and semi-confinement. Modern commercial total-confinement duck housing usually has clear-span-truss framing, and is well insulated and mechanically ventilated. Age groups are kept isolated, either in separate buildings or in separate rooms with solid partitions between them. Floor design is usually one of two types: all wire mesh; or a combination of litter and wire mesh with waterers located on the wire.
Ventilation systems are usually the negative pressure type with adjustable, or automatically controlled air inlets and exhaust fans located along the side walls. Because waterfowl drink and excrete more water than land fowl, extra demand is placed on the ventilation and heating system to remove the extra moisture and maintain proper temperatures. The advice of an agricultural engineer, who is familiar with duck housing, is very helpful when designing buildings. When properly designed and managed, modern duck housing provides ducks a high degree of protection from the detrimental effects of extremes in weather and entry of duck diseases.
The ability to exclude wild birds from buildings is alone a large factor in preventing the introduction and spread of diseases. In addition to allowing year-round production and marketing at an earlier age, benefits include improved feed conversion and more predictable, and usually better weight gain. Semi-confinement duck housing is similar to the above in many respects with the exception that ducks over 2-3 weeks of age are allowed outdoors during the day. Ducks over 4 weeks of age may spend much of their time outdoors with minimal use of shelter.
Much of the information on brooding chicks, available in poultry textbooks and other sources (see Publications), can be applied to ducklings. If ducklings are hatched artificially, rather than by a broody duck, the caretaker must provide the newly hatched ducklings with a warm dry brooding area free of drafts, with a source of heat, such as radiant or hover-type gas brooders, and feed and drinking water located near the heat source so that the ducklings learn to drink and eat soon after they are placed in the brooder.
If ducklings haven’t learn to drink within a few hours, it may be necessary to dip their bills in the drinking water in order to coax them to start drinking. In the case of earth or cement floors, the brooding area should be bedded with clean dry litter such as wood shavings or chopped straw. If drafts are a problem, newspapers may be put down on wire floors for the first few days. Use brooder guards to keep the ducklings confined to the area where the heat, water and feed are located.
The brooder guards should allow enough room so that the ducklings can move away from the heat if it gets too warm. In addition, ducklings should be allowed access to more of the floor area of the pen as they grow older.