Ducks are fun, comical and talkative animals.
In recent years more and more people have been keeping ducks as pets.
They are great at pest control in the garden and not nearly as damaging to plants as chickens. Duck eggs are also a delicacy for many and they are fantastic for baking with.
Lastly, they are a great cure for the blues! You just cannot be unhappy when watching ducks.
Ducks do not do well when they are kept on their own though. Two female ducks as a pair is probably the best combination.
But what else do you need to know about keeping pet ducks?
Keep reading to learn exactly how to give your pet duck a full and happy life…
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1. Can You Keep Ducks As Pets
The short answer is yes!
Certain types of duck can make very suitable pets (especially the bantam breeds).
However, before you bring your pet duck home you need to make sure you are allowed to keep them. Some towns will have laws governing what type of pets you can keep and ducks may be classified as agricultural or barnyard animals and therefore banned.
You will need to make sure that you have enough space and a water source for your duck. Water is very important for them and even Muscovies need access to water for their wellbeing.
They will also need a secure place to live, sleep and be a duck!
Ducks are social creatures so you should really keep more than one duck. They can become depressed and withdrawn without other ducks around and this can lead to anti-social or difficult behaviors not normally associated with healthy ducks.
2. Which Duck Breeds Make The Best Pets
The best pet duck breeds are: White Pekin, Cayuga and Call ducks.
When thinking about getting ducks just remember that those cute fuzzy ducklings grow up to be much larger! Call ducks are small, but the Pekin and Cayuga weigh in around 7-8lb.
If you live in an apartment (or a small house with limited outside space) then the smaller Call duck will be better for you.
3. What To Feed Pet Ducks
Ducks are omnivorous which means they eat a wide variety of things – anything from greens, fruits, grains, seeds to slugs, snails and small fish.
They also enjoy things like lettuce, watercress and greens torn into pieces and floating in a bowl of water. Peas are an added source of niacin and ducks love them.
Try to avoid feeding them starchy foods such as pasta, pizza and breads.
If you let them free range in the yard they will hunt down slugs and other destructive pests in the garden – they are extremely valuable as pest control officers. They love to graze on grass too, so if your lawn has been treated with pesticides you should keep your ducks away from it.
However most of their diet will come from a feed.
Several feed manufacturers now sell duck feed. If you cannot find duck feed then you can use all flock feed.
However as ducklings you can feed them chick crumble with extra niacin. Niacin can be found in most pharmacies or supermarkets as brewer’s yeast. Just sprinkle it onto their feed daily to ensure optimal neurological health.
4. Can Ducks Live Indoors
While keeping chickens inside is definitely a thing, ducks not so much.
Ducks are not really suited to living indoors.
They enjoy being outside and most of them enjoy splashing around in water. Ducks like to wander around and forage for bugs in the garden and they are much less destructive than hens.
It is not healthy for a duck to be kept solely as an indoor pet.
You need to remember they are not as domesticated as chickens and prefer to be outside foraging or swimming with their own kind. Read 7 Tips For Raising Ducks With Chickens for more.
The only exception to this is an injured or poorly duck – they can be kept inside for a limited period of time during their rehabilitation.
5. How Long Do Pet Ducks Live
A healthy and well cared for duck can live for many years.
Normally a domestic duck can live for anywhere between 10-15 years.
Their exact life expectancy will depend on the type of breed you pick as some have shorter or longer lifespans.
6. Do Pet Ducks Fly Away
Unfortunately pet ducks do sometimes fly away.
This is why you should choose your breed wisely!
Mallards tend to be more flighty and wilder than other breeds and find the grass is greener elsewhere. Sometimes they do come back, but not always.
Call ducks, Muscovies, East Indies, Welsh Harlequins and Aylesburys are all suitable pets.
They rarely fly far and will often only fly to roost in a nearby tree.
As long as you provide a secure place for them to sleep, eat and do duck stuff, then they are unlikely to leave.
If you do let your pet duck free range then make sure to protect them against aerial predators such as hawks and owls. Bantam or light breeds are easy for a large prey bird to pick up and carry off. Aviary netting is a great way to cover a large area, or you can simply string fishing line across their flight paths to disrupt them.
A duck hut with an enclosed run is ideal providing they have enough space.
Perhaps you can allow them to free range when you are out in the yard to keep an eye open for danger.
7. Will They Lay Eggs
All ducks lay eggs, but some breeds lay more than others.
|Eggs Per Year
These numbers are rough estimations and only to give you a general idea of who lays what. Hybrid ducks generally lay more eggs but you should check with the breeder for the average amount to expect.
Duck eggs are very rich and are loved by bakers everywhere!
Using duck eggs adds a richness and taste that is not found with chicken eggs.
Read our Duck Eggs vs Chicken Eggs article for more.
8. Building A Coop For Your Duck
Ducks are best kept outside and not in houses or apartments.
As ducklings you can keep them inside but once they grow up they need to be outside.
A duck house is very simple to build.
It should be raised off of the ground and have hardware mesh securely attached for the bottom. This provides ventilation and drainage. Depending on the size of your ducks they will each need 3-5 square feet of inside space.
Ducks do not roost so you will not need perches just lots of straw for bedding. The sides and roof should be sturdy and weather proofed and the door should be lockable with a raccoon proof lock.
They will need roof vents for ventilation. Ventilation is vital for ducks because they seem to be perpetually damp. The air circulation helps to dry out your duck and their coop. Do not worry too much about them getting cold unless the weather is particularly brutal. Ducks have superb insulation and can keep quite warm on the coldest of days.
Your ducks will also need a walk-up ramp to their house as they cannot jump. Make sure it is wide enough for them and add slats or steps to help them walk up and down.
9. What Is Normal Duck Behavior
Ducks are sociable creatures and prefer to be with their own kind.
They do not thrive when kept alone.
When they are happy you will see them engage in head bobbing and tail wagging. They will also quack at each other for extended periods of time. Ducks also love to dabble in the mud and to clear their nasal passages, they will blow bubbles underwater. This keeps their airways clear and free of debris.
Water is crucial for ducks and they use it to preen and clean their feathers. They may spend only a few seconds or several minutes grooming themselves with their beaks to distribute the preen oil throughout their feathers. This oil helps to keep them waterproof and keeps their feathers in good condition.
You should also know that ducks are noisy. Whereas chickens are noisy occasionally, happy ducks can be raucous much of the time – treat time is always a noisy affair!
Overall ducks are friendly and personable but they are not pets in the same way chickens can be.
Bonus: Petting Your Duck
Whether or not your duck enjoys being pet will depend on the individual duck.
Some breeds of duck are not cuddly and don’t want to be petted.
However some ducks can be trained to give kisses or cuddles. Those ducks that do not mind being held and cuddled may also appreciate a head/neck/back scratch. Some even love to be scratched under the bill and between the eyes.
How much they like to be pet also depends on imprinting.
Imprinting is the process of a duck attaching itself to their mother – or the first person they see as a duckling. Once imprinted, a duckling will follow you around believing that you are mother. When feeding ducklings you may find they nibble your fingers or toes. This is them showing you affection.
If you raised your ducks from ducklings then they are more likely to enjoy being petted.
Despite what you may have seen on social media, keeping ducks as pets in your home is not a good idea!
Ducks cannot be potty trained and they also have a very sensitive sense of smell and an equally sensitive respiratory system. Lots of normal household smells are quite toxic to them and can cause distress.
They also need water. Having access to water is vital for them to be able to complete bodily functions such as eating and cleaning. Intermittent access in a sink or bathtub is not going to be acceptable.
All of these factors combined means ducks are generally healthier and happier when kept outside.
If you can give your ducks a purpose-built house where fresh water is alway available they will reward you with love, fun, eggs and companionship for many years.
Also just remember that ducks need the company of other ducks. This is not a reflection on you, it is just a fact that they want to be with their own kind.
Let us know any of your questions in the comments section below…