10 True Facts About Ducks
Keeping Ducks is Easier Than You May Think
Reading Time: 5 minutes
When we entered the homesteading life we incorporated chickens first. However, if I had to start again, I would have incorporated ducks prior to chickens. I have yet to understand why people dislike ducks; well, other than the mess and a large amount of mud they can create with just a bucket of water, but even that can be avoided if you have them set up properly.
I am a pro-waterfowl homesteader, and if anyone is going to talk you into getting ducks it is going to be me. With that said, let’s talk about all the cool, true facts about ducks!
Ducks are Cold and Hot Weather Hardy
Unlike chickens, turkeys, and guineas, ducks are both cold- and hot-weather hardy. In the winter months, their down feathers insulate them, keeping them quite warm. Unlike chickens, ducks have an underlayer of fat which also keeps them warm. Keep in mind, they still require a draft-free duck shelter to retreat to if the weather is not to their liking, though, more times than not, they will remain outdoors even in the worse weather predicaments.
They also do exceptionally well during the warm summer months. Simply provide shade, a small kiddie pool to splash in, or keep the ground wet to allow them to cool the pads of their feet. Make sure to keep waterers filled to encourage your flock to drink even during the hottest days. Remember, when water is present, so is a duck!
Ducks are Healthier Than Chickens
Overall, ducks have a healthier immune system than chickens and are less susceptible to catching poultry diseases such as Mycoplasma gallisepticum or even coccidiosis. The amount of time waterfowl spends in the water and preening themselves helps them from contracting various types of lice, mites, and chiggers.
Molting Season for Ducks
Ducks and other waterfowl go through a simultaneous wing molt: molting both wing feathers at the same time. Other poultry, like chickens, go through a sequential molt: one wing feather at a time. Ducks also go through three molts per year, beginning with the late winter/spring eclipse molt. The eclipse molt occurs in drakes as they shed their muted, dull feathers for brighter plumage.
The heavy molt occurs in both drakes and hens during the summer months. Waterfowl will shed a large percentage of their feathers, including their down feathers, for new feathers. The final molt for the year is the wing feather molt. Luckily for domestic ducks, this isn’t an issue; however, for wild ducks, this can be a dangerous time since they can’t take flight to escape a predator.
Ducks Do Not Need a Pool to Swim In
Domestic ducks do not need a swimming pool to survive; what they do need is a bucket or tub deep enough for them to wash their eyes and nostrils multiple times a day. Ducks also need access to water when they eat to minimize the risk of choking on their feed. Ducks also need water to activate their preen gland, which allows them to groom themselves, spreading the oil which helps to waterproof their feathers.
Cold Feet is Not an Issue
Their down is only one reason why ducks stay warm. Ducks have a unique heat exchange system known as counter-current circulation. To minimize heat loss, the arteries and veins in the bird’s legs work together to retain heat. Think about it like this: warm blood comes down the legs from the body and meets the cooled blood coming back up, allowing the cool blood to warm up prior to reaching the rest of the body. This intricate blood flow system allows just enough blood to reach the tissues in the duck’s feet, while maintaining the core temperature, keeping frostbite at bay.
Mating Facts about Ducks
So much can be said about ducks mating, but let’s keep it simple:
- Drakes have an extremely long, corkscrew penis, one of the longest penises in the animal kingdom, growing longer with the number of hens available for mating.
- Hens are capable of blocking semen from an unwanted mating due to a complicated oviduct system, sidelining the sperm and later ejecting it.
- A study by Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College, states that ducks shed their penis annually.
- Ducks are capable of changing genders! A hen housed with other hens without a drake present can cause the highest in the pecking order to change sexes, and the same applies to a drake transforming into a hen.
The Incredible Duck Eggs
Ducks are much more prolific layers than even the production Leghorn chicken. The Khaki Campbell duck can lay five to six eggs a week for many years, whereas the Leghorn can lay the same amount of eggs for roughly up to two years at best. From that point egg production drastically slows down for this chicken breed.
Duck eggs are prized by bakers and chefs worldwide, and rightfully so! The higher fat content in the yolks of duck eggs vs. chicken eggs and the higher protein in the whites make cakes, quick breads, and other baked goods richer and fluffier.
Sleeping With One Eye Open
In a resting state, ducks are capable of closing one eye and resting half of their brain, allowing the other eye and the other half of the brain to be alert and awake. This allows them an opportunity to escape predators quickly.
Excellent Garden Helpers
Two more true facts about ducks: they are excellent at consuming pests found in the garden without causing too much damage to the vegetation. Waterfowl is excellent at consuming slugs and other nuisance pests. They do not scratch up the garden beds looking for grubs as chickens would do, and they will not eat the vegetation down to nub as geese would. Also, ducks and other waterfowl do an excellent job at keeping the grass trimmed. However, keep them away from any water or they will turn the area into their own private mud spa.
Ducklings, especially ones raised under human care can imprint rather quickly to their caretaker. Unfortunately, imprinted ducklings (as long as there are other ducklings present) will become more independent the older they get. Unlike chickens, ducks prefer their space and can often be standoffish, and if you’re anything like me, you value this trait in this particular species of poultry.
Have you found these facts about ducks to be true? Let us know in the comments!