A Quick Guide to Buying Ducks

Where to Buy Ducklings

A Quick Guide to Buying Ducks

Whether you are expanding your duck flock, adding to your chicken flock or are brand new to backyard duck keeping, buying ducks is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Before you start looking around for a place to buy your ducks, you’ll want to figure out which breeds you want. I have found most duck breeds to be very similar in temperament and laying consistency, so your choice might very well be based on the breed’s appearance and how easy it is to find. Duck eggs only come in a few colors – namely white, cream, pale green or black – so you won’t get the colorful egg basket like you will from chickens. To make things more complicated, within a breed, some ducks will lay white, others pale green, and there’s no way to tell beforehand, so choosing a breed based on egg color isn’t really possible. The one exception is the Cayuga ducks that lay charcoal gray or blackish eggs.

There are some breeds that to seem to excel in different areas however. For egg production, think about Khaki Campbell, Silver Appleyard or Welsh Harlequin. Good foragers include Ancona, Cayuga, Runner or Magpie ducks. They are all super active and will be best for weed and bug control in your yard. If you’re thinking about hatching duck eggs in the future, consider Dutch Hookbill, domestic Mallard or Rouen ducks.

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But basically any breed duck will lay you delicious, rich eggs, provide you tons of nutrient-rich fertilizer in the form of manure and provide hours of entertainment. Other breeds widely available include Buff Orpington, Pekin, Saxony and Swedish ducks.

The Livestock Conservancy has wonderful duck breed information on their site as does Metzer Farms, so spend some time looking at the breed photos and reading up on some of the different breeds that interest you.

Metzer Farms also sells ducklings. If you are starting your flock of ducks to be pets as well as layers, I highly recommend buying ducklings instead of adult ducks. While there are many rescue organizations that have adult ducks that need good homes (and I greatly support them and their efforts) unless you raise a duck from hatch, you likely won’t end up with very friendly ducks that you can handle or pick up. Starting ducklings and sitting with them, talking to them, offering them treats and handling them often is the best way to let them get used to you. Hatching duck eggs is also a great way to ensure your ducklings are comfortable with you and friendly as adults. But for now, let’s stick with buying ducks.

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Magpie ducklings.

Where to Buy Ducklings

As I mentioned, Metzer Farms sells ducklings. They are the largest source for ducklings in North America, and a good place to start. They will ship as few as two or three ducklings, almost year round, across the country. Ducklings are pretty hardy and not as sensitive to the cold as baby chicks and do quite well being shipped. However, if you don’t want to go that route, your feed store will likely sell ducklings in the spring. Many state laws require a minimum of six ducklings to be purchased at a time (to prevent impulse Easter sales), so keep that in mind. Most feed stores also have a limited selection of breeds, although if you ask, they might be able to special order some different breeds for you. Your local Craig’s List is also a good place to find ducklings for sale in the spring.

Note: If you aren’t concerned about your ducks being ‘lap ducks’, then rescuing or buying older adult ducks is a wonderful idea. Ducks often lay well for 5-6 years, often several years past your average chicken, so an older duck might still be a decent layer for you. If you are buying ducks mainly for the weed and bug control – and entertainment value- a flock of all drakes would be perfect for you. Drakes don’t quack, so a flock of drakes will be quieter and not annoy your neighbors. There are lots of unwanted male ducks available both from shelters, rescues and online, either free or very inexpensively, so think about going that route if a “pet” duck isn’t your goal.

No matter why you are buying ducks, where you buy them, and at what age, remember that ducks are very social and flock-oriented animals and I recommend a minimum of at least two, and preferably three, as a starter flock.

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Black Swedish, Khaki Campbell and Cayuga ducklings.

How to Raise Ducks in Your Backyard

Once you’ve decided on a breed (or breeds), and found a place to buy your ducks, you may wonder how to raise ducks in your backyard. You’ll want to be sure they will be happy and safe there. Since ducks don’t roost like chickens and don’t really use nesting boxes either (they will just lay their eggs in a bed of straw on the floor), it’s simple to convert a doghouse, playhouse or shed into a duck shelter. Be sure there is a door with a predator-proof latch and plenty of ventilation and windows – all covered in 1/2″ welded wire for protection from predators.
Ducklings will need to be kept in the house (or in a shed or garage) under a heat lamp for the first 6-8 weeks before they can go outside, so be sure you have a brooder set up, similar to a chick brooder, with heat, bedding, feed and water, that is safe from family pets and children.

What to Feed Baby Ducks

Wondering what to feed baby ducks? If you are buying ducks to add to your chicken flock, you’ll be happy to know that ducks can eat chicken layer feed. If you are only raising ducks, there is commercial waterfowl feed available that you can feed them instead. Ducklings can be fed unmedicated chick starter feed. Ducklings aren’t susceptible to Coccidiosis like baby chicks are, so they don’t need the medicated feed. Ducklings do need a bit more niacin than chicks do, so I add a sprinkle of Brewer’s yeast over their feed and also add some raw rolled oats to cut the protein levels a bit to prevent my ducklings from growing too fast and putting undue strain on their legs and feet.
If you’re thinking of buying ducks this spring, I hope this has been helpful to you. Raising ducks is a very rewarding, enjoyable past time that I certainly can’t recommend enough.
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