How to Take Care of a Duck?
Since ancient times, domestic ducks have served as a source of food and income for people in many parts of the world. Today, ducks are mostly kept for egg and meat production on homesteads and large backyards, but they can also be kept as pets for entertainment. Ducks are social, clean, intelligent and very sociable animals; they can live harmoniously with humans as long as they are properly cared for. If you think ducks as pets might be right for you, here are some tips on caring for ducks and some points to consider before adopting a duck as a pet.
In this AnimalWised article, we explain how to care for a duck as a pet. We will also go over their diet, their environment, and the most important hygiene measures.
Types of ducks
The term "duck" refers to various birds in the large family Anatidae that are particularly well adapted to an aquatic environment. There are about 40 known species of ducks, divided into six subfamilies. Within the same species, there may be two or more subspecies, and it is also possible for different breeds of ducks to develop through selective interbreeding within a subspecies.
The various species of ducks are divided into two major groups: Wild ducks and domestic ducks.
- The wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos), also known as the mallard, is a widespread pochard that breeds throughout temperate and subtropical America, Eurasia, and northern Africa. It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Australia, and several countries in South America and South Africa. Unlike many other waterfowl, the mallard is considered an invasive species in some regions. It is an extremely adaptable species, able to live and even thrive in urban areas that were home to more native, endangered waterfowl species before development.
- When we speak of the domestic duck, we generally refer to the subspecies Anas platyrhynchos domesticus. Almost all species of domestic ducks, with the exception of the Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), are descended from the Mallard. The most common domesticated duck species include the Abacot Ranger, American Pekin, Ancona Duck, or Black East Indie Duck.
Differences between wild and domestic ducks
As mentioned before, domesticated ducks are raised primarily for their meat, eggs, and feathers, although some are also kept for exhibition, as pets, or for their ornamental value. Body size can often be an indication of domestication. Because domesticated ducks were bred for meat production, they usually have a large body size. In fact, a domestic duck can be twice the size of a wild duck. Even if they are not obviously larger, they tend to look bulkier and plumper, especially around the belly.
Below we provide some tips for caring for a domestic duck. However, you should always keep in mind that each duck species is different and requires special care. For this reason, it is always important to consult a veterinarian or a duck breeding specialist before choosing a domestic duck. Also, most duck species live in the wild and cannot, or at least should not, be kept as pets.
Feeding domestic ducks
In order to know how to care for a domestic duck, it is important to know what ducks eat so that they get a complete and balanced diet. First of all, ducks are omnivores, that is, their body is prepared to digest food of animal and vegetable origin.
In their natural habitat, ducks eat a fairly varied diet. On a day-to-day basis, a duck may consume insects, aquatic plants, seeds, algae and small fish, always depending on the food supply of the season.
When we talk about feeding the domestic duck, we must be aware of the importance of a varied omnivorous diet that fully covers its nutritional needs. In specialized stores you can find some formulas of balanced feed for ducks, which can be a good alternative for feeding your birds, as they contain a balanced mixture of all nutrients essential for the organism.
However, we advise you to supplement the diet of domestic ducks with fresh and natural foods and provide them with a good amount of fiber and water. In addition to the intake of grains, seeds, vegetables and fruits, it is also advisable to buy worms, insects, small fish and crustaceans to supplement the diet with animal protein. Ground eggshells and unsweetened yogurt are also good sources of calcium, but should be offered in moderation.
Also, be sure to offer duck grits to your birds, as they will need to ingest them in moderate amounts to break down the food. You should also provide a container of fresh, clean water within reach to keep them well hydrated.
If you want to know more about omnivorous animals, please read our other article about omnivorous animals with examples.
Allowed and forbidden food for ducks
Allowed food for ducks:
Here is a look at some of the best fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds for ducks:
When it comes to fruits, do not forget that they contain a relatively high amount of natural sugar. For this reason, they should be offered to ducks in moderation so as not to harm their health or promote obesity.
Forbidden foods for ducks
Although they have a great digestive capacity, there are some potentially toxic foods for ducks that cannot be part of their diet. Next, we review some of them:
- Embedded, industrialized, fried, and/or spiced human food.
- Chocolate and chocolate drinks.
- Coffee and caffeinated beverages.
- Human treats in general (candy, chewing gums, cookies, etc.).
- Milk and dairy products (especially those that contain a lot of fat).
If you want to know more about the appropriate diet of wild and domestic ducks, do not miss this other article about what not to feed ducks.
Where does the domestic duck live?
The space where your duck will live is another fundamental factor when caring for a domestic duck, as it should provide the optimal conditions for the duck's physical and cognitive development.
Ducks are found on almost every continent and, therefore, the natural habitat of each species and subspecies usually varies depending on their place of origin. Ducks tend to live near lakes, swamps, riverbeds, lagoons, and streams. Most species are better adapted to freshwater waters, although there are some duck species that are adapted to brackish water.
Ducks typically spend several hours of their day at the water's surface, where they feed, exercise, and preen. Therefore, if you adopt a duck as a pet, you will definitely need a pond, pool or other object that performs this function of water storage. Also, you must ensure proper hygiene of this water reservoir to prevent the accumulation of impurities and food residues that favor the proliferation of potentially pathogenic microorganisms in the water.
Although the aquatic environment is essential for their development, domestic ducks also require a terrestrial environment to walk, warm themselves, and dry their bodies. In this environment, they must have a clean, dry sheltered area where they can protect themselves from climatic adversities and predators. A rabbit hutch or chicken coop may be the best "home" for your ducks, but make sure it is the right size to accommodate them comfortably.
We would like to reiterate that ducks are very clean animals, spending several hours of the day grooming their feathers and keeping their environment clean. Therefore, it is important that you maintain a good hygiene routine in the environment where your ducks live. In addition to changing their food and water daily, you need to make sure that they do not accumulate feces and food debris. To facilitate the collection of feces, we advise you to cover the floor of your duck house with sand.
Although they are hardy animals that can live up to 15 years in captivity, domestic ducks can also be affected by some common avian diseases or parasites that are common in birds, such as mites and intestinal parasites. It is important to watch daily for the following symptoms that may indicate your duck is sick:
- Nasal swelling, redness or runny nose
- Changes in stool, either in consistency (very hard or very soft) or color (yellowish, reddish or black)
- Difficulty breathing
- Ruffled, dull or dirty-looking feathers
- Eye redness or discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in usual behavior
To prevent these symptoms from affecting your ducks' health, do not neglect hygiene in their environment and always provide a complete and balanced diet to boost their immune system. In addition, it is important that you provide your ducks with the right preventive medicine and visit a specialized veterinarian at least once a year.
Aside from taking care of their physical needs, ducks can also suffer emotional consequences if their environment does not meet their cognitive and social needs. Therefore, if you decide to adopt a duck as a pet, you must pay attention to its mental stimulation and always reserve a special moment of the day to interact with your companion. In addition, some websites and specialty stores already offer toys and accessories to enrich the ducks' environment and keep them happy.
Ducks are also very social animals that are used to living in groups. Loneliness usually affects them very easily and can lead to behavioral problems and depression. For this reason, it is generally recommended to adopt at least one pair of ducks, so they can have a minimum of interaction with another individual of their species.
There are several animals that many people confuse with each other, including swans, geese, and ducks. In this other article, we will explain the differences between swans and geese or ducks, so you can tell the difference when you see some in the wild.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Take Care of a Duck?, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.