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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 2 of 40

Please Read This First

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Disclaimer

The advice contained in this material might be suitable for everyone. The

author got information from sources believed to be reliable and from personal experience, but does not imply nor offer any guarantee of accuracy.

The author, publisher and distributors never give legal, accounting, medical

or any other type of professional advice. The reader must always seek those

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 3 of 40

Contents

Please Read This First........................................................................................2

Terms of Use ...........................................................................................................................2

Disclaimer................................................................................................................................2

Contents ..............................................................................................................3

About the Author ................................................................................................5

Introduction .........................................................................................................6

Can Your Ducks Save You Money? ......................................................................................6

What Age should Your First Ducks Be? ...........................................................7

Where to Get Your Ducks...................................................................................8

A Couple of Ducks ............................................................................................11

Ducks are not Good House-Pets .....................................................................12

Choosing Your Vet............................................................................................13

Housing Your Ducks.........................................................................................14

The Duck House........................................................................................................................15

Where to get Help .............................................................................................17

Keep Safe and Legal.........................................................................................18

Protecting Your Ducks .....................................................................................19

Birds.......................................................................................................................................20

Wild Animals .........................................................................................................................20

Controlling Predators...........................................................................................................21

Water..................................................................................................................23

Choosing Your Ducks ......................................................................................24

Which Breeds are Best?...................................................................................25

Meat............................................................................................................................................25

Muscovy ................................................................................................................................25

Peking ....................................................................................................................................25

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 4 of 40

Eggs ...........................................................................................................................................26

Orpington ..............................................................................................................................26

Campbell................................................................................................................................26

Pets ............................................................................................................................................27

Call Ducks .............................................................................................................................27

Basic Health Checks.........................................................................................28

What to Look For ..................................................................................................................29

Don’t Delay ............................................................................................................................30

Handling Your Ducks........................................................................................31

Take Care for Yourself and the Duck..................................................................................31

Travelling with Ducks .......................................................................................33

Take Care in Vehicles...........................................................................................................33

Processing Your Ducks....................................................................................34

Resources .........................................................................................................37

Organizations for Duck Owners..............................................................................................37

United Kingdom ....................................................................................................................37

U.S.A. .....................................................................................................................................37

Information ................................................................................................................................38

Killing Ducks for Food .........................................................................................................38

Farewell from Ken Smythe ...............................................................................39

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 5 of 40

About the Author

Ken Smythe was introduced to ducks at an early age, when he stayed at a

farm belonging to a relative.

Ken said, “They had a variety of animals as well as chickens and ducks.”

“I enjoyed being around all of them. But, the ducks were a firm favorite for

me right from the first time I saw them up close.”

Ken wrote his book for people that want to keep ducks to provide food for

their table or as pets.

Ducks have other benefits apart from their eggs and meat.

They are fun to watch and can also be a great help keeping down the bugs

and some other pests in gardens and orchards.

Ken said that many people think that ducks are more difficult to look after

than chickens and need a great deal more room.

“I believe that my book will help my readers become successful duck

owners.”

“They will learn that ducks have different requirements to chickens, for

example, but they are not as hard to keep as many believe.”

“This ebook will help you to save time, money and avoid stress by giving you

the information you need and the best tips for successful duck keeping.”

“It has all the information that you need to keep your ducks happy and

productive!”

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 6 of 40

Introduction

Ducks are fascinating to watch, but they are also of great value to their

owners as a source of eggs and meat.

They can assist keeping your garden almost slug and snail free. You must

carefully protect plants like lettuces which they are partial to nibbling on

whenever they get the chance. But, the benefits of their presence probably

far outweigh the small amount of your garden which they take in return.

Can Your Ducks Save You Money?

Many people are surprised and disappointed when they check into the costs

of raising ducks to provide meat and/or eggs for their table.

Unless it's done on a professional basis with a flock,

your eggs and duck burgers will cost more than if you

just buy some from the local store.

But, there are benefits which most people might

consider more valuable which out-weigh the extra

costs involved.

There are many people who are starting to keep

ducks because they want to have more control over

what they feed their family.

Many people have reservations about how some meat

products and eggs are produced commercially. Feeding your family from your

own livestock is appealing. You know what the birds eat, that they are kept

in clean conditions and treated humanely through all stages of their lives.

The good news is that it is not as hard or costly as you might imagine. I

believe that my book will guide you through all the steps you need to become

a successful duck owner. We’ll start with the information you need to know

before you actually get any ducks and take you through to where you should

be eating your first eggs. I envy you the enjoyment and satisfaction you

have ahead of you! Ken Smythe

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 7 of 40

What Age should Your First Ducks Be?

This question is important. The best answer will vary according to the

purpose which you are buying your ducks for and your own experience and

environment.

Buying young ducklings will save you money initially. But,

you will have to pay more for their special feed and also

invest more time in the first couple of months than if you

bought older birds.

Advanced birds will have been cared for through the most risky time of their

lives, when they are developing and subject to many perils simply because of

their inexperience.

I suggest that you get birds which are about twenty weeks old or more for

your first stock. They will be young enough to adapt to the routine which you devise for them, but will probably require less intense supervision than very young ducklings would.

When you have had the experience of caring for your first ducks, you will be

more confident and capable to decide for yourself the type of stock you buy

and raise in the future.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 8 of 40

Where to Get Your Ducks

There are a number of ways to get your new ducks.

Don’t be in a hurry to get your ducks – that can cause you to make serious

mistakes.

Reading this section of the ebook will give you a good idea of the sort of

stock which will be most suitable for you and the area you have available.

You also will know what questions to ask and be able to judge from the

answers and the attitude of the seller whether you should proceed with

buying from them.

Some people are better at selling ducks than they are at producing good

quality birds.

A good tip whenever you want to buy something, especially in a one to one

situation, is to keep your knowledge to yourself. Just ask questions that will help you increase your knowledge and decide if what’s offered is really

suitable for your requirements.

But, don’t volunteer information which may be more help to the seller than to you. Telling the seller that the breed they are offering is just what you having been looking for will mean you pay more than you probably need to.

Casual advertisements can be a source of good bargains but you should be wary. If you don’t know the seller and can get no information about them

from other duck owners, you have to check everything you see and are told

before you agree to buy.

The reason offered for selling their birds may be true but you should inspect everything and follow your instincts if anything does not seem right.

You should view any casual sales as final because it would be hard, if not

impossible, to get your money back. The time and cost involved might be

worth more than the amount involved.

Also, you should always get only stock which you are very satisfied with. If

there seems to be any question about their health, actual breed or other

qualities, politely decline the offer and walk away.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 9 of 40

Breeders are a wise choice when you are starting your venture with ducks.

Most experienced duck owners prefer to always get their stock from them,

even when there are other, probably cheaper options available.

If you are likely to be buying more stock on a regular basis, you may develop a business relationship with a particular breeder. But, when you are deciding where to buy your first few ducks, don’t settle on the first lot you see. Check what is available from as many breeders of suitable birds in your area. You

want to find the best ducks and one or, preferably two, reliable sources of

future birds.

The breeders are, of course, a great source of reliable information about

ducks. Good breeders don’t mind a couple of questions but always respect

their time.

Always contact them as soon as you have made a firm decision to get some

ducks because they will be able to tell you whether they have the type you

want and, if so, when the next lot will be ready for sale.

I suggest that you never buy anything but good quality stock. But, if you are buying ducks for food rather than to breed or exhibit, you may sometimes be

able to get healthy birds that are not completely true to the breed standards from breeders.

The Internet is a great source of information about every aspect of keeping ducks, though there is also a lot of misinformation available there as well.

More ducks and other livestock are now being sold that way too. This should

be okay if you are able to verify the reputation and standards of a particular seller.

But, you have more risk when you are dealing with sellers who are not

located near you.

It’s much better, especially when you are just starting out, to buy only birds which you can see and even smell.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 10 of 40

If you order from a distant source and there is a problem with the birds you

get, or if you don’t get them, you will have to invest more time and money in getting the matter sorted.

Also, you may need to get special permits or follow specific procedures if you are getting birds from outside your own State. Regulations are much stricter

since the outbreaks of Avian flu became more common and widespread.

Farm sales and markets are often the source of someone’s first ducks or other stock. You can sometimes get a bargain if you have a solid knowled e

g

of the type of bird you want to buy.

But, there can be traps if your enthusiasm is greater than your knowledge.

Some sellers will misrepresent the age, productivity, quality or even the

breed of the birds they offer. This may be deliberately deceptive or they may have been misinformed themselves when they bought the birds.

There is also probably a greater risk of getting stock which has health

problems in the form of disease or parasites from one-off markets and sales.

Never make any exceptions to this rule: Whatever the source you get

your new birds from, keep them isolated and watch them carefully for two

weeks before putting them with any other birds you already have.

That will help to protect your established flock.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 11 of 40

A Couple of Ducks

If you want to just have a small number of ducks, two is much better than

one.

Ducks are very social birds and they

also have a need to establish who is

the “boss” duck. So, a single duck is

unlikely be as comfortable without at

least one other duck with it.

Don’t get a male duck unless you

intend to breed ducks. Then you should have at least six ducks and one

drake. Less will cause the ducks to be harassed a lot by the drake during the season.

A small group of females will be fine without the attentions of a drake. They will also be easier to look after and, yes, they will probably lay just as many eggs.

The eggs will be infertile but that will not affect their nutrition value or taste to any noticeable degree.

If you have more birds and get a male that has not been de-sexed, you will

need to put more effort into maintaining the health and welfare of your birds.

One drake (male duck) can happily tend to the needs of up to ten females.

Having a higher ratio of drakes will probably cause the females stress

because of the competing and frequent attentions of the drakes.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 12 of 40

Ducks are not Good House-Pets

Some people are happy to have their pet duck share all or part of their

home.

But, this is not ideal for the people and other pets or the “lucky” duck.

The domestic arrangements are going to be upset, no matter how

accommodating all the people invol e

v d try to be.

Ducks need a companion duck. Female ducks (called ducks) need one as a

companion and it doesn’t have to be a drake. A male duck also needs

another duck around.

But, drakes are more trouble to keep than ducks. They are fairly aggressive

with females and all of them tend to smell in the mating season. Most male

ducklings are killed.

Two ducks are unlikely to be welcome over time in most homes.

Their droppings are loose and somebody is going to have to clean up after

them. The droppings may damage some fabrics and other valued

possessions.

All ducks need access to water that is deep enough for them to put their

entire head and beak into. This means that there will be water scattered

through that area of your home.

It is unlikely that your friends and other visitors will be used to sharing the room with a duck. This may lead to less visitors.

There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can read about people

that have shared their lives and even their homes with their pet ducks.

That’s fine, but I cannot believe that the duck would not have been better off living in a more natural setting such as a properly prepared duck house and

without the many strange devices and events which we understand and it

could not.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 13 of 40

Choosing Your Vet

The veterinarian that you get to treat your ducks is as important to their

health as the doctor you choose for your family is to you.

You should check with other duck owners in your area where possible.

If you don’t know any, you should ask at your local duck owners’

organization meetings. This sort of information is ilkely to be worth a large part of your annual subscription.

The first question about any vet is whether they have had regular and recent

experience treating ducks.

It’s probably worthwhile to visit a couple of vets’ premises before making

your final selection. You want to see how the staff treat regular and casual

clients and ensure that the facilities are of a good standard.

A vet is worth what they charge but you should inquire what your vet

charges before you actually have need of their services.

It is wise to check if they use a separate veterinary service for their after-hours calls? If they do, you might want to check if the vets at the other

service also have recent experience with ducks.

A vet is a valuable source of information as well as practical support for o y ur

ducks.

But, they are very busy professionals, so I suggest that you keep questions

to a minimum. It’s a good idea to write them out and review them before you

go to your next appointment so that they will be fresh in your mind and you

don’t forget to ask about anything which you need to know more about.

This could save you money as well as build your relationship with your vet.

That will show your vet that you appreciate his or her help and take steps to minimize the call on his time. Although they get paid for the time, they

probably have more patients waiting.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 14 of 40

Housing Your Ducks

The housing and protection of your birds is something which you need to sort

out before you even think of making any purchases.

Ducks need access to water.

This can be natural or a pool which you install.

If you have a natural stream or

pond, you need to ensure that your

ducks cannot get away from your

property and that they are protected

from predators which will try to get

in!

The area around th

e water source

should be well-drained. If it is not, the activity of your birds will turn it into a muddy swamp fairly quickly.

This will mean the birds become dirty which can lead to health risks over

time.

WARNING: If you let children into the area with your ducks, they need to be carefully supervised all the time. Children can drown in less than two inches of wate

r and they can fall into streams or pools very easily when they are

playing where ducks are located.

I strongly recommend that you provide a secure house with an enclosed run

attached even if you are letting your birds roam each day.

That’s because ducks have reasonable night-vision and they do not roost

when it becomes dark like chickens do.

All your birds should be brought into the duck enclosure each night.

Unless you train them to come back to the area near the duck house to be

fed each afternoon, they will continue to forage into the night and leave the house at any time if it is not locked down.

That will put them at greater risk than they are during the daylight.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 15 of 40

This secure area will also help to keep them safe if e er

v

you need to go away

for a period, (although someone will have to let them out and check them

every day) or if there are reports at some time of stray dogs which might

attack them.

The duck run does not need to be as tall as the duck house because ducks

don’t need to fly within it and only Muscovys use perches or tree limbs.

If you keep your birds in an enclosur the run

e,

should have an easy to clean

surface and a pool for them to use. A plastic pool may be sufficient.

It will need to be cleaned out at least every two days. Make sure you have

suitable equipment for the job always available.

The water does not have to be very deep. But your ducks must be able to put

their head and neck below the surface. This is how they keep their eyes and

nose clean – they don’t have tear ducts.

Always include at least one r m

a p in the pool so that the ducks can get out.

That ramp must be fixed in place so that it does not move when the ducks

use it. But, you should be able to remove it easily so that it can be repaired or cleaned thoroughly.

Make sure that you don’t have any plants which are potentially dangerous to

them in the areas where the ducks roam.

Provide some shade in their run by putting in suitable structures or plants.

Ducks can be negatively affected if they become either too hot or too cold.

The level of risk varies between the breeds.

The Duck House

The house for ducks needs to be secure, made of materials which cannot

harm the birds and designed to allow easy access to all parts for cleaning and maintenance.

The house should be set on an area of solid material so that you will be able to clean it easily.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 16 of 40

This is not just for your convenience. It will reduce the amount of waste and rubbish which can harbor disease and attract vermin and complaints from

neighbors.

Solid construction is essential. Good locks are too.

The opening in the door to the house should be wide enough for two of your

ducks to go through side by side. Because ducks have a pecking order, even

when there are only two or three, there will be hassles if the door is too

narrow and a junior duck gets to the door first.

If you use a door which slides across, the lower groove is likely to become

blocked with muck after a while. A hinged door or a vertically sliding one is likely to need less maintenance but whatever door you use needs to be a

good fit so that a predator cannot pull it away from the frame and get into

where it can harm the ducks.

Make sure that there is adequate ventilation because the birds can be

affected by extremes of temperature. But, you must ensure that they don’t

have drafts either.

Most ducks will not need perches because they don’t fly. But, that means you

need to ensure that the entrance to their house is low so that they can get in or out easily and quickly.

Try to put the duck’s house nearer to your home than that of any neighbor so

that you will know if there is any noise from them during the night.

Be prepared to get up early to release your birds into their day area or they may become noisy.

The house must be sited so that the ducks do not become stressed by being

too hot or cold when the weather conditions change.

The house must be made well enough that it will withstand the most extreme

weather which can be expected in your area.

Regular checking and prompt maintenance will help you keep your birds

healthy and your neighbors happy.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 17 of 40

Where to get Help

There are many sources of help available.

I have included some useful addresses in a number of countries in the

resource section at the end of my ebook.

The Internet is a popular means of accessing information but it is best used

as a back-up to resources which are available in your local area and your

State.

Remember that there is a lot of out-of-date and plain wrong information all

over the Internet. Sometimes that happens because the person that wrote

the information was misled themselves. But, sometimes, the writer is

deliberately misleading.

Almost every area of the country has a group of poultry owners even in fairly small communities.

Some groups are focused on the particular needs of farmers and breeders,

but they usually welcome people with just a few birds.

You can find them in your local phone book, through your local agricultural

service or by asking at a veterinarian office or feed supplier.

Most organizations will let you attend a couple of meetings before you decide whether to apply and pay for membership.

You will find the fee for membership to these groups is a valuable

investment. You will meet many more experienced owners who willingly

share their knowledge. They will also be willing to give you recommendations

for the best sources of feed and equipment and ducks, based on their

personal experience.

Many of these groups arrange discount deals for their members with

suppliers. They may also have deals on State or National events for duck

owners.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 18 of 40

Keep Safe and Legal

Every duck owner has a responsibility to f l

o low the rules and regulations

which apply in their locality.

Although this chapter may seem a bit downbeat, it is only intended to make

sure you check the rules and professional advice so that you, your family,

your ducks and anyone that comes into contact with them is safe.

The outbreaks of avian flu in recent years have increased the need to

maintain high standards of hygiene when handling ducks and the equipment.

You should check with your vet and ensure that your birds are inoculated

with all recommended treatments.

Remember that the inoculations will take time to become effective, so ensure

that you do not expose your birds to other poultry until the period is passed.

The biggest problem for most duck owners is the risk of contamination from

other ducks or people that have been near them.

If you take any birds to an exhibition or other place where there are other

birds, make sure you keep them isolated from the rest of your stock for a f w e

days at least on your return.

Remove and wash all your clothing which you wear to any event as soon as

you return.

Provide and use a disinfectant trough for shoes at all entrances to your bird area.

These rules may seem harsh but they are the minimum necessary.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 19 of 40

Protecting Your Ducks

Whether you have three ducks or a couple of dozen, you will need to pay

some attention to protecting your birds from a variety of risks and also

protecting your property from your ducks!

You need to fence the area, provide strong housing, eliminate anything in

their area which might harm the birds and provide shelter from climatic

conditions which could seriously affect their health and well-being.

Be careful about the

chemicals which you u e

s

for your garden or other

plants. These can be a

serious hazard for your

birds and also to any

children that come into

the area.

Snail pellets and powders can harm ducks and cause death to ducklings.

They are also toxic to dogs and cats. Although some brands are now labeled

as being safe, I would not use them because some vets say that they may

still be harmful.

Some sprays can have poisonous residues which may remain in the fruit and

also the branches of the trees. These deposits can accumulate and reach

levels which may be harmful to any creature which eats or even just pecks at

them. This is a problem if loose branches are put into areas where your

ducks roam. Wherever possible, check what sprays have been used on any

trees or other plants which your birds have access to.

Consult your local agricultural authorities for advice and information about

the regulations which you must follow. Check with other duck owners too.

Never use any method which could cause injury or extended suffering to any

creature. That may cause damage to your reputation with neighbors and

other members of the community.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 20 of 40

Predators include wild animals, birds, rodents, domes i

t c dogs and cats and

humans.

Birds

A variety of birds will attack ducks, especially young birds. Some are also a big threat to eggs.

Where practical, you should have strong netting over your runs, including

areas where ducklings are roaming.

Netting is sometimes effective but it must be strong so that it does not sag

under the weight of birds. If it does, it is likely that gaps will appear

eventually and wild birds will push into the run.

It’s also important to use a fairly small mesh so t a

h t the wild birds cannot

put their heads or claws through.

Wild Animals

If you have foxes in your area, you will need to take every possible

precaution as they are a major threat to ducks.

They are territorial, so you may only have to contend with one most of the

time, but that is enough! Getting rid of the local fox will not be the end of the story as it’s likel

y that another one will be attracted into the area and your

birds would be part of the reason.

Foxes have become more common in residential areas. These animals may

attack your birds in broad daylight if they are hungry enough and have

overcome their natural wariness around humans.

Weasels, badgers and raccoons are just a few of the other predators that may attack your ducks. Some are particularly attracted to the ducklings and

the eggs.

Rats and mice are a common problem because they are also attracted by

even the smallest amounts of loose seed and other duck feed.

If you see one, you can be sure that there are more of them close by. Even if you don’t see them, you should act as if they are nearby. Keep checking and

maintaining your defenses.

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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

Page 21 of 40

Never handle dead or live mice or rats without strong gloves and wash your

hands thoroughly afterwards to reduce the possibility of an infection.

Watch for cracks and holes which may appear in your duck house walls,

especially near the base. These could be made and used by rats or mice.

Block them up securely as quickly as possible so that vermin don’t get in and your birds do not injure themselves in the openings.