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Snakes will be attracted to young ducks and also to the mice which come to steal some of the feed.

Always be alert, keep all areas mown and always have a clear area around

the fences which protects your birds.

People are another potential problem. Small children need always to be supervised when they are near ducks. There is a risk that they may be

nipped by a duck if they get too close or appear threatening.

They also are a risk to the health and safety of your birds, especially

ducklings, which can easily be injured by unintentional squeezing or other


Of course, the biggest risk from humans is deliberate theft or injury. Many

people who are usually honest will take a duck if they get the chance and

believe that they can get away with it.

There is always a risk with pet ducks which have developed a trust for the

humans they associate with each day. They are often stolen or casually

harmed and left on their owner’s property by some low-life that just walked


All ducks need to be kept in areas where public access is prevented. Make

sure the fences around your property are adequate and the area around your

ducks’ quarters is well lit at night and close as possible to your home.

Controlling Predators

Be careful what methods you use to control or remove any creature which

you think is a threat to your ducks. Even if you have a license for a gun,


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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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there will probably be bans on its use in residential areas and restrictions


You should check with your local and state authorities what methods you are

allowed to use to protect your birds and other property.

You can use traps and even poison in most areas but each may catch or kill

other creatures which could cause you trouble with your neighbors and even

the law.

If you use poisons of any kind, ensure that it is set in ways which will make it very difficult for other creatures to get at. Remember that you also need to

be able to retrieve the animals you c t

a ch or they will cause strong offensive

odors within a couple of days.

Always check traps and poisons every day to ensure that you deal with

anything you catch as quickly as possible.

Using live traps is a way to ensure that you get the right animals but you

then have to humanely dispose of the live predator.

Don’t use poisons without getting professional advice because of the risk to

other animals and people, including your own family.

Fencing is the best method for controlling foxes and some other creatures.

The fencing needs to extend well below soil level and should have an

overhang which leans away from the pen at the top.

Electric fencing can be used at suitably low levels to deter predators. It is not always completely effective.

Your ducks may be upset or even hurt if the shock level is too high and the

birds connect with it when they are wet.

Two layers of strong netting, one several inches inside the other, can be an

effective means of keeping some predators away from your birds and

reducing the stress which would be caused if they come close to the birds

where there is a single layer of netting.

But, this is more expensive and both barriers need to be strong, with the

edge buried well into the earth around the ducks’ area.


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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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Ducks always need access to water but a lack of a large body of water is no

reason for you to get a couple of ducks.

The wild varieties need larger and deeper areas of water than most of us

could provide, but many people use a child’s large pool as the main source of water for their domestic breed ducks.

You will need to move the pool around if it is on the surface so that muck

does not accumulate underneath it. Moving it will be needed more frequently

if the pool is located on soil because the area underneath will become

messier and possibly unhealthy.

G v

i e your ducks clean drinking water and a pool

which they can splash about in, then they will

be happy. Unless the pool has enough water to

allow them to splash water all over themselves,

they will probably not be able to spread oil from

their preening gland over all their feathers.

That oil is needed for their feathers to be healthy and for the birds to float.

The birds will submerge their heads in the pool which will help clean their

nostrils and eyes.

But, the pool needs to be kept as clean as possible and that means you will

need to do it daily. Otherwise, the accumulated muck may cause some



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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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Choosing Your Ducks

Your selection of ducks will be governed by what you want to use the birds


I am including details of some of the most common and popular breeds w th


details of their commonly accepted suitability for different goals.

I recommend that anyone who is just getting their first ducks should try to

find a suitable supply in their local area rather than buying them from a

supplier farther away.

Getting your first stock locally will remove some potential risks which i

m ght

happen with ordering, transport and handling the new birds when they


Breeders are always the best people to deal with. You will usually get the

best prices and some great advice from them.

The local supplier will have those breeds of birds that are known to suit your local conditions.

You will be able to see them before making your purchase and the advice you

get from the supplier will be directly applicable to your needs.

You may have to wait until birds of the age you decide to get are available.

Your facilities and budget will also influence what type of ducks you get and the number you keep at any one time.

If the birds you are offered seem below par, walk away. Do not accept them

at a “bargain price”. The most important rule is to get the best stock you

can. Never buy ducks which do not appear to be in top condition. They will not produce the results you desire and will cost you more in money and other

resources than getting less birds of a better standard will.

It is always better to have more space than your ducks require. Stocking

heavily can stress the ducks leading to health issues, reduce their

productivity, degrade the area they are in and encourage the development of



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Which Breeds are Best?

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular duck breeds for various




Unlike the other breeds of duck, which have developed from the Mallard, the

Muscovy is descended from a South American duck which lived in trees!

They have strong webbed

feet with claws. They can fly

and perch off the ground,

unlike most other ducks.

They are good insect


But, they will attack small

animals, so don’

t let them near other domestic birds, such as fowl, or any

kind of pets.

They have a crest which they raise when excited and a fleshy r

a ea called a

carbuncle which surrounds their eyes and the base of their beaks.

Their confidence and striking appearance have divided duck owners into

those who cherish them and others who avoid them because they say that

the Muscovy looks strange and behaves badly.

They lay about 100 eggs a year and are good for the table as well, but the

Peking is regarded as a better choice for meat production.


The Peking came from China in the 1800’s and has been used in the

development of many of the other breeds intended for meat production.

Their basic shape has been described as a rowboat sitting on its stern

although some are now being bred with bodies that are more parallel to the



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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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It is prized for its ability to produce a high ratio of meat to bone. It is also a good forager and layer as well.

It needs space to roam and water to wash


The body is almost vertical and the tail is

close to the ground. That and its loose

feathering can cause the birds to get dirty

where the ground is muddy.

So, they should be kept clean. The bird

be checke

s must

d for mites


Despite these points, they are one of the most v

aluable breeds for meat and

also for developing new and better duck breeds to improve the industry.



There are currently three varieties of the Orpington, including the Buff

Orpington, which may be the most popular of the three. The original breed

was developed by the same breeder that gave us the Buff Orpington chicken.

They are better layers than many duck breeds and are also considered good

for eating.

They are adaptable and can get along even if they do not have a body of

water to swim in, but will need a source where they can splash water over


They would be suitable for a first attempt at breeding ducks provided you

had some access to an experienced breeder for hands-on information and

some experience with maintaining ducks first.

They can be kept in small areas or in a free-range situation.


The best known variety is the Khaki Campbell.

They are, reputedly, the best layers of the three Campbell varieties.


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They can be messy but do not fly, so they are not as hard as some other

varieties to maintain. They ha e

v a need to forage, so give them n

e ough


You might be able to keep them with your chickens if you have some. The

two factors which might work a a

g inst that would be whether you kept a

drake and whether the temperament of the chickens would lead them to be

stressed having the ducks with h

t em.

The Campbell ducks will lay and get along fine without a drake. If you do get a drake, you should give it at least four ducks to service because they are

very aggressive during the mating period.

They could harm or, at least cause severe stress and noticeable feather loss

to the ducks if there are just one or two.


Call Ducks

The small Call breeds which were developed to lure wild ducks into tra s

p are

suitable for pets.

But, they are relatively noisy and you would need to check well in advance of getting them that your neighbors would not complain to you or the local

authorities about them.

Their small size, their chubby appearance and their nature gives them great

appeal and makes them easy for children to handle. They are also a very

popular section at poultry exhibitions.

They will be much happier with a mate of their own choosing.


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Basic Health Checks

When you learn to do more yourself with your ducks, your venture will be

more efficient and you will be able to look forward to better results with less stress.

Do your own research, but check information with other duck owners, your

local agricultural service or your vet to ensure that it is appropriate and legal in your area.

In this section, I will only cover those points which most duck owners do


Any of the more advanced strategies should only be done after consultation

with your vet or, at the least, thorough hands-on training from an

experienced and successful duck owner in your area.

This is important when you are looking at birds which you are first thinking of buying, but you will also learn the value of running your eyes over all your

birds whenever you are near them.

One important tip is to focus when you are looking at your birds on a daily

basis. If they are an important source of income for you, you will be doing

that. But many people that just have a few ducks as a hobby tend to just

give them a quick glance.

When you are looking at the same birds every day, you may not realize the

significance of some part of them gradually changing in size or appearance.

You may see that one or more of your birds are getting larger and think

that’s a great change. But, they may have a growth developing which needs

to be checked, or be adding fat from being over-fed or converting their feed

better so you will get more meat.

That is important to you and also to the health of the birds. A fat duck is an unhealthy duck.

If you see a change in the appearance or condition of any of your birds and

you don’t know what it means, check it out.


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What to Look For

Feather loss may be caused by an illness, but a duck that loses feathers from the back or its head

in the mating season is

probably being given too

much attention by your


If you see dull feathers,

the ducks may not have a

water source deep enough

for them to sit in and

throw water all over

themselves. In that state,

they will not be able to

spread the lubricating oil

from their preening gland

over themselves. This can have serious consequences and should be fixed


The birds’ eyes should be shiny. If they are not bright-eyed, they need to be checked carefully for what is ailing them.

Any awkwardness in the way they walk should be checked. They are lik


us in that they need their legs working properly and supporting their weight

well. Some illnesses can cause ducks to appear uncoordinated or dizzy.

Dirty nostrils or dirty eyes signal that they don’t have a water source which they can dip their whole head and neck into. This is essential for the

ducks rely on washing their eyes in clean water regularly because they do not have tear ducts.

If you see that a duck’s vent is soiled by droppings and anything else except fresh mud, or if it smells bad, you have a sick duck because they will always keep that area clean if they are physically able to.


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Ducks can be victims of bullying, just like humans. Any sign that a duck is reluctant to eat or go with the other ducks foraging is a sign that should be investigated.

Don’t Delay

Isolation is the first step, so you can observe the bird closely and give it

some extra food and water which it doesn’t have to share with the others.

You will also be reducing the risk of anything which is affecting the bird being transferred to others in your flock.

Any delay could mean you act too late. The birds often hide any sign of a

problem until it is has a strong hold on them.

One way to catch problems is to compare the actions and activity level of

different birds to each other. There will be natural variations but sometimes you will notice marked differences.

Then, you can pay more attention to the bird that is not coping as well as the others. This bird has a problem and you need to find it and deal with it.


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Handling Your Ducks

In this section, I will suggest some good ways to handle your birds in

different common situations.

Take Care fo

r Yourself and the Duck

You can easily damage yourself or your ducks from doing things too quickly

or without proper thought.

You should be as careful of your own posture and general safety when lifting

or carrying a duck as you would be if you were carrying a parcel of similar

size. The duck is more likely to cause damage because it will move unless

you restrain it.

You can hurt or even kill it if you do that wrong.

You also could be hurt by its beak or have your clothes stained if it sprays

waste because of the stress it is feeling.

Whenever you want to pick up a duck, take a cautious approach. If you

hurry, the duck will get agitated and the risks start to multiply.

Stay calm and try to ensure that the duck does the same. You will get the

result you want more quickly and with less stress all around.

The best place to get your duck is when it is in the duck house, preferably in a corner.

You might make it part of your routine to catch any bird which you need to

examine or transport when they come to the duck house to be fed in the

afternoon. Make sure that you don’t cause any alarm among the birds or it

will become more difficult to get it to come in from then on.

Another tactic is to keep them closed in first thing in the morning until you catch your bird.

Otherwise, try to maneuver it into a spot where it cannot easily get away.


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Put one hand loosely on the duck’s neck and slide your other arm under the

duck until you can put two fingers between its legs and gently wrap your other fingers around them.

Keep two fingers between the duck’s legs at all times. Never squeeze

or otherwise apply any pressure which would push them together or

you may seriously injure the duck.

Keep your hand lightly on its neck, giving it support and not applying any

unnecessary pressure.

Lift the duck with your arm which is under it. The duck’s beak will point

toward your body and its tail will point away from you.

That will reduce the risk of its waste staining you

r clothes.

The duck will probably be fairly comfortable in this position.

Some duck owners use a large fishing net with a ring and a handle to catch

their ducks if they cannot corner them. This will need some practice to

minimize the risk to the duck of being hit with the metal rim on t

he net.

Another important point is that many owners cause injury to their ducks

when they put them down after being very careful while they were catching

and carrying them.

It can be awkward to set down a lively duck and they can get a leg seriously

hurt very easily if you are not steady in your movements and as gentle as

possible in that process.

Be particularly careful with all drakes in the mating season because they are excited.

Always take special care with Muscovy ducks and drakes that will bite or use

their claws when upset. They are a different breed from the others, very

strong and determined.

Ask other bird owners to show you how they catch and hold their birds.


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Travelling with Ducks

You may be able to buy purpose built travelling boxes for your ducks.

Some people successfully use pet-carriers made for dogs and cats to

transport individual birds. Always get advice from your vet or a very

experienced duck owner before trying this with your particular birds.

Each breed has its own needs and potential risks when being transported.

Because the carriers are designed for creatures which are physically and

emotionally very different from ducks, some types of carriers may have in-

built problems which an experienced person is more likely to see in advance.

Whatever container you use, it should be:

9 Strong enough to prevent the duck escaping.

9 Have no holes which are big enough for the duck to get its head

through in case there is a sudden stop.

9 Lined with absorbent material for the ducks’ waste.

9 Large enough for the bird to stand fully upright.

9 Well ventilated.

Take Care in Vehicles

Do not put a duck i on a seat of a car which has airbags. The triggered bag

would harm or possibly kill the bird. Even if it was in a strong box, the sound and shock could prove fa a

t l.

You will need to observe any regulations which affect the transport of

livestock i

n those areas where you are carrying the birds.

You must carry water and some food for the birds. It would be wise to only

give them access to it when you stop from time to time. That will reduce h

t e

mess in the container which you have put the bird in.

If you are using commercial transport for your birds, you will need to abide

by their rules as well. Check what may be involved when you arrange the



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Processing Your Ducks

In some areas, there are poultry processors that will process birds belonging to people who have only a few birds. You should check your phone directory

and also search the Internet. Other duck owners, your vet or feed supplier

may also be sources of reliable recommendations.

But, there will be times when you, or someone in your household, will have

to do it.

Killing ducks is unavoidable whether you are keeping them for pets or for


If you are breeding ducks,

you will probably have to

kill some of the drake

chicks because there is

generally less demand for

them and only certain

breeds are suitable to be


You will also possibly find an injured duck when a vet is not available. Then, you may need to end the low-quality life of an old or unhealthy bird that you don’t want to let suffer any more.

This can be hard for anyone that has developed a connection with the birds,

but it is inevitable. Getting someone to accept this task is essential.

They need to know how to do it efficiently so that the bird is caused

minimum stress and pain.

I believe that all adults in your household should know how to do it so that

an injured bird can be put out of its pain if the person that usually handles them is not available and there is no suitable vet close by and quickly


I understand and sympathize with those people who are stressed even by the

thought of having to kill one of their birds. Instead of thinking that you are


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causing them pain, remember that you have given them a good life and the

best of care.

You ensure that they do not suffer by being quick and accurate. Sometimes,

that is a better end than living on while their health deteriorates further.

You must check with the Agricultural department in your State and local

authorities about regulations and laws which you must follow regarding the

killing of your ducks, what you may or may not do with the meat and how

you must dispose of the waste parts.

There can be serious penalties for not following the rules and ignorance of

what is required will not excuse you.

IMPORTANT: I don’t think that killing procedures can be adequately taught through a book. Killing a bird should only be done when you have been

personally shown a suitable procedure by someone that has experience and

is able to show you how, answer any questions you may have and check your

first attempt. It is a good idea if there is a dead bird for you to practise first, before killing a live bird.

The most common methods are:

Dislocating the neck

Cutting the throat, or

Chopping off the head.

The first method is the most recommended currently. Provided that you have

been personally shown and tested, the neck dislocation is probably the

quickest which can be expected to minimize any suffering of the bird and

does not involve the mess which is inevitable with the other methods.

The other two involve mess but are still widely used by people with just a few birds.

There are legal requirements in some areas which relate to the prevention of

suffering of birds and animals. You should check with your poultry owners’

organization and with local authorities to make sure that you comply.


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Each owner should take reasonable care to minimize stress and pain to their

birds at all times, including when they are processed.

Separate the bird or birds which are to be killed from your other stock. They should be kept in a separate area for a few hours to let them settle down

from being moved from the other birds.

Take each bird, one at a time to a section which is out of sight of the other birds before you kill it.

The birds need to be bled and plucked as soon as possible after killing.

This process can be time consuming and tiring. That’s why many owners g t


a commercial processor to kill, dress and pack their birds in those areas

where there is a processor that is willing to do them.

Another option is to pay someone that has experience to do the work. The

cost of this can give you better results, save time and cause less stress to

the birds when you are dealing with your first few birds.

This also gives you an opportunity to learn “on-the-job” so that you do the

tasks well when you start doing them yourself.

If you are producing the meat for human consumption apart from members

of your immediate family, you need to check the regulations in your area.

You will probably have to have separate processing area or add commercial

equipment to your house so that a high standard of hygiene and safety

against any possibility infection can be maintained.

When you are processing poultry, you also may have to dispose of the waste

parts and refuse more carefully than just using your usual garbage collection.


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Organizations for Duck Owners

United Kingdom

British Waterfowl Association

(From their website) The BWA is an association of enthusiasts interested in

keeping, breeding and conserving all kinds of waterfowl including wildfowl,

domestic ducks and geese.

It is a registered charity dedicated to education about waterfowl and the

need for their conservation, as well as to raising the standards of keeping

and breeding ducks, geese and swans in captivity.

Membership is open to any individual, organisation or corporate body with an

interest in waterfowl. You do not have to be an expert to join.

Poultry Pages at

A site run by a dedicated owner of ducks and other poultry.

(From their website) On this site we've expanded over the years and now we

cover most poultry that people keep at home for a hobby: chickens, bantam

hens, ducks, geese, quail and turkeys. As well as articles and links to advice we've the best list available online of individual breeders – helping them to stay in business and you to find a local supplier of poultry.

For those needing individual help, we've a forum with a huge number of

members able to share their knowledge, tips and help whatever the problem.

Call Duck Association UK





Call Ducks-Call Duck Association UK -



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Call ducks are cute. They are the 'toy' ducks of the domestic waterfowl breeds.

Everything you want to know about these birds - Britain's most popular pet duck.

New rules for Muscovy Ducks Information

University of Minnesota Extension Service

http://www.extension.umn. d

e u/distribution/livestocksystems/di1189.html

Information about raising ducks in the U.S.A.


Information intended for people that are teaching people about raising

chickens and ducks in developing countries.

Background and other info about the Muscovy duck:

Killing Ducks for Food

Fact sheet (May 13th 2011) from the USA Department of Agriculture.

Although intended for full-time producers, some of the information could be

useful as a reference for anyone that raises ducks.



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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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Farewell from Ken Smythe

I hope that my ebook has given you ideas which will save you time, o

m ney

and stress.

I know that you will get much satisfaction and enjoyment from your birds.

They can be a source of amusement and keep you active probably much

more cheaply than other ways.

Your diet will improve with your own eggs and meat. They will also help keep

your garden pest population much lower, so your plants will be healthier and

more productive as well.

Your children will also learn that eggs don’t really grow in cardboard or

plastic boxes!

I wish that you will enjoy and prosper for years to come from your

association with the clowns of the poultry world, your ducks.

Ken Smythe


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“Your Duck Keeping Guide” by Ken Smythe

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