Can You Let Your Ducks Roam Free?

mixed breed ducks out in the grass

Free roaming ducks, that sounds so good for your ducks! Is it the best way to care for your ducks or should you have a different plan in mind?

Free roaming (having no boundaries) is not safe for your ducks. Free range ducks, where your ducks are given ample room to roam while eating plants and bugs in a defined area, is a great way to raise happy, healthy ducks.

At first, the difference between free range ducks and free roaming ducks may seem to be small or even non existent.

To the health and safety of your ducks, there’s a big difference between these two terms.

16 Duck Breeds is a list of great duck breeds with our favorite breeds!

Free range ducks are not free roaming ducks

Free range means the duck can go out to the grass and pick around at plants and eat bugs.

These ducks are still in an enclosure, the area is just big enough for the ducks to do plenty of roaming around.

Free range ducks are confined.

What? It’s true. While free range ducks are zooming around eating bugs and grass they are doing so in an enclosure that would also have an attached covered pen for them to sleep in at night.

Without the enclosure, mostly likely to be a fence, these ducks would be able to get themselves into trouble.

Free roaming ducks are ducks that have no boundaries at all. These ducks would be allowed by their owner to go where ever they wanted.

While that may sound freeing, it is actually very dangerous to the ducks and is irresponsible as a duck owner.

Ducks don’t know anything about cars, property lines or larger animals that would hurt them, like the neighbor’s dog.

It’s your job to make sure that your ducks are safe. That starts with making sure they are staying in an enclosure where they are happy and free from harm.

Do Ducks Need A Coop? tells you what kind of shelter your ducks need to feel safe and happy.

This is one of our ducks, a Pekin drake, out eating grass for the day. He has plenty of freedom, but is still close to the barn and away from neighbors and the road.

Ducks need a secure place to live

Your ducks need a comfortable and secure place to live. It does not need to be elaborate or expensive, just comfortable to the ducks.

Whether they want a break from the heat or wind or a safe place to build a nest, your ducks need to have a secure covered area they can consider to be their home.

Our ducks spend most of the time outside, even though they can hang out in the barn anytime they want.

The point is that you are giving your ducks the choice to be where they feel most comfortable.

If your ducks do not want to spend time in the pen during the day, that’s fine. It’s more important that they have the choice to be in it or not.

Ducks attract predators

Ducks seem to be predator magnets, right up there with chickens.

If you let your ducks run all over the place, you are also letting them put themselves in harm’s way.

Our ducks usually stay close to the barn and when they do we rarely have predation problems.

Everything changes if the ducks decide to spend the night out in the field, then they die.

We have had as many as 10 ducks be picked off in one night because of a predator, not sure which one but the best guess is an opossum.

This was due to a poor choice on their part (spending the night out on the hillside) and me not noticing them bedding down out so far from safety.

The main point being: close to the barn the ducks are safe, further out, not so much.

Predator Management For Small Poultry Flocks is a Poultry Extension article that goes over the likely culprits and how to keep your ducks from becoming the victims of predation.

Ducks can get hit on the road

Your ducks do not know that roads are for cars and fast cars, at that.

Letting your ducks roam free will mess up traffic (at best) making them a burden to your neighbors or serve them up to get hit.

I’m sure you are wondering “why don’t wild ducks have problem with roads?”

Good question, the answer is wild ducks fly over the roads your domestic ducks can not. If you are raising Mallards, they can fly, everybody else is too porky and has to walk!

Train ducks to return to their pen

The easiest way to keep your ducks where you want them to be is to train them to come into their pen for the night.

How do you do that? It’s pretty easy, with food.

You start when your ducks are young, call them when you bring them food. I know they are right there in the pen with you, the point is you calling them when food shows up.

When your ducks are big enough to be let out of the brooder area, give them a larger pen area (but not your whole yard yet!) and call them when you feed them.

When they reliably come to feed in the bigger pen, this shouldn’t take long, let them out to the main yard.

When you want them back in their pen, call them and feed. They will excitedly run back inside.

Your ducks will quickly learn that you bring food and they love to eat, so take advantage of this to help your ducks stay happy and healthy.

A final note, it does not matter what word or phrase you use to call the ducks, just keep it the same each time.

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