Ducks are easy to raise and some breeds grow very quickly. Why don’t more people raise ducks? They are missing the opportunity here. Let’s get cracking so you can start raising some of your own ducks!
The easiest duck breed to raise for meat is the Pekin. Pekin ducks are fast growing, easy care, economically priced and commonly available.
To be honest, ducks are overlooked as a backyard bird!
That’s a lot of families missing out on a great choice for home grown meat (and eggs if you keep them a bit longer)! An added bonus, ducks are much easier to fence in than a flock of chickens!
Is Raising Ducks For Meat Worth It? goes over a budget, including processing costs for you to work through to see if raising meat ducks is a good plan for you.
The other myth about duck raising is that you need a pond. Nope, you don’t!
We have raised ducks, all kinds of breeds, for years and never have had a pond. Don’t worry about it, just give them plenty of water and they are good to go.
The best meat duck option is a Pekin
You’ll have quite a few breed choices and some decisions to make regarding which characteristics are the most important to you as a beginner.
Duck breeds have different characteristics
Think about the specifics of what you need and want from your ducks before you buy.
Before you look at the catalog, make a list of what you want and are willing to do and what you do not want and are not willing to do.
For example: ducks that will reach a certain carcass size or will be good meat producers and good egg layers. Pick the things that are important to you.
It’s easy to get side tracked by great pictures of ducks that may not be your best choice, but had a super description and picture!
We made a list and chose to get Pekins
Why did we choose to get Pekins? This is our list of the things we needed and wanted from the ducks.
- We wanted a breed that would grow fast
- We wanted ducklings that we could pick up directly from the hatchery
- We wanted a finished bird that would yield a nice meaty carcass
- We needed the duck to be easy to process
- We planned to keep the females to start a laying flock so they need to be good egg layers
When we thought about all these characteristics that we wanted to have in our ducks the answer was easy-Pekins.
Pekins are nervous “chatty” ducks
The only thing about Pekins that some people, especially small acreage duck raisers might not like, is that they are more nervous and tend to be louder than other duck breeds.
Anything out of the ordinary has them quacking an announcement that something is up. Mature Pekins tend to “talk” quite a bit when you go into their pen to feed them.
Keep your ducklings in a brooder
Your new ducklings will need a place that is safe from predators, has plentiful food, water and bedding material, and is warm.
Brooding Ducklings For Beginners shows you how to set up for your ducklings so they get off to a great start.
Just like all other baby poultry you get for your farm ducklings will need a heated and safe area to live. This heated and secure area is called a brooder.
Most people will section off a small area of the shed or garage to keep the ducklings together so none wander off and get chilled or lost.
New babies on the farm (not just ducklings) have a knack for getting themselves into trouble but are usually very poor at getting themselves out of trouble.
Your job is to set up the brooder area so the ducklings will be comfortable, safe and secure.
Ducklings need heat and protection
A heat source must be provided to your ducklings because like all young poultry the ducklings will not be able produce enough heat to stay warm by themselves until they get older.
The heat lamps are a substitute for the warmth mom would provide if the ducklings were hatched out by a duck hen.
Another benefit to keeping ducklings in brooder is safety. The brooder area is secure.
All baby poultry ducklings included are an easy target for any predator including the domestic ones-specifically your dog or cat. Other predators that would like duckling for an easy lunch include rats, hawks, and raccoons.
Since the Pekins will grow so quickly they won’t remain an easy target for too long but you must be aware of the possibility of predation.
Ducklings eat a 22% feed
Ducklings eat a premixed ground feed that is 22% protein. The feed is made up of ground corn, soybean meal, and a supplement containing minerals and vitamins.
Make sure you get feed formulated for growing ducklings, not mature ducks. The ducklings need the extra protein.
To get the best growth from your ducklings you will need to make sure they have plentiful food and water at all times. You should go in the brooder multiple times a day to feed and check on your ducklings.
Do they still have food and water left from last time you fed them? If not put in more feeders and waterers or just come back to check them and refill more frequently.
Pekin ducklings finish at 7 weeks
Pekin ducks reach processing weight rather quickly. When ducks are well tended they will be ready for slaughter at 7 weeks yielding a 3.5-4 pound processed bird.
Since Pekins are the fastest growing ducks, other breeds of ducks will take longer to reach processing weight than Pekins.
Keep in mind that processing for ducks needs to be done at specific weeks of age to avoid having a ton of pin feathers to deal with.
Pin feathers are the new little regrowing feathers that are just popping through the skin. Pin feathers are harder to get out so make plucking take a lot longer.
Scheduling your butchering days in week 7, 12, or 18 will minimize pin feathers and make processing easier and faster.
Ducks are friendly
Ducks are very friendly. Ducks that are free roaming will learn to come to you or the barn when called if you consistently feed them in the spot you want them to return to.
When we go outside to do chores our ducks start milling around us and quacking as soon as they see one of us has a bucket.
Multiple breeds of ducks be mixed together
Different breeds of ducks can be mixed together. Actually the ducks won’t mind at all but you might.
Ducks readily cross breed
First of all, ducks cross breed frequently, unless the breeds are kept completely separate. Cross bred ducks are great, as long as it is fine with you.
In a mixed group, all ducklings need the high protein feed
Secondly, your Pekins will be on a feed formulated for fast growth. This means it will be a bit more pricey than a feed formulated for a slower growing breed or mature ducks.
The other ducks will love the richer feed but it will be wasting some of your money!
If you want a description of other duck breeds to consider raising along with your Pekins read my article 16 Duck Breeds For Eggs And Meat.
If you only have a few ducklings of each breed in the brooder, feed the all the ducklings with the 22% feed.
It is better to waste a bit of protein than to have some of the ducklings, especially the fastest growers, not getting enough energy or nutrients.
Metzer Farms is a wonderful resource regarding duck information, this is a link to their duck breed comparison chart, to get you started. Check them out and be sure to read the blog section for tips on raising ducks.
How to you tell male and female ducks apart?
The easiest way to tell male from female is to wait until they are full grown and you will see the top feather on the tail of the males will curl. Males also tend to be the fastest to grow.
What do I use the duck fat for?
Duck fat is great to use in cooking! Try using your duck fat next time you make skillet fried potatoes. You’ll be glad you did.