Raising Ducks: How Many Ducks Should You Start With?

Pekin duck

Decided to give raising ducks a try? Super! Ducks are such a fun animal, I’m constantly surprised more people don’t have them!

Now that you’re ready to get some ducks, should you get ducks or ducklings and how many of them?

Hobby duck raisers should start with 4-5 adult ducks, for backyard pets start with 3 ducks and for ducklings get 10 and pick the ones to keep once the ducklings are grown.

You’ll want to start with a few more ducks than you want to end up keeping.

This gives you the opportunity to select the better growers of the group and, depending upon the breed, make some color or pattern selections.

Is Raising Ducks For Meat Worth It? will help you estimate the costs of raising your ducks, even if your ducks are egg layers or pets.

Flock PurposeNumber of ducksMaleFemale
Backyard pets
(can be all one sex)
Hobby flock
(small sized)
4-5 adults13-4
Hobby flock
(mid sized)
15-20 adults4-515-16
Hobby pair2 adults11
Hobby pair
2 adults2 OR2
Rare breed flock
(minimum, more would be better)
4+ adults2+2+
(if straight run)
10 55
(if sexed)
Get at least one extra if you are getting ducklings or are getting a breed of ducks that is hard to find in your area. Always have more females than males, and have an extra drake if you are planning on fertile eggs.

We’ll start off with hobby duck raising and move to “side hustle” style duck egg business numbers here.

Please also note, I am approaching the “how many ducks” question from a breeding stock perspective.

If you just want fun, backyard ducks, the rest of this article is probably overkill for you. Get 3 ducks that you like the looks of and enjoy them!

16 Breeds Of Ducks For Eggs And Meat gives you an overview of some of your duck breed options, including the breeds we have raised and our current favorite!

mixed breed ducks
Some of our ducks, you can see this is a mixed group with mostly crossbred ducks. The white one in the back is a Pekin, everybody else is a mix, some of which have lovely coloring.

Hobby raisers, start with 10 ducklings

I would start with 10 ducklings, especially if you are getting straight run. Straight run means you do not get to choose the sex of the ducklings.

If you start with 10 ducklings, you will have the opportunity to watch them grow and select the ones you like the best as they develop into mature ducks.

And, as much as I hate to mention it, sometimes a duckling will die.

If you have a few extra to start with, if one doesn’t make it, you’ll still have all of the ducks you need.

A mixed sex flock must be mostly female ducks

A key point before we continue: you can have all female or all male, but if you have a mix there must be significantly more females than male ducks.

If you have a mix of mostly males and only a few females, those females will be the target of too much male attention and live a high stress life.

The normal ratio of males to females is 1-3, for heavy breeds and 1-5 for lighter breeds.

Either way, notice that there are always 3-5 times more hens (females) than drakes (males)!

Ducklings will have different growth rates

Not all of your ducklings will grow at the same rate.

If you have a few extra ducklings to choose from, you can keep the best performers and sell the rest.

Here’s a crazy story illustrating why you should consider getting a few extra ducklings.

We ordered a large group of Pekins from a hatchery. They were really cute, I love baby ducks!

Anyway, we noticed that a few, maybe 5 or so, of the ducklings were small and oddly shaped. Weird. Especially since the rest of the group was growing so well.

As the ducklings got a bit older, we realized that those 5 oddballs were actually white Runner ducks, not Pekins at all!

Runners are a fun duck to have around, but definitely not a Pekin! If I hadn’t ordered extra ducklings, I would have been disappointed.

pair of Saxony ducks
Saxony drake standing beside Saxony duck (sitting).

Purebred ducklings will not all have correct markings

Being able to select the ducks you keep is important if want your duck flock to adhere to the specific breed standards.

The opportunity to select the best of your group is especially if you are raising a marked breed.

Not all purebred ducks will end up having the correct markings for the breed.

This is normal for any marked breed, ducks or otherwise, and the reason why correctly marked breeding stock is more expensive.

When buying mature ducks, start with 4 or 5 ducks

If you are planning to buy mature ducks, start with 4-5 ducks, one of which should be male (if you want fertile eggs).

A flock of 4-5 ducks will give you enough ducks so that the drake does not bother the hens too much and you have a bit of a cushion, numbers wise, if one of your ducks would die or get hurt.

If you just want eggs, you don’t need a drake (male duck), at all. Of course, these would just be eating eggs, since they are not fertile.

4-5 duck hens will give you 4-5 eggs per week during the laying season.

If you want less ducks, get at least 2 (3 is better)

If you are not wanting to raise or don’t feel you have the space for 4-5 ducks, you can get as few as two, but not one!

Ducks need a buddy to be happy, always keep at least two ducks together.

If at all possible, get more than 2 ducks. It’s so easy for something to happen to one of the pair, and the other duck is left alone.

This is stressful for the surviving duck and for you. If you start with 3 ducks, you are not between a rock and a hard place when something happens to one of them.

Mid size hobby duck raisers should grow to 15-20 ducks

If you know you want to have a bit bigger flock than the 4-5 ducks, I would plan to start with 15-20 ducks or grow to that number.

This gives you more room to move, as far as selecting from the ducks you have for the traits that you want and increases the likelihood that your ducks will be productive for the year.

Really, I’m talking about predators here.

One rough night with a predator getting ahold of some of your ducks and you are duckless, if you only had 4-5 to start with.

If you start with or grow to 15-20 in your flock, you have a cushion against the disappointments that happen occasionally, like predation.

Another reason to up your numbers from 4-5 to 15-20 is that when you have a bigger flock you will also have replacement birds.

What happens to the small flock duck raiser when they go out for chores in the morning and find your only drake hurt or worse yet, dead?

If you have more than one drake, the first drake being injured or dying is still a set back, but doesn’t shut down your flocks breeding ability.

Additionally, if you have a marked breed or want to do any test breedings with color or patterns, you’ll need more than one male and a few females.

We have a marked breed, the Saxony, and keeping up with the correct patterns is tough, especially in the males.

We used to have a small flock of Blue Swedish and the white bib on the chest is a marking that you have to keep an eye on.

If you find the bib is not developing as it should in your ducklings, you need to pair different parents.

How do you adjust the breeding groups if you only have one male?

Rare breed flocks should have at least two pairs of ducks

If you are raising a rare breed of duck, get two pairs or even better, two trios. A trio is one male and two females.

If you get two breeding pairs, you have the ability to continue your breeding plan if one of the ducks in either pair does not meet breed standards.

If you only have one male and one female, you don’t have any room to move genetically.

If you get more duck pairs or trios to start with you give yourself more options from the beginning.

Part of your obligation as a rare breed breeder is to keep up the standards of the breed, which frequently means culling out the non performers.

Culling is a normal part of raising breeding stock, rare breed or otherwise.

If you have multiple pairs or trios you can adjust your breeding plan to improve your ducks.

If you only have one male and one female, you drastically limit your ability to contribute to the health, longevity and usefulness of your chosen breed.

Know the square footage of your duck pen

Go out an measure your planned duck pen. How much area do you plan to dedicate to your flock?

Sq. ft. each
Sq. ft. for groups
Ideal space
(per duck)
Ideal area
These figures are for the sheltered pen only. If you are providing an outdoor area for the ducks, the outdoor space would be in addition to these numbers. Source: Metzer Farms

These numbers will give you an idea of how much space your ducks need in a sheltered area. Any outside space would be in addition to these figures.

The reason for the “Ideal” section of the chart is to note that if you give the ducks more space, approximately double the minimum, you will greatly reduce bedding needs.

This means that if you have the space available, go for the bigger area and make your life as a duck keeper a bit easier!

Metzer Farms has a great article on space needed for ducks and geese.

Ducks do not need to be raised in male and female pairs

Ducks do not need to be raised in pairs, as in one male and one female.

The ducks do need to be raised with other ducks for companionship, but not necessarily as a breeding pair.

If you have two males or two females, your ducks will get along just fine.

For potential ducklings, you’ll need a breeding pair or trio

If you are wanting to use the ducks for breeding, the ratio of males to females is more like 1 male per 3-5 females.

For the heavier breeds, you’ll need more drakes than for the lighter breeds.

For example: for our Saxony ducks, we would need a ratio of 1 male per 3 females, these are a heavier duck.

For something lighter like Runners or Khaki Campbell, you could go with a 1 male to 5 female plan, since these types of ducks are much more active.

Too many drakes is stressful for the flock

The reason you do not want to have more drakes than suggested is that the drakes will start harassing the females and will fight amongst themselves.

This drakes chasing the hens behavior will happen more in the normal breeding season (meaning this is more prevalent in the spring), but it tends to happen year round, at least that’s what can happen around here!

Keep the ratio of males to females at the right level or only have a flock of all drakes or all duck hens.

Duck egg raisers, start with more ducks

If you were to start with just 5 hens, more like a hobby flock, you could easily use all of the eggs yourself!

For a business, start with a higher number of birds so you’ll have some eggs to sell when customers ask.

Of course, starting an egg business is all done after you have researched the demand in your area and customer willingness to pay well for duck eggs, right?

If you are wanting to have your ducks be more of a small business, start with a larger number of ducks or ducklings, more like 30-50.

If 30 ducks sounds like way too many ducks to you, consider this: how do you increase your production of duck eggs? You get more ducks, of course.

Yes, but you have to wait until they are 6 months old to start laying. Doable, but not great.

When you start out with a larger group of ducks, you have the option to choose your breeding or laying stock more carefully.

Since this is a business, you only want to have the producers. Any freeloaders and underperformers need to leave.

Getting 30-50 ducks to start with, gives you the option to cull out a few and still have a viable flock number.

If you need to order straight run ducks, be sure to get at least double the number of layers that you need for the egg production flock.

This is what we did with the Pekin flock we had for eggs.

We raised up a large group of ducklings, keeping back the females for eggs and using most of the males for meat.

Demand and price paid for duck eggs is regional

Popularity of duck eggs seems to be regional, as is the price customers are willing to pay for them.

Around here there is very little demand for duck eggs. Hopefully your area is better!

For quick duck egg math: 30 ducks laying 5 eggs per week per hen will give you 150 eggs per week. That’s 12.5 dozen eggs.

While a few eggs won’t make the cut for selling (odd shape or the occasional crack) most will be fine. We’ll use 12 dozen sellable eggs from your flock.

Do you have a reliable market for 12 dozen eggs per week?

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