Beginner duck enthusiasts have a lot to think about before choosing the right breed of duck to raise.
One thing everyone wants to know is when will those cute little ducklings be adults?
Fast growing ducklings, like Pekins, reach full body size at 7 weeks and reach sexual maturity in 4-5 months. Some slower growing breeds, like Muscovy, take 7 months to fully mature.
Generally speaking, meat breed ducks will grow faster than egg layer or exhibition breed ducks.
Is Raising Ducks For Meat Worth It? goes over your budget for going from duckling to full size.
Why? Meat breed ducks have been selected for generations for fast growth, the sooner they reach full size the sooner they can be processed.
Egg layers are a little different. Of course they are bred to grow well, but that is secondary to selecting for egg production.
Finally, ornamental or rare breeds are the least likely to be quick growers or highly productive egg layers compared to other breeds.
Ornamental ducks are bred for physical qualities and breed character (how they look), meaning body shape, coloring and patterning, rather than production efficiencies or ability.
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Pekin ducks are full body size at 7 weeks
Pekin ducklings reach their full body size in about two months.
If you are raising Pekins for meat, plan to butcher them at 49 days (7 weeks) to avoid pinfeathers.
Pekins are smoking fast growers and have a wonderfully wide and meaty carcass.
You’ll notice I refer to Pekins frequently, but it’s not because they are the “best breed” or even my favorite (I do like them).
I mention Pekins so often because they are a well researched breed (so there’s plenty of data available) and I have raised myself, so I can speak to the breed’s abilities from my own experience.
Cost Of Raising Pekin Ducklings is my article with all the costs of raising Pekin ducklings listed out for you.
Ducklings are at full size when they have full feathering
If you have a breed other than Pekins, you will be able to tell when they are full size since they will be fully feathered out.
No more of the little wispy down feathers will be showing. They will have a complete covering of feathers and look like a mature female of that breed.
The last down type feathers to show seem to be on the neck and head. I’m not sure if that’s where they get replaced last or it’s just easier to see the last few downy feathers on the head and neck.
You should know that full feathering does not necessarily mean adult patterning, that tends to come later.
Even if the duck in question is a drake (a male), it will have adult female coloring until it molts again as an adult.
After the first molting as an adult, a pattered male will start to look more like you are expecting. Until then it will look, at first glance, to be a female.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Ducks? gives you some tips on how to make sure your ducks are happy, even in the colder weather.
Ducks are sexually mature at 4-5 months
A good all round estimate of when your ducks will reach sexual maturity is 4-5 months.
This 4-5 month time frame will bear out as long as you have done your part, as far as duckling care and specifically duck appropriate feed.
Once again, sexual maturity, which is marked as starting to lay eggs, depends upon the breed.
Expect the meat breeds to be faster to reach maturity than the egg or ornamental breeds.
Here’s an interesting article on meat duck breeds in Australia. They mention the Aylesbury, which is not an overly popular duck here, as well as Muscovy and Pekins.
Muscovy ducks are slower to mature
The Muscovy, which is mainly considered to be a meat breed, takes closer to 7 months to reach sexual maturity.
This is a huge exception to the “meat breeds grow fast” rule! While most ducks raised for meat are fast growers, Muscovy ducks are not.
Ducks can be used for breeding starting at 6 months
If by fully grown you are meaning when can the ducks be considered reliable breeding stock, that’s more like 6 months of age.
While ducks will start to lay at 4-5 months, they will need a few weeks to get the eggs up to size that is acceptable for hatching eggs.
The first eggs are always a bit small and might be oddly shaped, this is normal. Give her time, her body will work all this out on her schedule.
Selecting Breeding Ducks gives you a list of things you should keep in mind when picking out your breeding stock, especially if you are choosing from your own flock!
Duckling care and management determine growth
If you want the best shot at getting your ducks from duckling to mature ducks in the most efficient and healthy way possible, you need to have your duckling management on point.
The good news is that ducklings are actually pretty easy to raise!
The bad news is that all of these results fall apart if you do not do your job taking care of your ducks.
Don’t worry, as I mentioned it’s easy. But there are a few non negotiables that must be handled correctly for your ducklings to be happy and grow well.
Here’s a short list:
- Ducklings must be raised in a group
- Ducklings must have supplemental heat until they are fully feathered
- Ducklings must be raised on a duck specific feed
- Ducklings must have ample water, since limited water will also limit feed intake and growth rate
Or you can check out Metzer Farms, here’s an article on duck feeds. Click around on this site, there’s a ton of great information here!