Today is National Poultry Day, so I thought there would be no better day to present to you my Duck Tales… something a little fun, factual and light-hearted in all this world chaos.
If you didn’t know, I’ve kept pet ducks for almost 6 years. Never owning poultry before, nor having any family members who have – it’s definitely been a learning experience, and I’m still looking for tips now, so if you have any please throw them my way.
Ok… Shall we start?… Introducing…
So why ducks? Why not a rabbit or a dog? I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t want a pet. We had a few goldfish from my Grandad’s pond over the years but nothing else. Both myself and my family are allergic to animals, and at this point I wasn’t taking the medication that I am now, so having pets (other than fish & reptiles) wasn’t really possible.
Who has, in their lifetime, pitched to their family reasons why they should be allowed a pet? I’m pretty sure most of us have done this at one point or another! When I started my GCSE’s, I approached my family with a comprehensive list on why Ducks would be perfect.
It went a little like this;
- They live outside, so my family do not need to be around them all the time
- Ducks are great for removing unwanted slugs etc. from the garden – something my Mum was very happy about
- They produce fresh eggs, perfect for breakfast and this helps to pay back for the cost of their feed etc.
- Relatively easy to look after
- Their faeces is a great fertiliser for the soil (Random I know, but I had to do my research!)
- They are hardy animals
- And let’s be honest, they are adorable!
This ended up being the perfect pitch, as I was promised that I could get some after I completed my GCSE’s.
We decided on Campbell Ducks, as not only are they one of the top egg laying breeds, with some producing between 250-300+ eggs per year, they are also great foragers, sweet natured, reasonably quiet (which is an added bonus when I live in a built up area) and thought of as the perfect backyard duck.
Once I finished my GCSE’s I put myself on a waiting list for 3 Campbells. A few weeks later we had a phone call from the breeder saying that he’d had lots hatched, and that I could come and collect my 3 females – a White, Khaki & Apricot .
We bought Daisy (White), Dizzy (Apricot) & Dora (Khaki) home at 3 days old, on the 16th August 2014.
The Ducklings At 4 Days Old
Posing For The Camera
Have you ever tried to teach a duckling to swim? I can tell you, it’s not easy!
We waited a few weeks before introducing the ducklings to water that they could swim in. We set up a tray in the conservatory, where the ducklings were living at the time, with water deep enough for them to paddle in. I asked my Mum to help, and together we tried to encourage Daisy, Dizzy & Dora into the water. It was absolute chaos, water went everywhere and Mum & I ended up getting more wet than the ducklings.
They were having none of it.
I was gutted. Was I doing something wrong? Or did I have the only three ducks in the world that hated water?
The ducks were let outside into the garden a week or so later, and we dropped a tin bath in the ground for them to use as a pond. I was completely certain that the ducks wouldn’t go anywhere near it. Within the first 5 minutes they were swimming happily, and I’m sure they were laughing at me!
And that was my first big lesson as a poultry owner…
Ducks DO NOT like to be told what to do! They will do everything in their own time, and will not be rushed!
Their First Day Outside
Dora Enjoying The Paddling Pool In The Hot Summer Weather
Trips to the Vets
I live on a very busy road, with the vets about a 10 minute walk away. In the last 6 years I have had to take the ducks to the vets a handful of times, which has always been eventful. As the Vets are so close, I usually walk there with the ducks in carrier cases. As soon as we start the walk they begin to quack, attracting everyones attention. I have lost count of the number of people we have scared as they look in the case expecting a rabbit and see a duck! Sitting in the waiting room is also interesting, with the room full of dogs and cats – I’m guessing my poor ducks feel pretty out-numbered.
As mentioned earlier, Campbells are extremely good egg layers. Daisy lays white shelled eggs, as did Dora, whereas Dizzy’s & Evie’s eggs are a greeny-blue. Duck eggs are different to Chicken’s in that they have a higher fat content (making them better for baking and tasting creamier & richer), they are about 50% larger than chicken eggs and it is said they have a longer shelf-life due to their thicker shells.
The Very First Eggs
Losing Dora, Introducing Evie
Sadly, just before Dora’s second birthday, she had to be PTS – as she was severely egg-bound and had a tumour attached to her ovary. She was the leader of my little flock, and it was sad to see her go.
I decided to introduce another Campbell to the flock a month or so later. Introducing Evie; a 6 week old Black Campbell. We were a little bit worried about introducing her straight away with Daisy & Dizzy, as we thought they might be territorial – we couldn’t have been more wrong. We let Evie into the pen and she spent 2 hours chasing them around trying to be friends. Daisy and Dizzy looked petrified. That night they all slept in the same house, and by the morning they were best friends.
Did you know?
Black Campbells change colour…Evie was originally all black in colour, however as they get older, darker coloured Campbells’ start to lose the pigment in their feathers with each moult, meaning eventually she could be all white!
Ducks have different food and treats that they love. Mine particularly like Chickweed, Cabbage, Lettuce, Purple Sprouting Leaves & Grass. These are fed as treats alongside their Layers Pellets & Grit.
Ducks on Holiday
When we go on holiday, the ducks are taken to their holiday destination (my Grandad’s), they always get super excited when they go in the car, as they know that’s where they are off to. My Grandad lives in the countryside, so the ducks get to make friends with wild rabbits, deer and muntjac. They love it.
The ducks, like any animal, have completely different personalities.
Dora was the boss. She knew what she wanted and was impatient for it, not to mention she was also the loudest. She was the bravest at exploring new places (hence the name Dora the Explorer) and made us laugh a lot.
Daisy is the friendliest, every time she sees you, or even if you are inside and just pass a window, she will give you a head nod to say hi. She is the easiest to catch and hold. Since Dora she has taken over the roll of boss, and will put Dizzy & Evie into their place if need be.
Dizzy, always seems to look a bit puzzled. She is the most nurturing to the rest of the flock and will share her greens with the others. Dizzy is also very clumsy, getting her head stuck in holes she has dug, waiting for me to pull her out!
Evie is quite wary of people. As we got her at 6 weeks old, she hadn’t had as much human contact as the others when she was young. However her confidence is gradually building, especially when it comes to treat time. She is very sweet and wants to be your best friend – but from a distance.
Dizzy, Dora & Daisy
If you are maybe looking to get ducks in the future I would recommend the following books as there are lots of things to consider when caring for ducks e.g. they are very messy animals.
Campbell Ducks As Pets ( Campbell Duck Owner’s Manual) – Roland Ruthersdale
Starting With Ducks – Katie Thear
Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks – Dave Holderread