Ducks are a great addition to the small homestead. They provide eggs and meat, and pest control too! Their meat is delicious and the eggs are great for baking and fresh eating. Ducks are less prone to disease than chickens and they lay eggs well during the winter. The hatchlings grow quickly to provide meat for your table at about 2 to 3 months of age. The hens begin to lay at around 5 months and the eggs are large and full of protein. Some people don’t care for the flavor of duck eggs, but they are excellent for making moist and fluffy baked goods.
What Breed of Duck is Best?
Homesteaders who wish to raise ducks for meat tend to favor the White Pekin, a fast-growing bird with plenty of breast meat. Muscovies are another good breed for meat production. If you prefer to raise ducks for eggs, the Khaki Campbell is reputed to lay the most eggs. If you’d like both, the Pekin is a good choice.
I ordered Khaki Campbell ducklings this spring to try them out for egg production, but instead, the hatchery sent me Black Cayugas. You can read more about them in my post The Case of The Mystery Ducks.
Once you find yourself with a nice basket of their eggs, check out my post How to Use Duck Eggs for some extra information about these tasty treasures.
Ducks do best if they are allowed to forage for bugs and greens in a nice-sized pasture. Ducklings need good nutrition to prevent deficiencies. Vitamin E can be a problem because it breaks down in storage and feed that is more than a month old may not have enough of this nutrient. Ducklings deficient in vitamin E will start rolling over on their backs and paddling the air. If this happens, add fresh brewers yeast to their feed immediately, or break open a vitamin E capsule in their beaks and get fresh feed for them. Bring freshly clipped grass or other greens if they can’t go out to forage for greens.
Ducks don’t need a pond, but they will definitely be happier if they have one. Make sure that they have a pan of water large enough for them to dunk their heads under water to clean their eyes and nostrils out regularly. If they don’t have clean water to wash in, they are likely to suffer from eye infections.
Ducks for Meat
Not all homesteaders will choose to raise their own poultry for meat, but if you do, ducks make a great eating bird. Pekins grow so quickly that they rival Cornish X meat chickens for fast meat production. For more information, check out my post, Raising Ducks for Sustainable Meat Production.