Frequently Asked Questions

1. What should the ratio of males to females be?
Mallard ducks are seasonally monogamous. In other words, one male and one female stick togther for a season, but break up in early summer. Because of this, it is a good idea to have an equal number of males and females. If the ratio is slightly unequal, that is okay, but do your best to keep the numbers equal.

2. What should I feed my ducks? Is chicken feed okay? What about medicated feed?
As ducklings, you should feed your ducks gamebird starter; give them gamebird grower oncve they are older. To reduce the cost of feed and help you ducks to be more self sufficient, let your ducks forage to find a portion of their diet themselves.
Chicken feed is not okay. Because most chicken or "poultry" feeds have higher protein levels than gamebird feed or the natural diet of wild ducks, they cause abnormally quick wing development. When the wings grow faster than the rest of the body, the duck's body can no longer support the wings. The wings begin to stick out at right angles from the body. The bird is otherwise healthy, but is rendered flightless. This condition is called angel wing.
Medicated feed is usually designed for chickens. Because of this, the levels of medication are too high for ducklings. Ducklings will recieve overdoses of the medication and can die as a result.

3. When do ducks learn to fly? Can all ducks fly?
Mallard ducks usually learn to fly at around two months. All wild duck breeds like mallards, pintails, and wood ducks can fly well, but the only domestic ducks that can do more than hop while flapping their wings are call ducks and muscovies.

4. How can I tell if my ducklings are males or females?
To make a long story short, you can't. Not without vent sexing, and that should only be attempted by a well-trained person with lots of experience. Once the ducks aquire their adult voices, you can listen to the noises they make. Drakes make relatively quiet rasping sounds; hens quack loudly. Drakes also grow curly feathers on their tails, and by October of their first year the drakes will grow in their colorful breeding plumage.

5. Can I leave my ducks' wings unclipped? Or will they fly away?
Whether you clip your ducks' wings or not is up to you. If you don't your ducks could fly away. If you have a pond this is less likely but still possible. If you have a small number of ducks and spend a lot of time with them, they would also be less likely to fly away because they would be more attatched to you. Often, if ducks fly away, they will come back for occasional visits, so just cause a duck flies away doesn't mean it's lost forever. You might decide to risk your ducks flying off if there are a lot of predators near your house. Without flight, ducks are practically defenseless.

6. It's around Easter time, and I'd love to get a fluffy little duckling. Can I just release it once it's all grown up?
No. If you raise a duck around people and let it depend on people for food, it will not be able to survive in the wild. The ducklings you find at pet stores are not usually even wild breeds of ducks, so they couldn't survive in the wild even if they were raised by their parents. Even if domestic ducks could survive in the place where thet were released, they would breed with the wild ducks in the area and the wild duck population becomes weakened by the domestic ducks that bred with their ancestors. If you really want to raise and release ducks, you have to prevent them from bonding strongly with you, make sure they can obtain their own food, and, most importantly, make absolutely sure that they are a wild, not domestic, breed of duck.

7. I live in an area without a lot of wildlife. Do I still need to build a pen for my ducks?
Yes. You may not think that there are predators around you, but chances are that there really are quite a few dangerous animals even if you don't have cougars in your back yard. Hawks, cats, raccoons, possums, stray dogs, foxes, and weasels can all be deadly to ducks. That doesn't mean you have to keep your ducks locked up during the day when you're there to keep an eye on them; just by shutting them in at night you eliminate a huge percentage of the dangers.

8. What is an eggtooth? If my duckling still has one, how old is it?
An egg tooth is a small, sharp tip on the upper bill used during hatching to chip out of the shell. Most of the time, it will drop off within a few days after hatching.

9. Can't I keep just one duckling? I don't have time/money/space for two.
A common misconception is that it will be more work to take care of two ducks than one on its own. In fact, the exact opposite is true. While you can keep one duck by itself, if you do this it will learn to see itself as human. It will need constant company from you for the rest of its life, and this is no small responsibility. A dog or a cat can easily be left alone for a few hours, but this is not true of a duck. Ducks are such social birds that they will become very lonely very fast, so unless you are willing to buy duck diapers, invite your duck into your home, and spend then next 20 years taking care of it you should not get a lone duck. A pair of ducks, on the other hand, will be perfectly content to live outside and look after themselves for the most part while remaining friendly and affectionate toward you.

10. What's the difference between ducks kept as pets and wild ducks?
If your ducks are normal mallard ducks, no difference at all. You may, however, have one of the many breeds of domestic ducks. Domestic ducks are generally larger than mallards, cannot fly, and are often raised for either meat or eggs. They may be more friendly than wild breeds and their feathers may be white, brown, black, or blue.

Still have questions?
E-mail me at petducks@gmail.com.