The first ‘livestock’ we kept were a couple of bantam chickens back when we lived in the suburbs of Sydney.
The first real livestock we kept were sheep which we started keeping in 1999. We are registered Suffolk sheep breeders. We also have Scottish Highland cattle, chickens and bees. Up until this April we also had turkeys but lost our whole flock in a brutal attack by a quoll. I’m just now considering keeping them again along with some geese.
I first had ducks as a child. Just some run of the mill ducklings from the markets. I knew I wanted ducks in general and black Indian Runner ducks in particular after reading an article and seeing a picture of the Indian Runner ducks owned by Prince Charles. They are just stunning. We have had ducks on the farm now since 2005.
Farmer Liz: Tell me about your ducks, how many do you keep and what breeds? What do you keep them for? (meat, eggs, other?)
T: The ducks I keep are Indian Runner ducks. The number I keep varies depending on the time of year. Currently I have seven. The number will increase once their laying season starts and we hatch out some new ducklings.
Indian Runner ducks are renowned egg-layers and can lay up to 200 eggs per year. Not everyone likes to eat duck eggs but they are very good for baking. I find the shells are stronger than chicken eggs and the yolks are larger.
We do eat the meat from the birds too but their long, slender build really doesn’t lend itself to meat production. I’m thinking of taking the next step of keeping a meat breed too.
FL: What sort of housing do you provide for your ducks? Do they free-range? Do you have to lock them up at night?
T: My ducks free-range all day but are locked away in a pen at night for their own safety. They have a large night pen with a small shed which they can go in and out of. Generally they choose to sleep outside of the shed but if the weather is particularly inclement, they will take cover.
FL: What sort of water do you provide for your ducks?
T: Ducks love water. It goes without saying. My ducks have a couple of water drums in their pen which are changed twice a day because they really do make it muddy. They also have access to a dam during the day which they sometimes paddle in. If its particularly hot, I also give them a kids paddling pool full of water.
It is not essential for them to swim but they do like to sometimes. As long as they can submerge their heads somewhat, they will be happy. Having said that, it is very entertaining to watch them take a dip in a newly discovered puddle.
FL: What’s the best thing about keeping ducks?
T: The fresh duck eggs are wonderful but in all honesty the best thing for me about keeping my ducks is the element of fun and beauty that they bring to my farm and garden. They are excellent controllers of pests such as slugs but contrary to what some say, they will eat your garden vegetables too. Particularly leafy greens.
FL: What do you wish you knew about ducks before you got them?
T: I wish that I knew that they were such fun. I would have had them earlier.
We hatch our ducklings naturally using a broody duck. Sometimes I think it would be easier to use an incubator.
FL: Any last advice to someone wanting to get started with ducks?
T: Keeping ducks is very much like keeping chickens. They really don’t make too much more mess of a yard than chickens (I do have a large yard though).
Drakes don’t quack. They do have a curl in their tail most of the time. Females can quack VERY loudly. And it’s cute.
FL: Thanks Tracy! So interesting to read a different perspective, it seems there are many duck breeds to choose from, but you make it sound very easy to care for them. Do you keep ducks? If you have any comments or questions for Tracy, head over to her blog to leave her a message.
Getting started with ducks
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Getting started with homestead dairy - interview with myself
Getting started with chickens
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Getting started with growing vegetables
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Getting started with vegetable gardening - Ohio Farmgirl
Getting started with vegetable gardening - Emma from Craving Fresh
Getting started with vegetable gardening - Tanya of Lovely Greens
Getting started with vegetable gardening - interview with myself