Have you ever thought about keeping a duck as a pet? This article covers all the expenses that come with buying, raising, and keeping domestic ducks.
- The Cost of Buying a Duck
- Costs of Raising and Keeping Ducks
- Set-Up Costs to Raise Ducks
- Lifetime Husbandry Costs of Owning Ducks
The Cost of Buying a Duck
More and more duck species are being domesticated every year, so there is an abundance of breeds to choose from. Mallard and Perkin are the most common breeds of domesticated duck, whilst the Alabi is one of the rarest. The cost of buying a duck and then caring for it can add up to a princely sum.
So let’s walk through the individual cost of item by item and round off with an overall annual cost of keeping ducks.
How Much Does a Single Duck Cost?
The cost of a single duck varies depending on the breed, and whether you choose to buy a duckling or an older bird.
Generally, a single duck costs between $10 and $30. However, some may cost as little as $5 or as much as $20.
However, ducks are highly social, intelligent animals and in the wild form large groups. Therefore, domestic ducks must be kept in at least pairs, but preferably in small groups. As such, when buying a duck, you must ensure it has at least one companion.
If it is your first time purchasing a duck, you must buy at least two to ensure companionship. Therefore, you can expect to pay at least double the amount.
Often, individuals are purchased when they are ducklings. There is always a risk, as with all very young animals, that they will die shortly after you have bought them. This can be a result of stress or an underlying health issue.
Also, when they are very young ducklings cannot be accurately sexed. This means you won’t know how many males and females you are buying. That being said, it is best to purchase several ducklings.
The Price of Different Duck Breeds
Different duck breeds cost different prices. Their value is based on a number of factors, including how common or rare the breed is and what purpose the duck is going to serve, be it for eggs, meat, or simply for a pet.
Breeds that are most expensive tend to be those with the most desirable qualities, and these breeds tend to be more difficult to come across.
Indian runner ducks sell for between $5 and $8, Cayuga ducks cost between $8 and $10, Pekin ducks are offered for around $7 to $10 whilst Call ducks will set you back anywhere from $20 to $50.
Ducks for Meat
The Pekin duck is the best duck breed to raise for meat. They are heavy-bodied and are one of the largest species of duck. They grow very quickly and produce a lot of meat. Pekin ducks are rather common, making them inexpensive to purchase.
Moulard ducks, also known as mule ducks, are the hybrid offspring of a Pekin female and a Muscovy male. They are a similar size to Pekin ducks and their meat is of better quality.
However, Moulard ducks are sterile, meaning they are unable to produce offspring themselves. This means they are a rare and difficult species to obtain, making them more expensive to purchase. Some Moulard ducks can produce eggs, although they will never hatch into ducklings.
The Muscovy duck is the largest duck species in the world. Males are larger than females and can weigh up to 15 pounds and measure a maximum of 31 inches in length. They have roughly half the amount of body surface fat as Pekin ducks, which gives their meat a better, richer flavor. Muscovy meat is considered the healthiest and leanest of all duck meats.
On the flip side, Muscovy ducks only lay between 60 and 120 eggs every year. Typically, most duck species lay between 300 and 350 eggs every year. However, due to the large size of Muscovys, the eggs they lay are bigger than average duck eggs.
Another popular breed for meat is Rouen ducks. They are marginally smaller in size compared to Muscovies, but still much larger than an average duck, such as a Mallard. They produce fattening and succulent meat, as well as producing a decent clutch of eggs.
Ducks for Eggs
The best duck breed for producing eggs is the Khaki Campbell. They are highly prolific egg layers and can produce more than 300 eggs every year. This breed is named after a lady called Mrs. Campbell, who refined them because she wanted a duck that was both an efficient egg layer as well as producing a good amount of meat.
Indian runner ducks are another species known for being efficient egg producers. They have an unusually upright posture and were originally bred in China and Malaysia to weed rice fields. These athletic herding ducks can produce over 250 eggs per year.
Some species have been bred specifically to produce hybrids that are excellent egg layers. Negative traits that are associated with a certain breed, often become diluted in hybrids. They are also more genetically diverse, making them less susceptible to breed-specific diseases.
Pekin ducks, although primarily bred for meat, are also efficient egg layers. They can produce over 250 eggs per year, all of which are large in size.
Two of the most popular egg-laying hybrid ducks are the Gold Star Hybrid Layer, which can lay up to 240 eggs every year. The second breed is the White Star Hybrid Layer, which can produce as many as 290 eggs per year.
Ducks for Pets
Many people choose to keep ducks, not for their resources, but simply because they make wonderful pets. They are fairly cheap to purchase and maintain, are sociable and full of personality, and can live relatively long.
That being said, some breeds of duck are more suited for being kept as pets, since they have been bred to have a friendly temperament, making them ideal for families with children. Other factors considered when choosing pet ducks are their vocal abilities and plumage.
Buff Orpington ducks have a calm and sociable temperament. They cannot truly fly, but only lift their webbed feet a few inches off the ground. This means their wings don’t have to be clipped and you won’t have to worry about them escaping.
Cayuga ducks have an iridescent green-black plumage. They are one of the quieter breeds of duck, making them ideal for owners who have close neighbors. They are a medium-sized breed and are unable to fly.
Rouen ducks resemble large mallards, sporting their iconic plumage. They have a friendly temperament and are also too large to fly.
Once again, Pekin ducks make the list. They are an extremely sociable breed and form flocks with other waterfowl species. However, they are very noisy.
Costs of Raising and Keeping Ducks
Cost of Veterinarian Bills
With the correct care, diet, environment, and protection, ducks seldom require veterinarian action as they rarely get sick. However, certain problems such as wounds, bumblefoot, and diarrhea will require veterinary care.
Ducks cannot be taken to your average vet, instead, a qualified duck vet must be called. Exams may cost between $50 and $75 whilst treatment cost varies greatly depending on the problem.
Wild waterfowl forage for and feed on aquatic organisms, such as weeds, seeds, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and amphibians. Domestic ducks are fed pre-made feed. This can consist of grains, vegetables, seeds, mealworms, and peas.
Nonetheless, domestic ducks still possess their wild, foraging instincts and so will continue to hunt for food. However, it is important to supplement this with commercial food, since domestic ducks are often restricted to smaller pastures. Also, they have been bred to be larger and produce larger eggs than normal.
Generally, duck feed is inexpensive, especially when buying in bulk. Typically, the feed will cost around $35 a month. Domestic ducks cannot be released into the wild, as they will likely starve to death without supplementary feeding.
Believe it or not, duck diapers do exist. Although not commonly used, they can be beneficial to those who are keeping ducks indoors most of the time. Diapers cost around $30, but of course, this expense can be avoided by allowing ducks to roam outside.
Duck diapers are not so dissimilar to human diapers. A diaper insert is held in place by a colorful cover. Diaper covers exist in a variety of designs, colors, and patterns, giving your duck a rather cute and comical appearance.
Diapers should be changed every 2 to 3 hours and can be thrown in the washing machine.
Just like with a pet dog, pet ducks must be looked after constantly. If you are going to be away for a substantial period of time, somebody needs to look after your ducks. Often, friends or family offer to step in and take up the role of duck-sitter. However, if this is not possible, a duck sitter will need to be hired.
Newly hatched ducklings should not be left alone with someone other than the owner. This is because they often imprint on humans during their first few days. Ideally, they should imprint on another duck, but if it does occur it’s best they imprint on their owner.
A part-time duck sitter can set you back between $10 and $20 a month.
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Set-Up Costs to Raise Ducks
Shelter and Housing
The housing a duck requires can be rather costly. The shelter itself can be bought or hand-constructed, with the latter being the cheaper method. However, it must be properly equipped which is where the expenses come in. They require additional flooring, heating, feeding stations, brooder, nest boxes, and bedding to name a few.
Duck houses should be situated on the ground, or have a low ramp that the ducks can easily climb up and down. Their house should be at least 3 feet high and have 4 square feet of floor space.
The cost of housing will vary depending on the size of the shelter and how fancy you decide to make it look. It is possible to purchase duck shelters that resemble mini cottages, but of course, these are rather costly.
Nesting Boxes and Protection
Nest boxes are put in place to provide ducks with a safe and comfortable place to lay their eggs. They also provide protection against any predators. Obviously, nest boxes are only required during the breeding season.
Straw is needed to create a soft bed at the bottom of the nest boxes. They should ensure the ducks and their eggs are kept clean and dry. Generally, nest boxes should be at least 12 inches cubed in size. They can be brought online for between $25 and $35.
Adult ducks also require a pen to be kept in, so that they can roam freely and safely outside. Fencing and pens can be purchased relatively cheaply. Fencing is important for keeping the ducks contained and also preventing predation from some animals such as foxes.
Feeding Stations and Water Supply
Adult ducks need food and water stations. These can simply be pet bowls that can be purchased for roughly $15. If your ducks have a big yard to roam around in, the food bowl will mainly be used during the winter months, when food sources are in low supply.
Ducks are rather messy when eating and drinking, resulting in lots of spillages. In order to reduce food waste, you can purchase a poultry bucket feeder, which is more expensive at around $65. However, you will save money in the long run as far less feed will be lost. The bucket also makes it more difficult for rodents such as mice and rats to steal the duck feed.
The type of water you buy depends heavily on the climate of the area you live in. if your location stays above freezing all year round, children’s paddling pools can be purchased. These cheap pools are ideal for small flocks to drink from and paddle in.
However, if your area drops below freezing, a heated pool is required to prevent ice sheets from forming over the water. These are more expensive. Ducks require more than one water bowl due to their messy nature. They need constant water access in order to clean themselves and remove food that often becomes lodged in their nostrils and can lead to respiratory infections.
Young ducklings cannot maintain their body temperature, so they require a source of heat. Heating is required no matter if they are kept inside or outside. A brooder is essentially a warm and safe environment where ducklings are cared for until they can look after themselves.
Brooders must be able to heat up and cool down accordingly. As such, they are often large containers that have a cool side and a warm side that is kept around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit using a heat lamp. This means the ducklings can move around to maintain optimal body temperature.
The brood container does not need to be expensive. A cardboard box is sufficient but needs to be replaced if the ducklings become wet and dirty. Newspapers or paper towels can be used for bedding and cut-down old butter tubs can be used as food and water bowls. This setup is relatively inexpensive but is slightly more high maintenance.
On the contrary, a brooder kit can be purchased for around $400. It includes every piece of equipment you could require, from bedding to heat lamps. Of course, this is an expensive purchase but is very low maintenance. It is also beneficial if you plan to consistently raise many ducklings.
Lifetime Husbandry Costs of Owning Ducks
Total Set Up Costs
There are a number of factors to take into account when considering the setup costs of owning ducks. Firstly, the purchase of your ducklings needs to be accounted for. This varies depending on how many you are buying and the breed.
Housing and shelter for your duck are required. The cost of these varies depending if you choose to build them yourself or buy a ready-constructed one. Additionally, nesting boxes and fencing are other purchases that should be considered.
As with all animals, ducks require food and water. Feeding stations can range from very cheap, to fairly expensive, depending on whether you use a pet bowl or feeding bucket. Multiple water supplies are essential for both wild and domestic ducks. Depending on how cold your location gets, a heater may be needed to prevent the water from freezing over.
Brooders are compulsory for ducklings since they cannot manage their own body temperature.
Annual Recurring Costs
There are some costs that recur annually, so you should set aside some money to cover these. These include vet bills, duck feed, duck diapers, and a duck sitter.
Ducks make excellent pets. They are social and friendly companions, that can also provide eggs and meat. Different breeds are suited for different purposes. Including initial purchases and lifelong care, owning a duck does not have to be expensive, depending on the route you choose to go down.
Happy duck shopping!
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