How do I choose a duck breed as a pet? How long will they live? What are the precautions I need to take? Innumerable questions surround raising ducks. This article precisely discusses all these points and much more.
Waterfowl, or ducks as we know them, are the most common bird pets in the world. They like to stay around ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, or any water body and hence, the name “Waterfowl.”
Not only are they kept for aesthetics, but also their multi-purpose advantages. Most duck breeds are raised for their delectable meat, flavorful eggs, and beautiful shiny down feathers. They also have other domesticated usefulness.
When you start to raise ducks in your homestead, there is a lot of fascinating behavior that you will notice. For instance, ducks are curious, and they tend to keep close to you and observe you on the farm. After a certain age, the young adults and matured ducks look quite similar to their appearance do not change that drastically.
So, you better name them for identification. They undergo molting, which is a process of shedding old feathers and getting new ones. You will find remarkable changes in the plumage of drakes over this period.
Coming straight to the point, on an average, a domesticated duck lives up to 10 years. However, there have been exceptions, where ducks have lived for 10-15 years and some 20-25 years.
Various factors determine a duck’s lifespan—for example- the diet provided to them, medical treatments, and, most importantly, predator attacks.
Let us discuss all the factors in detail in this article. We will also brief you about the lifespan of each duck breed.
A Proper Shelter
When planning to shelter ducks, you need to make sure they have a warm and comfortable place to live. This is a significant factor that will influence your duck’s health and well-being. During extreme temperatures, ducks tend to suffer a lot, so you must give them a pleasant shelter.
The coop does not have to be fancy. It should be spacious enough for them to move around freely, well ventilated during summers, dry and strong enough to protect against predator attacks.
Protection from Predators
The usual nightmare of any poultry farmer is to wake up to a predator attack. The lifespan of ducks or any livestock, for that matter, depends mostly on how well protected their shelter is.
When ducks sense danger, they usually run toward the water, where the predators cannot reach. Which are the most common predators, you ask! Raccoons, dogs, opossums, coyotes, and other fresh eating animals. You will need a strong structure like chicken wire or hardware cloth to prevent them from entering the coop.
Size and Egg Laying capacity
Surprisingly, the size of the ducks determines how long they live. The larger the ducks are, the shorter they live and vice versa. However, there is an exception, which is Muscovy. Despite being bulky, they live for 8-12 years, and in some instances, even more. Ducks of the smaller size breed live longer than others.
Another factor that affects their health is the number of eggs they lay. The more the number of eggs they lay, the lesser they live and vice versa. If they are forced to lay more eggs, their health may deteriorate rapidly.
Also Read: Will my Pet Ducks Fly Away?
Diet and Nutrition
I cannot stress enough on how important proper nutrition is for these birds’ health, even more during the duckling phase. Ducks need extra protein and vitamin B to grow.
Without these essential components, your ducks will not develop bones, bills, and feathers. If you ever come across a duckling, notice that their bills do not close properly. Weak bones lead to a more fragile structure, which may not hold the often massive bodies. And in return, it will determine your poultry’s health.
Diet is also a necessary component during ducks’ molting phase, where they shed their old feathers and regrow new bright, colorful feathers. Ducks need high protein feed like bugs, kale, insects, dried mealworms, etc. to maintain their charismatic plumage.
For female ducks, who are in the breeding phase need a protein boost of 20-22%. Ducks need clean water and plenty of free-ranging opportunities to stay healthy physically and mentally.
This might sound a little comprehensive, but proper medical supervision can determine the health of your ducks. Ducks can suffer from multiple diseases, like wet feathers, where their feathers lose their luster. A wet feather can be caused by poor diet and parasites.
Other duck-related diseases can be respiratory problems, bumblefoot, and worms that infect their internal system. If not treated early, these can be very harmful and fatal.
Subjected to Drakes
Mating is a natural phenomenon in every animal or bird to reproduce. Although ducks are peaceful birds, Drakes are very aggressive during mating. You may want to keep the ratio of drakes to hens as 1:10, which means there cannot be more than one drake per 10 hens.
If you have watched the drakes mate with hens in water, the drakes ride on the back of the hen, bite their head and push them under-water. When multiple drakes fight in water to mate with one hen, it can drown the hen.
The hens cannot survive more than 2-3 minutes in this situation. And if they mate on land, the hens can get physically injured. The hens often suffer head and back injuries if too many drakes try to mate.
Categories of Duck Breeds and their Average Lifespan
Now let’s talk about the different species of ducks and their life expectancy.
1. Mallard Ducks
After Pekins, Mallard ducks are the most popular duck breed. They are excellent pets and are easily controllable. They consist of a massive body and a large head, which becomes bright shiny green in drakes during the mating/breeding season. The females, however, have the brown color plumage.
They are found in most parts of the United States. Due to their docile and co-operative nature that are also called under “Babbling ducks.”
Coming to how long to mallard ducks live- they live for 5-10 years. This is, however, not a fixed number. The lifespan of the Mallard ducks can be more or less the mentioned years. As we have mentioned earlier, optimum care of the ducks determines the health of these birds. Domesticated ducks tend to live longer than wild ducks.
Fun fact, there has been a record of a male Mallard duck 26 years four months and is considered the world’s oldest duck. Fascinating isn’t it!
2. Pekin Ducks
Pekins are the best duck pets of all. They are incredibly calm, friendly, and warm domesticated birds. They are loyal and will follow you around on the farm. But on the downside, Pekin ducks grow very huge swiftly and cannot live more than five years.
As they begin to age, the first body part affected is the leg. Due to their heavyweight, in the initial years as young adults, the legs often become weak and cannot support their bodies. Pekins suffer from leg troubles almost throughout their life until they die.
Also Read: 10 Friendliest Duck Breeds to Keep as Pets
3. Muscovy Ducks
Muscovy ducks are a unique looking breed and are easier to domesticate. They feed on less compared to others and do not need much time and attention to grow. They are also the least noisy breed, which makes them a favorite.
These ducks are very hardy and do not fall ill very often. They are tropical birds. Hence, they can handle extreme climates very well. They are a quiet and calm breed, who, like most other duck breeds, do not like to be handled by Humans.
Despite being massive birds, they can live 8-12 years. Studies say that domesticated Muscovy lives longer than 12 years.
4. Medium to Light Ducks
A lot of different duck breeds fall in this category- Cayuga, Indian Runners, Blue Swedish. Due to their not so large size, they fall under the category of medium to light ducks. The duck’s lifespan is usually 2-3 years more than most other ducks. They live as long as 10-13 years.
It would help if you also remembered that this does not mark the upper or lower limit. Different factors, like egg production in females, can determine the health and longevity of the birds. That is, however, true for every breed.
5. Rouen Ducks
They closely represent the Mallard breed but are more massive in size. They originated in France and were initially raised for exhibition, meat and beautification. A quick identification- Rouen females have brown feathers, and males have a green head. They are a dominating natured bird who tries to lead a group of the flock.
They cannot be domesticated for eggs, as they are less fertile than other ducks. However, they do lay around 180-200 eggs per year. Rouen ducks live for 5-9 years.
Also Read: What Age Do Ducks Start Laying Eggs?
6. Bantam Ducks
Two breeds fall under this category- Call and Black East Indies. The ducks of these breeds are the smallest in size, and as expected, can live the longest.
The call ducks can live up to 15 years and even more under ideal circumstances. They are a beneficial breed concerning poultry farming. The males are fertile for nearly ten years, and the females can lay eggs for a considerably longer duration.
The reason why they can live longer is their very little body weight. They do not grow rapidly, and their bodies do support steady growth. They are often healthy birds with very little or low maintenance.
Some Outstanding Age Records of Ducks
There are other breeds of ducks who have recorded some unbelievable years of existence-
- Canvasback – 29 years and six months
- Wood duck – 22 years and six months
- Black Duck – 26 years and five months
- Northern Pintail- 22 years and three months
- Blue-winged teal – 23 years and three months
- Green-winged tea- 20 years and three months
- Ring-necked duck- 20 years and five months
However, please remember that the above list produced is yet to be verified by scientists and researchers.
Well, we have reached towards the end of this detailed discussion. And all I can say is that you will have to take care of all the necessary arrangements for some birds to live longer than their regular timelines.
The most critical component to naturally increase your poultry’s health is to provide them with good, nutrient-dense food throughout the year. This will at-least increase the ducks’ lifespan by a few years.
Nevertheless, they are wonderful pets to have and live longer than most other domestic pets. They also do not need your constant attention. We hope this encourages you to own a few ducks.