Keeping ducks for bigger returns

Water is a must for the reproduction of ducks. Photo/file

What you need to know:

  • Ducks do not need intricate housing. Only ensure that it is well ventilated and safe. Ducks like damp places. If you decide to house them in a concrete-floored house, make a deep litter of a depth of between 5-6 inches. This is to ensure that the eggs are not affected.

Duck farming, which is part of poultry farming is popular in Asia and Africa as a whole. Ducks are farmed for their eggs and meat that is dark, tender with a mild flavour. 
With enough market research, demand-driven duck farming can be profitable to a poultry farmer who wants to diversify from the mainstream chicken farming. 

Demand-driven farming is where the farmer seeks the market first. With this in mind, duck farming can be profitable since they eat a variety of feed and are resistant to many poultry diseases.

Benefits of duck farming
Duck farming is a developing business and despite its significance, many people do not know its real potency. Most of the individuals, such as agriculture entrepreneurs and veterinary graduates, usually focus on milk production or chicken rearing. Most people do not understand duck farming. Here are the benefits and advantages of duck farming:

• Ducks can be reared in an inexpensive shelter. Locally available materials can work well in building the houses making the venture more profitable.
• You will need a reasonably small space to raise ducks. Furthermore, ducks have a relatively short brooding period. The ducklings grow very fast.
• Ducks are hardy birds, and they, therefore, require less management and care. They can quickly adapt to all types of environmental conditions.

• Ducks can feed on a wide range of food. A duck’s regular diet can include fruits, posho, vegetables, maize, beans, and silver fish.
• Ducks can lay eggs either in the morning or at night. You will be able to collect the eggs in the morning, thus giving you time to handle other duties during the rest of the day.
• Duck products such as eggs and meat have a high demand in both local and international markets. Commercial duck farming is, therefore, a great way to get an income. There are many successful farmers in the business making lots of money.

• Ducks not only have a low mortality rate compared to chicken, they also lay eggs for a more extended period.
• Ducks are a great way of controlling pests in your garden. They are also a great way of freeing water bodies of mosquito larvae and pupae.
• Wetlands and marshy riversides that are unsuitable for chicken or any other stock are ideal for ducks.

Duck breeds
Duck breeds can be classified according to their purpose. This can be eggs, meat or dual-purpose.

Pekin duck
With creamy white feathers, large body and orange feet, the Pekin duck breed is highly preferred for meat production, both in small scale and large scale commercial production. This is due to the fact that it gains weight fast, reaching up to 3.2 kilogrammes in six weeks. The Pekin duck was bred in China. 

Muscovy duck
Priced for its lean red meat, that is similar to beef, the Muscovy duck was developed in South America. It is the only domesticated duck that was not bred from the Mallard. 
Muscovy ducks are more similar to geese than to other ducks. They prefer to graze and sit on eggs for 35 days, rather than 28 days for other ducks. 
Muscovy ducks reach market weight at around 11 weeks, with the males being 45 per cent heavier than females. 

Khaki Campbell
Producing up to 344 eggs a year, the Khaki Campbell is mostly kept for eggs, though it is also a good meat duck. It has a khaki colour, which makes it stand out from other duck breeds. It was developed in England, as a cross of the Rouen and the Indian Runner. 

Feeding ducks
Ducks need minimal attention and can flourish well in scavenging conditions. The use of pond, range, or supplementary green feed usually reduces cost. 
However, you will need to supplement their meals since most ducks lay more eggs than hens. Just ensure that they get wet mash since they have a problem swallowing dry pulp. You need to note that your ducks should never be given access to food without water. For small scale duck farming, you can feed them with kitchen waste, and maize bran. 
For the first eight weeks, your birds should always have access to feed. Later on, you can feed them twice a day.

Duck breeding
Water is a must for the reproduction of ducks. They usually do not get inspired to mate without it. Ten female ducks can be served by one male. 
Quality duck breeds typically start laying eggs by the age of five months. It is possible to use a hen to hatch the eggs instead of duck. The eggs usually take about 28 days to hatch.
Ensure that you sprinkle the eggs with water two or three times a week, especially if you use either a diesel or automatic incubator to hatch the eggs. You should avoid keeping the ducklings in water during the first week. This is because they are likely to catch a cold.

Sex identification
It is easy to know the sex of your ducklings. The tail feathers of a male duck are normally curled up. The other way is to raise its tail and press its behind. If there’s something like a thorn, then it is male, and if not, it will undoubtedly be a female duck.

Duck housing
Ducks do not need intricate housing. Only ensure that it is well ventilated and safe. Ducks like damp places. If you decide to house them in a concrete-floored house, make a deep litter of a depth of between 5-6 inches. This is to ensure that the eggs are not affected. You will need to place an oil drum or wood to raise it in suitable places. The door should be high since they usually enter their houses with the head elevated. Each duck often requires 2-3 square feet of space. Ensure that the housing is free from predators, particularly dogs.

Selling duck products
You need to clean the eggs before dispatching them to the market. You can use a moist towel or paper. Avoid using water directly. There are egg baskets or cartons that can be used to carry them. Each package usually takes 30 eggs. Ensure that you place a deep layer of hay or wood chippings to act as a buffer when transporting the packages to the market.