In the early 90s, I started researching pet chickens and ducks to almost the point of obsession. After a visit to a county fair? poultry building, a breed called English call ducks caught my attention, because of their small size and chubby cheeks. So after another month of meditation and research I purchased my first poultry pets: three English call ducks.
Calls, as they say in the poultry biz, are one of the smallest domestic duck breeds in the world, weighing in at only 1.5 to 2 pounds. They come in 9 show-worthy standard colors and at least 16 nonstandard colors, including Butterscotch, Saxony, Fawn and White, Blue Dusky, Lilac and Cinnamon. I started with the basics: two black and one white.
At poultry shows, ducks are judged against other breeds of the same weight category. There are four classes of ducks including heavy breeds like Pekin ducks, and also medium- and light-weight ducks. English call ducks are so tiny they are not considered a light breed, but rather a bantam breed. For those like myself who want to get their poultry feet wet by starting off first with ducks, here? what you need to know:
How To Raise Call Ducks
Marylou Miskey has been raising Call ducks for 14 years and currently has 28 ducks on her farm in upstate New York. She recommends a small tool shed is nice with a doggy door installed as a great way to protect them from the weather and predators. She also provides a fenced in kennel area with a bird netting over the top, which provides the ducks protection from aerial predators when they?e inside.
When she is out in the yard gardening, she has a third area that the ducks can explore. It is large enough to provide them an area that is rich in grasses, vegetation and insects to eat, but provides enough structure to keep them out of the vegetable garden and her neighbors garden.
When it comes to enrichment, Miskey “usually puts an extra pool out in that area for variety.?When she goes in the house, the ducks are all put back into the fenced in area. In the summer time, she recommends providing shade cloth or umbrellas if there are no trees in the area. And in the wintertime, the ducks are like penguins. “They slide around on their tummies to get through deep snow,?Miskey said.
The biggest factor for healthy ducks is clean water, both for drinking and swimming. If you live in a colder area, ensuring that their drinking water does not freeze is essential.
As for health problems, Miskey hasn? noticed many. “They have few health problems, at least fewer than chickens,?she said.
The biggest problem is predators. Since Calls are so small, they can easily be picked off by hawks or land predators like fox.
What To Feed Call Ducks
“We buy a commercial pellet for game birds and ducks,?Miskey said. She also supplements with different types of dry grains, like oats and cracked corn. Ducks are omnivorous and will also happily accept slugs, insects, worms and fish. Growing up my parents would take me to the local fish store every weekend and I would buy 100 feeder goldfish. My ducks would dive and eagerly hunt in their extra large kiddie pools. In the winter, Miskey recommends supplementing their diet with fresh greens, like heads of romaine lettuce or other dark leafy vegetables.
Call ducks are capable of flight, although limited. They do not fly very far and usually only fly when excited or frightened ?usually the length of a house at most. This makes them easy prey, so Miskey recommends not clipping their wings to give them a slight advantage in case a terrible situation arises.
While most books comment on a Call ducks lifespan being between 7 and 10 years, both Miskey and I have had ducks live healthily into their teens. “Our oldest one is currently 14 1/2 and we have several around the age of 10,?she said.
Breeding Call Ducks
Miskey, like many professional duck breeders, keeps her ducks in trios with ratios of one male to two females. Ducks should be kept in flocks of three or more for social dynamics and overall comfort. Ducks can be kept in same-sex pairings, which is good news for first-time poultry pet caregivers. Two drakes will get along swimmingly, unlike two male chickens (roosters). Multiple females will also get along with each other. So if you are not committed or ready to have more ducks, keep it to one sex.
Also, unlike chickens, the females in the duck world are the loud ones. Sportsman bred Call ducks to be loud to entice wild ducks into traps. Female Call ducks have a loud deep call while the males have a high-pitched, chirp-like quack.
While springtime may conjure up ideas of spring chicks or ducklings, be responsible. Study and research all breed possibilities first and see what the best fit would be in your situation. Check with adjacent neighbors and local municipalities for rules and regulations.
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