How Long Do Ducks Live? Top Pet Breeds

How Long Do Ducks Live? Top Pet Breeds

Thinking of adding some of our web footed friends to your flock and wondering “how long do ducks live anyway?”

 

Well, it’s a pretty good question – after all, you want your new pets around for a while! Truthfully, ducks are wonderfully hardy creatures that are relatively easy and fun to care for.

 

However, they’re not exactly like chickens. They tend to get lumped in the same category by default, but a domestic duck has its own separate needs. And understanding how to raise ducks so they’re healthy is key to increasing your pet duck’s lifespan.

 

And not all ducks are alike!

 

In this article, you’ll discover different breeds of ducks, basic care, and how long ducks live in general.

 

How Long Do Ducks Live In Captivity?

In general, most ducks live about 5 years, and possibly up to 10 years. How long ducks live depends largely on a few different factors, such as:

  • Housing
  • Protection
  • Diet
  • Veterinary Care
  • Exposure to Drakes

 

Let’s briefly talk about each one, and how they effect your duck’s lifespan.

 

Factors That Effect How Long Ducks Live

Housing

Do your ducks have a warm, accessible structure to call home? The quality of your duck house will determine how long they live. After all, the elements can definitely take a toll on your ducks’ health! (Especially summer heat).

 

A duck house doesn’t have to be fancy – it just has to keep them dry, have good ventilation, have enough room for each animal (about 10 square feet of space), and protect them from predators.

 

If your coop doesn’t have good ventilation during the summer, you can learn how to install a DIY window here.

 

Protection

Unlike chickens, ducks don’t roost, and they have even fewer defenses against predators (basically, they can try to run away or go into a pond). The term “like a sitting duck” means easy pickins for a reason!

 

Without adequate protection from predators, you’ll likely lose your flock pretty quickly. Answering the question “how long do ducks live?” largely depends on how well they’re protected from predators.

 

Ducks can fall victim to the same chicken predators that your hens fear. Examples include:

  • Coyotes
  • Skunks (especially ducklings)
  • Dogs
  • Bears
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums

To protect your ducks, they’ll need a critter-safe run, and a coop that predators can’t get into at night. While hardware cloth is best, chicken wire is cheaper to purchase. You can figure out the best chicken wire here for your particular situation.

 

Diet

I can’t underscore how important diet is, especially during the first few months of your duck’s life. Unlike chickens, ducklings need more vitamin B (particularly niacin) to grow.

 

Without it, their bones and bills might not grow correctly. You might notice their bills don’t come together (meaning the duckling can’t properly close its mouth).

 

Or, they might not be able to walk correctly because their legs are crooked. These can be debilitating issues that’ll effect how long ducks live.

 

You can feed your ducklings a feed that’s specific to their needs, or combine brewer’s yeast with chick starter. Both are great.

 

For adult ducks, especially laying hens, you’ll want to feed a 16% protein layer feed that has calcium in it. (Or offer oyster shells as a calcium supplement separately).

 

You’ll also want to make sure your hens have access to clean water, herbs as a dietary supplement, and extra treats such as black soldier fly larvae or dried gammarus shrimp (a particular favorite of our ducks!).

 

You can learn more about what baby ducks eat here and alternative feeds for adult ducks here.

 

Veterinary Care

I’m not going to go too in depth on this subject, because it pretty much stands to reason that if you don’t provide adequate veterinary care, your ducks might not live as long.

 

Some common issues with ducks are:

  • Bumblefoot (read more about bumblefoot here)
  • Upper respiratory issues
  • Worms (read more about worms here)
  • Trampled by other ducks

 

Exposure to Drakes

While drakes are necessary if you want to hatch eggs (you can read about the best incubators for hatching duck eggs here), they’re also a real pain if you have too many.

 

Male ducks can be pretty aggressive with the females, and can be aggressive maters. If you own more than 1 drake for every 10 duck hens, you might find yourself without some duck hens, or at least very battered ones.

 

When they’re competing, drakes will successively mate with a hen (meaning, each drake has to have a turn), even when they’re in water.

 

Realistically, this can cause the hen to drown because her head is constantly pushed under water.

 

If you’re wondering how long do ducks live in this situation, the answer is: Not long. Maybe 2-3 minutes.

 

When on dry land, this behavior can cause your hen to be crushed, or it can break her back. If possible, it’s best to limit the amount of drakes in a flock to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

 

What’s the Longest Living Duck Breed?

The longest reported living duck breed is the Pekin duck, although some owners report that a Muscovy duck can live between 8 to 12 years on average (there have been records stating of domesticated Muscovy ducks that lived longer, however).

 

What’s the Longest a Duck Has Ever Lived?

The oldest in record was a female mallard called Desi, owned by Ingrid Raphael from Maidenhead, Berkshire, United Kingdom. Desi lived 20 years 3 months and 6 days before her death in August 2002. The average white duck lifespan is about 5 to 10 years.

 

Do Ducks Make Good House Pets?

Yes! Ducks can make good house pets, especially if hand raised. They’re cheerful creatures who love spending time dipping their bills in water and searching for goodies. Just make sure you use a chicken diaper. Ducks (like other bird breeds) don’t have bladders, so they poop everywhere. So, you’ll need a plan! Ducks also molt, so you’ll need to figure out how you’ll deal with all those feathers.

 

How Do You Keep a Pet Duck?

You can keep your pet duck in the house or outside. They’ll need food, a safe house (because they’re susceptible to many predators), and veterinary care. They will also need access to water, since that’s how they clean themselves. You will also need to use duck diapers because ducks poop everywhere. You can read more about raising ducklings here.

 

What are the Best Ducks As Pets?

The best ducks for pets are:

  • Pekin
  • Cayuga Duck
  • Call ducks
  • Indian Runner ducks
  • Khaki Campbell

Let’s look at each breed!

Pekins

This is the most common breed – they start out as yellow chicks, and become white when they grow into adults. They’re wonderful layers, who will give you large, white eggs. They’re generally healthy, and can be quite large.

 

What is the Lifespan of a White Duck?

When someone asks about the life expectancy of a white duck, they’re usually referring to Pekins. The pekin duck lifespan is about 5 – 10 years, with the longest living 20 years. A lot of people ask about “the yellow duck lifespan, “ referring to Pekins, since their down is yellow when they’re born.

 

How Long Do Pekin Ducks Live?

The average lifespan of the Pekin duck is 5 to 10 years. This depends on a variety of factors including housing, diet, care, and more.

 

Cayugas

These are smaller black ducks (completely black from bill to webbed feet). They’re great layers – they can lay black (or dark grey) eggs and these eggs might fade to white or light grey during her lifespan.

 

Call Ducks

What Is A Call Duck?

These are small ducks (bantam size) mostly kept for companionship. Unlike other breeds, they weigh around 3 pounds. They’re good layers of white eggs, and they also tend to be quieter than other breeds.

 

How Long Do Call Ducks Live?

Call ducks can live up to 10 years, depending on their environment. You’ll want to make sure they have access to good housing, fresh feed, and plenty of water.

 

Are Call Ducks Good Pets?

Call ducks make great pets because they’re small and fairly quiet. Like most ducks, it’ll depend on how you raise them. Hand raising them means they’re more likely to be friendly (since ducks have a prey instinct, they can be fearful of humans if they don’t interact with them consistently). Be sure to feed your call ducklings lots of treats to make them your friend!

 

Indian Runner

This is an easily identifiable breed – they stand more upright and vertical than other ducks. They’re wonderful layers who love treats. They come in various colors, including fawn and blue.

 

How Long Do Indian Runner Ducks Live?

The Indian Runner Duck lifespan is about 8 to 12 years.

 

Khaki Campbell

This is a brown duck breed that lays wonderful white eggs. They’re prolific layers, and while the females tend to stay small, the males will get quite large.

 

How Long Do Khaki Campbell Ducks Live?

Khaki Campbell ducks live about 10 to 15 years.

 

Muscovy Ducks

How Long Do Muscovy Ducks Live?

Like most ducks, Muscovies live between 5 to 10 years, depending on their environment.  Yo can read more about Muscovy ducks here.

 

Mallard Ducks

How Long Do Mallard Ducks Live?

As opposed to the Pekin duck lifespan and the Indian Runner duck lifespan, Mallard ducks only for as long as 3 to 5 years in the wild.

 

Can You Keep Mallard Ducks As Pets?

A pet mallard duck is a good pet for as long as you know how to properly care for them. It’s always best to get your mallards from a reliable hatchery, rather than try to domesticate a wild duck (which might be illegal in some states). You can check out common hatcheries here.

 

Will Pet Ducks Fly Away?

It’s possible, but unlikely. Most domestic breeds can’t fly very well because they’ve been bred to be large. Their wings can’t get enough air. You’re far more likely to lose your ducks because of predators (which will decrease how long they live).

 

Ducks As Pets Pros And Cons:

Pro:

  • You’ll get eggs! (read here about how to get more eggs)
  • They’re easy to care for (read more here)
  • They’re friendly
  • They’re unusual pets

 

Cons:

  • Ducks poop A LOT
  • Predators can pick them off easily (learn how to build a safe coop here)
  • Drakes can quack loudly
  • They need a pond or pool

 

Still wondering “how long do ducks live?” Which breed is the best for you? Leave a comment below!

How to Raise Ducklings

How to Raise Ducklings

Raising ducks (especially ducklings) is easy, and ducks are some of the most entertaining and useful livestock you can add to your farm!

 

We started to raise ducklings in hopes they would begin to lay eggs once they matured.

 

As you might know, I’m a big believer in keeping more than one type of poultry!

 

Build a duck house in 1 hour and for free!

 

Ducklings also are a nice accompaniment to chicks you might raise in the spring, and can do just as much work in your garden when they mature.

 

Until they mature and lay eggs, ducklings can forage and help keep the bug population down. I think you’ll find that if you raise ducklings, they will be very cute, and provide hours of entertainment.

 

They’re easy, low maintenance animals that will provide and eggs when they’re ready.

 

It’s been very easy raising ducks in the past with success, so this year we added several to our backyard flock. You can buy ducklings to raise from hatcheries, feed stores, or local breeders.

 

Decide which breed of ducklings you want to raise 

There’s so many different breeds of ducklings to raise, so I won’t cover them all.

 

In this article, I’ll talk about the breeds I have experience raising, their histories, and why I like them.

 

 

Pekin Ducks

Pekin ducks are possibly the most popular breed of ducklings to raise in the United States. They’re the white ducks you see everywhere.

 

Pekins originated in China, and immigrants brought them over mid-19th century. They quickly gained popularity as a breed of ducklings to raise in the US because of their hardy, useful natures.

 

They’re a good dual purpose breed, and lay eggs consistently. We’ve chosen Pekin duckling to raise in the past, and they were easy, low-maintenance ducks.

 

How to Raise Ducklings

 

Indian Runners Ducks

Indian Runners are excellent ducklings to raise, and are highly prized for their wonderful pale green and white eggs. Runners are foragers, and great layers. They can lay around 180-200 eggs per year.

 

Runners generally are not suitable to raise for meat because the males top out at 5 pounds or so. Their value lies more in their eggs.

 

Khaki Campbells Ducks

 

Do ducks molt? Here's everything you need to know!

We have a few of these on our farm, and they lay nice white eggs regularly. They’re also very pretty!

 

Named after their developer, Mrs. Adah Campbell, these are the breed of ducklings to raise if eggs are your priority.

 

Laying around 300 eggs a year, Khaki Campbells were developed by breeding Mallards, Runners, and Rouen ducks.

 

They’re good foragers, and only weigh 3-5 pounds fully grown.

 

Learning to raise ducklings is easy, and you'll love their presence on your homestead. In this article, we cover everything you need to know. From FrugalChicken

 

Raising Ducks: Bringing your ducklings home

 

Step one in learning how to raise ducklings is to choose ducklings at the breeder or feed store (or wherever you happen to source them).

 

You want healthy-looking ducklings to raise that are active, curious, and free of poop on their bottoms.

 

If you’re buying your ducklings locally, be sure to keep them warm on the ride home, and provide an appropriate container for transport.

 

Anything from a cardboard box to a cat carrier will work (our cat carrier gets lots of use!), as long as it’s solid and has a way to keep them inside.

 

I personally use a cat carrier when transporting ducklings I’m bringing home to raise.

 

Keep them warm by keeping the heat in your car turned on, if it’s cool outside. Their down will provide them with a certain amount of warmth as well, but not a ton.

 

Because your ducklings will likely experience some stress by the move, keeping them warm will make sure they arrive home in the best shape possible.

 

Put something on the bottom of your box or carrier to catch any poop/pee, and to give them traction. In a cat carrier with no lining, they can easily slip.

 

Your goal is to make the ducklings comfortable so they are less stressed during transporting.

 

I’ve purchased poultry through the mail successfully, and most hatcheries want their birds to get to you in great shape. But if you’re concerned about travel conditions, you’re best off buying your ducklings close to home.

 

I purchased my ducklings about an hour away from my house, which ensured their ride home was as short as I could make it, and my ducklings arrived in good shape.

 

Raising Ducks: Necessary equipment

 

If you want true success in raising ducks, there’s some equipment you will need.

 

If it’s still cool outside, you’ll need a heat source and a brooder for your ducklings. We usually wait until warm weather – above 80 all the time – so we can skip the heat source step.

 

In my experience, the number one killer of young ducklings is getting too cold, so giving them a place to warm up is very important.

 

It can be very helpful having a heat lamp for ducklings.

 

The type of bulb you need depends on the time of year, and where you will keep your ducklings.

 

During the winter, I raise my ducklings inside when it’s cold, and use a heat lamp for ducklings if it’s really cold outside (we have a drafty house) or a 75 watt bulb if it’s spring, and 60 degrees or so outside.

 

To be honest, I prefer using the 75 watt bulb; the heat lamps get too hot, and if they fall, they can lead to a fire.

 

It’s not ideal if a 75 watt lamp falls, but the metal lamp surrounding the bulb doesn’t get very hot, so a fire is less likely.

 

I especially make sure the ducklings have a warm place to go if they’ve been swimming. Maybe they’ll need it, or maybe they won’t, but it’s better than raising cold ducklings.

 

I put the heat lamp in one corner of the brooder, and let them decide when they want to use it. Happy ducklings wander around and are curious, so let that be your guide to determine if they’re warm enough.

 

If they start panting, your lamp is too hot.

 

Your brooder can be as fancy or as basic as you like. I use a big plastic bin because they’re cheap and easy to clean, but you can make a brooder out of wood or metal as well.

 

It just needs to be sturdy and safe for your ducklings.

 

Most people use shavings in their brooder. I use shavings, and sometimes I add some hay. Be sure you use larger flakes because ducklings have a tendency to taste the smaller shavings, or the shavings can become mixed with their feed.

 

You will also need a waterer and something to keep their food in as you raise ducklings. Equipment for chickens is fine, as long as the ducks can eat or drink from it, and keep their nostrils clear.

 

It’s best to allow them to have a deeper dish of water so they can easily dip their bills in.

 

Raising Ducks: The Duck Feed

Its best to go with a poultry feed with about 22% protein.

 

Chick starter isn’t a good choice since ducklings have different nutritional requirements and chick starter doesn’t have enough vitamin B in it. You’ll run the risk of your ducklings developing leg issues – and this is a very real issue, so please don’t give your ducklings chick starter.

 

Be sure to make the feed available all the time.

 

Raising Ducks: Providing a Pool

One of the most fun things you’ll get to do as you raise ducklings is watching them swim and play in the water.

 

Although it isn’t strictly necessary to provide a pool, I provide one for my ducklings on a limited basis because I think it’s healthier and natural.

 

You can provide a small pool, which they will use to play and clean themselves.

 

Be sure the water isn’t too cold and you watch them for signs of hypothermia. Remove them if they start quacking and trying to get out, and generally looking like they’re not having much fun anymore.

 

Ducks are very messy when they have water to play with; I have seen backyards become muddy piles of muck by ducks in a short time. 

 

They will need separate drinking water, because they dirty up their pools quickly.

 

I don’t recommend allowing your ducks to live on a pond. They can’t fly like wild ducks because they’ve been bred to be heavier (and in some cases, their wings have been clipped), and they can’t defend themselves against predators.

 

If you want to be properly raising ducks for years, providing them a pool lets them play like nature intended while also keeping them safe.

 

Raising Ducks: Shelter

At some point, you’ll want to move your ducklings outside, and they’ll need a shelter. Be sure to give them a shelter that will protect them from predators and inclement weather and heat, and give them enough room.

 

I wait until mine have feathers before moving them outside in the spring. During warm weather, they’re allowed to go outside but brought back in at night so they stay safe.

 

If you’re going to let your ducklings free range, the space requirements are a little different than if they’re cooped in a run.

 

I don’t recommend free ranging your ducklings unless you want them picked off by predators. I use a tractor so they can get around to different areas without being exposed.

 

One thing that’s worked well for us is keeping our ducks with our goat. I firmly believe we haven’t lost any ducks because the goat is large enough – and we have small predators – that she scares off any carnivores looking for a midnight snack.

 

Ducklings kept in a run all the time will need about 10 square feet of space each, so when you plan your duck house, consider those space requirements.

 

Your shelter can be as fancy or as basic as you want, and you can keep your ducks with chickens if you only want one coop.

 

I’ve seen duck houses made out of chain link fence and tarps, and I’ve seen children’s playhouses repurposed as coops. As long as they can stay dry and away from predators, any shelter will work.

 

Our duck house isn’t anything fancy (it’s actually a repurposed shed), but it works well and keeps them dry and warm!

Do you raise ducklings? What is your favorite breed?

More Resources on Raising Ducks:

 

 

Real Homesteader Stories Episode 5!: The Ditch That’ll Save Us All, Broody Hens, & Duckling Update! [Video]

Real Homesteader Stories Episode 5!: The Ditch That’ll Save Us All, Broody Hens, & Duckling Update! [Video]

I had to take a break from recording anything thanks to chronic strep throat, but I’m back with a new episode of Real Homesteader Stories!

 

In this episode, I reveal the ditch that’s supposed to save us from the flooding in the MidWest (you can guess about how well that went). I also give you a sneak peek at the broody hen who’s hatching quite a few eggs, and you’ll learn how to tell whether your ducklings are male or female without vent sexing!

 

 

Real Homesteader Stories Episode 3: They Call It A Bird Brain For A Reason + Baby Bunny Update!

Real Homesteader Stories Episode 3: They Call It A Bird Brain For A Reason + Baby Bunny Update!

This week on Real Homesteader Stories, I tell you about our duckling drama & an update on the baby bunnies!

 

It’s been a couple weeks since my last Real Homesteader Stories (TM), and that’s because I’ve finally got the cough that wouldn’t die to go away. BUT I’m back now, with more stories about our farm!

 

Things were interesting as we tried helping a renegade duckling that broke free of the brooder and swallowed a string. You also get to see the baby bunnies (including the fosterlings) up close & personal!

 

(BTW, if you’re wondering, after three weeks of misery, I applied Eucalyptus + Melaleuca daily for 4 days using a roller bottle. Neat, no dilution. Learn more here.)