Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

We all know chickens go through a molt every year, but did you ever wonder “do ducks molt?”

 

In short, yes ducks molt. In fact, they molt quite a bit every year – possibly enough to build you a whole new duck.

 

In fact, I’ve gone outside and wondered whether the drakes, hens, and young ones had a pillow fight the night before and didn’t invite me!

 

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

 

You might even wonder how such a little bird can have so many feathers hidden – more on that in a minute.

 

Our hen Henrietta, a Khaki Campbell is molting presently – and she looks quite a bit disheveled. Not sleek and bright like the younger ducks in her pen!

 

Like chickens, ducks molt to replace old feathers with new growth, and they do it every summer. So, expect it to be an annual event.

 

How do ducks molt?

Ducks molt different than chickens, and in the main summer molt, both duck hens and drakes will lose feathers.

 

Chickens molt by losing them on their head, neck, and back, and then regrowing them in the same top-down pattern.

 

Ducks, on the other hand, just lose their feathers all over the place and all at once, including their primary ones. They’ll also scratch and pluck them out with their bills to speed things along or just relieve the itch.

 

Henrietta has been caught with bits of plumage all over her bill – she dunks herself in water to clean it off!

 

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

 

You might also notice your ducks aren’t playing or interacting as much – again, this is normal. Henrietta has been staying a bit back from the younger ducks as she loses her feathers.

 

Additionally, drakes (male ducks) will undergo an additional molt after the spring breeding season has ended – they will lose their fancy colored plumage for duller colored feathers – this is an evolutionary adaptation that protects ducks from predators.

 

Why do they lose so many feathers?

As you probably know, in addition to their primary plumage, ducks also have a large padding of down feathers (the same down you’ll find in coats and other winter apparel).

 

So, ducks will also lose their down during a molt, which is why it can look like a crime scene in their pen – and you might take a headcount, wondering how a predator got into the duck house.

 

Rest assured, it’s just natural feather loss.

 

In fact, ducks lose their primary feathers (such as flight) all at once. In the wild, they will be flightless for about a month – no big deal since ducks are usually close to water, keeping them safe from predators.

 

This is less of an issue for domestic ducks, although the sight of it can be overwhelming. Just grab the broom and sweep them out.

 

As Henrietta has molted, she’s looks very disheveled, and her color appears mottled – this is a result of losing feathers as well as loose ones that haven’t yet been shed.

 

Eventually, glossy new plumage will appear, and the ragged hen will look sleek and beautiful again.

 

Just remember, that the length of time it takes to complete a molt will vary from duck to duck.

What about egg production?

While your ducks molt, you might notice the hens’ egg production goes down – this is normal. Like chickens, growing new feathers requires a lot of protein for ducks.

 

We’ve noticed that Henrietta is laying less, and when she does lay an egg, they’re smaller. Again, this is totally normal, and once she’s done molting, production picks back up.

 

If your ducks stop laying completely, don’t worry – it’s normal, and they’ll start again eventually.

What should you feed during a molt?

When your ducks molt, it’s a good idea to give them extra protein. You can give them more feed, or offer treats of dried mealworms floating on water (it also provides extra entertainment). Giving them high-nutrient treats such as kale or parsley will help as well.

 

You can also switch to a higher protein feed.

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:

 

 

4 Types Of Poultry You Can Raise With Hens To Be More Self-Sufficient [Podcast]

4 Types Of Poultry You Can Raise With Hens To Be More Self-Sufficient [Podcast]

I’m a big believer that if you have the space, raising more than one type of poultry will help you become more self-sufficient.

 

In addition to chickens, we also raise ducks, quail, and turkeys, and we’ve considered adding guineas and even an emu (although emus can jump well, and require high fencing, and since we already have enough livestock trying to break free on any given day, we dropped the idea).

 

While chickens should be the cornerstone of any homestead, ducks lay better in winter and aren’t susceptible to many diseases chickens suffer from.

 

Turkeys can be a valuable asset if you hatch their eggs, since people will pay a premium for organic, pasture-raised turkey at Thanksgiving.

 

what herbs can chickens eat content upgrade-min
In this podcast, we discuss 4 other poultry you can raise on your farm, their advantages and disadvantages compared to chickens, and whether you can house them with your hens.

You’ll learn:

 

  • How turkeys, ducks, quail, and guineas can enhance your poultry flock
  • Why each has certain advantages that compliment chickens
  • Some reasons each might not be for you
  • Why I don’t recommend keeping chicks and ducklings together
  • Mistakes we made when starting out our homestead you can avoid

 

 

Links we discuss:

Butcher Box
Butcher Box square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which poultry would you like to raise with your chickens? Leave a comment below!