One night, my husband texted me a video of himself driving home with a baby duckling on his shoulder. A friend was looking to rehome the little guy (which turned out to be a girl…more on that later) and my husband couldn’t resist. I was skeptical, to put it nicely. Fast-forward two weeks and I was intently researching the best brands of duck food and sketching plans for a custom coop to match our Craftsman. Gary, as we dubbed her before knowing her sex, had quickly become a part of our family. We soon added another little lady, named Goose, to the brood, and our fowl have earned a following on Instagram, one adoring sister-dog, and two devoted humans. Interested in owning a duck? Here’s what you need to know.
Ducks are low-maintenance, gentle, and loyal pets. Their eggs are larger, richer in flavor, and more nutritious than chicken eggs, as well as higher in fat, which makes them excellent for baking. (For reference, female ducks are able to lay an egg a day.)
What They Need
- Fresh water – at least deep enough to fully submerge their head
- A yard – don’t expect to have an indoor duck. They belong outside with access to water and plenty of trees or bushes for protection.
- A secure place to sleep – to keep them safe from predators
- The right diet – do your research; many duck feeds on the market are intended to fatten birds for consumption. Ducks also need a diet rich in niacin, which is found in peas (Gary and Goose’s favorite treat!).
Ducks are highly social creatures that get lonely and depressed with a solitary lifestyle. So if you plan to bring one home, make room for at least two. They also get along well with other non-aggressive pets.
What a Quack
All mallards (the most common breed of duck in the U.S.) are born with the same brown plumage, but around 10 weeks of age, dimorphic males will molt to reveal their distinctive green head. Prior to that, you can typically identify females by their more distinctive “quack” sound; males, on the other hand, emit a lower, raspier sound. (If you’re wondering, both can be noisy during the day but stay quiet at night so as not to attract predators.)
The “Down” Sides
Ducks can be messy—they like to root their bills in the mud and dunk their food, so be prepared to change their water frequently. They’re not potty-trainable, though their droppings aren’t overly offensive and can be easily washed away with a hose. They’ll also eat leaves off plants, though they tend to instinctively avoid toxic varieties.
Their down feathers make them impervious to cold, so winters are no sweat.
Ready for Takeoff?
Ducks naturally stay where they’re fed and cared for, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them flying the coop. But you can easily clip their wings at home as a preventative measure.
Keep in mind
As with any pet, you should consider your lifestyle and level of commitment before bringing home a duck. Domesticated ducks can live 20 years. Kennels won’t board fowl, so you’ll need to designate someone to care for your birds when you travel. You also can’t take a duck to just any old veterinarian—avian vets aren’t as plentiful in Dallas-Fort Worth as your dog-and-cat variety.