Ducks scampering about the backyard are fun to watch and have the potential of laying at least as many eggs as nearly any chicken breed. Like chickens they need healthy food, safety from predators and the weather, and adequate housing to thrive. From there, specific needs differ.
Ducks seem to love everything about water. They’re great swimmers and drink much more water than chickens. When caught in a downpour chicken feathers get soggy while raindrops run right off waterproof duck feathers. Despite their love of water, it’s not necessary to have a pond or creek on the property to keep them happy. They’ll enjoy splashing around in a kids’ plastic pool or any other large water container.
The downside of ducks is that they slop water all over and often they fill their bill with food and swish it around in the waterer. Ducks seem to take delight in making their drinking water murky. The recommendation is that it needs to be changed daily. Like chicks, ducklings need to spend their early weeks in a warm brooder but because they are sloppy many people prefer brooding them in a box with a wire mesh bottom, so water can fall beneath the birds. Mud and ducks are common companions, as are predators.
The same raccoons, foxes, and mink that savor a dinner of fresh chicken also love eating ducks. Most predators are nocturnal so providing a snug building for them to overnight in is critically important. Ducks are amazingly cold resistant and like plenty of ventilation. Their home can be simple and but should allow for air movement yet be tight enough to foil hungry varmints.
Ducks love to forage and enjoy snacking on insects, worms, spiders, slugs and many plants. They’ll find plenty of wild food in most yards, but it should be supplemented with a quality commercial ration. Usually pellets or crumbles work better than mash. Ducklings do well on chick starter feed as long as it is not medicated or contains antibiotics.
Chickens prefer to lay their eggs in the privacy of a mostly enclosed nest box. Ducks aren’t as choosy and often nest in odd out of the way places. Sometimes they can be enticed to nest in a shallow lidless box that’s lined with fresh straw.