Some might be surprised to hear that one of the top reasons people find our website, is because they’re looking for Welsh Harlequin ducks…either to buy, or to just find out more about them.
Besides being gorgeous, the Harlequins are particularly sought after for their high egg yield. We found them for the same reason. Knowing that duck eggs are so high in fat soluble vitamins A, D and many other goodies, we looked for a breed that would lay like a chicken, so we’d have eggs most of the year around.
BUT, just because you start a flock of a high-yield breed, does not automatically mean you will get maximum egg production. Like any creature, the ducks have basic and dietary needs.
One is that they need space. You likely wouldn’t want to be confined to an area the size of your bathroom, and neither do most pets/livestock. It’s not hygienic and it’s also kinda depressing to be confined. It’s easy here at Birdsong, where the we have the space for the ducks to have their own paddock (pictured above), but much harder if you’re in suburbia…unless you are willing to free range. We did this on a suburban block when we started out, letting our two ducks roam all over the back yard. They just need to be locked up at night, safe from predators.
Be warned, they do make a mess. They poo everywhere (which is fantastic for your garden/lawn by the way). But if you have a pretty, landscaped yard, they may not be compatible!
They need water, and it won’t stay clean long. Pictured is a young drake using the drinking dish we have in the duck paddock, but we also have a half 44 gallon drum for them to swim in, and a half IBC that we fill for them when needed. You’ll fill it up, and it will usually look brown within a few hours! But it doesn’t have to be changed every day. Their drinking water does, but they can go a couple of days before you refresh the swimming water (especially if you live in a low rainfall area like us).
Feed…ducks are high-protein eaters. They are also enjoy frequent meals. We’ve tried a variety of brands and seen a variety of results. I’ve tried dedicated duck feed, which was pretty good. We’ve tried a barnyard mix, which just didn’t meet the ducks needs and the laying suffered.
Then we tried a high protein layer mash. Not bad, but again, the laying still suffered after a while. Then we went organic with their diet, which boosted egg production for a short while. Then we had months of nothing…like 6 months of no eggs. I didn’t know what to do, and so contacted Country Heritage Feeds at Pittsworth. They told me if we were willing to bulk buy, I could purchase the same organic high-protein mash that organic commercial chicken farms successfully use. It was worth a shot, and it’s been about a year now that we have been using this feed, and we’re very impressed. So many people have told me their birds have stopped laying now (because it’s almost winter), but our chickens are ALL laying (note, they only reached POL at the end us Summer just gone) and about 1/3 of our ducks are still laying.
We’ve never seen them lay so consistently for so long before. I don’t get any benefits for plugging this feed, but want to mention it because I know there are others like us, who would love to see some return on all the cash they spend on feeding their flock!
This feed is quite powdery. So we soak it, and feed it to the flock as a mush/slurry. They prefer wet feed anyway, as ducks require access to water while they eat, so they don’t choke. We break their daily quota over 4 feeds. It works for us because we work from home and are always nearby. If you weren’t home all day, I would at least try and break up their mush over two feeds, morning and evening.
And then they love greens. Some have ample table scraps for their birds, some grow extra greens to feed their flock, and some find a fruit shop or supermarket that they can get damaged produce from. There are likely many more ways you can access greens/produce for your flock. We tend to give them bolted or spoiled produce from the market garden. They adore cos lettuce, mesclun mix and things like oversized zucchini when they’re in season.
Water: we had an interesting season where on top of the feed we were using being a problem, we also had a water problem. I had the ducks water connected to the market garden supply, and that is fertigated (that just means that soil supplements were being dosed into the irrigation). One day the thought struck that perhaps the water was affecting their laying. I switched over to pure bore water, and within 10 days, started seeing some eggs again. For most people, this will never be an issue, but I thought I’d mention it in case anyone else has treated or enhanced water.
Ducklings grow super fast. It seems as though you put them to bed, and then get up the next morning and can see the growth. One warning with using a chicken feed for ducks, is that they often don’t account for the B3 requirements of ducks. The feed we use is excellent, but it is a chicken feed. So when we have growing ducklings, that feed needs to be supplemented with a little brewers yeast to meet the babies B3 requirements. I just buy brewers yeast from the supermarket, or a herbal supplier and put about a Tbsp of the yeast into 1kg of feed. This is our guesstimate, and it worked when we had 4 ducklings go lame from B3 deficiency last spring. Within days of supplementing the B3 into the feed, they were able to walk and function as normal again.
If you have ducks and have found other dietary/lifestyle ideas that have worked, drop us a comment 🙂