Why raise ducks?
Ducks are one of the most practical, versatile and useful waterfowls to raise. Duck raising offers several benefits:
· Ducks are efficient producers of animal protein.
· Ducks provide both eggs and meat, for consumption or for sale.
· Ducks require limited space, simple shelter and minimal care.
· Ducks are resistant to diseases and thrive in harsh conditions.
· Ducks control harmful insects, unwanted aquatic weeds and golden snails.
· Duck manure is an excellent organic fertilizer.
· Ducks eat aquatic plants, grasses, vegetable trimmings, golden snails, insects and farm byproducts. Thus, providing feed is not a problem.
WHAT BREED TO RAISE FOR MEAT AND EGGS:
The Muscovy is a multipurpose breed for meat and eggs. The most popular Muscovy ducks raised are the white and black types. They lay from 80-120 eggs/yr and produce an excellent quality meat.
The Khaki Campbell breed is more efficient for egg production as compared to other breeds. A single duck is capable of producing 250-350 eggs/yr.
Since ducks are small, a simple shed with one open side can provide adequate shelter. A 1 1/2 m x 5 m x 1 m high shelter can accommodate 40-50 adult ducks. To prevent the ducks from destroying vegetables and other crops, they should be confined in a fenced structure made from locally available materials.
Farm litter (e.g., rice straw) should be placed in the shed for laying and brooding purposes.
STARTING A BACKYARD PROJECT:
A beginner can start with 7 ducks — one male (drake) and 6 female (ducklets). It is preferable to acquire ducks that are from 1-2 years of age.
FEEDS AND FEEDING:
Muscovy ducks are voracious eaters and eat practically anything they are fed. For maximum growth, ducks should be fed with natural, local feeds such as empty grains (rice), rice and corn bran, ipil-ipil leaves, golden snails, duck weed, Azolla, banana trunks, worms, etc. They should be fed three times a day and provided with fresh water always. Used tires or old cookings utensils can be used for waterers and feeders. Twenty-five ducks can be raised in a 1-hectare farm using onfarm feeds without commercial feeds.
To prevent a disease outbreak, animals should be regularly vaccinated against common diseases (e.g., Newcastle, Fowl Pox or Fowl Cholera). Deworming and other health care practices, such as proper sanitation, correct feeding and proper care and management, must be strictly implemented to ensure a disease-free flock. New birds introduced into a flock should be quarantined to ensure that they are disease-free. Sick birds should also be isolated from healthy stock during treatment.
OTHER MANAGEMENT PRACTICES:
Ducks start to lay eggs after reaching 6 months of age. One medium-size duck is capable of hatching 12-15 eggs during the 30-33 day incubation period. Layers are usually productive from 1218 months. At the end of that production period, layers should be culled and eaten or sold.
The fertility of eggs can be determined using a simple technique known as candling. Eggs should be candled (on the 15th day of incubation) in a dark room using at candle, lamp or flashlight. Fertile eggs reveal a small dark spot with a network of blood vessels branching out from it or the eggs appear dark. Infertile eggs are clear with the yolk appearing as a floating shadow. Do not throw away infertile eggs; they are delicious as well as nutritious and can be eaten or processed into salted or hard-boiled eggs to be sold for extra income.
Young ducklings must be kept warm and dry. It is best to keep them out of water until they are 2 weeks old. However, they must have a constant supply of fresh drinking water. The ducklings should be fed fine rice bran and boiled rice. Cracked corn or rice should be fed to them after they are several weeks old.
It is very important to protect the ducklings from predators such as cats. dogs; rodents, birds, etc. One method of protecting the ducklings is to confine the hen and her brood in a covered pen each night until the ducklings are 6-8 weeks old.
Meat-type birds are ready to be slaughtered, dressed and marketed at 5-6 months of age.
DUCK MANAGEMENT WITHIN A RICE SYSTEM:
Two pen/shelter design options are presented here:
The duck pen and shelter is constructed over the irrigation canal The floor is made of bamboo slats spaced so as to allow the droppings to fall into the water below, but not to trap and injure the ducks’ feet. The floor should slope slightly to allow the eggs to collect on one side of the pen, thus facilitating daily egg collection. This design allows the duck droppings to fall directly into the water and be carried to the rice paddies through the irrigation canal. One disadvantage to this design, however, is the possible danger of housing the ducks directly over the water during colder times of the year
The other design places the shelter near, but not over, the irrigation canal. Cover the floor with 4-6 inches of dry bedding material i.e., rice straw. Remove the old bedding materials weekly and place them in a compost pit for future incorporation into the rice paddies as fertilizer.
Ducks should be given adequate time to forage for their food. The ducks should be released from their house in the morning after they have laid their eggs (about 7:00 a.m.). The most important consideration is that the ducks be released at the same time every morning. If they are released at different times every day, the change can upset them, causing them to stop laying eggs and even begin to molt. They should be herded back to the pen about 5:30 in the afternoon. Giving them some feeds regularly at this time also trains them to return to their pen.
Ducks should be released onto the ricefields only at certain times:
– During plowing and harrowing
– After the tillering stage, but not during the flowering and heading stage of the ricecrop
– After the rice has been harvested and threshed.
When it is not possible to release the ducks into the ricefield, they should be taken to an area where no crops are grown. If no such area is available, the ducks can be fed in confinement.