Ducks are curious, intelligent animals that need sufficient space to move freely and access water facilities.
They’re also social animals and should be kept with other ducks for company, where their quirky personalities will shine through.
In addition, their housing must meet their physical, behavioural and social needs.
Ducks and your garden
Ducks love to forage around a garden.
They search in mulch and under plants for tasty grubs and worms.
Ducks like to eat grass, so they’ll enjoy keeping the weeds down, but you’ll need to fence them out of your vegetable garden or they may eat it all!
Ducks love water and use about one litre of drinking water per duck per day.
They need water to keep their eyes, bills, feet and feathers in good condition.
Their water should be deep enough for them to stick their whole head into and wash.
The water container needs to have a shallow edge so that the ducks can get out again easily if they happen to climb in.
They love pools where they can climb in and splash.
A kids’ pool is perfect.
Ducks need to be kept in a secure pen when you’re not at home.
To be secure, housing needs to have solid sheeting or welded mesh on the roof, floor and walls.
Provide as much space as possible for each duck.
At a minimum, provide at least 1.5sq metres per duck in their pen if they’re to be confined in it during the day. For a night house provide at least 0.5sq metres per duck.
Duck housing should be out of the sun and provide wind protection. Ducks don’t really like direct sun.
Metal housing should be insulated or shaded to avoid it becoming dangerously hot inside as ducks can die from heat stress.
Housing must also be well-ventilated. A simple three-sided shelter with a mesh base, front and door is suitable. The open side should face north, to get the winter sun and avoid cold, wet southerly winds.
The duck pen should be easy to clean, as ducks poo a lot.
Rice hulls are an excellent pen surface and drain very well. Rake the rice hulls over each day. Do not use bare concrete or pavers over more than one third of the pen floor or your ducks could develop sores on their soft feet.
Provide a ‘private’ spot for a nest (a sturdy cardboard box on its side will do). Keep the nest topped up with clean mulch, wood shavings or straw.
Ducks often bury their eggs in the nest and they don’t generally need a perch – they’ll sleep on the floor.
Keep their food container inside the duck house under cover so it doesn’t get wet and keep water and food at least a metre apart to discourage them from dribbling in their food.
Ideally, put the water over an area that drains well. Sit the water container over a drainage pit or platform wider than the water container and fill with smooth pebbles.
Ducks kept in a clean environment and fed good food are generally very robust and hardy animals.
They rarely suffer from intestinal worms or mites, but usually need worming every six months with a poultry wormer, so consult your veterinarian.
Ducks can be a bit clumsy and are easily injured, and if kept on a rough or hard surface can develop foot ‘ulcers’.
Swellings, sores on their feet or limping need attention from a vet.
Never give mouldy food to ducks – mould spores can cause respiratory diseases or sudden toxic reactions.
Keep their water clean, change drinking water every day and don’t worry that they turn their new, clean water brown within minutes – that’s normal!
If you have questions or concerns about companion animals, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase: kb.rspca.org.au