One of the lucrative businesses in the livestock cadre is duck farming. However, duck farming isn’t so popular due to the taboos and myths associated with them. For instance, many consider ducks as dirty birds and as a result it is not widely consumed in many parts of the country.
In recent times however, many are starting to see the opportunity in terms of rearing these birds. Duck meat is an excellent source of affordable animal protein. The eggs also serve as a rich source of protein. Interestingly, you’ll need just a small amount of capital to start the business. You can even rear your ducks in the same vicinity as your crop farm because they don’t destroy vegetables or flowers. When compared to chickens, ducks live longer and they tend to lay eggs for a longer period of time.
You can start with as little as 12 birds with a male to female ratio of 1 to 6. Duck requires minimal housing, cheap feeds and are resistant to many of the avian diseases that affect other poultry birds. Ducks can even fend for themselves if left unsupervised. This is because they eat almost anything from insects like grasshoppers, termites and cockroaches to snails and fish eggs. Generally, ducks digest fiber and protein better than chickens.
In terms of productive capacity, averagely, ducks produce a minimum of 100 eggs per year. In some cases, a well fed duck can lay as much as 200 eggs in a year. These ducks usually lay big eggs. The meat of an adult duck depends on the sex. The weight of most ducks range between 1.5kg to 2.5kg.
When selecting the duck breed you want to rear, you should select your bird from the stock as early as the eighth week. There are some important features to look out for when making your selection. Some of these include the bird’s vision, the health of its feathers as well as the bird’s movement. Ideally, the bird should have a good vision and the feathers should look healthy. Also the bird should have a balanced movement and no observable physical defects.
However, the kind of breed you select depends on your purpose for rearing. The most popular breed in Nigeria is the Muscovy which is very good for meat production. The Khaki Campbell and Indian runners are particularly good for both meat and egg production. Other breeds include the Pekin and Aylesbury. Overall, you’ll need to select based on the type that thrives best in your location based on your interaction with other duck farmers
Generally, good breeds begin to lay egg from 5 months. If you are rearing your ducks simultaneously with hens, the hens can be used to hatch the eggs. It is important you sprinkle water on the eggs at least three times a week during the hatching period.
Ducks need to be well fed to lay egg of good quality and large quantities. Although, they can forage and fend for themselves nonetheless, their food needs to be supplemented with duck marsh, maize bran, chopped tomatoes and kitchen wastes.
In larger scale duck farming, the use of incubators is necessary to improve the process of egg hatching and the delivery. The eggs generally take 4 weeks to hatch. An average duck egg weighs 50-60g
Brooding is an important process that promotes the growth of ducklings. It is the process of providing necessary heat needed to help regulate the body temperature of the duckling for optimal growth. In small scale rearing, the mother can serve as the brooder. However, artificial brooder is used for commercial rearing. In this case, hundreds of ducklings can be brooded at a time. Unlike the natural brooding, where the mother can only brood 10 to 15 ducklings at a time.
Generally, the brooding temperature is dependent on the age of the duckling. As the duckling grows older, the temperature is reducing. Also, the response of the duckling in terms of behaviour helps to determine if the brooding temperature is suitable.
Housing and care
Generally, ducks can live both in wet or dry area. They don’t really need extensive housing and care to survive however it is advisable you give your ducks optimal care in order to generate the best returns on your investments.
For instance, ducks are aquatic animals and even though they can be reared in non aquatic environment, they actually need ponds of water to thrive. If you choose to raise your birds like the other poultry birds on dry land, they won’t do badly but they would lay unfertilized eggs that can’t hatch into ducklings. Ideally ducks require water to mate. Ducks are known to lay eggs in the morning and night.
When constructing the house, you should make it low because ducks do not climb. Additionally, the doors of entry and exit need to be high enough for the ducks because unlike other birds they only walk in a straight manner and cannot stoop. There should also be enough ventilation for these birds, with a minimum of 3 square feet space apart on the floor. The floor should have about 6 inches liter depth for the ducks to lay eggs.
Additionally, the house should serve as a protection against dogs and wild animals. As mentioned earlier, ducks need lot of fresh water both for drinking and to wash themselves regularly. They could go blind due to lack of access of water to wash their eyes very often.
Selling your ducks
Ducks are sold in the local market along with other poultry birds. The demand usually increases during festive periods like Christmas, Easter and Sallah. You can also sell the eggs by placing them in cartons and supplying your customers. The egg shells should not be cleaned with water but they should be cleaned properly.
You can start your duck business in your back yard and still reach a sustainable level of profitability however, the more ducks you rear the better your profit.