Duck is a very good income generating occupation for those who are small and marginal farmers. This can be even reared by landless classes and women.
Duck rearing is profitable and simple in management because ducks are (1) less hazardous bird, (2) have disease resistance, (3) have longer economic egg-production life, (4) duck eggs are heavier and fetch a better price, (5) meat is also a delicacy and is relished by the people, (6) they do not need elaborate housing, and (7) ducks kill snails, slugs and other crop pests.
Duck rearing can be done in all Indian states. Marshy river side’s, wetlands, ponds, tanks, barren moors, etc. are good for ducks. Land based duck farming is being recently started on artificial water stores, near big cities on small and large commercial scale. Weaker and unorganised sections of people are mostly involved in duck rearing.
Therefore, considering duck rearing as an effective tool for socio-economic development of rural masses. Duck rearing forms important component of integrated farming systems, such as duck cum fish farming, where the droppings of duck serve as feed to fish and some fish can be used as duck feed.
Duck cum crop farming, where weeds in the field, by-products of the crops, broken, and shriveled grains can be used as duck feed. Duck kills snails and other pests of crops, like potato beetle, grass hoppers etc.
Duck is a water bird and yet swimming in water is not essential for them. However, they need to wet or clean their heads in water at times. Their eyes and bills need cleaning. For this water should be sufficiently deep enough to dip their heads.
Advantages of Duck Rearing
There are a number of advantages of duck rearing over chicken or other poultry birds. They are the following.
- Ducks lay on an average 40-50 more eggs than the layers of chicken.
- Duck eggs are about 15to 20 grams heavier than chicken eggs.
- They require less care and attention compared to other birds.
- They are good foragers and are able to meet part of their feed requirements.
- Ducks have longer economically laying period than chicken.
- They are hardy and more easily resistant to many avian
- Ducks flourish well in marshy and wet land where most other domestic animals can not survive.
- Ducks are free from cannibalism and other objectionable tendencies.
- Ducks lay their eggs before 9.00 a.m. and hence egg collection is easy for the keeper.
- They are easily trained to manage themselves.
- They live longer than chicken.
- They are suitable to integrated farming systems such as duck cum fish farming, duck cum pig cum fish and duck cum kitchen garden.
- They are resistant to a number of diseases that are usually found among chicken.
- Ducklings are easily sexed compared to chicks.
- They are good predators of insect pests.
- Ducks do not need elaborate housing
Breeds of Duck
Breeds of the ducks can be classified into three main groups:
A. Egg types consisting of Khaki Campbell and Indian Runner breeds,
B. Meat type consisting of White Pekin, Muscovy and Aylesbury breeds, and
C. Ornamental type consisting of Crested White breed.
Egg Production in Ducks
Annual rate of egg production varies with breed. Ducks normally begin to lay at about 6 month of age. Indiginous duck produce 90-130eggs per bird per year.
Muscovy breed known for meat production in the world lays only 40-45 eggs per bird per year. Indian Runner breed is a good layer having an average record of more than 250 eggs per annum.
Khakhi Campbell breed is highly prolific and its ducklings start laying of eggs when they are 120 days of age and produce about 300 eggs per bird per year.
They also produce eggs during second year. About 95% of eggs are laid in the morning. Ducks can live for about ten years but the effective laying period is about 4 years. For the commercial egg producers, it is advantageous that eggs are laid during morning between 6-9 a.m. can be collected on paddy straw spread in the field within a temporary fence.
Duck Rearing systems
Ducklings can be reared in (1) Intensive system, (2)Semi- intensive, and (3) Range system.
1. Intensive system
Under intensive system ducks are reared on deep litter till they attain the age of 16 weeks. A confined space of 0.279sq m(3sq.ft) per bird is allowed. As the ducklings become 17 weeks old, they are vaccinated against duck plague and given more space, about 0.465 sq. M (5 sq. ft) per duck.
Ducklings grow at very fast rate and therefore require a ration rich in all nutrients. Khaki Campbell duck consumes about 12.5 kg of feed up to 20 weeks of age. Afterwards the consumption varies from 120- 170 gm per bird per day depending upon the rate of production and availability of greens.
The starter, growers and layers ration should contain a protein percentage of 21, 18, and 18 respectively with a metabolizable energy (ME)of2850, 2,900 and 2800 kcal per kilo of feed, respectively.
2. Semi-intensive system
Under semi-intensive system, birds are grown on deep litter with floor space of 0.186sq m in high shelter and 0.929 sq. m as outside run till they attain an age of 16 weeks. For feeding wet mash. V' shaped feeders can be used. Allow 10 cm space on the hopper for feeding.
Under semi- intensive system local feeds are also made use off. One third of the meal ration may be replaced by cheaper vegetable feeds household scrapes and fodders as available under local conditions.
3. Free range system
In free range systems, ducklings are provided ample space for run and in night shelter. Under this system a flock of 2000 ducks can be reared per acre (0.0456 hectare). Ducks on free range system obtain most of their protein needs by foraging from small fish, crustaceans and insects.
Land Based Duck Rearing
Land based duck rearing is to make arrangements for artificial water stores, ponds etc. It is a recent innovation suited for places where natural water bodies are not available and ducks can be reared economically, because of vicinity of the market for ducks products.
Moreover, this unique system for even large scale commercial farming in minimum space. Normally more than 120 ducks are reared, along with pisciculture (fish farming) on an area of 1200 sq. Feet including night shelter, water channel, feeding floor and open run.
The water channel of 25 feet long, 1.5 feet wide and one feet deep is sufficient for 100 ducks, which is filled with fresh water every day. Duck farming in such intensive system is always advantageous from the point of its management, feed utilization and maintenance of hygiene. A night shelter may be constructed using appropriate materials with sufficient provision for ventilation.
Ducks are the most efficient type of birds to convert fallen grains of the fields, insects, plant materials and pond materials into edible meat and eggs.
Ducks of various age groups are fed on different feeds viz starters 0 -2 weeks, growers (3 -8 weeks) and for adults above 9 to 20 weeks till they start laying eggs, layers and breeders.
Commercial feeds are available as mash pelets and crumbs. Ducks should never have access to feed without drinking water because they need wet feed. Pellet feeding though costly has distinct advantage of saving the amount of feed, labour convenience, no scouring and improvement insanitary conditions.
1. Feeding ducklings
Ducklings should be fed as soon as they are removed from the incubator to the brooder or immediately after they are received from the hatchery. Since ducklings do not readily learn to eat, it is necessary that extreme care should be given to them for the first few days to save them from dying or starvation.
If it is possible to put several ducklings that have already learned how to eat in the brooder with the new hatch they will learn to eat quickly.
If it is not possible, it might be necessary to hand feed some of them for the first day or two. Day-old ducklings should be given coarse milled cereals moistened with milk or water as a first feed and then a proprietary mash or one with composition approximating to following:-
- Milled cereal 35 parts
- Fine cereal bran 30 parts
- Fish or meat meal 20 parts
- extracted oil-cake meal 10 parts
- Fine grit and minerals 5 parts.
The mash should be damped just sufficiently to make it "crumble'. If it is too wet, much of it is lost through the saving process to which it is subjected in the ducks bill. No more feed that can be eaten in about 1 0 minutes should be fed at any time. Grit or sand and water should be available. Ducklings normally consume 12.5 kg of feed in 20 weeks.
2. Feeding growers and layers
Feeding ducks require much care. Duck feed stored under comparatively high relative humidity, get poisoned due to fungal growth. In order to avoid problem of feed toxicity, feed may be formulated by eliminating maize and groundnut cakes as far as possible.
Broken rice, damaged wheat, soybean meal etc. can be included in formulating the feed. Fish meal should be of fresh and good quality. Strong feed for longer time should be avoided, all other
precautions must be observed before selection or making feed.
Common Duck Diseases
Ducks appear to excel all other domestic poultry in their resistance to common avian diseases, but they suffer from duck plague, duck virus hepatitis and some other diseases In case of need veterinarians must be consulted.
1. Duck plague
Serious outbreak of duck plague also known as duck virus enteritis can Cause 80 -90 % mortality in flocks of all ages. It is a highly contagious disease and strikes swiftly without warning.
Birds become restless with drooping wings, ruffled feather. Their-eyes become swollen and moist with sticky discharge. They stop feeding and drink water frequently and feel difficulty in breathing. Sometimes watery yellow diarrahea with blood is seen. Occasionally penis is swollen and protruding. In laying females, haemorrhages can be observed in the deformed and discoloured ovarian follicles.
b. Prevention and control
The birds can be protected by duck plague vaccine, available in the country, given at the age of 8 weeks.
2. Duck cholera
Highly infectious disease Caused by bacterial organism Pasteurella multocida in ducks over 4 weeks age.
Birds loose appetite and their body temperature becomes high. Initial diarrhoea is followed by mucoid droppings.
b. Prevention and control
Birds must be vaccinated first at the age of 4 weeks and again at 16 weeks age with duck cholera vaccine. Sulphonamides and antibiotics are effective in controlling the disease and reducing mortality. The dead birds should be burnt.
Ducks are very susceptible to aflatoxin content of the feed. The minimum toxic dose for ducks is 0.03 per kilo in feed. ducklings are more susceptible. Aflatoxin is produced by the mould Aspergillus flavus in the feedstuffs such as groundnut, maize, rice polish, etc.
Birds first show poor feed intake, poor growth, falling of feathers, lethargy, unthriftliness, lameness. At the latter stages, birds express liver lesions, ataxia followed by convulsion and death.
b. Prevention and control
Avoid feeding mouldy feeds. Feeds should be checked for aflatoxin particularly during and after rainy season.
The disease occurs in young and adult stocks. It is caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum which grows in decaying plant and animal materials.
Birds lose control of their neck muscle and usually drown of swimming water is available. Bird show dullness, ruffled feathers, lameness, drooping wings, laboure breathing, coma and
b. Prevention and control
The affected birds can be given C-type antitoxin. Maintenance of cleanliness including the removal of rotting vegetation and dead birds, will prevent the disease.
5. Internal parasites
Ducks are resistant to internal parasites. These are more when ducks are kept on a range or when they have access to ponds. These include flukes, tape worms and round worms. There are suitable medicaments available in the market which can kill or expel these from the body. Periodical examination of faecal material is very useful to identify and to treat ducks.
6. External parasites
External parasites are comparatively less in ducks as compared to chicken. They produce annoyance to them leading to reduction in egg yields. Some of these do transmit a few disease producing organisms. It is for this reason they are to be free from these.
1Rajni Kumari, S Dayal, A Chakraborti and A Dey
Scientist, Animal Biotechnology
Division of Livestock and Fishery Management
ICAR-RESEARCH COMPLEX FOR EASTERN REGION