By Linda Irabor

When the term, poultry, is heard, the first thing that usually comes to mind is chickens and turkeys. What most people do not know is that poultry entails more than rearing birds.

There are other animals apart from birds that can be reared and one of them is duck. Ducks are gradually going into extinction in the country: some people do not even know how they look like anymore.

The aim of this article is to lure or stimulate the interest of farmers and potential ones to the cultivation of ducks. They are too versatile to be allowed to go into extinction.

Ducks are useful for a variety of reasons. They can be enjoyed as pets or raised for their eggs and meat.

These birds are members of the Anatidae family, which swans and geese also belong to and are divided among several subfamilies. They do not represent a monophyletic group but a form of taxon, since swans and geese are not considered ducks.

Ducks are mostly aquatic birds and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. They have the characteristic wide flat beak adapted to dredging-type jobs such as pulling up waterweed, pulling worms and small mollusks out of mud, searching for insect larvae, and bulk jobs such as dredging out, holding, turning headfirst, and swallowing  squirming frogs.

Experts say there are over a hundred types of ducks but generally they are grouped into those that submerge themselves completely into water in the search for food and those that feed on the surface of water or on land or as deep as they can reach without completely submerging into water.

Duck farming can be a rewarding experience. It can even become a lot more than sourcing out a livelihood, it has become an enjoyable activity for many. To rear them successfully, you will have to understand the proper ways in order to induce the most out of the venture. 

Ducks eat the same food as chickens and other birds. They exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small mollusks. They do not have any special feed.

Experts recommend that the water containers for ducks are difficult to climb as they are known to splash around in water a lot thereby making their coop wet. Concerning shelter, they require that you provide an area where they will be sheltered from the elements as well as adequate heating. 

Speaking of diseases, people who are interested in rearing these birds need not worry much as they are known to be resilient creatures. They do not get affected by bird diseases unlike turkeys and chickens but proper care has to be taken to ensure that they stay so.

The most crucial part of this type of farming is selection of the breed. For this, you will have to be clear on why you want to raise them. There are specific breeds that are more suited for particular purposes like providing meat or giving eggs hence there is need to do a research to familiarize yourself with the various breeds.

Duck eggs are safe to eat and are specially good for baking as they are larger and if your ducks have free range, the yolks are richer making baking lovely.

Though they have suffered from a reputation of being a high risk salmonella carrier but experts say the issue dates back to just after World War II times when a report on the disease listed duck eggs as risks.

                            QUICK FACTS ABOUT DUCKS

1.         There are more than 40 breeds of domestic duck. The white Pekin duck (also called the Long Island duck) is the most common variety raised for eggs and meat.

2.         Their feathers are waterproof that even when the duck dives under water, they stay completely dry.

3.         A baby duck is called a duckling, and an adult male is a drake. An adult female duck is called a hen or a duck, and a group of ducks can be called a raft, team or paddling.

4.         Ducks are precocial which means that ducklings are able to walk and leave the nest just a few hours after hatching.

5.         There are species of ducks found worldwide on every continent except Antarctica.

6.         Male ducks have an eclipse plumage similar to females that they wear, after the breed-in-season, for about a month as their new feathers grow. During that month, they are completely flightless and more vulnerable to predators.

7.         Most duck species are monogamous for a breeding season but they do not mate for life.

8.         When constructing her nest, a hen will line it with soft down feathers she plucks from her own breast. This gives the eggs the best possible cushioning and insulation.

9.         Ducks are omnivorous eaters. 

10.       A duck’s beak is specialized to help it forage in mud and to strain food from the water. A hard nail at the tip helps with foraging, and a comb-like structure on the sides of the bill strains small insects and crustaceans from water.

11.       Most male ducks are quiet, only a few ducks actually “quack”.  Instead, their calls may include squeaks, grunts, groans, chirps, whistles, brays and growls.

12.       It is a myth that a duck’s quack does not echo. This has been conclusively disproved through different scientific acoustic tests.

13.       Ducks have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for more than 500 years and all domestic ducks are descended from either the mallard or the Muscovy duck.

14.       Because of their familiarity and comic nature, ducks are often featured as fictional characters. The two most famous fictional ducks are Disney’s Donald Duck, who premiered in 1934, and Warner Bros.’ Daffy Duck, who premiered in 1937.

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