Duck is the common name for a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. The ducks are divided between several subfamilies listed in full in the Anatidae article. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than their relatives the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. Most ducks have a wide flat beak adapted for dredging. They exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluses.
Ducks occupy an important position next to chicken farming in India. They form about 10% of the total poultry population and contribute about 6-7% of total eggs produced in the country. Ducks are mostly concentrated in the Eastern and Southern States of the country mainly coastal region with non-descriptive indigenous stocks, which however are poor layers. Ducks are comparatively harder than chicken and are easily manageable. They give economic production even during their second year of lay.
Khaki campbell for egg production and White pekin for meat are the other popular breeds.
Origin of breeds
Egg type parent stocks imported from U.K. These are prolific layers which can give up to 300 eggs per laying cycle. These birds are very much suitable for rural development programmes for sustainable economical development in rural areas.
Among the egg laying breeds, Khaki Campbell is the best producer. Individual egg production of almost an egg a day in this breed for well over twelve months has been recorded and flock averages in excess of 300 eggs per duck per year are not uncommon. Khaki Campbell ducks weigh about 2 to 2.2 Kg and drakes 2.2 to 2.4 Kg. Egg weight varies from 65 to 75 gm.
Meat type imported from Vietnam, suitably adopted for Indian conditions. Pekins are known worldwide for their fast growth rate and good meat convertibility. White Pekin is the most popular duck in the world known for table purpose. It is fast growing and has low feed consumption with fine quality of meat. It attains about 2.2 to 2.5 Kg of body weight in 42 days of age, with a feed conversion ratio of 1:2.3 to 2.7 Kg
Breeder males and females are selected when they are around 6-8 weeks of age. For maximum fertility drakes should be older by 4-5 weeks than females. In flock mating a male female ratio of 1:6 to 1:8 is satisfactory with layer types of ducks while ratio should be narrower for meat type of ducks.
The incubation period of ducks is 28 days. Eggs for hatching should be collected only from those flocks that are in lay for about 6-8 weeks. Collection of eggs should be started 10 days after introduction of male. Washing of dirty eggs improves hatchability. Dirty eggs can be washed using warm water at 27oC to which a detergent sanitizer and disinfectant are added. The dip water has to be changed frequently. Washed eggs should be dried and fumigated immediately to prevent rotting.
Hatching eggs should be stored in an atmosphere having a temperature of 14oC to 16oC with a relative humidity of 80%. Eggs can be incubated in forced draft incubator with the same temperature for chicken. However, the humidity requirement is higher. This can be achieved by sprinkling lukewarm water from the second day to 23rd day of incubation. Eggs should be turned at least 4 times daily up to the 24th day of incubation. On 24th day of incubation the eggs should be transferred to hatchery.
In forced draft incubators satisfactory results are attained at a temperature of 37.5 to 37.2oC (99.5 to 99oF). The wet-bulb reading on the thermometer should be 30 to 31oC (86 to 88oF) during incubation for the first 25 days and 32.7 to 33.8oC (90 to 92oF) for the last three days of hatching. Eggs are sprinkled with lukewarm water having sanitizer once a day from 2nd day to 25th day and cooled for a maximum period of half an hour. Candling is done on 7th day. The eggs are turned hourly. Eggs are transferred to hatchery on 25th day.
The brooding period of Khaki Campbell ducklings is 3 to 4 weeks. For meat type ducklings such as Pekin, brooding for 2 to 3 weeks is sufficient. Provide hover space of 90 to 100 sq.cms. per ducklings under the brooder. A temperature of 29 to 32oC (85 to 90oC) is maintained during the first week. It is reduced by about 3oC per week till it reaches 24oC (75oF) during the fourth week.
Ducklings may be brooded in wire floor, litter or batteries. A wire floor space of 0.046m2 per bird or solid floor space of 0.093 m2 per bird would be sufficient up to 3 weeks of age. Water in the drinkers should be 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3”) deep just sufficient to drink and not dip themselves.
Ducks do not require elaborate houses. The house should be well ventilated, dry and rat proof. The roof may be of shed type, gable or half round. It may have solid or wire floors. The wire floors are not popular with breeders. Under semi-intensive system the house should have easy access to outside run as the ducks prefer to be outdoors during the day time and even during winter or rains. Generally the proportion of night shelter to outside run is 1/4:3/4. The run should gently slope away from the houses to provide drainage. Normally a continuous water channel of size 50 cm wide and 15-20 cm. deep is constructed at the far end, on both sides, parallel to the night shelter, in the rearing or layer house.
Though duck is a water fowl and very fond of water, water for swimming is not essential at any stage of duck farming. However, water in drinkers should be sufficiently deep to allow the immersion of their heads and not themselves. If they cannot do this, their eyes seem to get scaly and crusty and in extreme cases, blindness may follow. In addition, they also like to clean their bills periodically and wash them to clear off the feed. While in meat strains a slight increase in body weight of ducks at seven weeks of age has been noticed (weight advantage of swimming ducks to non-swimming ducks is 0.3%), but for egg laying strains, swimming is a disadvantage.
Ducks may be grown on dry mash, a combination of dry and wet mash or pellets. Ducks prefer wet mash due to difficulties in swallowing dry mash. The pellet feeding, though slightly costly, has distinct advantages such as saving in amount of feed, minimum wastages, saving in labour, convenience and improvement in sanitary conditions. Ducks are good foragers. The use of range, pond or supplementary green feed, reduces the feed cost.
Ducks are generally hardier than other poultry. In practical duck rearing the diseases of importance are duck plague, pasteurellosis and aflatoxicosis. The only method of prevention of aflatoxicosis is to eliminate the use of feed or feed ingredient having fungal or mould growth. Effective vaccine against duck plague is now available. Duck virus hepatitis is another disease and that could cause heavy mortality of ducklings, when they occur. Some of the diseases that may affect ducks are given below.
Adult birds are mostly affected by virus disease. It is characterized by vascular damage with tissue hemorrhages and free blood in body cavities. The Lumina of intestine and gizzard are filled with blood. There is no treatment for the disease. The birds can be protected by Duck Plague Vaccine, available in the country, which is given at the age of 8-12 weeks. Duck plague can be prevented by vaccination however, no treatment for these viral diseases is present and secondary infection should be prevented.
Duck Viral Hepatitis
It mainly affects ducklings of 2 to 3 weeks of age. It is characterized by an acute course and primarily hepatitis. There is no treatment for the disease. The breeding stock can be immunized by attenuated strain of virus before the commencement of egg production. The day old ducklings can be protected with attenuated virus vaccine. The disease is not stated to be prevalent in India.
It is an infectious disease, caused by bacterial organism Pasteurella Multocoda in ducks over four weeks of age. There is loss of appetite, high body temperature, thirst, diarrhea and sudden death. Most common lesions are pericarditis, arthritis, petechial and echymotic haemorrhages under the skin (Pink skin), in visceral organs, over the serous surface and intestine (Haemorrhagic enteritis). Liver and spleen are enlarged. Sulpha drugs and vaccination can control the diseases. Vaccinate the birds with duck cholera vaccine, first at the age of 4 weeks and again at 18 weeks. Treatment through Enrocin or 30 ml Sulpha Mezathine (33.1%) in 5liter of drinking water or 30-60 ml of Sulpha Quinoxaline in 5 Ltrs of drinking water for 7 days or Erythromycin or Rabatran Granules or Neodox-forte or Mortin Vet or Workrin or Kayasol. These drugs can be administered under the Veterinarian’s guidelines.
Food poison is a serious problem in both young and adult ducks. It is caused by ingestion of bacterium that grows on decaying plants. Avoid ducks scavenging on decaying plant material. Treatment through Epsom salt in drinking water which acts as purgative.
Ducks are resistant to internal parasites. The infestation is prevalent only among those ducks which have access to stagnant water, over-crowded ponds and small streams. The parasites include flukes, tape worms and round worms. These causes decrease of nutrient assimilation by the bird and anaemia due to toxic material excreted by them, destroying the red cells.
The external parasites are an infliction rather than an ailment. These include lice mites, fleas and ticks. These cause irritation and annoyance leading to loss in egg production. They also transmit many disease producing organisms. However, these are not commonly found on water-fowls as in chicken.
It is a condition caused by aflatoxin produced by the mould Aspergillus flavus in the feedstuffs such as groundnut, maize, rice polish and other tropical feeds on storage. Improper drying of grains, rain and humid weather favour the mould growth. Ducks are very susceptible to aflatoxin content in the feed. Out of the four types of aflatoxins commonly found viz, B1, B2, G1 and G2. B1 is the most potent toxin. The minimum toxic dose for ducks is 0.03 ppm or 0.03 mg per kg in feed.
Aflatoxin produces liver lesions and results in death when present in high concentration. Lower doses produce chronic effects such as lethargy, unthriftiness, hepatitis and delayed death. There is no specific treatment for aflatoxicosis. When the source of aflatoxin is removed from the feed, birds make rapid recovery.
Vaccination Schedule for Ducks
|S. No||Name of the vaccine||Route||Dose||Age of ducks|
|1.||Duck Cholera (Pasteurellosis)||Subcutaneous
|1 ml||3-4 weeks|
|1 ml||8-12 weeks|