Avian Flu Prevention Zone – 2018

The latest situation on the Avian Flu outbreak in the UK is that DEFRA have announced a UK wide Prevention Zone from January 18th 2018 for anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds.

This means that:

If you keep poultry you must, by law, follow specific disease prevention measures. These apply to all keepers of birds, regardless of flock size, or if your birds are pets. These are designed to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.

If you keep birds then you can continue to allow your birds outdoors into fenced areas, but only if these areas meet certain conditions including:

  • you have made the areas unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
  • you have taken action to reduce any existing contamination, such as cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
  • you have assessed the risk of birds coming into contact with wild birds or contamination from them

If you keep more than 500 birds, you must take some extra biosecurity measures. They include identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles is restricted, and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear.

DEFRA gives the following biosecurity advice to all poultry keepers in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading and contaminating UK flocks:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet

Whether you keep just a few birds as pets or have a much larger flock, good biosecurity is essential for maintaining their health and happiness.

You can register with DEFRA in order to be kept up to date on the Avian Flu situation. If you have 50 or more birds, you should register with DEFRA within one month of their arrival. More information can be found here.

This handy poster gives simple advice for all poultry keepers. It may be worth printing a few copies and giving them to other local poultry keeping friends and family.

 

Top 5 Duck Breeds to Keep as Pets

There are so many different breeds of duck it can be difficult to know which breed would be best for you, especially if you’re new to the world of duck keeping. Ducks come in all different sizes, shapes, and weights and they all have a different purpose.

For example, the Pekin breed is a popular choice for meat production as well as making good pets. On the other hand, Indian Runners are prolific egg layers and make great pets, but don’t expect to get much meat from them!

Ducks are also grouped into different weight categories – Heavy, Medium, Light, and Bantam.

Examples of the weight categories would be:

  • Heavy – Pekin
  • Medium – Cayuga
  • Light – Indian Runner
  • Bantam – Call

Of course, you can keep any breed of duck as a pet, but some are easier to care for than others. Here’s a look at our choice of top duck breeds to keep as pets:

Call Ducks

Call Ducks

This tiny bantam breed is a popular choice if you’d like to have ducks but don’t have a lot of space. The breed originates from the Mallard duck and is thought to have come from The Netherlands.

Call Ducks are lively, friendly, and can be very noisy so if you live in a urban area they might not be right for you.

You can expect to your ducks to lay around 100 small eggs per year. Call Ducks are available in a wide range of colours including: White, Mallard, Yellow belly, Chocolate, Magpie, Bibbed, Apricot, and Khaki.

Pekin Ducks

Pekin Ducks

95% of duck meat consumed in America comes from this breed but they also make fantastic pets and are good layers. Often confused with the Aylesbury breed because of their similar “Jemima Puddle-duck” looks the Pekin is fantastic if you have a larger garden.

They are a Heavy breed of duck and originated in China before spreading around the world. They’ll give you between 80 – 140 large white eggs every year and their calm, friendly nature makes them a great option if you have children.

Pekins like to be active, so they’ll appreciate having a bigger area to explore and their orange bills and legs make them an attractive addition to any outdoor space.

Cayuga Ducks

Cayuga Ducks

This striking breed is unmistakable thanks to its iridescent green/black plumage and they are quiet, hardy, and easy to tame. They’ll produce 100 – 150 eggs per year that start with black shells at the beginning of the season and gradually lighten to a light grey/white.

The Cayuga Duck was developed in New York in 1809 after a pair of wild black ducks were caught and bred for their colour. These days they are a rare conservation breed and can be hard to find, but they make worthwhile pets if you’re prepared to search for them.

Indian Runner Ducks

Indian Runner Ducks

As well as being prolific egg layers, up to 200 per year, the Indian Runner is probably one of the most popular breeds of pet ducks in the world.

Originally from the East Indies (Malaya, Java, and Lombok) rather than India these ducks were first known as “Penguin Ducks” because of their upright stance. As they are taller you’ll need to consider a duck house with a higher roof if you want to include Indian Runners in your flock.

They don’t fly, choosing to run instead, and they love foraging and swimming. They are available in around two dozen colours including: White, Fawn, Apricot, Black, Mallard, and Silver.

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Ducks

This is a Heavy breed of duck and the Drakes are usually twice the size of females. Muscovy Ducks produce 60-140 eggs per year and are well known for going “broody” so if you’re looking to breed ducks this could be a good option for you.

They are unique in that they are the only breed of duck not to originate from the wild Mallard. In fact, they are closely related to a sub group of perching ducks which is why they have sharp claws that allow them to perch comfortably.

Muscovy Ducks, or ‘Scovies as they are known by their fans, are available in nine different colours all of which have a red crest (called caruncles) around their eyes.

 

 

Photo credits: Pets4Homes, Purely Poultry, Pinterest, YouTube

How to Choose a Duck House

When it comes to choosing housing for ducks the same basic principles to choosing a chicken house apply. However, there are a few differences between chickens and ducks that mean you’ll need to buy a house specifically designed for ducks.

You’ll get what you pay for

First things first, buy a quality house. We all like a bargain but when you realise you’re replacing your cheap house every few years you’ll wish you’d spent a little bit more money.

Generally speaking you can expect to pay around £150 – £300 for a high quality duck house. Obviously you might find yourself shopping during sale periods and get a cheaper house, but be prepared to increase your budget for a better house.

duck house

Appearance isn’t everything

Your ducks won’t care what their house looks like so you can have a duck house that is as simple or as elaborate as you like. As a bare minimum the house needs to provide your ducks with adequate shelter from the elements and as much protection from predators as possible.

When choosing a duck house, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the house easily moveable?
  • Does it provide good ventilation?
  • It is quick to clean and simple to maintain?
  • Does it provide a high standard of welfare? Consider space per duck, nest boxes, doorways etc.
  • Is it made of top quality materials?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions then you should have a house that is practical, safe, and that will have a long working life.

The exits are here, here, and here

Ducks have a tendency to rush out of the house as a group in the mornings and they aren’t very good at forming an orderly queue! This means that you’ll need to choose a house with a wide enough door to prevent injuries when entering or exiting the house.

You’ll also need to provide your ducks with a ramp if the house isn’t at floor level. They can’t negotiate steps or ladders like chickens can so giving them a ramp into their house ensures they can get in and out safely.

Runs and enclosures

If you don’t have the space, or you don’t want to let your ducks have access to your whole garden, you’ll also have to think about the run or enclosure they’ll be in.

How big the run is depends entirely on how much space you have but the bigger the better. They’ll need room to waddle around, forage for food, stretch their wings, and of course, room for their pond.

You could choose a single unit run and house, like this bantam duck ark designed especially for small breeds, or you could opt for a large enclosure that contains their house. As long as the house is safe, and as predator proof as possible, your ducks will be happy.

duck ark

If you’re struggling to find a duck house that suits your needs you could also look into bespoke options.

Eight Reasons to Keep Ducks

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become extremely popular in recent years but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden…have you thought about ducks?

Here are our top reasons why keeping ducks could be the best thing you ever do:

  1. Delicious eggs all year around

As tasty as chicken eggs are, duck eggs are usually richer and creamier, which is why they’re so popular with bakers. Plus, their eggs are bigger, containing even more nutrients and goodness than chicken eggs.

Ducks also lay all year around, unlike chickens that stop in the winter, so you won’t need to buy eggs even in December.

duck eggs ducks

  1. They’re cheap to keep

Once you’ve had the initial outlay of a suitable duck house and other equipment you’ll need, ducks are incredibly cheap to keep.

Depending on how many birds you have, one bag of feed could last you for weeks and they’re experts at finding their own food in the garden.

In fact, if you’re looking for free pest control, then a couple of ducks could be the answer.

  1. Ducks are made of tough stuff

For some reason, and I’m not enough of an expert to know why, ducks are generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in extreme weather conditions and if they do become ill, they usually recover fairly quickly with minimal human assistance.

  1. Your neighbours won’t notice you have them!

Although most female ducks do make the classic “quack” noise they only do this when startled or frightened. The majority of the time ducks are silent or make quiet noises.

If you’re worried your neighbours won’t like the cackles and squawking that hens make, then duck might be a better choice.

  1. They don’t need that much water

Many people think you need a lake, or at least a large pond, in order to keep ducks but depending on which breed you keep that isn’t always the case. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are reportedly happy as long as they have enough water to dunk their heads in, although we’d recommend giving them more.

A child’s paddling pool, a sawn in half barrel or an old bath tub can all make suitable “ponds” for backyard ducks. As long as the water is deep enough for them to get their whole head under then your ducks will be happy.

ducks in trough pond

  1. Ducks make friends more quickly

Many poultry keepers can’t resist adding to their flock after a while and this can cause disruptions to the pecking order. However, ducks seem to accept new additions to their group more calmly than chickens so if you think you’re likely to expand your brood, ducks are a more tranquil option.

  1. Ducks have great personalities

If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks, they’ll tell you all about their ducks individual personalities. Different breeds also have different personality traits, so it’s worth doing your research before starting your flock.

  1. They make loyal friends

Dogs might be mans’ best friend but ducks come in at a close second. Sometimes it can take them a while to trust you, but once they’ve imprinted on you and see you as part of the flock, you’ll have a friend for life.

tunnel of ducks

If you’ve been convinced that ducks are a great idea then it’s time to get shopping for the duck house of your dreams!

 

Photo credit: Ziwani Poultry, Pinterest, Wikipedia