Call ducks usually look a lot like Mallard Ducks although they are smaller. Through specialized breeding they also come in other colors, such as white. They are slightly smaller than Mallards, and use to be used by hunters to attract Mallards (currently laws in most areas prevent use of live decoys). Call ducks weigh roughly 2 pounds with the female birds being slightly smaller. They are considered to be an Ornamental Duck, kept generally for pure entertainment of their owners, but will also eat bugs and insects.
Selection and Purchase
The best place to purchase any type of pet is always from a breeder. Breeders can be found by contacting local waterfowl bird clubs. If you are unfamiliar of any in your area talk to the people at your local livestock feed store and keep an eye on their bulletin boards for signs of bird shows and sales. Failing this some areas have auctions for birds and waterfowl. Again the people at the feed store might know more or you can contact the livestock auction markets and ask if they have bird auctions. In my area there are three auction markets that run such auctions, each having two auctions a year. Caution should be used when purchasing from an auction, always walk around earlier and look in the boxes to check the birds for signs of health, and age (some sellers will write the age on the box).
Cost will vary depending on the supply and demand in your area. You should try to get a mated pair if possible as ducks do mate for life this will get you off to a better start if breeding is your goal. Get no more than two females per male.
Because of their small size Call Ducks may be safer from predators (foxes and hawks) if kept in a contained space. Stucco wire with 2 inch squares works well, but chicken wire can also be used. If you are going to be hatching ducklings, be sure the lower portion of the area is fenced with something the little ones cannot walk through. Within their space they need an area for swimming, a kids swimming pool or livestock feed bowl work well. They should also have a proper shelter of some sort, even a dog house will work, this needs to be bedded with straw, and facing away from the winds. Their environment should be interesting, with grass, logs, a shrub or two, and rocks. Keeping them in an enclosed area will mean they cannot fly off, if you are going to let your ducks roam, be sure to contain them for at least two weeks so they know where their home (and food) is. The enclosed space should be at least 10 ft x 10 ft which will house 1 pair of ducks and their young ducklings (larger is always better). If it is sloping to allow water to run away that is even better.
Feeding and Care
Your local livestock feed store will have a feed mix for ducks, and another for ducklings if you should have some. It is important to note that under no circumstances should ducks be fed started food for chicks. This food has penicillin in it which will kill ducks. They need access to their food at all time. You can also offer washed romaine lettuce, but not other kinds of lettuce. You will note your ducks eating grass, dandelions, and insects, as such you never want to use chemical herbicides or pesticides.
They should also have access to grit for aiding digestion. Even though ducks can drink from their pond this water will soon be muddy so a proper waterer should be provided.
Some people clip the wings of their birds to prevent flight and if you wish to do so (I do not do this) you should have somebody show you how so you do not injure the bird by cutting the wrong feathers.
You can discuss vaccination and health care needs with a veterinarian in your area.
Call Ducks have excellent nesting and mothering skills. She will typically lay a clutch of 10-18 eggs and will start sitting on them, typically not all will hatch, but those that do will hatch out 28 days later. The mother will come off the eggs for only brief times each day so it is important she have food at easy access. When the ducklings hatch they will follow their mother who will protectively hide them away from viewing.
Care should be taken when you have new hatchlings. They want to swim but their feathers are not water proof and they can drown. In fact this happened to one of my own ducks ducklings. Instead I suggest filling a low rimmed container, such as a baking dish for making brownies, with water, and placing in a few rocks for them to climb up on. Be sure your regular water is unaccessible to them or fill it with large rocks that can be removed after a 10 days. I like to leave a rock or two in there regularly anyhow as the ducks do enjoy standing on the rocks.
I also want to note that once a year the males will moult and for a short period of time may have feathers the color of the females.
All photos by Author.
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