Poultry is more than just broilers, layers, and roadrunners. Of course, those 3 are the most commonly reared in Zimbabwe but there is much more. You also have small livestock such as turkeys, quails, and ducks, amongst others. Being someone familiar with the livestock and veterinary services industry I have observed some things. On a considerable number of instances, I have encountered people making enquiries about where they can get duck chicks. I believe this can be a viable poultry niche which is why in this article I am discussing how to start a duck farming business.
Ducks are raised for either or both of two things namely, meat and eggs. Ducks are somewhat similar to chickens; so much that in most parts of the world ducks farming comes second to chicken farming. I would recommend that explore both meat and egg production. It takes on average 4 months for ducks to start laying eggs. In one year their egg production rate can be over 300 eggs. Hatching of eggs takes about one month of brooding – when female ducks are doing the brooding. (You can alternatively choose to use artificial brooding using incubator). This comes in handy when egg production far eclipses the number of female ducks available.
At around 10 months that is when a duck will be weighing on average 2 kilograms (the equivalent of a fully grown broiler chicken). However, the age from which ducks are considered mature starts at around 5 months. No wonder I am suggesting you focus on both meat and eggs.
One of the unique things about ducks farming is that you will need a water body. It is advised that successful commercial production of ducks requires a water body e.g. a pond. This means you might have to construct something like that.
Their housing is not really complex and expensive. You can actually construct their housing using cheaply or freely available material – kind of like how it is for free-range chickens. In your housing, you will factor in egg-laying and brooding. You also have to consider how you want to raise i.e. intensively or extensively. The former entails feeding in situ – in an enclosed setup whereas the latter entails allowing them to roam outside during the day.
You can look for commercial feeds if you want. However, ducks can make do with virtually anything that can be eaten. Some examples of food they can eat are grains and legumes (insects too). Actually, if such foods are abundantly available to them it will positively impact egg production. Availability of water bodies, especially naturally occurring ones, can come in handy for their feeding regime.
Not much is needed in terms of human capital. Families can effectively rear ducks without any problems. Even if you have to get someone, it can simply be part-time. Actually, a senior citizen can easily take care of ducks. Of course, the scale of production does determine these dynamics but on a small scale, the aforementioned applies.
Generally, the costs can be guided by how much you need for other poultry niches such as broilers, layers or roadrunners. With duck farming, you might even need a bit less than those. If you have to construct a pond of sorts, that might be a significant cost – not that much though. The fact that you can use inexpensive material for housing and that ducks can feed on cheaply or freely available foods makes costs considerably lower.
You have to conduct thorough market research on this one. Most people have never eaten duck meat yet it is a delicacy. Anyone who has ever eaten chicken is most likely wired to appreciate duck meat. This means you might have to draw people’s attention to something they have never tried before. In general, the market is quite vast you just have to look for it or establish it. I do know that ducks are a hit with the Chinese so you could strategically target them given how many of them are in Zimbabwe.
Important Things To Consider
When looking for duck chicks, please deal with reputable sources. Given that ducks are not quite mainstream you will have to do your homework regarding where you source them from. I recall some time in 2018 there was a story of someone who managed to sell 8000 fake broiler chicks. The chicks had strange characteristics e.g. voracious appetites and would not grow. After almost 5 weeks they would still weigh less than 100 grams. I am mentioning this real-life example to enunciate the importance of rigorously assessing your source of chicks in general.
When it comes to choosing breeds you must consider your intended approaches. It is either meat production or egg production – or both. Bear in mind that there are breeds that are ideal for either of those two. When looking to start this business make enquiries on that when dealing with egg or duckling sources. You could even look for breeds that are ideal for both meat and egg production – an example of such a breed is the Khaki Campbell. The ratio of males to females, when it comes to breeding, is 1:10.
With this information, I am sure you can start your journey in ducks farming. One of the great advantages of ducks is that they are more resilient than chickens. This means that they can thrive in harsh or adverse conditions – they are not as sensitive and susceptible as chickens are. Thus you might not really have to closely check upon them. The incidence of mortalities is also typically low since ducks are quite hardy.