History and Care of Call Ducks
Call Ducks are truly the cutest ducks and are perfect for a small backyard flock or homestead. They are bantam sized, weighing between 1 and 2 pounds and have a stout and rounded appearance, with short bills and big round cheeks that make them look like plush toy ducks. They are also friendly and animated and great with children.
Call Ducks were developed around the middle of the 19th century in Great Britain from Dutch lines of decoy ducks. They were bred to be small so they could lure larger wild ducks into funnel traps and then be able to fit through the trap exit hole and escape the trap, leaving the bigger ducks inside the trap. Call Ducks, as their name implies, were also specifically bred for their call, which is very high pitched and carries well over long distances in order to attract wild ducks to get within range of hunters’ guns. So, the original English Call Duck lines were made up of hard-working birds with strong working abilities, but in the 1900’s, hunting was losing popularity, and Call Ducks became quite rare.
Interest was revived around the middle of the 20th century and today they are one of the most popular breeds of duck for exhibition and show. All the gregariousness of the working duck is now contributing to great personalities as pets.
If you have been successful at caring for ducks before, you will have no problems with Call Ducks. However, there are a couple things to be aware of and adjust for when raising these tiny ducks.
Care of Call Ducklings
Call Ducklings are extremely tiny and must be well protected in a draft-free brooder. They are tough for their size, but the elements can have a quick effect on them. Be careful with waterers – make sure that the ducklings cannot get into the water and that they are on very absorbent bedding. Ducklings like water and can get tricky – purposely taking water out of the waterer and making their own puddle or mini pond. This is cute, but you end up with wet and cold ducklings very fast.
‘Ergonomically-Correct’ Call Duck Facilities!
Once grown, adult Call Ducks are perfectly hardy. However, you may have to make some barnyard adaptations to adjust for their size. For example, make sure swimming/bathing ponds and/or pools have low enough sides or ramps so the small Call Ducks can get out easily without straining and possibly hurt themselves.
Aerial covering might be something to consider with Call Ducks. Their small size makes them vulnerable to hawks and other flying predators. Also, unlike a lot of other domestic ducks, Call Ducks can fly, and will fly quite far if alarmed, scared, or panicked.
Feeding Call Ducklings
With ducks of this size, feeding is easier and less costly. Foraging even in a small area is more fruitful in the long run with smaller ducks.
I always remind duck owners to never feed ducks chicken feed that has any medication in it. Ducks have much more sensitive and delicate digestive systems that can be damaged by chicken medications. I feed my ducks certified organic chicken layer pellets, which are certified free of any chemicals, and which also have a nice mineral combination added.
Minerals such as calcium and grit are important, especially for ducks that are unable to free range. However, if you allow your ducks some free range foraging time, they are very able to make great supplement choices for themselves. Call Ducks are excellent and busy foragers and will gobble up slugs, worms, insects, and greens. They make great garden companions. It is very fun watching them in the yard and garden! Providing your Call Ducks with time to forage is extremely beneficial for their health and well being.
Lastly, be aware that these ducks are louder than most other ducks. They were bred for calling over long distances! Position their enclosures to minimize noise carrying to neighbors.
All in all, Call Ducks are very fun and fulfilling birds to raise. They are also very collectible – with so many unusual and wonderful color variations!