From Daffy to Donald to Anaheim’s hockey team, ducks fly high in the popular imagination. Between their everyday status and the fact they’re both common and cute, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that domestic ducks are a popular choice for pets and farm animals as well. The right duck can be a great pet and, when bred with another fine choice, can give you adorable ducklings and joy for years to come.
That said, before you invest in any pet, you probably want to know what their life expectancy is. You don’t want to buy something for your kids that may only a couple years later require a lie about them flying off to “Duck Heaven.”
So just how long do domestic ducks live, and what can you do to increase their health and longevity?
The Curious Question of Ducks’ Lifespan
Interestingly, the answer to the question of how long ducks live is both very simple and complicated.
The simple answer is that ducks can live anywhere from 10 years to 15 to 25 at the very most.
The complexity comes from determining which of those very different lifespans is true for your duck.
That’s the big secret of this topic – that different breeds have different lifespans. Domestic ducks live for 10 years on average, but again, that’s an “average.” What’s more, there are other ducks that you might decide to domesticate that may have longer lifespans.
Different Domestic Ducks
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the different breeds of domestic ducks.
Mallards are among the most common domestic ducks in the United States. Males have green heads and yellow bills, while females are brownish in color. The average for these ducks is between 5 and 10 years, but that’s just a baseline. With love and care, they can live much longer, with the record for the oldest mallard being 26 years 4 months.
Pekin ducks are another type of widely domesticated duck, though they are often used more for food and egg production than as pets. Nevertheless, there’s no reason they can’t be pets, and plenty of people still keep them as such, in part because they have a very docile temperament compared to other ducks. These birds grow fast but also have a shorter lifespan at an average of around five years old. That shorter lifespan is helped along in part by the fact they gain weight very rapidly, which causes leg problems and other medical issues. Still, when they are given the right care, that lifespan can be extended to somewhere between 9 and 12 years.
Muscovy ducks are another popular type of domestic duck because they are comparatively low maintenance and easy to raise. They also have a bright shock of purple plumage paired with brown. They are tropical birds by background (hence the purple) but they can adapt to cooler climates easily. That said, they are also a bit more standoffish than other ducks. Their average lifespan is 8 to 12 years.
A bunch of different medium-sized ducks such as Cayugas and Blue Swedish can fly above the “floor” of that average lifespan. While the lower end average for Pekin and Muscovy ducks are 8 or 9 years, it’s about 10 years for these ducks, and they tend to live around a year older than the “ceiling” average as well.
Rouen ducks, as the name would imply, originate from that region of France, having been bred sometime in the 19th century. They tend to be a bit bulkier than some of the other ducks on this list, so it should come as no surprise that they are typically raised for their meat. By contrast, Rouen ducks are not as fertile as others, so they don’t tend to be raised for their eggs. Males have greenish heads and females have brownish feathers. The average lifespan tends to be somewhere between five and nine years.
Bantam ducks have the highest average upside for lifespan among ducks on this list, with Black East Indies and Calls varieties being among the longest lived. The latter can live for as many as 15 years. They are a lot less weighty than Rouen ducks and others on this list, and they don’t grow as rapidly, which is part of the reason for their longevity. Males can remain fertile for as much as a decade and females can also produce eggs for a considerable period of time, making these among the best long-term investments for those looking for domestic duck options who can live and breed for a long time. That said, the more eggs they are pushed to produce, the shorter their lifespan may be.
As you can see, ducks’ lifespan can depend in large part on how well you take care of them – so let’s make sure your duck caretaking is less foul than “fowl.”
For starters, while ducks love water, you’ll want to make sure to keep newborn ducklings nice and dry for the first weeks of their lives. Make sure they have plenty of warmth via a heater. They need to be able to come and go with some degree of freedom, and to move closer to and away from your heater, so make sure to place the latter in a corner rather than the center of your pen.
Make sure your pen has a feeder and water dispenser, and that the latter gives it in drops or other ways that allow the ducklings to drink but not swim in the water source, as being so young they can drown.
After around a month, your duckling should start to sprout baby feathers, at which point they won’t be quite as fragile temperature-wise, though you’ll still want to protect them from extreme cold.
Make sure your ducklings have plenty of straw or wood cuttings to walk around and sleep on.
In terms of food, feed is extremely inexpensive. That said, to make sure your ducks are happy and increase their lifespan, you’ll want to make sure they get a nice variety of grains, breads, veggies, and other foodstuffs. You can occasionally give them a treat, including some leftovers from dinner, but don’t do it too often lest your ducks become too fat or the foods not agree with their digestive systems.
Speaking of which, our fowl friends can foul up a space all too quickly with, um, “leavings.” Ducks may be adorable, but there’s nothing cute about having your living room covered in duck feces, which is what’ll happen if you let them roam free inside. What’s more, your ducks won’t be happy being separated from nature for too long. Short stints inside are fine, but unless you want them being miserable and making a mess of your home, you’ll want to keep your ducks outdoors.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure to take your ducks to the vet. That said, many vets don’t treat ducks, so you’ll want to check ahead of time to make sure they do. With their care, they can help extend your ducks’ lifespan by nipping health problems in the bud.
With expertise and the right care, many domestic ducks can live for well over a decade as fantastic feathered friends.