Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the questions we have been asked over the years. The answers provided are from personal experience and relate only to Indian Runner ducks. References are given where appropriate.
For more information try the excellent websites found under the Resources dropdown menu above.
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Questions asked in 2013 !
- "I have 4 baby runner ducks and I was just wondering how does the whole egg thing work? Im not sure if there are boys and girls im assuming there are both. Say she lays eggs what do I do with them? I have no clue on the egg situation. Thank you Crystal " Email from: Crystal 9th April 2013
- "Just need some advice if u don't mind, I've got 2 female runner ducks and the last couple of days I've seen 1 trying to drown the other 1 in the pond but there fine together out of the pond, I've read about a male doing that but not females. Have u any idea why there doing that or how to stop it? " Email from: Kirsty 4th March 2013
- "We have a male and a female runner duck and the female has laid an egg today for the first time! She was not sitting on it, does she know if its been fertilised? " Email from: Clare Capille 25th Feb 2013
- "If I purchase 6 eggs is there a guarantee all 6 will hatch out. Also is it a standard heat lamp I can use as a incubator?" Email from: Mrs Warden 5th Feb 2013
Hi Crystal, Sorry I cannot help you at this level - You need to read the questions below and buy a book on keeping ducks - I would recommend The Domestic Duck by Chris & Mike Ashton.
Hi Kirsty, I feel that you may have a male and a female runner. The act you describe is "treading" or mating. Bi-sexuality does exist in the animal kingdom but I feel this is not the case.
Hi Clare, Not sure what your question is but will try and help! She does not know if her egg is fertile but as they are "a couple" I would assume it is. Why would she want to sit on it - she has only layed one egg! She would not "sit" on just one egg but wait until she had say 8 to 12 eggs to sit when she is broody. Provided you collect her eggs each day she could lay an egg per-day from now until say August - that 6 months - 6 times 30 days equals 180 eggs!!! Unless you want to put them in an incubator to hatch I suggest you enjoy eating them - being fertile is not a problem. All the best Ken
Sorry to say I cannot guarantee all 6 eggs will hatch out especially if you are going to try and use a heat lamp. You need an incubator and fertile eggs to start with. I suggest you read all the incubation questions below or buy a book before you consider buying any eggs.
- I was told that all ducks need a pond. Is that true?
How many can I keep?
I was told that I should not have more than 2 males as they fight?
- Why do I need more females than males?
- I was told that I had to cut or pinion their wings to stop them flying – why do I do that?
- What garden space do they need?
- I have been told that ducks can be very noisy?
- I was told that ducks do not need a hutch to live in as they are happy just to live out in the open.
- Do Indian Runner ducks live longer than chickens?
- Do I need to buy expensive food for my ducks?
- What do I feed newly hatched ducklings?
- What do people mean when they say that ducks forage?
- Do Runners go broody like chickens?
- What do I put on the floor for bedding?
- Do I need a drake to get eggs?
- When do they start to lay eggs?
- How may eggs should I expect each duck to lay?
- How can I tell if the eggs I buy will hatch into true Indian Runner ducks?
- Why have my two ducks just stopped laying as it’s only July?
- I have lost 3 ducks to the fox - any advice as to help prevent this?
- I have hatched out some ducklings but how do I tell the sex of them?
- I have hatched some eggs and now find I have more males than female. What do you do with the excess males?
- Are there any good books around that I should buy?
Runner ducks like a pond but they do not need a pond. But what they do need is fresh water each day to fully immerse their heads in. Unlike us, ducks do not have tear ducts, so they need this water to wash their eyes. This is very important for Runner ducks. You could buy a paddling pool. This should be deep enough for them to submerge themselves. You will find that they will poo in the water and the water will turn green after about a week so be prepared to pump the water out and get in and clean it.
You must keep more than one as it will get lonely. I feel 3 is a minimum number. These can be all females or just males. If you want to keep male and female then you need to have about one male to every 4-5 females.
We have about 7 males and they never fight – unlike our cockerels and geese they are happy to all live together. But remember you need the correct ratio of females to males. This is about one male to every 4-5 females.
In the laying season the male will be very sexually active and a single female will suffer physical damage and injury. Even with 4 or 5 females, the male may have a favourite! You need to monitor the females regularly for any overzealous activity and either remove the drake or the female.
I am pleased to say that whoever told you this is wrong. Indian Runner ducks cannot fly so you do not have to take any such action.
For a trio of Indian Runners I would suggest about 7m by 7 m. But you must consider the ground. It should be free draining as a nice grass area can soon become a mud patch if surface water is a problem.
Ducks don't quack all the time but are very vocal if they get excited or have a shock. Indian Runners are not very noisy but if you have close neighbours they will know you have them! Male ducks do not quack but make a rasping sound – that is one of the ways of sexing them. Also ducks to not welcome the sun rise – only cockerels do that!
They could live out in the open and would be very happy – but then so would the fox and all the other predators that would welcome a feast!! You have a legal obligation to provide an appropriate environment including shelter – please see the Five Freedoms under “Resources”
Yes. From my experience chickens can live for about 4 or 5 years but Indian Runner ducks will go on for much longer – 7 or 8 years
All animal feed is expensive! The average Indian Runner will eat about 200g to 250g of food per day. They would be happy and it’s acceptable to feed them chicken layers pellets. Laying pellets have the right concentrations of protein, calcium, and vitamins etc for them. A 20kg bag of layers pellets cost about £6.80 (as of September 2009)
To give them the best start in life your newly hatched ducklings need a special food called starter crumbs – (not chick crumbs) for the first 2 weeks after which time they need chick crumbs for about another 4 or 5 weeks. Starter crumbs have higher protein than standard chick crumbs and NO medication. After about 8 weeks you can give them growers pellets or even layers pellets if you cannot get them locally. Mix the crumbs and pellets together for a about a week or so.
Indian Runners are great foragers and spend most of their active day looking for insects, snails and slugs. If allowed, they also forage in your vegetable garden and bedding areas, eating those young and tender plants!
The Indian Runner was designed to lay eggs and very rarely go broody. Some may go broody late in the season but my experience is that they will never sit on eggs in their hutch even if you leave some there. If you find her nest, often under a bush, and move her and her eggs they will just give up and not sit. If you want to hatch your own eggs then you need an incubator or a broody hen.
I feel that a good layer of straw is the best bedding – do not use hay. Winter is the hardest time for them as they lose body heat through their legs. That extra layer of straw over the winter helps to make them happy ducks!
No - the females will lay eggs quite happily without any males around. Remember that without the male the eggs are not fertile and cannot be used as hatching eggs. Having a male around may make the females happy ducks!
Indian Runners will start to lay between 20 and 24 weeks of age. They will not start laying even if 24 weeks old after about 1st September. This is due to the lack of daylight, in which case they will start in the spring.
You should expect 180 eggs plus per year from each female in their first laying year. This number will fall as they get older.
You cannot – that is why you should only buy from a reputable breeder and those who are members of the Indian Runner Duck Association. Also look very critically at photographs of a seller’s ducks. Do they look like true Runner ducks? Are the pictures even those of the owner’s ducks or just copied from the web?
They could have had a visit by a fox and hence been frightened or if you let them free range in your garden they could be nesting under a bush or in the long grass. Try letting them out of their hutch half an hour later and follow them out of the corner of your eye to see where they shoot off to!
You should always lock your ducks up at night. We lock ours up just as its starts to get dusk. That means some nights it is later than others. You also need to tell the fox whose garden it is! You can do this by scent marking – you need an adult male (human that is) to urinate around the garden. This will act as a chemical repellant to keep the fox away.
There are a few ways. The vent sexing method can be used just after hatching. You have to expose the vent and observe the genitalia. I would not recommend this as it does require experience or you will harm the duckling. The best way is to wait until the ducklings are about 5 or 6 weeks old. Females will have a loud quack whilst the males will make a rasping sound. At about 14 to 16 weeks old the males should have a distinct curled feather at the tip of their tail.
Well you could try selling them or you could eat them! The news letter of the Indian Runner Duck Association (Vol 23 summer 2009) invites members to submit favourite duck recipes and even points out that "its a good way of getting rid of unwanted Runner drakes..."
Yes, just Google books on duck keeping. I would recommend you look at buying The Domestic Duck by Chris & Mike Ashton. This is now in paperback. It covers all you need to know about keeping ducks, and more. Google ISBN: 978 1 84797 050 3 to get the best deal.
Incubation type questions
- I am not sure what temperature I should set my incubator at?
- How do I know if my temperature controller is reading the true temperature?
- I have just found that the temperature within my incubator is higher than 38 degrees – will this matter?
- My ducks eggs are always dirty when I collect them – how should I clean them before putting them into the incubator.?
- I only have 2 ducks so can I store their eggs until I get 10 to put in my incubator?
- How do I store my eggs until I have enough?
- How many times per day should I turn my eggs?
- What is the incubation period for Runner ducks eggs?
- How do I know if the eggs are fertile?
- I was told I need high humidity to hatch ducks eggs so what should I set it at?
- What if the humidity is at the wrong level?
- Why should I candle my eggs?
- Should I help the ducklings to hatch?
- Can you help me with an incubation problem?
You should refer to your incubator manual because it depends on whether you have a forced air incubator or a still air incubator. In the forced air unit the temperature should be the same throughout the incubator due to the fan moving the air around and this should be set for 37.3°C for Indian Runner duck eggs.
Still air incubators are not particularly accurate when it comes to measuring temperature. In a still air incubator the temperature is often measured just above the eggs. As there is no “forced” movement of air within the incubator you will find that the temperature near the base of the incubator is lower that near the top. There can be a large temperature differential between the top and the bottom of the eggs which could be of the order of 2 or 3 degrees.
Your manual should tell you what temperature to set the controller at but typically 38.5°C should yield 37.5°C at the centre of the eggs.
You don’t, is the simple answer. You should always have a small thermometer to hand to get a second opinion. There is no point in buying the standard digital LED type as they are not accurate. You need to buy a mercury in glass thermometer or a small clinical thermometer and if possible leave this inside the incubator.
Yes - 39.5°C will kill the duckling inside the eggs. You need to keep the temperature within the range 37.0 to 37.8°C
This is always a problem as I know they tend to all lay eggs in a communal place and try to bury them under the straw – but you do need to use only clean eggs inside the incubator otherwise bacteria will start to grow. Remember your incubator provides almost perfect conditions for the growth of bacteria.
You could try increasing the amount of straw in their nesting area for the period you are collecting your eggs for incubation. If this does not work then washing is the only option. This should be done with running water that is hand hot, using a soft nail brush to clean any poo away.
Yes. For best results, your eggs should be set within 1-3 days from the time they were laid. The duck research laboratory has found that there is an average loss of about 3% hatchability for eggs stored 7 days before setting, and about 10% loss for those stored 14 days.
You should store your eggs at about 13°C with the small or round end uppermost. You should turn your eggs 108° each day to stop the membrane sticking to the side of the shell. Do not store for more than about a week as there will be a loss in hatchability. Before putting your eggs into the incubator let the temperature of the eggs rise to 20-23°C (room temperature) for 12 hours. This is to prevent the yolk rupturing, which could easily happen if they are subject to a rapid change in temperature from storage at 13°C then suddly at 37°C in your incubator!
Eggs should be turned at least three times a day. Make it an odd number of turns per day i.e. 3 or 5 or 7. Turn your eggs in opposite direction each time. Also I would move the eggs around within the incubator. Even with a good forced air incubator there can be local hot and cold spots. Remember to stop turning about 3 days before they are due to hatch. It may be helpful to put a cross on the top of the eggs with a pencil – this way you can see which you have turned and which you have not!
The incubation period for Indian Runner ducks is 28 days. However the real time depends upon a number of variables - the RH or weight loss and the age of the egg when put into the incubator. You should try and insure you incubate only fresh eggs from unrelated ducks.
The only way you can tell without breaking open the eggs is to candle your eggs. You will need to buy a candling lamp or make one.
Candling is shining a light through the egg, normally in a dark room. It is also very useful to monitor the growth of the air sac as the egg looses water.
The eggs of the right is not fertile and the one on the left is. This is candling at 14 days. You will also note the size of the air sac.
Well ducks do tend to live in wetter places but their nest is not soaking wet! The humidity within you incubator controls the rate of evaporation of water and hence weight loss from the eggs. For a good hatch of Runner ducks the total weight loss by evaporation or dehydration during their 28 day incubation should be 15 percent. The higher the humidity, the lower the weight loss. Similarly, with low humidity the weight loss will be higher.
So, in the ideal world it is the weight loss that should be monitored and then adjustments made to the humidity to achieve this 15%. However, for most people it is just not practical to measure the weight of the eggs so we tend to talks about getting the humidity right and hope for the best!
The best advice would be to follow the manufactures instructions as they should know how much water you need to add to the water trays. The Brinsea incubation handbook, which you can download Click here states 40 to 50% for ducks. However the Brinsea manual for the Octagon 20 gives 45 to 55%. Chris Aston has suggested that if the RH is above 50% the eggs will not hatch. However other reputable publications suggest a relative humidity setting of 55%.
All agree that at pipping there should be RH of at least 60 -65%
If the humidity level in your incubator is not correct, that is too low or too high, your ducklings will fail to hatch. When the humidity is too low during incubation, the air cell will be too large at the time of pipping and the inside of the egg will be too thick and sticky and the duckling will not be able to turn. If the humidity is too high there will be insufficient evaporation of water from the egg. The air cell will be too small for the duckling to reach the pipping stage as the duckling will either drown or will be too swollen with water to turn itself within the egg.
There are two reasons – You need to see if the eggs are fertile as not all eggs are. If they are not fertile then they should be removed from the incubator as they will start to rot and smell. This will lead to bacterial growth which could infect the other eggs in the incubator.
It is only by candling your eggs that you can monitor the growth of the air sac and get a useful guide to weight loss. The air sac will become larger as incubation progresses and as the weight loss increases. Runner ducks will lose 15 percent of their total weight by evaporation or dehydration during their 28 day incubation. The growth of this air sac is a balance between temperature and humidity but as the temperature is a constant, or should be, then the growth is directly related to the humidity. The ideal growth is shown in the picture below.
Normally no, leave well alone. You should hear the ducklings tapping at their shells about a day or so before they start pipping but they are not ready yet. They normally need another 1-2 days to complete the hatching. Before they hatch their yolk sac must be drawn inside the body.. If you interfere too soon the duckling will bleed. I would help a duckling if it has pecked a complete or very near complete circle around the shell and only then if it seems to be stuck. Only then should it be helped out. Otherwise - don't interfere and leave well alone. From experience I find that ducklings that fail to hatch themselves will normally have something wrong with them.
Yes but you would be better off if I refer you to 2 references – #1 - Brinsea handbook viewable by downloading Click here and #2 - the University of California Animal Science Department - common incubation problems, again Click here.