POULTRY production is one of the key livestock production sub-sectors small scale and commercial farmers have taken up over the years.
The increase in players in the poultry production sector has shown that it is more than just about broilers, layers, and road-runners.
Of course, these three are the most commonly reared in Zimbabwe, but there is much more.
Farmers also rear other small livestock such as turkeys, quails and ducks.
Ducks are raised for two things namely; meat and eggs.
Ducks are somewhat similar to chickens; so much that in most parts of the world, duck farming comes second to chicken farming.
Local farmers can explore both meat and egg production.
It takes on average four months for ducks to start laying eggs and 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.
A farmer can alternatively choose to use artificial brooding using an incubator and this comes in handy when egg production far eclipses the number of female ducks available.
At around ten months that is when a duck will be weighing on average 2kg.
However, the age from which ducks are considered mature starts at around five months.
In an article by agri-business consultancy firm StartUp Biz, one of the unique things about duck farming is that a farmer would need a water body.
“It is advised that successful commercial production of ducks requires a water body for example a pond,” reads the article in part.
“This means you might have to construct something like that.
Their housing is not really complex and expensive and you can actually construct their housing using cheaply or freely available material – kind of like how it is for free-range chickens.”
According to the article, when constructing the housing for ducks a farmer has to factor in egg-laying and brooding.
“You also have to consider how you want to raise that is intensively or extensively,” reads the article.
“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.
Availability of water bodies, especially naturally occurring ones, can come in handy for their feeding regime.”
In duck farming, StartUp Biz said, not much was needed in terms of human capital.
According to StartUp Biz: “Families can effectively rear ducks without any problems and even if you have to get someone, it can simply be part-time.”
Local farmers, however, must conduct thorough market research before embarking on duck farming, said StartUp Biz.
“Most people have never eaten duck meat yet it is a delicacy but anyone who has ever eaten chicken is most likely wired to appreciate duck meat,” said the firm.
“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.
Given that ducks are not quite mainstream you will have to do your homework regarding where you source them from.
If farmers recall some time in 2020 there was a story of a dealer who managed to sell 8 000 fake broiler chicks and these chicks had strange characteristics including voracious appetites and would not grow.
After almost five weeks they would still weigh less than 100 grams.
Mentioning this real-life example is meant to enunciate the importance of rigorously assessing your source of chicks in general.
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.”
Pundits contend ducks can thrive in harsh or adverse conditions as they are not as sensitive and susceptible as chickens.
In fact, it is said the incidence of mortalities is also typically low.