By Rene C. Santiago, Center Chief IV, National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center

Duck is the second largest poultry industry that provides income to farmers through egg and meat production in the Philippines. It is raised in the country for its products such as balut (boiled embryonated egg) and salted egg.

A Brief Overview of the Industry

Native duck farming today is divided into two schemes. The first is the free range scheme, which is the traditional way of raising native ducks. In this scheme, ducks are allowed to graze and scavenge on newly harvested rice fields. Rice fields are rich in duck feeds such as rice hull, snails, seeds, grass, fish, and insects. Under the free-range scheme, a temporary shelter and fence created using fishnets is provided to allow ducks to rest in the afternoon. The shelter also serves as a nesting place and provides protection from wild animals. This scheme allows the duck farmer to save on feeds and housing. This is also the popular scheme used for raising ducks one to five months old.

The other scheme for raising ducks is through the confinement system using a duck house (kamalig). In this scheme, ducks are provided with a balanced diet that includes formulated feeds and clean drinking water, proper floor space, feeding spaces, and other requirements needed for maintenance, growth, and development, and for egg production.

There is much potential in native duck farming in the Philippines due to the high demand for balut and salted egg. The industry has a promising future given the vast knowledge and experience of local duck raisers and availability of complete feed rations for various stages of growth (e.g., from brooding and growing ducklings to the laying stages). Various studies on proper stock selection can be practiced by duck raisers to increase duck productivity since superior traits from well-selected layers can be passed to their offspring. Furthermore, the Philippines remains bird flu-free.

However, there are some problems currently being faced by native duck farmers. These include high costs in rearing ducks, insufficient supply of good quality day-old ducklings and ready-tolay pullets, fluctuating prices of eggs, limited space for free-range operations, and inadequate research studies being conducted on native duck raising. The Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is finding ways to increase revenues from native duck farming and to continue developing the native duck industry in the country.

Native Duck Breeding

An egg-type Mallard duck has a small body and weighs 1.3 to 1.4 kilograms. It starts to lay eggs at five months of age with an increase of approximately 50-65% in egg production per year. An egg weighs an average of 65-70 grams. In breeding native ducks, the mating ratio of drakes (males) to female ducks should be 1:10 to ensure a high percentage of fertility for fertile egg production. It can be a big help to native duck raisers if they practice proper breeder stock selection.

Characteristics of a Good Layer Duck

1. Has a small body and weighs between 1.3 to 1.5 kilograms at 5 months old.
2. Efficient feed converter: consumes between 120-140 grams of feed per day/duck.
3. Lays many eggs, yielding over 200 eggs/year/duck.
4. Produces large eggs weighing between 65-70 grams each.
5. Persistent egg producer: can lay eggs for more than 10 months.
6. Adaptable to local conditions and sturdy.

The practice of selection for good traits can yield long-term solutions for continuous progress in native duck egg production. This is one of the ways identified that will help make native duck farming sustainable, since the cost of production inputs continues to rise.

Proper recording or documentation of data in egg production and performance is needed as a basis for selection. The data should include the number of ducks, the age and weight of ducks on the first egg laying, number of eggs laid per day, amount of feeds given per day, number of ducks that died (mortality rate), number of ducks sold, etc. This information can be a good basis for determining farm (egg) production efficiency.

Housing for Ducks

In the free-range scheme, native duck raisers use local materials for housing such as canvas, bamboo, fishnets, hay, and rice hulls as litter materials (for nesting). With this setup, it is easy for the farmer to transfer the ducks to other areas where feeds are available.

In the complete confinement system, the open-sided type of housing (i.e., all litter or slat floor type or a combination of both) is used. The roof may be made of nipa or galvanized iron. For the flooring, rice hulls, sawdust, and sand are normally used. Nests should be kept dry all the time. Bamboo or fishnets can be used for the walls.

Duck houses should be kept far from residential areas because of the sound they produce and the ducks’ characteristic smell. There should be a constant supply of water. A one square meter pen can house three duck layers. Ducks should be divided into groups of 300-500 heads with adequate feeder and water spaces.

Feeds and Feeding

Under the free-range scheme, native ducks are able to feed on natural food sources. However, during times when natural food sources are not sufficient, the ducks should be provided with supplemental food such as rice bran, snail, formulated feeds, and other local food materials to maintain proper growth, health, and egg production.

Under the cage system, native ducks should be given duck/chicken starter mash from one day old to 1 month old; duck/chicken grower mash from 1 month old to 2 months old; pullet developer rations from 2 to 4.5 months; and duck layer rations from 4.5-5 months old to more than 5 months old. It is advantageous to give feed rations in pellet form from one day old to 4.5 months of age. Nutrient composition of the grower rations can be 14% crude protein for ducks 2-4 months old and not less than 18% crude protein for laying ducks.

Some Guidelines in Native Duck Management

A. Free-Range Scheme
1. Provide a brooder with sufficient heat (such as from an incandescent bulb with a 1-watt capacity at the rate of one bulb per day old duck) for day-old ducks until these are 2-3 weeks of age.
2. Prepare a round brooder guard using a GI sheet cut in half, with rice hulls or sawdust as litter materials (flooring).
3. Use a sack to serve as a feeder, and provide a plastic drinker.
4. Add rice hulls everyday to maintain dryness within the brooder.
5. Growing ducks may be allowed to graze starting from when they are 1 month until they are 4.5 months old.
6. Ensure that there is enough food in the range area.
7. Gather the ducks in a pen in the late afternoon and at night to ensure safety from wild animals.

B. Confinement System
1. Like with the free-range scheme, ducks should also be provided with a brooder guard made of GI sheets with litter materials using rice hulls and/or sawdust on the floor. A brooder heater using an incandescent bulb or gas heater may be used.
2. Transfer the ducks to a grower house when they are 1 month old.
3. Provide housing for shelter and a water pond for swimming.
4. The water pond to be used as a swimming area may be made of concrete. It can be half a meter deep and 6-8 inches long or more, depending on the number of ducks.
5. Use rice hulls as litter materials for the floor of every house.
6. Transfer the ducks to a laying house when they reach 4.5 months of age.
7. Duck pullets should be provided with proper feeds and housing. Give duck layer pellets to ducks 4.5 months old and provide them with clean water at all times.
8. Provide a clean nest everyday to ensure cleanliness of the eggs. Dirty or wet eggs cannot be used for balut production.
9. Provide adequate feeds—around 120-140 grams per day—to layers.
10. Avoid exposing the layers to sudden noise/stress since this may cause a decline in the egg production rate.

Disease Prevention and Control

1. Acquire only healthy and vigorous dayold ducklings or pullets. Healthy day-old ducklings should be active and agile, with dry feathers. Pullets from good free-range flocks should be strong, of uniform size and body conformation, with thick, feathers of uniform length and appearance which are not molting.
2. Avoid mixing ducks of different agents in a pen. Separate the sick and those that are lame from healthy ones.
3. Give ducks balanced nutritious food and adequate amounts of clean drinking water.
4. Maintain cleanliness in the pen.
5. Avoid mixing existing stocks with newly acquired ducks.
6. Practice strict sanitation and bio-security procedures.

How to Make Salted Eggs

1. Choose eggs that are clean, crack-free, and with a thick shell.
2. Prepare/dissolve 1.5 cups of salt for every liter of boiling water. Allow the water to cool. Pour and filter the water into different containers using a cloth.
3. Wash the eggs using clean water.
4. Arrange the eggs in a glass or plastic or earthen jar and pour in the saline mixture until all the eggs are submerged.
5. Set aside for 12-18 days.
6. Cook the eggs in boiling water for 4-6 hours and allow to cool.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2016 issue.