Why You Don’t Want Call Ducks As Pets: Pros and Cons

Call ducks are super clean ducks (1)

 

Call ducks – the miniature ducks that make life delightful. They’re charming little birds with great personalities. Both children and adults, beginners and seasoned duck enthusiasts alike are all rightfully enchanted with this breed.

Despite their perfection, call ducks aren’t right for everyone. Why? Call ducks aren’t always great pets because they are boisterous. Their voices can carry for miles, which makes them undesirable for town or suburban life. 

Call ducks are ornamental and don’t serve any purpose on a homestead as layers or meat birds. They also have a spunky attitude that makes them more adorable. Call ducks are difficult to breed and are particularly defenseless against predators.

On the other hand, call ducks might just be perfect for you.

Call Ducks Have Nothing Wrong With Their Lungs

Since call ducks are so small, they must be quiet, too, right? Well, no, call ducks are not quiet ducks. Many people are astonished by just how loud this miniature breed is. They easily rival large ducks in volume – and probably win with prestigious awards, too.

This makes sense if you examine their history, which is also where they source their name. Call ducks were developed in the 1600s specifically to lure wild ducks closer to shore for Dutch hunters. How? By the hearty use of the female’s loud, high-pitched calls. 

Towns and suburbs are problematic areas to raise call ducks. Although your town or city may not specifically ban call ducks, you’ll want to consider their increased noise over other breeds of ducks. 

Even one or two hens are still extremely boisterous, which is understandably annoying for some. Check with your neighbors before you get call ducks! You’ll avoid many headaches down the road.

Nevertheless, the constant chatter has a positive side. Call ducks are proactive in alerting each other to the presence of predators. 

When call ducks pipe out their irresistible quacks, they’re either impatient for food or a predator is nearby. They are far more accurate about this than our other ducks. It’s about their only form of defense – you know, alerting their own presence to a fox or hawk.

Another benefit: you’ll never lose your call duck. Ever.

Fun Fact: Call ducks are so loud, their voices carry for miles away! Their calls can entice wild ducks, seagulls, geese, and other waterfowl closer to shore if you live near a body of water – even a pond. You won’t need to go on a waterfowl tour ever again, but wild birds can also become a pest. Learn how to manage them here.

Call Ducks Are So Tiny, You’ll Step On Them

Call ducks tend to flock around your feet as you walk, especially at feeding time. It’s a tripping hazard and they are easy to step on. 

Call ducks weigh between 15-25 ounces. That’s approximately 0.9-1.6 in pounds. Drakes are usually at the higher end of this range, while hens are typically at the lower end. 

And no, they aren’t so small because of a genetic illness. Call ducks are one bantam duck breed of many. Their history also explains their size. Hunters often carried them by hand, so they required a small bird for ease of transport. 

Call ducks draw their heritage from wild Mallard lines, so they were naturally smaller ducks. They were selectively bred until the miniature size we know today was firmly standardized.

Their minuscule size makes call ducks easier to care for than other breeds. They consume less feed and require less space. This makes them excellent for people who don’t have sufficient space to accommodate larger duck breeds.  

You can easily raise three call ducks in a mobile tractor, which bridges the safety of a pen with the benefits of free-ranging. 

Call Ducks Are Mostly Ornamental

If you’re looking for a multi-purpose breed, pass on the call duck. Call ducks weren’t bred as prolific egg-layers or meat birds. So when they were retired from their original purpose as live decoys, call ducks found a second wind as ornamental birds.

They tend to place extremely well in shows. Judges the world over are famous for adoring and favoring call ducks. 

Call ducks are also ideal for breeding. You can make a profit from a flock, especially if you have uncommon variations or high-quality stock. 

Call ducks excel at petting zoos, too. Visitors fawn over them, and they’ll quickly become the main attraction. These ducks even win over people who dislike ducks and other poultry. Just make sure visitors don’t stress your call ducks too much

Call Ducks Are Chronically Photogenic

It’s been clinically tested and proven. Call ducks have a chronic, persisting condition that enables them to be photogenic for life. 

Call ducks are perfect for photography lovers. They pose as soon as you whip out a camera. You’re guaranteed exceptional pictures. In addition, call ducks are notoriously lovable in appearance.

They have a unique conformation that resembles plush dolls. Call ducks’ bodies are rounded and may remind you of a teapot – short and stout. Their cheeks are curved and chubby, and they have adorable short beaks. Their feathers are smooth and soft to touch.

Call ducks can also have warm brown eyes, black eyes, or blue eyes. Blue eyes are especially normal for the white variation.

Call ducks are tiny enough to step on (1)
Nova is a blue-eyed hen who believes she is now a drake

Call Ducks Have an Attitude

Don’t let the cuteness factor deceive you. Call ducks are impatient, spunky birds with attitude. If they were any larger, we’d all be plowed over. 

But don’t worry: call ducks are all talk with no bite. In fact, it mostly tickles if they grab a finger. 

At the same time, you’ll fall in love with their personalities. Call ducks are friendly, easy to tame, and form bonds with daily handling. Their attitudes only make them more animated and amusing to observe. 

Call Ducks Are Aggressively Clean

Call ducks loathe filth. Even an indistinguishable speck of dirt on a wing sends them into a self-grooming frenzy. 

After being handled by humans, they immediately hit the water to wash away the experience. That’s their charming, imperious attitude at play.

Paradoxically, call ducks are also just as messy as other ducks. They’ll turn their pen into a huge puddle. To them, it’s heaven. To you, it’s a disaster. 

That’s why we raise chickens with our call ducks. Chickens maintain the ground by scratching, which supports drainage. Bantam breeds such as Old English tend to do well with call ducks since they’re about the same size.

We successfully keep our peaceful Australorp hens with call ducks, too. Avoid mixing medium or large roosters with call ducks. They’re too aggressive and will invariably attempt to mate with the female ducks, which can injure or kill them.

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Male call ducks can fight each other (1)

Call Ducks Are Like Potato Chips: You Can’t Stop With One! 

Like potato chips, you can never have only one call duck. 

Call ducks are addicting. They are adorable and bursting with personality, and you won’t want to only have one. Or two. 

But that’s a good thing! Call ducks love flocking together and they’re the happiest in numbers. You should have at least a trio of call ducks. The more you have, the merrier they’ll be. And you’ll continue fueling your newfound addiction.

Since males aren’t too voracious, you can usually keep one drake for every five hens. Call duck hens are content without a drake – and yes, they’ll continue laying without fertilization occurring. 

How to Raise Call Ducks

Before you consider raising call ducks, you need to check your local ordinances. Some states/provinces, towns, or areas don’t allow call ducks at all or have restrictions in place. You can land yourself in legal trouble if you don’t abide by basic local laws.

How to Raise Ducks: the Complete Guide for Beginners

Cost of Buying and Raising Call Ducks

You can buy hatching eggs, ducklings, or adult call ducks. Hatching eggs are the least expensive, but they’re notoriously difficult to hatch. Ducklings are also fragile during the first two weeks of life. It’s best to get started with adult call ducks if you’re new to ducks.

How much do call ducks cost? Pet-quality call ducks are often priced between $10-$50 each. Breeder-quality call ducks normally cost between $30-$50. Show-quality call ducks cost between $75-$100 and up.

The fourth class of call ducks is elite-quality. These birds are usually priced upwards of $150, with some going for $800. Be prepared to shell out more if you tread into rare variations.

After purchase, call ducks are inexpensive to keep – especially in comparison to large duck breeds. One bag of 25kg duck pellets usually costs around $15-20 and should last over a month for a few call ducks. Shavings cost between $10-$25 per bag, which should also easily last a month.

Their housing can be as expensive or inexpensive as your budget allows. Allot $100 for a mobile tractor or $500+ for a large enclosure.

The total cost for a trio of pet-quality call ducks in the first month is about $155-$695. You also need to factor in the price of a pond, dishes, and other miscellaneous supplies you may purchase.

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Call ducks are so fun they are addictive! (1)
Autumn

Call Duck Diet Requirements

Call ducks need one cup of food each per day. Always give your call ducks organic, non-medicated food, and avoid chicken feed! Medicated feed can easily over-medicate ducks because they eat more than chickens.

Duck pellets contain all the essential protein and other macronutrients your call ducks require to keep them healthy. 

Layer feed formulated for ducks also provides additional calcium to boost them during breeding season. There’s no need to feed this during the winter. 

You can help your call ducks digest their food properly by including limestone grit for poultry in their diet. Sunflower seeds are excellent for maintaining rich, shiny plumage throughout the year. Corn also makes a great treat to supplement over the winter to maintain weight. 

Toss in some grass and leafy vegetables such as spinach for your call ducks. They also enjoy foraging for insects, worms, isopods, and slugs. 

Don’t feed your ducks bread! It’s harmful to all ducks (including the wild ones at the park) and can cause impaction. It’s worse than feeding large quantities of candy to kids instead of meals!

Tip: Instead of tossing the shells of eggs or seafood (shrimp, mussels, or lobster), grind them up into fine pieces and feed them to your ducks! Eggshells and seafood shells contain calcium that enables hens to lay healthy eggs. You can also feed your call ducks cooked eggs, which pack a punch in protein.

Call Duck Housing and Space Needs

Call ducks are small, but they still require 12 square feet of outdoor space per bird. Keep this in mind as you consider their housing.

Many breeders raise two or three call ducks in an elevated pen with wire on the bottom and a small house attached. It makes for easy cleanup, but the wire will eventually hurt their feet.

As mentioned earlier, you can raise a maximum of three call ducks in a mobile tractor. This allows them to forage in your yard without being exposed to predators.

Call ducks are the happiest and safest in large enclosures. Give them a secure aerial covering to protect against predators and prevent them from flying out.

Many people free-range their call ducks. If you do this, be aware that call ducks are defenseless against predators. Your call ducks will likely be killed by foxes, hawks, weasels, owls, coyotes, or any other kind of predator.

Call ducks are also excellent at flying. Free-ranging before your call ducks adjust can result in them flying away. They need time to acclimate to their new home! This takes over six months for some birds. 

You can clip one wing to keep them unbalanced to prevent flying. Remember that once you start, you need to consistently clip the wing every three weeks. Personally, I don’t do it. My call ducks are safe in an enclosure, and they happily fly across the length of it.  

Whether or not you choose to free-range, your call ducks require a secure house with four walls to sleep in at night. Provide adequate ventilation, but also make sure it isn’t drafty. 

Tip: Avoid chicken wire. It’s too flimsy, snaps easily, and offers no protection for birds. Instead, use hardware cloth wire, which is sturdy, long-lasting, and small enough that weasels can’t slip through.

Constant Access to Water is Essential

Call ducks should always have access to clean, fresh drinking water. 

If you observe ducks, you’ll quickly find that they nibble on some food and take a drink of water immediately after. This is to avoid impaction, which can kill them. You can include a small dish of water inside their house overnight, especially if you feed them inside. 

Swimming enriches your call duck’s quality of life. Kiddie pools, built-in ponds, or even simple kitty litter pans work well. 

You should have one smaller pan for every two or three call ducks. A kiddie pool or pond is substantial enough to accommodate several call ducks simultaneously.

Make sure you frequently empty the water to prevent bacteria from setting in. You can add the used water to your garden. It’s packed with excellent nutrients that help boost the health of your plants.

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Call ducks need constant access to water (1)

Breeding Your Flock of Call Ducks

Breeding season typically begins in April or May and lasts until October. While call ducks don’t mate for life, drakes do tend to favor one particular hen over the others. This is called seasonal monogamy. It’s why breeders keep call ducks in pairs instead of groups. 

During this time, call duck hens lay between 50-150 eggs, with 55-90 being more common. Young hens lay more frequently, and their egg count drops as they age. Our ten-year-old hens lay eggs only periodically. 

Call ducks are extremely difficult to breed. Seasonal monogamy is one culprit behind this. If you raise one drake with six hens, he’ll favor one or two and ignore the rest. Many eggs that are incubated aren’t fertile as a result.

This is why breeders separate their call ducks into pairs or trios for breeding season. It helps promote equal mating. Over the winter, they merge all of their drakes and hens into one enclosure. Drakes usually don’t fight during the off-season.

Survival rates are also fairly medium to low in call ducklings. Ducklings are susceptible to the cold and damp, and require very specific conditions to thrive.

Eggs take approximately 26-28 days to hatch. It isn’t uncommon for hens to become broody, and they can raise their own ducklings if you let them. 

Many people prefer to use an incubator instead to hatch their eggs. There are many advantages to each option, but incubators (or broody chicken hens) are more reliable. Hens may abandon the nest.

Call duck hens, however, have the unique ability to teach ducklings valuable skills, like swimming. I’ve also heard that ducklings raised by their mothers are more likely to survive.

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Pattern Variations of Call Ducks

Call ducks are bred in a rich array of variations. Many of these are based on the Mallard pattern. Here are the most common types:

  • White Call Ducks

The white variation, together with the grey variation, was the first to be standardized in 1865. This variation is solid, pure white, with no other colors allowed. White call ducks almost always have blue eyes.  

  • Grey Call Ducks

Grey calls resemble wild Mallard ducks in appearance. The drakes are stunning with iridescent emerald green heads, one white ring around necks, blue or green bars on wings, reddish chests, white bellies, silver backs, and orange feet. Hens are warm brown with dark lacing.

Grey Call Ducks resemble Mallard Ducks (1)

  • Black Bibbed Call Ducks

Black Bibbed ducks are black with a white “bib” on their chests. They sometimes have bits of white on their wings. Both drakes and hens are the same in appearance.

  • Pastel Call Ducks

Pastel drakes have the same pattern as grey calls, but they’re soft and muted in color. They have lavender-grey heads, a white ring around their necks, and rust-colored chests. Hens are soft silver-beige.

  • Buff  Call Ducks

Buff call duck drakes are slightly more silver than the hens with a pale gray head. Both drakes and hens have rich, fawn-colored plumage.

Buff Call Hen ducks look similar to buff orpington ducks (1)
Fable, our buff call duck hen
  • Magpie Call Ducks

Magpie call ducks are iridescent black with white splotches. They are commonly mistaken for Black Bibbed, but the main distinction is that Magpies can have white anywhere on their bodies.

  • Snowy Call Ducks

Snowy call ducks are quite striking. They have a creamy base color with an intricate lacing pattern. Drakes have a dark green head that isn’t as vibrant as a grey drake. They have dark bars on their wings, and their chests are rosy. 

Call Duck Variations

Average Availability

White Very Common
Grey Very Common
Black Bibbed Common
Magpie Common
Pastel Very Common
Buff Common
Snowy Somewhat Uncommon
Blue Fawn Uncommon
Pied Somewhat Uncommon
Black Uncommon
Butterscotch Somewhat Uncommon
Penciled Uncommon
Apricot Uncommon
Dusky Rare
Blue Bibbed Uncommon
Chocolate Extremely Uncommon
Khaki Rare
Yellow Belly Rare
Apricot Silver Rare
Blue Silver Rare
Blue Appleyard Rare
Silver Appleyard Rare
Chocolate Appleyard Rare
Dark Chocolate Silver Rare

*Please bear in mind that every area will differ in availability. This is also not an exhaustive list of variations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are call ducks good house pets? Some people successfully raise call ducks in the house as pets, with the aid of a specially-made diaper. However, call ducks prefer life outdoors, where they live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Should I buy hatching eggs, ducklings, or adult call ducks? Hatching eggs are the least expensive option, but they’re also notoriously difficult to hatch. A low hatch ratio can impact the cost of hatching eggs. Call ducklings are fragile during the first week or two of life. If you’ve never raised ducks before, you’ll find it easier to get started with adult call ducks.

Are call ducks hardy? Once they reach adulthood, call ducks are an extremely hardy, robust duck breed. Always provide them with proper shelter against the elements and protection against predators.

Are call ducks good pets for children? Children often adore call ducks. They also help teach kids about responsibility. Teach children how to hold call ducks safely and properly, and never to “rough handle” them. 

Will my call duck bond to me? Yes, call ducks form bonds with humans. Handle your call duck daily to first establish familiarity, and then to develop a bond.

Do male call ducks fight each other? Drakes fight each other in competition for the hens during breeding season, in limited space, and with a higher or equal ratio of males to females. With plenty of space and hens, drakes usually shouldn’t fight. Keep no more than one drake per five hens.

Call ducks are different than indie ducks (1)

Do call ducks lay eggs year-round? Call ducks are seasonal layers. You’ll begin to find eggs in April or May, and they continue until October at the end of breeding season. Occasionally, call ducks lay an egg in the middle of winter, but this is rare. They prefer to lay outside, so give your birds a few private spaces for laying eggs.

What do call duck eggs taste like? Call duck eggs are rich in taste and they have an excellent flavor. It will take several eggs from call ducks to make an omelet due to their small size. Duck eggs also have higher protein than chicken eggs VA note: link to egg comparison between chickens and ducks. 

Do call ducks lay green eggs?<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> Yes! Many call ducks lay green-tinted eggs. Grey and Magpie calls are two variations that commonly lay green or blue-tinted eggs. Call ducks are better known for cream-colored eggs.

What predators do call ducks have? The works – weasels, mink, foxes, hawks, coyotes, raccoons, snakes, dogs, cats, and more. Call ducks can’t defend themselves against predators, so your enclosure should be secure to protect them.

What birds can be raised with call ducks? Bantam chicken breeds can often coexist happily with call ducks – even the roosters. East Indie ducks can also live with call ducks. They have similar care requirements and are both bantam breeds.

Can I keep my large ducks with call ducks? Do not raise call ducks and larger breeds together! Large ducks, such as Pekins, and even medium-sized breeds can easily trample call ducks. Large drakes will try to mate with call duck hens and fight with smaller drakes, which can kill them. Also avoid guineafowl, turkeys, pheasants, peafowl, and geese.

Can I keep call ducks and bunnies together? While call ducks and rabbits can live harmoniously, there are many risks involved. First, bunnies need to stay dry to be healthy, and call ducks make a muddy mess. This isn’t an ideal environment for a rabbit – and it can lead to illness. Second, a bunny could easily drown in the duck pond. Finally, rabbits shouldn’t consume duck food! All things considered, this should generally be avoided.

Are East Indie ducks the same as call ducks? No, East Indies and call ducks are different breeds of bantam ducks with several noteworthy distinctions. Call ducks are both louder and more receptive to human contact than East Indies, who are known as more reserved. East Indies also can only have luminous, iridescent green plumage, while call ducks have many variations. 

Call Ducks are Super cute and photogenic (1)

Conclusion

Call ducks are incredible little birds that add joy to life. They’re the darlings of every homestead and they make coop chores fun and engaging. 

Like every animal, you need to weigh the pros and cons of raising call ducks. Be realistic about their care. Never buy an animal, no matter how adorable, on impulse! 

MacKayla Townsend

I am a tea-fueled freelance writer, homesteader, and equestrian living in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, where I've devoted 8+ years to raising and rescuing horses, goats, poultry, sheep, peafowl, and rabbits. I love helping others on their homesteading journey to give their animals wonderful, healthy lives. When I'm not writing, I can often be found training my horses in liberty, creating unique flower jellies, and relishing country life with a cup of tea in hand.

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