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British Call Duck Club

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Keeping Call Ducks

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Buying Call Ducks

Calls Calling
When buying your first calls it is essential that you see them, as far as possible in their usual environment. That is to say, in the collection of an established and reputable breeder. This will allow you to make your choice from a variety of healthy stock of good quality and give you a good idea of what you need to do to keep them that way.

The main points to look out for are as follows:

1. A bright sparkling eye
2. They should appear active and content
3. Healthy plumage with a clean vent area
4. Ideal weight for drake 0.56-0.68kg. Duck 0.45-0.56kg

New colours are being produced regularly and crossbreeding between the standard colours produces a rainbow variety of attractive pet quality birds.

The best time to make your purchase is early spring or late autumn when their plumage is at it best and in full colour. In the spring breeding season the drakes will definitely be at their boisterous best. Call ducks make an ideal family pet, living up to 10 years and requiring little attention. In return they provide endless hours of relaxation and amusement with the bonus of keeping down garden pests without damage to the flora.

The charm and beauty of the call duck are obvious to all. It is and will remain the gem of the waterfowl fancy.

Merryl Lloyd

Common Diseases of Waterfowl
Waterfowl are very susceptible to infestations of worms. They can host Round,Capillary and Gape worms as well as different types of Tapeworms. Symptoms, failure to thrive and gain weight, birds limping, birds opening their mouths as if they cannot get enough air (gape worms). The best way to avoid the problem is to worm the entire flock two time a year with Flubenvet in their feed for 7 day.

Waterfowl with bathing water available are generally not troubled by heavy infestations of lice or mites but lice in particular can be found on them and they (lice) can damage the feathering on show birds. An infestation is much more likely if the waterfowl are kept on the same premises with chickens. Flea spray or powder is a convenient and effective way to treat for lice or mites, Part feathers and apply powder to birds, avoiding the eyes. Repeat every 3-4 days if infestation is not cleared. While treating birds, to help prevent reinfestation, a little powder may be dusted on immediate surroundings where mite breed, eg. under nesting material, also cracks and crevices. But must be used regularly to be effective.


A common bacterial infection of the nasal sinuses. Swelling is seen in the front of one or both eyes. Daily antibiotic flushing of the sinuses by a veterinary surgeon is required until the swelling resolves. Sometimes this is resistant to treatment.

This is seen in outbreaks of infection and will infect many birds in a collection. It is more common in early summer during adverse weather. Wild waterfowl may carry the infection. Signs include weakness, incoordination, diarrhoea,(with blood) or just sudden death. The veterinary surgeon may need to carry out a post mortem on a fresh carcase to comfirm the diagnosis.

This is still seen despite the ban lead fishing weights. Shot gun cartridges may be a source now. Symptoms include weight loss,weakness and incoordination and green diarrhoea. Some birds will survive if given sufficient intensive care under veterinary supervision.

A family of intestinal tract ailments always characterised by diarrhea. Best treatment is for 5 days . Treatment must begin quickly if the birds are to be saved. Enteritis can be contracted through fouled water sources. Eliminate puddles,fouled pools and mud and you eliminate enteritis. This is a killer of waterfowl.

Most illnesses in ducks can be treated successfully if they are caught early. However, ducks are low on the food chain and as a defence mechanism they often do not show signs of illness or disease until they are unable hide the symptoms. When you notice a problem they may have been ill for some time. Stress may cause ducks to become susceptible to infections so this should be kept to a minimum.

A Clean habitat is necessary for your duck's health. Where possible, especially in small areas, sweep or hose droppings daily, keep swimming water, drinking water and food bins clean and pest-free. Supply clean, dry bedding as necessary. Never use household cleaners or chemicals that can poison your duck.

Bare spots resembling mange on a female's neck and head, and sometimes around the eyes is often caused by rough mating. This happens in both wild and domestic ducks. Ducks prefer to mate on water, some of the injuries associated with rough mating can be minimized where they have access to a pond or similar.

Leg injuries can occur when ducks are entering or exiting the water, so provide a ramp or wide, sturdy steps to get in and out of water safely. Also, some illnesses and poisoning can cause weakness and appear to be a leg problem. Injuries to toes and feet, and limping can also be signs of a serious problem. However ducks do often raise one leg and sleep while standing which is normal behaviour.

Respiratory problems can appear as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, choking or gagging. A rapid change in air temperature even by only a few degrees can sometimes cause pneumonia. Ducklings can develop colds or other problems when exposed to water or cool air too long.

Aspergillosis - This condition occurs when ducks inhale spores produced by the mold, Aspergillus, that grows on damp straw or feed. These inhaled spores cause multiple nodules in the lungs and air sacs. Common signs include gasping, listlessness and dehydration. This disease is not to be confused with aflatoxin poisoning – see over. The best solution to prevent aspergillosis is to avoid using moldy straw and preventing feed from getting wet.

Poisoning can be prevented by making sure your ducks are not exposed to pesticides, chemicals, lead-based paint, coins, screws, nails, lead shot, fishing weights, or any small objects that can be ingested. Lead, zinc and copper are the most common toxic items found in ducks suffering from poisoning. Beware of certain foods that can be toxic or cause painful conditions such as seeds, nuts, overfeeding of any human "junk" food, chocolate, etc. If you are not sure about it, avoid it. Ducks are particularly susceptible to some toxins, and in some cases considerably more than chickens or turkeys.

Aflatoxin poisoning – The molds that grow on grains before and after harvest can produce a number of toxins that are particularly harmful to ducks, especially the aflatoxins, which are produced by the Aspergillus molds. Very small amounts will cause high mortality. Luckily this is not a common problem. Wet harvest conditions encourage the growth of this mold.

Botulism - Ducks which have access to stagnant ponds or other areas where decaying organic matter is found, could be affected by toxins from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Botulism causes paralysis of the neck, legs and wings and affected ducks usually die in a coma within 24-48 hours.

Insecticides, rodenticides - care should be taken not to use insect sprays, rat poisons, slug pellets etc anywhere ducks may come into contact with them.

If any BCDC Members have any photographs of Calls exhibiting any of the malformations (eg crossed bills or twisted legs) or diseases mentioned here, please could they be sent to Alan Davies ( for inclusion on the website, so that other members can learn from them.

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At this time of year you will have noticed that your duck pens or garden are starting to look like a pillow has exploded. This is the start of the moult. The main purpose of the moult is to replace old and worn out feathers.

Adult males will moult twice a year. First after the mating season is over, usually July, where they will lose all but the wing flights, the new feathers will be dull and drab, similar to the typical female plumage. This stage is known as the eclipse phase and allows them to hide more easily while the flight feathers are lost rendering them flightless for a short period. Later in the year, before the next mating season they will moult a second time back into the normal colourful drake plumage.

Adult females will only moult once a year, when their ducklings have hatched. They will have finished moulting and they will be able to fly again at a similar time to their ducklings being ready to fly too. Young ducklings will have grown their first full set of feathers by the time they are 6 – 7 weeks old. This juvenile plumage looks almost the same in both sexes and helps to keep them camouflaged before they learn to fly. Almost immediately they will moult again into the adult feathers, although the flight feathers will remain unchanged.

All ducks lose the body feathers gradually over a 6 – 10 week period so as to avoid being without feathers. The flight feathers, however, are lost all at once and will take a few weeks to re-grow. Feathers are lost as the follicles in the skin become active and fill with blood, the new feathers pushing the old ones out. Birds will stop laying at this time as their body's metabolism will prevent two high energy and stressful processes taking place at once. Back to Top


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