One of the neatest animals to walk, fly or swim on this planet is the Call Duck. The Call Duck is very popular due to its small bantam size, curious disposition, and its loud quack.
Although many people believe the Call Duck originated in England or Holland, the origin of the Call Duck has been traced back to the East Indies. The first species of Call Duck was the gray, which looks similar to a mallard. Used as decoy ducks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the female Call's loud voice attracted many wild waterfowl. The term "call" is British in origin and remains a commonly used term in both England and the United States.
Call Ducks, specifically the gray species, were first introduced to the United States between 1880 and 1909; the exact date is unknown. Since their introduction to the United States, many Call Duck varieties have evolved as the result of color mutations generated by purposeful cross breeding. Some of the varieties which have resulted include white, snowy, spotted, khaki, fawn and white, chocolate, pastel, butterscotch, blue, blue fawn, cinnamon, black, black magpie, buff, and apricot.
Calls are bred mostly for show. When showing Call Ducks, three features prove to be the most important: size, shape, and color. The size of the body and bill are key features in determining if the duck is worthy of "show-quality" designation. The smaller the body and bill, the better the quality of the duck. Bodies are better if they are plump and round in shape. The shape of the head is also important; it should be round; eyes should be placed in the center; and cheeks should be ample. Color pattern is another important factor. While coloring varies according to the species, the colors of the bill and the head should be uniform according to standards established by the American Bantam Association.
To create show-quality ducks, breeders must purchase quality stock and be careful of performing too much line breeding. Mixing the bloodlines of great-looking ducks from various breeders may enhance duck’s fertility rates and increase the number of ducklings hatched each year. Be careful of line breeding; it can lead to lower fertility rates. However, when trying to reduce the size of the duck (bill, body, and head) for showing purposes, careful line breeding can be beneficial to achieving this goal. Genetics tells us that the phenotype (external appearance) of parents is not a true indicator of the phenotype resulting from breeding. The genotype (genetic make-up) is in fact the indicator of the resulting phenotype. Thus, breeding two show-quality ducks may not lead to the creation of more show-quality ducks on the first attempt. In fact, breeding many generations may be necessary to create the perfect color and size for a duck good enough to show.
Breeding is the most difficult part of raising Call Ducks; caring for them is far easier. The Call Duck requires the basic tools for life. They need fresh food and water everyday. Mixing various ingredients provides different nutrients; and these recipes should be altered according to the season. During non-breeding seasons, a pre-mixed feed with a 13 to 15 percent protein level works well. This mixture generally contains pellets and red wheat. When the temperature drops significantly, add corn to the duck’s diet. During digestion, the corn provides additional warmth to duck’s little bodies. During the breeding season, around February 1, increase the protein level to 18 to 20 percent. This mixture generally contains strictly pellets and greens. All pets love treats – ducks included. Treat the ducks with peanuts, Purina Hi-Pro Dog Food, minnows, or pond fish pellets. The ducks will adore you forever! Their innate affection for the water also requires they have a miniature pool or pond of water in which to bathe and swim.
Call Ducks also need quality homes, and pens work well, and many options exist. An adequate pen for two drakes and four hens is 5' by 8’. For breeding, the size of pens should be larger. Generally, 8' by 16’ pens work well. Each larger pen should have a pond that is at least 4' by 8', accompanied by a couple of pine trees to provide shade. Call Ducks will trample any grass growing at their feet, so do not anticipate having a lavish, lush greenery on the ground of the pens; it simply will not grow. Dirt works just fine and plus they enjoy digging through it. During the non-breeding season, Call Ducks can be housed together in a community pen. Community pens should be at least 24' by 30'. Of course, any good community pen will have a pool for bathing, swimming, splashing, and playing. By February, the ducks should say good-bye to each other until next season and move back into their breeding quarters to live with their significant other.
In the breeding pens, the males are the most fortunate. Usually for every drake there should be two hens. Two drakes and four hens per pen works well during breeding season to ensure high fertility rates, and reduce the risk of a non-fertile male. However, two drakes and an abundance of hens can make for a hostile environment. Watch out for a little competition and hostile drakes. If they begin to fight with each other, each drake and his two girlfriends may need to be separated. Another potential situation may arise from the overly competent drake who is more than ready to begin procreation. Sometimes a male may refuse to rest during the breeding process. In this situation, the hens need a break, and should be moved into a different pen. While these occurrences are often rarities, nonetheless, they will affect the quality of breeding if left unattended.
In February, and sometimes as early as January, Calls will start laying eggs. These eggs are relatively large for the little beings inside, and light blue-green to off-white in color. Hens may lay as many forty eggs in a single season if the eggs are collected to be placed in an artificial incubator. If natural incubation is chosen, the hens will lay 8 to 12 eggs; and the eggs will hatch in 23 to 24 days. Once the ducklings hatch, the hens make wonderful mothers. Should eggs be unattended by the hens, incubators provide an excellent alternative. When relying on incubators, sometimes when ducklings first hatch, the bottom area where they received their food while in the egg may not be completely developed. Not to worry. This spot will heal before you take the duck out of the incubator. Once out of the incubator, call ducks can be put with wild ducklings to teach them how to eat.
Once they are big enough to move in with the grown-up ducks, these little lives will grow up to be wonderful, quacking, eating, drinking and mess-making creatures! They are excellent additions to any family or farm for their good natures and individual personalities.