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How Long Do Ducks Live? | Wild Ducks vs. Domestic Duck Lifespans!

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Like geese and swans, ducks are members of the Anatidae bird family. Ducks are talkative and comical. And they are becoming increasingly popular with homesteaders and others who enjoy the benefits of natural pest control, namely because their webbed feet can’t destroy landscapes like the taloned claws of chickens. Duck eggs are also nutritious and delicious – and especially valuable when baking.

But how long do ducks live?

Well, that’s what we’re here to learn today!

So, keep reading to learn about how long wild ducks live, how long a pet duck lives, and the expected age limits for different duck breeds – like Bantam ducks, Call ducks, Indian Runner ducks, Khaki Campbell ducks, Mallard ducks, Muscovy ducks, Pekin ducks (white ducks), and Rouen ducks.

Plus, we’ll review several vital factors determining how long the average duck lives – like access to veterinary care, proper nutrition, protective shelter, and companionship. That’s right. Ducks are social birds that don’t favor being alone. We can’t blame them!

OK, ready? Let’s get quacking!

How Long Do Ducks Live?

male and female mallard ducks swimming gracefully in the lake
Mallard ducks can live up to 20 years in a domestic setting. But undomesticated (or wild) ducks don’t have as much luck. Wild ducks are always at risk of a predator attack from wolves, coyotes, hawks, raccoons, and falcons. Ducks also have to compete with other animals for food. Not to mention diseases. These stressors help reduce the survival rate of wild ducks compared to domestic farm ducks.

Some geese species can indeed live up to 20 years in the wild. But wild ducks don’t typically live that long. However, ducks are resilient animals that have adapted to diverse habitats and living conditions. And they are champions of cold-weather survival. Even still, there is a surprising disparity between wild duck and domesticated duck lifespans. 

Let’s look at each closer.

How Long Do Wild Ducks Live?

two male mallard ducks flying freely
It’s tricky to pin down exactly how long wild ducks live. Several reliable sources say that wild Mallard ducks live for approximately five to ten years. We also found another trustworthy source saying the oldest known wild Mallard duck was over 26 years old! This crude but fascinating dataset proves that some lucky ducks live longer than others – especially in the wild.

Ducks are aquatic birds living in seawater and freshwater habitats worldwide, except for Antarctica. Most male and female ducks that live in wild habitats are lucky to reach the age of 10 years.

Further, baby ducklings have a very high mortality rate, with up to 90% of populations dying within the first four weeks of life, never becoming fledglings. About 50% of ducks never reach adulthood.

For ducklings that do manage to stay alive, most will live between five and eight years, but, of course, some wild ducks live much longer, depending upon various factors, including the availability of food, low impact from natural predators, managing to avoid extreme weather, and having strong genetics.

And, of course, who’s to say how long wild ducks live? It’s not like most wild ducks are tagged, tracked, and monitored. Still, it’s typically agreed that most wild ducks will never live a decade.

So, what kills them?

Top Killers of Wild Ducks

female mallard duck watching over her small baby duckling flock
Baby ducklings are some of the most adorable creatures mother nature has ever created. The only problem is that so many predators love eating them! That’s one reason for the much lower baby duckling survival rate in the wild vs. captivity. Baby ducklings are the constant target of predators like wolves, coyotes, snakes, foxes, cats, snapping turtles, hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, skunks, and many other predators.

Ducks are prone to diseases like avian cholera, duck viral enteritis, duck viral hepatitis, and riemerella anatipestifer. But it’s not a disease that kills most ducks.

Predators do.

Just about everything in the wild tends to eat ducks and little ducklings, including bullfrogs, cats, dogs, ferrets, foxes, eagles, hawks, lizards, raccoons, snakes, stoats, turtles, weasels, and even fish like the largemouth bass and northern pike.

Raw duck is super tasty! – At least, for wild predators.

OK, so what about domestic ducks? How long do they live?

How Long Do Domestic Ducks Live?

As you probably expect, an adult duck can live much longer in captivity than in the wild, as long as two decades or more. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest duck lived in Grahamstown, South Africa, and reached the age of 49 years!

Domestic ducks live longer than wild ducks for obvious reasons, including the ready availability of nutritious food, clean water, protective housing, far fewer predators, and the general well-being associated with those other human-assisted factors.

Over the years, when a duck believes it is not in need or in danger of being eaten alive, it tends to have a more relaxed demeanor, likely contributing to a longer life.

Let’s dig deeper into why domestic ducks live longer than wild ducks.

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Factors that Affect Domestic Duck Lifespans

On a homestead, ducks tend to live longer than wild ducks. The following are some of the vital factors determining the brevity or longevity of the average duck.

Access to Veterinary Care

veterinarian caring for baby farm ducklings
Stressful living conditions and the constant threat of predation aren’t the only reasons domestic ducks might live longer than wild ducks. Domestic farmyard ducks can also get duck healthcare. Veterinary checkups can keep domestic ducks healthy in several ways. Animal vet visits can help ensure domestic ducks stay protected from common duck diseases, have adequate nutrition, and enjoy life with as few stressors as possible.

Of course, the typical wild duck never sees a vet. However, some ducks who live on homesteads do enjoy this privilege. Frequent veterinary checkups help to ensure that a duck stays healthy, and ducks that get routinely checked enjoy the early detection of disease onset or other potential problems that can affect the general health of the flock. In the event of trauma, a vet’s assistance can be irreplaceable.

Genetics

Like humans and every other animal species, some ducks are born healthier than others. Further, purebred duck breeds tend to live longer than mixed duck breeds.

Nutrition for Ducks

When a duck has a loving human caretaker, it will enjoy nutritious foods and water additives that help it to thrive long-term. Ducks need different nutrition at different developmental stages. For instance, baby ducklings tend to do best on duck starter feed, which is high in protein and contains other vital nutrients.

Then, when a duckling is about six weeks old, its food can get switched to a lower protein content to reduce the risk of it becoming too bulky or overweight. And, of course, ducks need more than protein. They need vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients found in plants.

So never hesitate to feed your ducks your scrap raw garden vegetables to ensure they get a well-rounded balance of the nutrients that will help them to flourish. And, like every other living organism, ducks do best when they have a plenteous supply of fresh, clean, bill-washing water!

Protective Duck Shelter

It’s critical to ensure that your ducks have a comfortable and protective shelter if you want them to live their best lives with the best health. It’s true that ducks are independent and that no natural duck ever really needed a human-built shelter, but it doesn’t hurt – and can only help.

In the wild, ducks have to find natural shelters, which are also prone to be invaded by, you guessed it, any number of hungry, sharp-toothed predators.

The good news is a duck doesn’t need a large or fancy home. A shelter that’s about four square feet in area and about three feet high is all they need. So, it’s easy, fast, and inexpensive to build your ducks the housing they require to stay safer, more relaxed, and protected from extreme weather.

Room to Roam

Don’t forget that ducks are natural animals, so they need plenty of physical activity to go along with nutritious food, veterinary care when needed, and a shielding shelter.

They need exercise too.

Nobody likes a fat duck.

So, even if you keep your ducks inside a fenced coop, it’s vital to ensure that they have plenty of room to roam. And, of course, it’s satisfying if they have a small pond, or at least a plastic swimming pool, to get in, cool off, float around, and dunk their ducky heads.

Exercise is fantastic for all creatures, helping to fight disease, boost energy, maintain muscle mass, improve mood, and remain strong and agile throughout life. Plus, when ducks roam around, they can pick up and eat grit on their travels, which helps for healthy digestion.

OK. We’ve covered the basics of how long wild ducks live and how long domestic ducks live. So now, let’s dive deeper into this pond to discover how long ducks live based on specific breeds.

How Long Do Ducks Live by Breed?

two mallard ducks flying over a lovely autumn countryside
We’ve been researching how long various duck breeds live. We learned that average wild duck lifespans aren’t well documented – and most life expectancy estimates are somewhat similar among duck breeds. We suppose this is partially because most domestic ducks derive from Mallard ducks, the only notable exception being the Muscovy duck. It also reminds us that most wild Mallards die before reaching two years, leading us to believe that having a safe place to live is arguably more critical than the duck’s breed. (The young ducklings die due to predation, disease, hunting, et cetera.)

While there’s not much difference between them, different breeds of ducks have different expected lifespans. Let’s look at Bantam ducks, Call ducks, Indian Runner ducks, Khaki Campbell ducks, Mallard ducks, Muscovy ducks, Pekin (white) ducks, and Rouen ducks, some of the best-known breeds.

Man, this is fun!

(Ducks rule.)

How Long Do Bantam Ducks Live?

white call duck standing and exploring a green pasture
Here you see a white Call duck, which is a tiny bantam. These cute ducks have large blue eyes, bright orange beaks, and short, plump legs.

Of all the duck species, Bantam ducks tend to live the longest. Black East Indies ducks – and Call ducks are members of the Bantam duck family, an ornamental breed. Bantam ducks are thinner than most other ducks. And they grow slowly, enabling them to remain (seemingly) young longer than other ducks. Male Bantam ducks typically live at least a decade. And females live even longer.

How Long Do Indian Runner Ducks Live?

indian runner duck exploring alongside a river
Runner ducks are excellent egg layers. They also have pleasant personalities and aren’t as loud as other duck breeds.

If you’re looking for a duck that lives a long life in the wild, the Indian Runner isn’t it. In the wild, Indian Runner ducks typically only live one or two years. However, Indian Runners raised in captivity can live up to 12 years old or longer. The average Indian Runner duck in captivity lives for about eight years.

How Long Do Khaki Campbell Ducks Live?

khaki campbell ducks exploring alongside the water
Khaki Cambell ducks are flawless farmyard friends that produce upwards of 300 delicious eggs yearly. They’re also adorable. Watching them frolic around the farm is a pleasure.

Domestic Khaki Campbell ducks can live long lifespans, up to 15 years. However, one may expect an average lifespan of about a decade for a Khaki Campbell if you raise and care for it well.

How Long Do Mallard Ducks Live?

small mallard duck flock flying in nature
Mallards are arguably the most easily recognizable waterfowl. Both sexes have an iconic blue iridescent stripe on their wings. The males are straightforward to distinguish by their green iridescent head plumage.

In the wild, Mallard ducks can live between five and ten years on average. However, with proper care and a healthy environment, Mallards can live up to 20 years when raised domestically.

How Long Do Muscovy Ducks Live?

muscovy ducks exploring on a rural backyard farm
Muscovy ducks are the only domestic ducks not from the Mallard line. They usually have black and white feathers. They also have lovely bright red or orange caruncles around their eyes.

Showing off their fancy dark plumage, Muscovy ducks typically live longer in the wild than most other larger breeds. They can live eight or up to nine years in the wilderness. And when raised domestically, nine years is a pretty ordinary number. Muscovy ducks are tropical birds, but they can adapt to cooler climates. And they’re naturally hardy and resistant to avian disease. They also require less care from humans than most other duck species.

How Long Do Pekin (White) Ducks Live?

pekin ducks exploring land around a small lake
Pekin ducks are one of the most popular pet ducks in America. We also read that Pekin ducks heavily inspired the legendary Aflac duck. And Donald Duck!

Relatives of Mallards, white Pekin ducks are the ones that start so cute as little yellow ducklings. Some people call them yellow ducks, others call them white ducks, but they are the same. These comical, fun ducks sometimes live as long as 20 years, but the typical lifespan is about a decade.

How Long Do Rouen Ducks Live?

big and colorful rouen ducks swimming in a lake and grazing for yummy snacks
Many ducks derive from the Mallard duck. And in no case is this as blatant as with the Rouen duck! Mallards and Rouens look identical apart from two nuances – size and color. Rouens are slightly larger and slightly brighter.

Rouen ducks look similar to Mallard ducks. And they originated in France pre-19th century. They’re bulkier ducks than most and very ornamental. People use them mainly for exhibitions and meat production. However, they are not very good layers, and most homesteaders do not prefer them for egg production. These ducks live between 5-10 years, on average.

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Maximizing Your Ducks’ Lifespans & Happiness

As a duck owner, you must provide your feathery friends with proper care, basic shelter, food, and water. Ducks are social animals. Like other flock animals, they feel more comfortable when they’re not alone. They can help each other to look out for and spot predators and other threats, which can help them to be generally more relaxed, happy, and productive.

You do not have to have males with females unless that’s your goal. You can let two or more females hang out together for socialization, mutual protection, and a higher quality of life, and that will work out just fine. It’s also essential to ensure that your ducks have room to roam. (As we’ve discussed.)

Getting out in the sunshine, swimming in the pond or swimming pool, eating bugs, pecking at grit, and getting a lot of exercises will keep your ducks healthy, happy, and enjoying their lives for the longest time possible.

And, of course, it’s wise to have at least an annual checkup from your local vet. Regular vet checkups will help to spot any existing or developing health concerns that may detract from the lifespan of your feathered friends. Ask your vet about any antibiotics or nutritional supplements you should use with your regular diet.

Conclusion

Well, now you know. You know the average life expectancy of most ducks!

Yay, you!

Now, you can impress your friends and neighbors with your new knowledge, and you are much better prepared to care for your ducks and enjoy their company for years to come.

Thanks for reading, and may every duck live a super-happy life!

How Long Do Ducks Live – Resources, Guides, and Works Cited

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