This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Why is it that our farmers, and fanciers, too, almost ignore the good qualities of the duck?
They are no more difficult to rear than chickens, if proper care is taken the first few weeks, and they mature much earlier. The common duck does not require any more care; but it is not to these that we specially refer. We do not see the advantage of raising ducks that weigh two or three pounds at maturity, rather than those that will weigh six to eight. And there is just about that difference between the common duck and either the Aylesbury or Rouen varieties. It cost hardly if any more to raise an Aylesbury or Rouen than the common mud-puddle variety; and laying beauty (which is a great desideratum with us) aside, there is still the gain in weight as well as the gain in eggs the coming year.
Either of the above varieties is desirable, and the choice may be said to lie almost with one's fancy. Both are excellent layers, frequently commencing to lay in the fall and continuing until cold weather, recommencing in February or March and not ceasing until July or August, and mature at about the same age, reaching about the same weight, which sometimes attains 18 to 191bs per pair. This weight, though, is very rare.
It seems to be the impression with many, that ducks can not be kept except with a pond or stream on the premises. But this is a mistaken notion. True, a running stream, or when that is not to be had, a pond of water, is a great help, but it is not a necessity. We have known fine broods raised with a large tub or box sunk into the ground and filled daily with fresh water. A good way to do this is to excavate the ground under the tub to the depth of eighteen inches or two feet, and fill the hole up with stones; have a hole and plug right over the excavation, and the water will run off easily and freely, and not keep the ground around the tub continually muddy.
"But they eat so much," is the reply; "why, half a dozen ducks will eat a half bushel of corn a day." Now, reader, did you ever compare critically the amount consumed respectively by a duck and a hen ? If not, do so, and you may discover less difference than you persuaded yourself there was. The idea of ducks eating so much is a good deal like the Dutchman's pig. Hans had von leetle pig, no bigger dan von cat. He give ter leetle pig von pail of swill; piggy eats ter swill all up; den he puts him in ter pail, and he no fill ter pail half full.