Duck Lifespan: How Long Do Ducks Live?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: December 22, 2021
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ducks in flight
Depending on the breed, ducks can live anywhere from five to ten years on average, but they can live up to twenty years if properly cared for.

iStock.com/Nathanx1

Depending on the breed, ducks can live anywhere from five to ten years on average, but they can live up to twenty years if properly cared for.

In part, the lifespan of a duck is determined by its genetics. However, there are many human-controlled elements that can influence the outcome of their longevity. Nutrition, housing, health and well-being, and environment are all factors in this.

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How Long Do Ducks Live?

mallard sitting atop a rock
Mallard ducks in the wild have a lifespan of between three and five years. They can live as old as Pekins and Calls if properly cared for in a good homestead environment.

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The mallard, the most common duck in the United States, will be the focus of this article. The mallard can be found on almost every flight path. They are in abundance in the lower Mississippi basin and the Gulf Coast, however many linger as far north as the open water allows them.

Mallard ducks in the wild have a lifespan of between five to ten years. They can live as old as Pekins and Calls if properly cared for in a good homestead environment.

Lifespan: Domestic Duck

The average life span of a domestic duck is 10 years or less. As a rule, the larger breeds of duck have the shortest life spans. Mallard ducks are domesticated in the same way as most agricultural animals. It is typically raised for meat and/or eggs. This results in a larger, heavier duck with a higher egg-laying rate than wild breeds. Because farmed ducks can’t fly, their wings are often shorter than wild ducks’.

The mallard is a popular farmed duck breed. It is believed that this duck was domesticated in South Asia from a wild mallard strain. They are still allowed into rice paddy areas to consume insects that harm crops.

Lifespan: Wild Mallards

A wild mallard’s lifespan ranges from five to ten years. Wild mallards are smaller and leaner than domesticated mallards and can live longer; that is if predators don’t get to them first. In the first year of life, more than half of mallard ducks will be eaten by predators such as the American crow and mink, as well as the fox, coyote, raccoon, squirrel, and snapping turtle.

Lifespan: Pet Ducks

Pet ducks can live past the age of 20 in exceptional cases when well cared for!

Domesticated ducks are widely bred as pets, especially as ducklings for seasonal festivities and holidays. Typically, these ducks are not properly cared for and either die of accidental neglect or are killed or rejected as adults.

Domesticated ducks released into the wild face several major difficulties, including malnutrition and famine, but also improper food from park-goers like bread and crackers can teach them incorrect foraging skills and quickly worsen their health. Ducks need plants and protein, not sugary simple carbs.

A well-cared-for pet duck can live for ten years or more. Several accounts exist of pet ducks living into their twenties. Among the stories are Ernie, 21, and Edwina, 22, both from the UK. A Mallard drake (male duck) presently holds the world record for the oldest duck at 26 years 4 months!

Factors that Affect Duck Longevity

A Mallard duck in flight
Wild mallards are outstanding flyers. Migrating mallards can fly 800 miles in eight hours with a 50 mph tailwind. 

Whether you keep ducks as pets or let them go free in your farm fields. ducks have needs beyond basic food, water, and shelter. If you are a duck owner, there are many ways to maintain their general health.

The health of a domestic or pet duck is determined by:

Healthy Food And Clean Water

Ducks need plenty of greens. If you let ducks roam free around your backyard or comparable area, they will eliminate weeds and keep the grass trimmed. That keeps their energy and nutrient levels up. If you have clean vegetable peelings, this can give them a boost. Grit also helps ducks digest the food they’ve eaten elsewhere, which helps them live longer.

Finally, provide plenty of clean water for your ducks. Anyone who owns ducks knows they love to swim and play in the water, thus putting out only a bowl full at a time will result in frequent refilling. Give your ducks fresh water at least twice a day, in a container deep enough for their heads to submerge.

Proper Shelter

Making sure ducks have a comfortable place to sleep and shelter is as vital as providing them with food. While ducks are very low-maintenance compared to other birds, you may need to provide some housing for your flock depending on your location/weather.

Ducks don’t require much. Their home might be a 3-foot high wooden box or an old doghouse with four square feet of floor area for each duck. A warm nook of the house with a straw pile is ideal for a nest.

Ample Space

Allowing your ducks to range freely will keep them busy all day. If you keep ducks in a coop or tractor, relocate it often. This gives them access to fresh grass and a change of scenery, which is good for their health.

Vet Care

Well-being includes veterinary care. Regular flock checks and early medical attention are ways to ensure your duck enjoys a long life. You can also buy natural supplements to add to meals and drink to help prevent sickness and illness.

Keep It Domesticated

Wild mallards are outstanding flyers. Migrating mallards can fly 800 miles in eight hours with a 50 mph tailwind. Because many duck species migrate large distances in the winter, their wings are short, powerful, and pointed.

Releasing mallard ducks into the wild that have been raised by humans is a death sentence, as they are unable to fend for themselves. Those without wild impulses will be unable to migrate or can become too fat to fly. It’s also against the law to own and release domestic ducks on public grounds.

All the above-mentioned care tips are necessary to ensure your duck lives a long life. If you aren’t thoughtful, you risk losing your duck before it has a chance to fully mature.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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