In my opinion, duck search training can be one of the harder parts of training for the NAVHDA Utility Test. Not only does your dog have to learn to be comfortable in the water at far distances from you, finding an appropriate swamp, people to help you, and live ducks can be a major challenge. Given that this is my third summer working on duck search training with Zara, I’ve had multiple experiences locating live ducks. Here are some tips to help you on your search.
My first choice for buying live ducks would be to visit a bird grower. These people are usually raising hundreds, if not thousands, of birds a year and regularly have a good stock. Additionally, they’re probably not going to ask a lot of questions about what you’re going to do with the ducks. They’re certainly already selling to hunting preserves and other people training dogs. To find a bird grower in your area, try searching the following terms on Google:
- Game birds for sale
- Ducks for sale
- Bird grower in (your area)
The problem is, at least where I live, the growers typically don’t have mature birds over the summer months, which is usually when duck search training is happening. Because of this, I’ve had to go down other avenues to find ducks.
Craigslist is Your Friend
By far, I’ve had the most success finding ducks using Craigslist.org. A few years ago, Facebook Marketplace outlawed the sale of live animals on their platform. Thankfully, Craigslist still allows it. Keep in mind that when you’re searching Craigslist, a lot of the posting for ducks will be from small hobby farms or just individuals who have a few extra ducks they’d like to rehome. This means that people may expect you to be keeping the ducks as pets, not setting them loose in a swamp to be retrieved by your hunting dog. I try to be very vague about why I want the ducks and thankfully, I’ve not had to tell anyone what I’m actually using them for.
A few years ago, I picked up seven ducks from an older lady that I found on Craigslist. She carefully carried each duck to my crate and kissed them goodbye. I got out of there as quickly as I could before she could ask too many questions.
Sifting through thousands of Craigslist posts can be difficult, but there are ways to find what you’re looking for a little easier.
Try Different Search Terms
I’ve noticed that I get different results depending on the terms I use. Try “ducks”, “mallards” or “mallard.” I have also used Rouen ducks for duck search training. They look very similar to mallards but are a little bigger. You can search “rouen” as well.
Include Nearby Areas
Make sure the “include nearby areas” option is checked when you are searching. This opens up your search to posts that are outside of your nearest town or city. Sometimes you may need to drive an hour or two to find ducks.
Filter by Newest
I always make sure to filter by “newest” instead of “most relevant.” If I’m checking Craigslist every day, I can ensure that I’m always seeing new posts and that way, I know which ones I’ve looked at.
Check Out Any Relevant Posts
In my searches, I’ve noticed that most of the ducks people are selling are breeds I don’t want – muscovies, pekins, call ducks, etc. However, even if the name of their post has one of these breeds in the title, it’s worth clicking on the post just to double check. I’ve definitely seen posts where people are selling multiple breeds of ducks and while mallards aren’t listed in the title, they are farther down the list. It’s also worth checking on posts that have ducklings. Even if you only want adult ducks, sometimes people who are selling ducklings also have a few older animals to sell as well.
Try a Wanted Ad
About a month ago, I decided to post a wanted ad for ducks just in case someone came across it. I included a photo of some mallard ducks that I found online, stated that I was looking for adult mallards, and included my location. While it seemed like a long shot, I have had two people email me who are selling ducks. So it’s worth a shot!
Keeping ducks in an old dog crate is one of the easier ways to transport them.
While searching on Craigslist, I came across a post for an animal auction, called the Wicked Chicken Auction. Each Saturday, they sell various poultry and livestock that people bring to them. I haven’t gone, but I have seen multiple ducks on their Facebook page. I’m not sure how common this type of auction is, but if you live in a more rural area, you may be able to find something similar where you could buy live ducks.
Another source of live ducks could be farmers. Maybe they have a few older ducks that they were using for breeding that they’d like to get rid of. Consider talking to farmers at local farmer’s markets and see if they ever have adults for sale. I haven’t tried this route, but it’s a viable option depending on where you live.
Build Your Own Duck Pen/Use a Friend’s Pen
If you have the space in your yard to build your own duck pen, this can be very helpful. If you have your own pen, then you can buy multiple ducks when you find a source. You can use a few for training and keep the rest to use over the next few weeks or months. If you don’t have your own pen, you will only be able to keep them in a small crate/duck box for a few days before using them. This means you will be looking for ducks every time you want to go duck searching. You could also buy young ducks, let them mature for a few weeks, and use them when they’re ready.
Having your own pen is also helpful if your dog has a soft mouth. If they bring back all their duck search ducks still alive, you may be able to put them back in the pen and reuse them another day.
If you’re not able to have your own pen, either due to space or because your partner won’t let you, you may be able to partner up with another NAVHDA chapter member who has a pen. If you supply the food, perhaps they will allow you to keep ducks at their house.
If you have the time and resources to do so, you may consider raising your own ducklings. The best time of year to do this would probably be early spring, so that the ducks would be mature by the time you are ready to train for duck search in the summer. Newly hatched ducklings are pretty easy to come by, either by ordering online through a grower like Metzer Farms or find them locally on Craigslist or at a store like Tractor Supply.
Ducklings do require special care when they are young, including a heat lamp and appropriate food. Ducks are known for being very messy and ducklings are no exception. One of my fellow NAVHDA chapter members raised ducklings last year in his bathtub. He said he would never do it again. So make sure you have an appropriate place to house them before you jump on board this train.
My best advice for finding ducks to use for duck search training is to get creative, check Craigslist frequently, and don’t be afraid to drive an hour or more. While it can be stressful trying to locate ducks, if you partner up with a few other people, you likely can pool your resources and be able to find some more easily. Don’t be afraid to ask around, especially if you know other bird dog owners. They may have a connection to a grower or hobby farmer.
Have you used other sources to find ducks? Let me know by leaving a comment below.