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Frequently Asked Questions

Because of the demand, we are sorry that we can normally deal directly with enquiries only from members of the Indian Runner Duck Association.

UK Queries

Blue Runners

QUESTION: Hello there I would really like some advice. I have kept chickens for several years but yesterday I bought two Runner ducklings. They are just old enough to go outside. When we went to buy these ducklings they were kept in a greenhouse with the door open. It was a very hot day yesterday and they had some chick crumb down but no water. There was one dead in the run they where in. The man said he thought it was the runt. I pointed out that they had no water left in their bowl and the man said if they had lots of water available they drink themselves to death and drown internally and that I should only put down enough water to line the bottom of a small bowl for all day. I would really like to know what to do? I have given them half a small bowl this morning and they have had it all. I'm very confused.

If they are fed chick crumbs with insufficient water they will dehydrate. If they are then given water after filling themselves with chick crumbs, the crumbs then swell up enormously inside and they will die from the pressure, which also interferes with their breathing . Duck do not drink themselves to death. Wild ducks live on water and they need to drink frequently. They are not chicks. The water container needs to be of a design which stops then falling in head first and drowning. What is wrong with a drinking fountain? The red based one for small birds, the green based larger container (often raised on legs) for larger birds. Washing up bowls also work well for birds at 4 weeks plus - maybe these are 3-weeks old? Always make sure they can get out of a water container if they can get in.

I am amazed at his 'advice'. Perhaps he was used to chickens as well. And perhaps he should have found out more about them first before selling them. Responsible sellers put welfare first, and I am sure you are familiar with that.

QUESTION: I hope you don’t mind me messaging you, I would appreciate your advice. My sister has two pet ducks, one is an Indian runner and the other is a Khaki Campbell cross. She has had them from hatching and they are now both 7 months old. She was told they were both female and they do seem to be, they do not have curly tails and are both rather noisy. One or both have recently laid a few eggs but my sister is a bit concerned as she has recently noticed them mounting each other, and biting at the neck. This mainly seems to happen around a small water bowl. Could one in fact be a Donald or is this just dominant behaviour by one of them in particular? She is concerned as she eats the eggs.

Females behave like that in the absence of a drake - if they both quack they are female. Too many drakes are a nuisance, but ducks do like one of them in the group. The females can also get very noisy, calling out for a mate, if they have not got one. It's a nuisance if they eat the eggs – check that they have enough calcium/ phosphorus in the diet for good eggshell formation i.e. they need a layer pellet ration, and access to mixed poultry grit.

Many thanks for the reply, it was most helpful. I meant my sister eats the eggs, not the ducks, lol!

QUESTION: As an events co-ordinator I am currently pulling together a programme of activities for our summer open day. We are always looking for original and entertaining ways of introducing wildlife to the public and raising the profile of more unusual breeds. Therefore, after seeing 'Runner Duck Racing' at another event last year I was hoping to arrange a similar activity. However, I have been unsuccessful in sourcing anybody who does this. I was hoping that you may be able to point me in the right direction or provide me with any useful contacts in my area. I look forward to hearing from you.

I'm sure that 'Runner Duck Racing ' looks very attractive for the spectators - but not for the ducks! Most keepers of pet ducks or pure exhibition Indian Runners would not allow them to be used for such an 'event'. Ducks are a prey species and don't especially like being handled and moved around in an unfamiliar situation. Although they are used for sheep-dog training, there are guidelines which should be followed i.e. only drakes are used (females can experience oviduct problems which will cause their death if they rushed around); the drakes should be familiar with the dog (and vice versa) so that the dog's behaviour is known to be reliable i.e. they are well trained and will not touch the birds. I've added that in case you think of getting a sheep dog herding demonstration instead. Unless these are done by well-trained dog and fit drakes, the birds get very stressed. It might be more desirable to have a static display of breeds of birds and how to look after them?

Thank you for your response to my enquiry. I am grateful that you have brought this to my attention, as I had not previously realised that this was a welfare issue for the birds. As animal well-being is paramount we absolutely would not want to arrange any activities or demonstrations that would cause unnecessary stress or harm to the birds. Thank you for your suggestion of the static display, which is definitely something that I will look into further.

QUESTION: I got your e mail from Indian Runner Helpline, can you assist please. We have a runner drake, a runner female and 2 Khaki Campbells in our garden. Have had them for about 2 years and they are pets. Over the last 2 months the drake keeps "servicing " the white female runner about every hour!!!! and does not touch the Campbells. The female is now suffering, does not run with the others, back of the neck is red and she is becoming more and more withdrawn and does not look well. Is there anyway I can keep the drake off her, beside penning etc which would be a problem re pond etc? Many thanks for your time, Pete

You must separate the white female from the offending drake. Females can die through damage to the oviduct from this behaviour when they are in lay - as she probably is. Do the KCs lay?? Check if the female is eating - birds which fail to eat often have a bacterial infection which needs an antibiotic from the vet. If she eats and drinks - no need to worry.

[PS The duck recovered well after she had been separated from the drake.]

QUESTION: Hi, a friend of mine has just presented me with 2 hard boiled runner duck eggs, the white seems normal but the yolk is mostly yellow with a thin layer approx 1mm thick that looks like a layer of raspberry ripple. Would be grateful for any ideas as to what this could be. Thanks, Richard M

Sorry - don't know. Blood specks sometimes appear in eggs - but not whole layers.
PS I do wonder if the egg had been incubated for a few days (perhaps by the duck|) - before boiling?

QUESTION: I am thinking about buying a pair of Indian Runners. But I would like to know a thing or two about them first. I have two white Campbell females - will the Runner ducks get on with them when they are both out in the garden? Also are Runner ducks noisy because I have neighbours close by.

Runner ducks are no more noisy than Campbells. Of course it is the females who are the noisy ones because of the quack. But compared with Call ducks, they are quiet.

A pair of Runners means male and a female. If your females are not used to a drake then they may get a bit of a culture shock as they are not used to being mated. But a ratio of three females to one male is good. Don’t get more than one male.

QUESTION: We are interested in acquiring some Runner ducks, but also first need some information about their habits and requirements, to make sure we can make them happy. If you could point us towards some good information, we'd be grateful. (eg a question -- do we need a drake? We already have six chickens, but are still novice poultry-keepers).

No, you do not need a drake, but most Runners will be sold in pairs (a duck and a drake). If you want several females in ducks then they have to be purchased from a commercial hatchery where the males are culled at day old. Khaki Campbells and white commercial ducks can be purchased in this way, but pure breeds are produced mostly by hobby keepers who are not prepared to cull large numbers of healthy drakes.

Why not start off with a pair of Runners and get more ducks if they are available? As with the poultry, it’s best not to keep many males with the females. Runner breeders tend to keep the birds in small groups (pairs, trios) and do not run a lot of drakes with females. There are management pages under CARE on this Runner website.


QUESTION: Are Indian Runners a protected species? There are some in our subdivision lake lot, and our neighbours want them removed. You can't catch them because they run away, and we don't want them harmed. Can you stop them laying eggs? I think that is one of their gripes. Marc

We get we get a lot of letters from the USA regarding birds which have been 'dumped' on city lakes. The park authorities sometimes want to cull them. The Runner is not a protected species. Runners are domesticated ducks which have been developed from the wild mallard. So the Runner is the same species as the mallard, even though they look very different. The best solution is to catch all the Runners by making a large corral - when you have arranged a home for them to go to. You cannot stop the females laying eggs - they have been bred to be good layers! The life span of the females is less than that of the males. This is because of laying eggs. Also if the male population is too high, the females will suffer. You could re-home the females to someone who would like the birds and the eggs - and leave the males on the lake if just the eggs are the problem.

QUESTION: What is the correct name for Indian Runner Ducks?

The person enquiring about Runner ducks probably expects that Calls have a Latin name e.g Anas penelope (wigeon). The Latin system was developed by Linnaeus (1707-1778) so that it would be universal. Life was divided into large groups called Phyla, and then into smaller groups which had similarities.

Birds are vertebrates in the phylum Chordata
Sub phylum - vertebrates
Class - Aves = birds
Order - Anseriformes
Sub-family - Anatinae
Genus - Anas
Species - platyrhynchos (this is a mallard).

It is believed that all domestic ducks (except the Muscovy ) have been developed from the wild mallard. This means that the Indian Runner, the Call duck and the Rouen are very similar to each other. They are all the same species and can inter-breed. They do not therefore, each have their own Latin name. They are simply varieties of the same basic genetic material as the mallard.

Domesticated varieties are given common names such as 'Indian Runner'. Call ducks have been called Decoys (see the history page). They are known as dwarf ducks (zwerg-enten), kwakertjee in Holland and mignon in France.

QUESTION: I'm sorry to bother you with this question I'm looking for Runner or Call ducks for herding purposes - but I'm in the USA. Are there any breeders this way?

Calls are no good for herding - the poor little souls could not move fast enough, their legs are too short. If ducks are used, they are usually Indian Runners or Campbells. Heavy ducks are no good either.

Don't use females. They have to lay eggs and should not be put under stress. Drakes ( males) are fine but, if they are Runners, they should not be the tall, slim exhibition type. Something a bit more robust should be used. There must be lots of Runners in the USA. Look up the website feathersite and Metzer game farm.

QUESTION: We're not members of your club yet (we live in Maryland USA). But please consider returning a word on the following question...we'd VERY MUCH appreciate it. Neighbors gave us 2 Indian Runner chicks--the hen and "Dad" are pure bred from a breeder. Both are about 5 weeks old now, and appear happy/health except that their legs tremble badly when standing still. We've read books that indicate a lack of nutrients could be the trouble.
Other facts:
Primary feed is granular "poultry starter"
We've also given crickets and earth worms (they love them) well as some boiled chicken eggs and wheat bread.
They've had little sun due to time of year. Most time is spent in a small pen with a heat lamp and cedar chip floor (in draft-free barn). Pen is kept clean, but ducks manage to get damp from poop and water spills anyway. They stay clean and dry for the most part though.
We tried putting 100mg Niacin (crushed from capsules for humans) into 1 gallon of water each day--no change If there's a short answer, or if you can give ANY advise--we'd very much appreciate hearing from you. K & C

I wonder if the birds are still on poultry starter? If they are, then it could be too high in protein. By 5 weeks of age, the protein content should be 16% in grower pellets (used in the UK ). I appreciate that the ducklings were given to you and the hatching time was therefore beyond your control. Advice to others is that hatching of waterfowl (unless for commercial purposes) should be done in spring. Then the birds can get out and exercise. Lack of exercise is probably the other cause of the wobbly legs – and possibly lack of sunlight. Exercise is especially important for Runners because of their carriage and thigh length. Do check the underside of the Runners’ feet to see if they are cracked and sore. We use whitewood shavings for bedding in the UK – how rough is the cedar?

In the circumstances, the ducks are getting a good diet (though check the protein) but I think that exercise outdoors is the only way to really resolve this problem. Best of luck
PS I wonder if they still need a heat lamp? What is the temperature underneath it?

(i) Subject: Runners bent over Sun, 3 Mar 2002

I'm noticing some of my Runners aged 8 to 10 weeks old have started to walk bent forward from the base of the neck. I'd started them on chick starter as I couldn't get any waterfowl feed locally. After they got a bit older, the only feed I could get was broiler starter or laying crumbles.

After feeding the broiler and laying feed, is when I started noticing the problem. They appear healthy otherwise, no unusual droppings, eating and drinking well, etc.- just the odd stance. The older ones and the youngest ones of this group of 19 show no symptoms. Just the 11 of the middle age. I'm sure it was caused by the feed as there are no signs of illness. Is there anything I can do other than putting them down? Thanks.

It’s a strange one and without seeing the birds very difficult to offer advice. Given the age and the feed that they are eating, I think the problem is too much protein and not enough exercise. We have had something like it in the past when I have kept birds in a large shed a little longer than usual and also kept them on high protein feed too long as well. The problem is that they grow too quickly and become too heavy for the under-developed leg muscles. They stand with the body almost erect but seem to lean a little forward and have the neck right out in front as a sort of counter balance. This condition often goes hand in hand with a lot of sitting around, they give up on walking unless they have to and often sit up or walking on their hocks. This just makes matters worse. Another sign can be leg tremors. While standing still one or both legs shake rapidly, but they don’t wobble while they are running along.

I wouldn’t put them down yet, just in case it is just too much high protein food and very rapid growth. Try reducing the amount of protein in the diet by mixing your feed with 40% of your laying feed to 60% of whole wheat. This will bring down the protein level to a more reasonable level. (15% duckling growers feed is still too high so broiler or layers will at 17 to 19% will be way over).

Keep the bedding in the houses as dry as possible and try and get them to exercise by giving them as much room as you can and out feed and water pots at opposite ends of the run – to make them work. Don’t chase them about in order to get them moving as this can make things worse and they may go off their legs completely.

There is every possibility that in a month or so they will have got over this and the leg muscles will be strong enough to support them properly.

Also - This sounds like a vitamin deficiency. Have you tried adding brewers' yeast powder to the dry food? This helps with the B vitamins, which contribute to the healthy development of the duckling. They need vitamin D from sunlight (which is a classic preventer of rickets in humans) and 'greens' for K. All of these vitamins might be missing from birds kept indoors too long.

Page last updated: 16th October 2023