What Is the Average Life Span of a Duck?

Learn about the average life span for various duck breeds in this excerpt from the Popular Farming Series: Ducks.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: Ancapron/Flickr

Ducks are not as long-lived as geese. The average life span of a domestic duck is 10 years or less. As a general rule, the largest breeds of duck have the shortest life span. Seldom do they live beyond five to seven years of age.


An exception is the Muscovy. This duck might reach a life span of between eight and 12 years of age, or more.


The Pekin duck (probably due to its rapid growth rate as a young bird) normally have a relatively short life span, perhaps five years. The first part of a Pekin to fail as it ages is often its legs. I suspect that rapid weight gain in its first year taxes its ability to support itself.

The actual useful life span of an exhibition Pekin duck might be only three years. “Useful life” is determined by the length of time it’s useful as a breeder.

Medium to Light Ducks

The average life span of the medium and light ducks (Cayugas, Blue Swedish, Runners) might exceed that of largest duck by two or three years.

Keep in mind, however, that ducks kept for egg production might only produce an optimal number of eggs per year for two or three years. In fact, pushing female ducks to produce large numbers of eggs will probably shorten the life of a member of any breed.

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Read more: Ducks Can Bring real Value to the Backyard.

Bantam Ducks

The longest lived of the ducks by a considerable margin are the bantam ducks—the Calls and Black East Indies in particular.

A number of mine have lived a decade or more and one Grey Call female lived 15 years. They also tend to have longer useful lives from a breeder’s standpoint, with males remaining fertile for as long as a decade and some females able to produce eggs for an even longer period, assuming the best of care. Because they carry less weight and don’t experience ultra-fast growth rates, their bodies tend to hold up longer.

Of course, a discussion of longevity in any breed assumes that the birds are provided with a good diet and appropriate housing and are not overcrowded. —Lou Horton

From the article, “Donning Ducks,” Popular Farming Series: Ducks.

The Foie Gras Debate

Adult duck with its babies
Bethany Weeks/Flickr

Could ducks offer a built-in alternative?

Foie gras (pronounced fwah grah) is the fattened liver of a waterfowl (either duck or goose) produced by a special feeding process.

Historically, this product was developed by confining ducks to a very small cage or pen and force-feeding them a highly fatty diet to rapidly increase the size of their liver.

Read more: Ducks Are Great Poultry for Both Meat & Eggs!

Banning Sales

In the United States, only a few companies produce foie gras, with most of it coming from New York. Recently, due to much controversy surrounding the force-feeding process, Chicago banned the sale of foie gras in retail stores and restaurants, and California is phasing out production and sales of foie gras over the next few years.

Still Common

Many finer restaurants still serve foie gras. In fact, I recently looked at online menus of some of the best restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky., and nearly all had foie gras on the menu as a main dish or as an appetizer.

I’m sure the menus of nicer restaurants in many other cities are similar.

New Option or Approach?

With traditional foie gras becoming so controversial, there might be an opportunity for producing either a humanely raised foie gras or another duck-related product that can take its place on the menus of finer restaurants.

Ducks have the natural eating behavior of gorging themselves when they are offered feed. Taking advantage of this behavior—without the discomfort or pain that force-feeding causes—might open some innovative marketing opportunities for the duck raiser with an entrepreneurial spirit. —Matt John

From “The Business of Ducks,” Popular Farming Series: Ducks.

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