Poultry covers domestic fowls such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. Of these, chickens are out and out the majority with ducks comprising of 10% of the poultry population in India, and 6-7% of the eggs produced are those of ducks.

Many farmers in the East, North East, and South India breed indigenous varieties of ducks for their meat and eggs. Some walk long distances across states and camp in paddy fields that have just been harvested so that the ducks can eat insects and snails and leave behind manure. Believe it or not, the paddy farmers pay the duck farmers for the services rendered by their ducks!

According to National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) that promotes a model scheme for duck rearing, there are over 10 million ducks in India thus ranking second highest in the world, the first being Indonesia. Around 600 million duck eggs valued at Rs 180 crore are consumed in rural areas of Kerala, West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Duck farming is mainly practiced in the eastern and southern states and is also promoted by the Central Poultry Development Organisation (Southern Region).

In 1981 the Central Duck Breeding Farm (CDBF) at Hessarghatta, Bengaluru, under the Union Ministry of Agriculture was established in collaboration with the Government of UK. The farm has introduced high yield varieties of ducks not only from UK, but also from Vietnam in 1996.

The farm sells day-old ducklings. They are shipped by air to far-off places like Sikkim and Rajasthan. Male ducklings (drakes) that are not booked or bought are killed by drowning. Adults, reared for 7 to 8 weeks, are sold or shipped by train to cities like Mumbai for meat. At the farm, the ducks are kept all night in wire-mesh cages.

The activities of CDBF are:

  • To supply good quality hatching eggs and day-old duckling of egg and meat type strain.
  • To replenish the foundation stock of state duck farms.
  • To serve as centre for training in duck production and management.
  • To introduce low input technology birds and upgradation by exotic blood under scavenging system.


Farming ducks is being unfortunately encouraged by the government just like breeding and killing of other animals and birds.

The CDBF publish a management guide on ducks with the aim of making people go in for the business. Some of the “advantages” cited are:

  • Ducks lay more eggs than hens.
  • The duck egg is about 15 to 20 grams larger than a hen’s egg.
  • Ducks require lesser attention and thrive well in scavenging conditions because they eat fallen grain in paddy field, insects, beetles, grasshoppers, snails, slugs, earthworms, small fish and other aquatic matter.
  • Ducks are hardy and do not require housing like chicken.
  • Commercially ducks have a longer profitable life than hens since they lay well into the second year.
  • They lay their eggs in the morning before 9 am thus saving a lot of time and labour.
  • Ducks can be introduced in duck-cum-fish farms alongside rice cultivation. Their droppings serve as feed for fishes.
  • Ducks are intelligent and can be tamed easily.

Incubation and Brooding

The Khaki Campbell is encouraged as an egg laying breed. The incubation period of the eggs is 28 days during which time they kept in varied temperatures, sprinkled with lukewarm water, cooled and turned hourly. Although candling is done on day 7, eggs are transferred for hatching on day 25.

The brooding period for Khaki Campbell duckings is 3 to 4 weeks whereas it is 2 to 3 weeks for the White Pekin breed which is a table bird. The duckings are given no more than 90 to 100 sq cms hover space under the brooder where temperatures are regulated. They are kept on a wire floor with no more than ½ sq foot space per bird till they are 3 weeks old. Water drinkers are just sufficient to drink and not dip themselves.


Rearing of ducklings can be intensive, semi-intensive or range systems.

Till the ducks are 16 weeks old, under the intensive system only 3 sq ft of space is allowed per bird; in semi-intensive, 2½ to 3 sq ft per bird is allowed in the night and 10 to 15 sq ft outside run; and under the range system a flock of 1,000 can be reared on 0.405 hectare. The water drinkers allow no more than immersion of their heads.

Cramped Conditions for Adults

Under the intensive system only 4 to 5 sq ft per duck is given; whereas in semi-intensive system it is 3 sq ft in the night with an outside run during day time.

Ducks begin laying eggs at 16 to 18 weeks. One small nest box measuring 12x12x18 inches for three ducks is provided.

The mating ratio for laying breeds is 1 drake to 6-7 ducks and in table breeds 1 drake to 4-5 ducks.

The housing provided is usually a shed half-heartedly made predator-proof (against rats, birds, etc.) and has wire or solid floors.

Water Restriction

It has been emphasized that water for swimming is not at all essential at any stage of duck rearing. This in itself is a big cruelty. It is felt that swimming is a commercial disadvantage, particularly for egg laying strains.

The only reason why the ducks are allowed to even immerse their heads when drinking is because if they do not, their eyes get scaly and crusty and they become blind.

Food Restriction

Although ducks prefer wet mash, pellet feeding is favoured because of convenience, less wastage, less labour required and cleanliness. Up to 8 weeks, the birds have continuous access to feed, later they are fed only twice a day. From 24 weeks onwards feed consumption varies from 120 to 130 grams per bird depending upon the rate of production. Their diet mainly consists of wheat, yellow maize, soy bean meal, shell grit, fish meal and vitamins. In short, the feed is geared to match the output.


Ducks are resistant to common avian diseases. However, there are some common diseases with variations among ducks and chickens. Ducks can get Plague, Viral Hepatitis, Cholera, Botulism, Parasites and Aflatoxicosis.

Ducks that have been carelessly caught on the side of their body – instead of by the neck – have died suddenly.

Conclusion: Cruel Exploitation

A lame duck is considered a loser. And duck farming certainly makes the ducks losers because they are specially bred for their eggs and killed for their meat.

Constant veterinary care is essential since ducks are prone to infections, but preventive or other treatment is not ideally given since it is on-going and expensive. Ducks that are unwell are slaughtered earlier than planned.

Similarly, the safety of ducklings and ducks is not of great importance because even if a few of the flock get attacked, eaten and lost to predators such as dogs, owls, hawks and rats, it is worth not having spent of secure housing for their protection.

Different breeds of ducks are bred for egg production and as table birds, but in the end all get slaughtered. Like chickens, they are subjected to exploitation and cruel intensive farming practices like unwanted, male ducklings are drowned; they are housed on wire floors; eggs are hatched unnaturally in incubators, the settings for which are trial and error temperatures.

Although ducks are waterfowl and water to swim is essential for them from almost day-one, they are provided with just about sufficient water to drink and to clean their bills. They are not allowed to swim or duck themselves in water. In fact, they don’t even get to see enough water. At the most, they may get a foot-bath or a tiny pond in the case of semi-intensive and range systems of duck farming.

Ducks are generally monogamous, but it is not put into practice for captive duck breeding. In fact, it is advisable to buy and raise them in pairs, but due to monetary considerations it is never even heard of.

Ducks need to be provided sufficient space – each adult requires at least 10 sq ft. However this is not provided because confinement in duck-rearing results in better growth (read more meat) with less feed consumption (read less expense and trouble).

In other words, ducks, drakes and ducklings are considered absolute commercial commodities, not living creatures.


In Cambodia and the Philippines, fertilized duck (some times chicken) eggs are incubated underground for a few weeks; then boiled and sold by roadside vendors. Called Balut or “the treat with feet” or “the egg with legs” upon cracking the egg-shells, the duck embryos are feathery, boney and beaky fetuses that are consumed with relish. And, Tiet Canh is congealed duck blood also eaten in the Philippines. Similar opaque and salty jelled duck blood is had in China.

Although ducks are frequently eaten in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Kashmir, they are not as popular as chicken. They are served in Chinese and some other high-end restaurants with Peking roast duck (traditionally carved on the table) being the most commonly known dish. Typical Anglo-Indian and Kerala cuisines also include duck roasts.

Truck loads of ducks are transported even inter-state to meet the unfortunate increasing demand for their flesh. Duck meat (classified as red meat) is sold as “fresh frozen ducks” by “manufacturers and suppliers” – note the misleading words used to describe the carcasses and breeders-cum-butchers.

In certain places in India, like Kerala, the consumption of duck eggs is quite common. Ducks reared for egg production in the coastal belt of Aroor region are raised exclusively on fresh prawn waste for economic reasons.

In November 2014 after confirming in a lab that 15,000 ducks had dropped dead due to having contacted avian influenza or bird flu, killing of an estimated 2 lakh ducks as a precautionary measure at 14 locations in Kerala commenced. Government compensation given was Rs 75 for birds below 2 months, and Rs 150 for those over that age. The culling meant the demand for poultry during Christmas and New Year feasts would lessen – every year 5 lakh ducks are reared for the December market. Interestingly, experts felt that the outbreak was due to migratory birds that flock the wetlands of Kerala – but how could they be burnt alive like the poor ducks and chickens? Nevertheless, a proper study on their carrier potential of the various species of migratory birds was to be undertaken!

Again in October 2016 mass culling of ducks due to bird flu at in Kerala began. Since dumping the carcasses in wetland areas was not feasible the only option was to burn them. This time the government gave Rs 200 per bird more than 2 months old and Rs 100 for those below 2 months, and Rs 5 per egg destroyed. Some owners demanded that all their ducks should be destroyed, not only those affected with the disease, because then they would get compensation for all. Last time there were no takers for the remaining ducks and they suffered a loss.

BWC wonders why they did not give up this cruel business when it isn’t even profitable. It is hoped that at least some people learnt their lesson and have stopped breeding ducks for their meat and eggs.

Bombay duck / sookha bomil is not a duck, but a small edible lizard fish, salted and sun dried.

Foie Gras (pronounced "fwah grah")

In 2007 Beauty Without Cruelty began writing protest letters to the Government about pâté de foie gras (paste made of diseased liver of ducks, geese or guinea fowls) imported from France and sold in India.

The process of producing foie gras is called gavage and is extremely cruel: the birds are force fed two-three times a day with a funnel pushed down their throats. A tube fed by a pneumatic or hydraulic pump could also be used to force food down the bird’s oesophagus. Those that survive the force-feeding resulting in their livers becoming 10 times their normal size and their abdomens expanding so much that they are unable to stand, walk or breathe normally, are after 100 days of torture slaughtered for their diseased livers to be made into pâté de foie gras.

As a result of Beauty Without Cruelty’s presentations depicting force feeding of geese to produce foie gras, the Sevilla at Hotel Claridges and Smoke House Grill, high-end restaurants in Delhi, struck it off their menus. Dorabjee & Co Pune’s leading department store stopped stocking it and Air India stopped serving it to their First Class passengers in 2008.

Foie gras has been banned in many countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel and Argentina. And, in July 2012 American animal activists managed to ban its sales in California; earlier the cities of Chicago and San Diego banned it. Beauty Without Cruelty therefore hoped that the Government of India would also ban it. Eventually, that’s what happened: BWC wrote to the then new Prime Minister, in response to which the Government of India promptly prohibited the import of Foie Gras in July 2014.

Despite this, a March 2018 Indian Express food review of the Baoshuan restaurant at the Oberoi, New Delhi recommended “Cantonese honey roast pork with grated foie gras” as a must try dish. BWC wrote to the General Manager informing him that the import of Foie Gras was banned by the Government of India in 2014 (a BWC achievement) and since it was not allowed to be produced in India, serving it was illegal. We also sent a flyer depicting how ducks were force fed several times a day with a funnel pushed down their throats till such time as their livers get 10 times their normal size. They were then slaughtered and their diseased livers turned into a paste called Foie Gras. A week later the Oberoi e-mailed BWC that “we would like to state that Foie Gras is no longer served at our establishment."

Foie gras
is produced in France, Hungary, Bulgaria, USA, Canada, China, Belgium and Spain. In 2014 with the view of dodging China’s ban on import of foie gras, a French firm set up a farm to produce it within the country.

Feathers & Down, and Live Attractions

Down or eider down comprises of the fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers of mainly baby ducks and geese. They are plucked for use as padding in jackets, quilts, pillows, etc. Some birds are known to be killed solely for their down, while others like geese are periodically live-plucked of their breast feathers – a painful and extremely cruel practice.


Foie gras and down production are inter-related. Both involve intense torture for the birds. Since it is not possible to gather feathers at the time of moulting, they are forcefully pulled out leaving bleeding, painful follicles. Birds that have been slaughtered are scalded in hot water for a couple of minutes making it easier to remove the feathers often with a plucking machine.


China and Hungary are the main exporters although about 25 other countries produce feathers and down. India does not permit the import of feathers of wild birds used for stuffing or otherwise. But “skins and other parts of birds with their feathers or down, feathers, parts of feathers, down and articles thereof” and “feather dusters” are unfortunately allowed as are quills and scapes. Therefore, in August 2014, following the Government of India ban on import of foie gras, BWC wrote to the Director General of Foreign Trade pointing out that the production of feathers and down goes hand in hand with the production of foie gras and therefore their import should also be banned.

Cotton, simbal / kapok (silk cotton from the tree) and filling materials like Comforel (polyester fibre) are good replacements for feathers and down, and are readily available.

Duck feathers are also used in the making of utility, decorative and adornment items. The citation in every Nobel diploma is calligraphically done using a goose feather.

Feathers of ducks (and geese to a lesser extent) are used for making badminton shuttlecocks. As the main supply of duck feathers to the cluster of units that manufacture shuttlecocks at Uluberia in West Bengal is illegal – smuggled from Bangladesh – the government is encouraging duck farming in the area.

Another reason why duck farming is encouraged in West Bengal is to give an alternative livelihood to people who risk their lives collecting wild honey in the Sundarbans and get attacked by tigers. (The distance between Sundarbans and Uluberia is 140 kms.)


Like ducks, geese and swans are also waterfowl.


It is common to find ducks and geese kept in restaurants, hotels, gardens, etc. as an “attraction” in small, shallow water-bodies. No proper care is given to them, and if ill, simply replaced because they are perceived as landscape decorations.


Some artists carve designs on duck egg shells, and crafts persons utilize them to make Fabergé style decorative egg boxes.


In short, the birds are exploited in unimaginable ways – specifically bred, raised, tortured and slaughtered for their body parts.

Page last updated on 25/11/23