Last updated 17 September 2020

Ducks are farmed in a very similar way to broiler chickens in Australia; they live in large barren sheds with no enrichment, with stocking densities allowing for as many as 18,000 ducks to be housed in just one shed. 

Total confinement systems (intensive systems) are the most common housing systems for ducks. Ducks are packed into closed sheds according to a formula which allows one square metre of floor space for up to five fully grown birds, or 50 ducklings. Ducks held in total confinement systems are denied any access to outside, space for roaming or socialising. They are also denied surface water for bathing, floating, or swimming.

Partial confinement systems (free-range), are uncommon systems for duck farming in Australia and vary greatly in their conditions and the welfare of the ducks. Ducks are again kept inside sheds often with many other ducks, but in partial confinement systems, ducks are also given limited access to an outside area. Very few free-range duck systems are accredited in Australia. Partial confinement systems also regularly deprive ducks of any surface water for swimming.

Ducks are aquatic birds; their legs and thigh joints are very weak, as they would naturally spend a significant amount of time floating on water. In Australia and many other countries around the world, there is no legal requirement for ducks to be given access to surface water on intensive farms. This means that ducks are unable to express many of their natural behaviours such as swimming, bathing, and dipping their heads. Further, without access to surface water ducks often suffer from a number of health complications.

Toxic environment

Sheds are not cleaned during the time ducks are housed there and they are forced to live among their own excrement for the entire 7 weeks of their short lives. Without access to surface water, ducks on intensive farms cannot adequately exercise or clean themselves, which can result in several crippling health complications. Without the ability to clean themselves, ducks often suffer from ammonia-associated ailments such as footpad lesions, chemical burns, and respiratory infections.