RSPCA welfare standards
for domestic/common ducks
15 February 2015
* indicates an amendment
E 3.6 * Where suitable flooring is provided under water facilities within the main house (see FW 2.25 a)), this must
occupy no more than 25% of the total floor area of the house.
E 3.7 Ducks must have access to the litter area at all times.
E 3.8 Stock-keepers must:
a) understand the factors that affect litter condition
b) be aware of the welfare problems associated with poor litter management (e.g. foot burn).
E 3.9 * Where straw is used, stock-keepers must:
a) be aware of problems associated with respiratory problems, i.e. aspergillosis
b) only use good quality straw.
Where possible, straw for the purpose of bedding should be stored under cover.
The structure of the domesticated duck's eye has retained the properties and characteristics of
its progenitor species and light and vision have been shown to be important in many aspects of
these birds' lives. Ducks evolved in areas where they were exposed to a range of illuminances -
from direct sunlight to patches of shaded areas. They have well-developed eyes with good
colour vision, and, as such, sight is a primary sense that requires a good level of light to operate
efficiently. However, as ducks tend to feed at night, they have also developed good vision to see
in the dark - being able to see at very low light intensities (around 0.15 lux).
In a preference test, Pekin ducks were given a choice of 4 compartments lit at either less than
1 lux or at 6, 20 or 200 lux and observed at 2 and 6 weeks of age. Over a 24 hour period, the
birds spent approximately equal amounts of time (approximately 6.6 hours) in each of the 6, 20
and 200 lux compartments and spent the least amount of time (about 4 hours) in the less than
1 lux compartment. This preference did not change with age. The results imply that some
variation in ambient illuminance to provide a range of light environments over a 24 hour period
may benefit duck welfare. The lighting standards have therefore been developed as best as
practically possible to reflect this. The results also indicated that ducks fare well in brightly lit
environments and are not averse to such conditions. Further research is required to fully
establish the lighting requirements for domesticated ducks.
Primary source: Barber et al. 2004. Preferences of growing ducklings and turkey poults for illuminance. Animal Welfare, 13: