There are very few things as adorable or rewarding as raising your own ducks. However, there is a commitment involved that should be considered, first.
Do Not Buy Ducklings or Chickens For Easter Goodies
Unless you’re aware of and ready to take on the actual commitment and responsibility of owning livestock, don’t fall prey to the marketing gimmick of the fluffy Easter chick. While it is true that many people happily keep both ducks and chickens as pets, the need for specialized care is still an issue. They are cute and tiny, but they will not stay tiny for very long. As for livestock verses pet: bear in mind it isn’t unheard of to keep indoor ducks, diapering them. If you’re not going that route, you will need to have an appropriate place for them outside where they will be safe and happy. It’s also a very bad idea to buy ducklings for very small children as ducklings tend to jump and can become injured very easily, very fast even in a supervised playtime with a smaller child. Still want a pet duck? Check out what liveducks.com has to say on the subject.
Things You Will Need To Raise Ducks:
- Shallow bowls for food and water
- Heat lamp and thermometer
- UNMEDICATED chick starter
- Brewer’s yeast
- Brooder: you can use a pre-built brooder, build your own, use a dog crate, or even use a plastic tote.
The Brooder Box
One of the very best things you can use for a brooder box is a spare bath tub. The thing that you do not often see in all the adorable photos of ducklings is how messy they are. A bath tub or a kiddie pool can help you to keep them warm, while also keeping the clean up much easier.
Unmedicated Chick Starter And Treats
This is very important. Ducks can feed themselves from birth, but they cannot have the medicated starter that would be appropriate for chickens. Though you shouldn’t give your ducklings treats until they are a couple of weeks old, they enjoy many things. Grass is a favorite, but they also enjoy bananas, crushed dry cat food, green beans, and other vegetables. One of the most important things to look for in duck feed is protein. You want feed that is 14-16%. Ducks also need grit to grind their food.
Give the ducks enough food and water to last all day, but treats should be kept to an every now and again thing. Because ducklings have a much greater need for niacin than other chicks, you will want to sprinkle just a little brewer’s yeast on top of their food. You can also add raw oat to their food, and this will help with both nutrients and additional protein. The best ratio is about 25-75, oats to feed.
Because ducklings tend to grab a big bill full of feed and then moisten this by drinking, it’s important to keep their food and water close to one another. Also important is to toss out any uneaten food at the end of the day. This is because that wet food can grow mold and harbor bacteria that is not good for your ducks. You can also keep the food under the heat lamp. While you can leave only water, never leave only food as they will have no way to moisten it.
Bringing Home Ducklings
When you first bring your new ducklings home from the feed store or they arrive in the mail, dip each duckling’s bill into a shallow dish of room-temperature water (or sugar water – 1/3 cup sugar/per gallon water), then set each into your pre-heated brooder. The temperature needs to be 90 degrees for the first week, then lowered a degree a day (7 degrees/per week) until the temperature in the brooder is the same as the outside low temperature, at which time the ducklings can be transferred outside to a predator-proof house/pen. By the time the ducklings are 3-5 weeks old, weather-dependent, they can spend warm, sunny days outside, carefully supervised and protected from predators.
Bringing Home Babies
Where To Buy Ducklings
Ducklings can be purchased in a feed store during certain times of the year (Spring), online and shipped, in pet stores or directly from hatcheries. You can also purchase adult ducks from farms and other sellers.
First Things First
Before you bring ducklings home, make sure that the brooder is already warm inside. You will need it to be at a pre-set temperature of about 90F for the first week, lowering it by one degree per day. Ducklings can usually leave the brooder at about 3-5 weeks old, if the weather is right for it. You will need to have a predator proof enclosure for them where they can spend the day outside. Don’t leave them outside if the weather is cold or overnight until they are about 7-9 weeks old.
When you bring home the ducklings, dip their bills into room temperature water in a shallow dish and put them in the brooder. When they are young, they have a hard time regulating their own body temperature, so you will need to do that for them. The best way to see what needs to be done is simply watch the ducklings and the thermometer. When ducklings are at a temperature that works for them, they’ll be playing, moving around the brooder. If it is too cold, they will huddle close to the heat source. When they’re too warm, they simply move away from it, but they may also pant. You need to be careful in making sure their body temperature is optimal. Handling your ducklings daily is important to helping them not only become accustomed to people, but also keeping them happy.
Be Careful With Water
It probably seems like ducklings would take to the water…well, like a duck, but this is not so for many. Because ducklings that are hatched in an incubator won’t have the same oil glands
working to coat their feathers, they can very easily drown. Only use a shallow water bowl that they can dip their entire bill in for water at first. They need to be able to cover their entire bill so that they can keep their mucous membranes dampened. As they get bigger, you can add some stones to deeper dishes for them. Whenever you do allow them to swim, be sure that they are supervised and not kept in the water for too long. Immediately dry them and return to the brooder so they do not catch a chill.
Your week old ducklings will be drinking roughly a half of gallon of water per week. When they are 7 weeks old, they will be drinking that same amount daily. Always make sure that ducks have ready access to clean water.
If you do decide to keep ducklings on into adulthood- and one hopes if you get a duckling, you would, you may find yourself with some duck eggs. Duck eggs are fantastic. There are many reasons they are catching on as a trendy option for bakers and chefs.
Photos courtesy of Boulder Locovore.
With the shell on, it is very easy to see the difference between a chicken egg and a duck egg. Obviously, the duck egg is larger, but did you know there are other reasons you’d choose duck eggs over chicken?
Out of the shell, the difference is fairly obvious, as well. The duck’s yolk is deeper golden, richer and larger. Though there isn’t much taste difference between the two, the nutritional differences are worth mentioning.
Chart courtesy of Grow Great Vegetables.com.
Ducks In The Long Run
Ducks are an excellent choice even if you do not have a pond or pool for them in your yard. They are, however, animals that need a great deal of social interaction and will become lonely and depressed when alone. It’s a good idea to purchase ducklings in pairs, but also, to interact with them daily just as you would any other pet, even if they will be livestock. Bear in mind that wild ducks can live up to 20 years, a domesticated duck will live anywhere from 10-15 years, they cannot be potty trained, (Lack of a sphincter tends to make that difficult.) they are very messy, and they require far more care than a dog or a cat will. The rewards of duck keeping are numerous, but be prepared to treat them as the investment they are.