The Lazy Farmer – Ducks

Honestly I have no idea what possessed me to buy ducks. I guess I just thought they would be easy, their eggs would be easy to sell and could use the same coop. People had told me they didn’t need a pond and that caring for them was essentially the same as chicks. Not true.

Short story, I bought 4 ducklings from Tractor Supply. Something I am not proud of, Tractor Supply really just churn out chicks and ducks like you wouldn’t believe to just about anyone and the level of care is minimal. Really, if you are considering buying ducks, I urge you to go to a local breeder!! There are many in our neck of the woods, so if I had just been a little more patient I probably would have ended up with some interesting breeds. However I love our little Pekins and wouldn’t change them for the world.

I did however, have NO IDEA how fast these little suckers grew! Here are some pictures over the span of 4 weeks!

 

Here are some things that are different about raising ducks to raising chicks. You have your brooder as normal. Put down your pine shavings, which they promptly eat. Use your heat pad or heat lamp which they promptly sit as far away from as possible. Put your water in, which they promptly sit in or empty as quickly as possible. And then finally your food, which, well they eat.

Ducks require a slightly different feeding schedule. For the first two week you can go ahead and feed them a chick starter (generally 20% protein) however chick feed does not contain Niacin. Niacin is a B-vitamin which ducks require a higher level of than chick. Lack of it can cause leg problems in ducklings and goslings. Ducklings that have access to forage and insects rarely have any problems.  Some people sprinkle Brewers Yeast on the feed. But you can buy Niacin at any store that sells vitamins. It is important to note that when buying Niacin, it MUST NOT say any of these on the front of the bottle: Flush Free, No Flush, Extended Release, or Slow Release–these will do the ducklings absolutely no good. A duckling’s digestive system works so fast, that the niacin in those will not even be released before it gets pooped out. It must be pure plain old niacin, but can also say B3 or Nicotinic Acid on the bottle.

We opted to use Brewers Yeast. A couple of teaspoons mixed in with their feed. After 2 weeks it is advised to feed a lower protein diet. Most feed stores carry an all-flock feed, and so we cut them back to 14%.

Now lets talk water. If you are going to have ducks be advised they need a water bowl they can submerge their nostrils in to flush them out. But you cant just use a bowl because they will sit in it, poop in it and kick it all out. So you have to get fancy. Luckily there are lots of ideas on duck waterers online! Here was our first one. A gallon apple bottle with the side holes cut out so they could dip their head in to drink but not get in and splash around.

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And then as they grew, we just filled up a bucket within a bucket:

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And now they are outside they just have the full bucket. Which still gets extremely mucky. If you haven’t seen it before, Ducks need water to wash down their food. They literally scoop feed up in their bill and then use the water to flush it, which means most of it comes back out of their bills and into the water. Forming a sludge of food on the bottom. So this needs to be changed daily.

Now we’ve covered food and water, lets talk pools. I understand why people say they don’t NEED a pool. But once you see your duck in water you will discover how horrible life must be for a duck to not have a pool!! Duck also love DIVING and searching for food. So throwing some peas in their pond will have them splashing and diving like no ones business.

Splashing around VIDEO HERE

Be advised that ducklings cannot be left unsupervised in water. They actually do not have the necessary waterproof feathers in yet and can become water-logged and drown! We only allowed our 1 week old ducks up to 3 minutes per day and gradually increased their play time. Keeping a very close watch for any that looked tired or looked like they wanted to get out of the tub.

Baby pools and Stock Tanks are great alternatives to installing a pond and easy to clean out! Because literally, they will dirty a pool in approx 5 minutes. So think about your set up and try to limit waste. We are currently designing our duck house to have a stock tank that drains into the Kitchen Garden so that at least the water is not being wasted! and for now I just try and fill up as many watering cans as I can with the duck water before dumping them.

So now lets talk about housing. Ducks DONT ROOST. So they require more room than chickens. Allow 4-6 square feet per bird in their duck house and 10-25 square feet per bird for the run. Now think about that. Thats a huge house for just 4 ducks! Of course if you are fortunate to own a nice big all natural pond. They will likely just sleep in the pond all night! And if you do provide housing for your pond I suggest building a floating duck house so predators cannot reach them. Here is a lovely design on ropes so I guess the owners can still get the eggs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.11.10.pngCredit to: https://morningchores.com/duck-house-plans/
How to build it HERE

But for those of us who are not as fortunate to have an awesome pond. Think about Predator protection. As with chickens, any welded wire over 1″ is useless, Raccoons can get their grubby little hands through and kill anything inside it can reach. So we use 1/4″ welded wire here and keep our coops shut with locks at night.

Now ducks wont naturally go to their coop at night, they love to be outside whatever the weather. So this will need to be trained. Our ducks are currently in a temporary coop whilst we work on our Duck Palace lol. And from this photo you can see, they were out all night!!

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So when the time comes, a few meal worms or peas should do the trick. I will be setting up a new blog for the duck build and keeping you all updated as usual. But for instant updates don’t forget to follow our Facebook page!

www.facebook.com/Downeymillfarm/

 

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