Ducks

Ducks

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Do you want a duck?

Ducks are very social animals so you should keep several ducks, and not just one. They need a minimum of 10 ft. of space per adult duck, in addition to shelter and a swimming area. It may be necessary to lock them in a secure enclosure at night to avoid predators (such as owls, hawks, foxes, snapping turtles and dogs). Ducklings need a large amount of care at the beginning, so make sure you are willing to take on this responsibility.

Caring for ducklings

If you want to be able to handle your ducks, you have to raise them from a young age and constantly handle them so they get used to it. Ducklings should be kept indoors for the first few weeks. In warm weather, they can be moved outside at 2-3 weeks; in colder weather at 4-5 weeks. Ducklings raised without a mother need an artificial heat source. Place a lamp in their cage. If they are all close to it, they are too cold and if they are huddled at the other end of the cage, they are too hot. As an alternative to a cage, ducklings can be kept in an old playpen or kiddie pool (not the inflatable kind). Cover the floor with an absorbent material such as hay or straw. Do not use wood chips or shavings. Replace any wet hay and don’t let it get moldy.

Ducklings can drown or catch a chill in deep water, so a very shallow water dish or bird waterer should be used. Inside their enclosure, there should be a place the ducks can escape if the water is overturned. Expect the ducklings to play in their water dish and get it muddy. The dish must be washed often.

Nutrition

Ducklings need a feed with 20-22% protein for the first three to five weeks. After that, they do best on a feed with 16% protein. Adult ducks need about 14-16% protein when they aren’t laying, 16-18% when they are laying. Commercial food for game birds can be purchased at farm supply stores. Don’t substitute chicken feed, since it doesn’t have the right nutrients for ducks. Don’t use commercial food meant for fattening ducks for meat or producing more eggs; these foods may contain harmful medications.

Adult ducks should have cracked corn (not whole) mixed into their feed. Ducks should not be fed bread, popcorn and chips, but can eat chopped hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, bugs, garden snails, worms, night crawlers, mealworms, bloodworms, and floating coy food. Ducks being fed too much junk food will suffer from malnutrition. It’s important to ration treats.

Swimming

Ducks need water for drinking, especially when they are eating (to wash their food down), and for swimming. You don’t need a pond; ducks can swim just as well in a plastic pool. Provide a ramp for easy access, since leg injuries are common in ducks when getting in and out of the water. The water needs to be changed often and kept clean. If you wish, you can chlorinate the water. If you live in a cold climate, use a water pump or aerator to prevent the water from freezing in the winter.

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