Last week Mr. Cottage and I stopped by our local feed store (a very dangerous thing in the spring) to get some stuff for the raised beds we’ve been working on- and ended up coming home with 3 ducks. I regret absolutely nothing and Mr. Cottage has sworn off taking me to the feed store (just kidding, he’s as bad as I am). I admit it, I can’t resist their adorable little faces! I just love them. So here we are the proud owners of three baby ducks, two Pekin one Welsh Harlequin.
Ducks have a bit of a bad rap, people accuse them of being messy, loud and smelly, which is true they are all three of those things- but they are so much more too. They also have the most personality of all the birds I’ve had, their probably my favorite too (shh don’t tell the chickens). They are more disease resistant than chickens. They are great foragers and help to cut down on mosquitoes. They are reliable layers, depending on the breed they can lay between 100-300 eggs a year. Their eggs are higher in protein they chicken eggs, and only slightly higher in cholesterol and fat. They are hysterical to watch and super easy to care for.
Ducklings eat the same food as chicks but make sure you buy the nonmedicated feed because ducklings eat WAY more than chicks and they can overdose on the medications. You’ll want to find a food that is high in protein to support their fast growth. At around 3 weeks they really begin to grow and you’ll want to switch their feed to a lower protein feed (16 -18%) if you can’t find a lower protein feed mix in raw oats to replace 25% of the food. Ducklings can’t climb so keep their food and water low to the ground.
Related Article: Raising Chicks
Ducklings require a deeper water dish than chicks, they should be able to dip their entire heads under the water. This allows them to clean their bills, eyes, and nostrils. Ducklings can actually get eye infections without the ability to wash out their eyes. They also need the water to properly digest their food.
Ducklings need 2-3 times the amount of niacin than chickens if they are deficient it can cause bowed legs and joint issues. You can supplement their feed with small amounts of brewers yeast, liver, sardines, or salmon.
Duckings don’t require heat as long as chickens, start the brooder off at 90 degrees F using a heat lamp or Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder. Decrease the temperature 1 degree a day. By the end of the first week aim for the temperature to be around 83 degrees F. By the end of week two aim for the temperature to be around 76 degrees F. By the end of week three the temperature should be around 69. If you are raising your ducklings inside you are eventually going to reach the temperature of your house, when this happens you can simply turn off the heat light. They will let you know if they get cold when that happens just turn the light back on.
Ducklings can technically swim at about a week old, swim time should be short 10-15 minutes of supervised time. You can use a painters tray filled with water or a bathtub slightly filled. Our upstairs tub is a shower tub combo with a nice egress that allows them to “swim” but easily take a rest. When their swim time is up, remove them from the water, gently dry them off and return them to the warmth of the brooder. After week 5 they should be ok to swim for longer. Domestic ducks are not great swimmers, unlike their wild counterparts.
By week 3 you can begin introducing them to the great outdoors on warm days (at least 65 degrees F) Make sure they are in a secure pen so no predators can attack them. They can be moved outside permanently anytime after week 4.
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