Ducklings are adorable, but before you bring any home you need to make sure you are prepared and ready for raising ducks. While they are similar to chickens ducklings have their own unique needs that you’ll need to provide for. So let’s dive into what you need to know about how to raise ducklings.
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Is Raising Ducklings Right For Your Homestead?
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).
Why You Should Raise Ducklings
One of the reasons you should raise ducklings is because they are more disease-resistant than chickens. They are also great foragers and help to cut down on mosquitoes. Ducks are reliable layers, depending on the breed they can lay between 100-300 eggs a year (while less than chickens, they are larger). Their eggs are higher in protein they chicken eggs, and only slightly higher in cholesterol and fat. Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs. Ducks are also hysterical to watch and super easy to care for.
How To Raise Ducklings
Ducklings are pretty easy to raise, however, you will need to perform regular maintenance to keep them happy and healthy. Before you bring home your first ducklings it’s important to be prepared. First things first always get two ducklings. Ducklings like chickens need a friend to be happy, so it’s really important to provide them with a friend or two.
Raising Ducklings: Food
The first thing you need to know when it comes to raising ducklings is what to feed them. Ducklings eat the same food as chicks but it’s really important to make sure you buy the nonmedicated feed because ducklings eat WAY more than chicks and they can overdose on the medications. Some people will tell you that they can eat it anyway but the medication wasn’t made for ducklings.
Your ducklings will need 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.
Raising Ducklings: Water
Another really important aspect of raising ducklings is water. 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 water to properly digest their food.
Duckings don’t require heat as long as chickens, start the brooder off at 90 degrees F using a heat lamp (read more about using a brooder 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.
Caring For Ducklings: Swim Time
Another important aspect of raising ducklings is knowing when to let them have access to water to swim in. Ducklings can technically swim at about a week old, swim time should be short 10-15 minutes of supervised time. Domestic ducks are not great swimmers, unlike their wild counterparts. You can use a painter’s tray filled with water or a bathtub slightly filled. 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.
Raising Ducklings: Letting Them Out Of The Brooder
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.
Tips For Raising Ducklings
Here are some great tips to help you get started raising ducklings:
- 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.
- Ducklings can’t climb so keep their food and water low to the ground.
- Place their water on a raised platform to help keep the shavings out of it.
- Change the bedding at least once a day or every other day, especially as your ducks get older.
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