Day Old Ducklings are Different
Things to consider when rearing day old ducklings
By - Frederick J. Dunn
Whether you are incubating duck eggs and hatching your own ducklings, or buying them in as day olds, they aren’t chickens… maybe that seems silly to say, but you’d be surprised how many new duck owners think care and feeding are the very same.
Here at Fred’s Fine Fowl, we’ve been hatching and rearing ducks for many years and enjoy the added distraction they provide, not to mention wonderful waterborne performances. Though we have a large earth pond for them to swim, sleep and preen on, it isn’t necessary to have a body of water for your ducks. As long as they have water suitable for completely immersing their head, they don’t absolutely “need” water suitable for swimming.
Chicks vs. Ducks as day olds…
Ducklings right off the bat have a huge cuteness factor! Yes, more so than baby chickens in the universal opinion of all my family members. If I want my daughter to come home for a visit, all I have to do is say “we have ducklings”. The first thing you will notice about ducklings is their desire to be with and on their owner. Waterfowl, without the presence of an adult version of themselves, often imprint and connect with their owner/keeper. If you currently have ducklings, put a stuffed animal in with them and watch how quickly they snuggle up to it. They are wanting a mother! This can be your cat, dog or mother hen!
Like chicks, they need protection, heat, food and water to do well and the quality of these necessities will dictate the overall health and growth rate of your ducklings.
Like chicks, ducklings have several days after pipping and hatching before they absolutely need food and water. This allows them to be shipped via the Postal Service the same as day old chicks. Before providing feed, make certain they have plenty of fresh water! You may tear up tiny bits of spinach or other suitable greens to float on the water surface, their curiosity will prompt them to play and drink. Let me warn you… ducklings play with their water and are apt to empty a quart jar drinker in short order! They are cute, yet messy, so be prepared for them to make everything wet. It is critical that they be able to submerge their heads, as this is how they clear their bill of debris and stuck food bits.
Ducklings have a somewhat different dietary requirement than do chicks… when purchasing prepared feed for them, make certain the label states that your crumbles or pellets are suitable for duck starter and labeled as a complete ration. The reason I mention this feed supplement is ducklings have more than twice the niacin requirements than chickens do. Avoid giving them feed in the mash form, rather provide crumbles or small pellets… the mash gets wasted and also builds up in their bill, possibly causing problems.
There is a temptation to put your ducklings in water to see them swim… kids demand this. That’s ok, but make certain the water is warm and observe the ducklings carefully. Without a mother providing oil for their down, ducklings will soak up the water and actually begin to sink! They need a place to dry out and become warm frequently. 85 deg. F. is a good start for their brooder. Like chicks, ducklings should be able to get under the heat and move away as they reach their desired body temperature.
Ducklings will grow much faster than baby chicks, so also be prepared to move them into larger accommodations. If the weather is warm, 70’s or better… allow them out on the lawn to forage. Wherever you go, they will go… sampling everything with their bill.
Have fun with your ducklings! I discourage keeping them in with your chickens, as the ducks will empty chicken drinkers in short order and will splash everywhere, making keeping the chicken coop dry impossibility. They do not require a perch as chickens do, so nesting materials on the ground are a must.
Frederick J. Dunn is a retired Navy man and a life long poultry man. He raises bees, emu and chickens in rural PA and is the author of the DVD Regarding Chickens. Fred is a contributor to Mother Earth News. Check out his website: www.fredsfinefowl.com to learn more about him.
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