I decided this year that I wanted to add some ducklings to our little place. I had never raised ducks, only chickens but I didn’t think they would be all that different. I am in the midst of learning just how different they really are from each other! As always, I don’t claim to be an expert but I feel like we are in this thing together so I wanted to share a few things I am learning along the way! Feel free to leave comments if you have any tips for me as well!
My experience raising chickens for many years should have given me a clue here but I was having trouble finding ducklings so I added some quickly onto a friends order of chickens to be able to have them shipped here more economically. I wanted to get a few for the eggs but ended up actually ordering what the hatchery defines as a “meat bird” also known as the Pekin duck. These ducks grow at a very fast rate and put food away very quickly. I have to say though they are very cute and I am enjoying watching the difference in behavior between them and a baby chick. The Pekin has a very heavy body and is not the greatest egg layer. If you want ducks for egg laying there are several varieties available such as the Welsh Harlequin or the Khaki Campbell that would provide you more eggs than the Pekin duck. The Pekin will lay eggs but it will probably be a little more than half the egg production as the above mentioned breeds. Depending on what the purpose of your duck purchase is considering the breed would be a really wise thing to research before getting them. If you are talking about ducks in the “chicken world” these would be considered more of a “dual purpose” bird. This usually means they are not star egg layers but are a heavy breed to use for meat or eggs.
Like a duck to water
Saying ducks love water is an understatement! Wow! I am hauling water several times a day. It has become my JOB! Now I realize a lot of that is attributed to my set up for the moment so I can’t totally blame my little fuzzy friends. First of all, it is hotter than…..well its REALLY hot to put it nicely. I currently have them in a chicken tractor because they are small and I am moving them to fresh grass everyday. I don’t have room for a kiddie pool so I refill a fresh water pan for them several times a day. Refilling would not be necessary but it is a free for all as soon as the water goes down and there are webbed feet and bills flying to dive into the water! They are splashing, they are drinking, they are doing the back stroke! Well maybe not the back stroke but you get the picture. That water is sloshed out of there before I can make it back to the house! It is when the element of water is introduced that you notice the huge difference between a duck and chicken! Ducks have to be able to submerge their heads in the water. They have to keep their mucous membranes moist and the holes in the top of their bill and through their open bills is the primary ways they do that. They mash up bugs, food and worms through their bills and need water to help them to eat without choking. It’s always good to give them a wet feed and always access to water especially when they’re eating but of course having water all the time is best if you can keep it out there for them all the time. As they get older you can provide a kiddie pool for them to swim and play but beware, it will get dirty fast. It is not necessary to provide swimming water but I believe they’re probably happier with access to a pond or kiddie pool. At the bare minimum they must have a water container that they can fully submerge their face in to clean their heads. If you do provide them a trough to swim in always supervise small ducklings because they can get tired and drown. Providing an easy way for them to stand up and get out and supervising until they are older is best.
You can give a duckling starter chicken feed however due to the fast rate that they grow they do require extra Niacin to avoid leg problems if you are not feeding them a feed especially for ducks. This is something I wasn’t aware of and was very thankful for a knowledgeable friend when my babies first arrived. You can make sure they receive the extra nutrient by sprinkling Brewers Yeast on the top of their feed at the rate of about 5% of their feed and they should receive adequate Niacin in their diets. I would also avoid any medicated feed and of course I always strive to offer organic feed. They also love leafy green veggies and I try to chop it up small and offer it to them with their feed. Ducks will dig around in the mud with their bills so don’t be alarmed if you go out and all of their little bills are covered with mud. They were just doing their thing and hunting for bugs!
Getting them tucked in at night can be a trick!
I have not encountered this yet because my ducklings are still small and in a chicken tractor but it was something that is a huge thing for me to find out AFTER the fact. A duck will not go into a coop at sunset like a chicken. If you are trying to incorporate them with a chicken flock you will have to lead them into the coop at night with the lure of food. This could really throw off some plans if you use an automatic door and aren’t available every night to lock your flock up. A duck out in the wild will go out into the water to keep them safe from nocturnal predators but without that freedom they could be an easy target for a predator if not kept safe at night. They can however be trained to come to you for feeding each night and you can bring their feed into the coop and lock them in with the chickens until morning for safe keeping. This scenario is really something to consider when thinking of adding waterfowl to your existing chicken flock.
All in all I love the ducklings, they can be extremely messy but very fun to watch. I am enjoying their antics despite all of the water hauls I am doing right now. Every new animal you add to your homestead is a learning experience and the opportunity to see how that life could benefit you and your family and how you can give that animal a wonderful life. Off to haul more water!