As a beginner, ducks can be pretty challenging to care for. They are similar to chickens but are not the same and this leaves many at a loss. This guide provides a guide to how a beginner can take care of and raise their ducks.
Raising Ducks: Shelter
The living space needed for a duck is fairly similar to a chicken. They can easily stay in a coop-like structure. Domestic ducks are different from wild ducks in that they cannot fly. They have been intentionally bred to be heavier and hence, are left unable to fly. This means that their living space does not need to worry about them flying away. However, they do still need to be fully-enclosed from all sides as they require protection from predators. In fact, due to their inability to fly, they are even more vulnerable as they are often unable to escape as easily.
However, in contrast to chickens, a duck’s shelter does not have to be as warm or cozy. As water-dwelling creatures, ducks are able to withstand the cold far better than chickens. Therefore, their shelter does not have to be fully enclosed from the wind. It simply needs to be secure and protected from predators. Even in winter, ducks will not require extra heating within their shelter as they can easily withstand it. The shelter for ducks should also be well-ventilated as ducks release a lot of moisture in their exhales. If there is not enough airflow, the room will become very humid and this is not ideal for ducks.
When it comes to space, the shelter can be slightly smaller than that of chickens as ducks generally do not spend much time within their shelters. Instead, they prefer to roam about outside. Therefore, there only needs to be about four square feet of space for each duck within the shelter. The total height of the house should also be around three feet as this would ensure that they have enough headroom to move about.
The base of the shelter should also be covered in straw. The straw will serve adequately as nesting and bedding for the ducks. Ducks tend to nestle into the straw when sleeping and this also helps keep them warm. Like all animals and their bedding, this straw should be regularly changed out for cleanliness. However, if the straw is wet or smelling even faintly of ammonia, the straw should be immediately swapped out.
For the duck’s pen area, one inch thick or even smaller welded wire fencing should be used. This fencing should also be hammered into the ground as deep as eight inches to ensure that predators will not be able to crawl or dig underneath it and into the pen. The top of this pen should also be covered to ensure that predators are unable to climb into it. This will ensure the total safety of the ducks while allowing them space to move about.
Ducks do require some form of water body to splash about in. It does not have to be a pond. Instead, you could easily use a sufficiently sized tub or kiddie pool. The tub has to be big enough for them to submerge their bodies and head into. This is because ducks have an oil gland around the base of the tail. When preening, the oil gland needs to be submerged or in contact with water for it to leak waterproofing oil over a duck’s feathers. Therefore, the pool of water is necessary for the ducks to bathe in. Ducks also submerge their heads within the water to ensure that their mucous membranes are moist. Having a form of water body present for ducks is thus critical.
Ducks also eat in the water. They usually fill their mouths with mud, worms, and bugs then bring them into the water to wash. This means that the water often ends up dirty and muddy. Therefore, water should often be refilled daily. Changing it, however, is not necessary. It is only necessary to change the water if there is fecal matter or algae.
Raising Ducks: Diet
On average, ducks are able to eat the same kind of feed as chickens. There are special pellets for water birds like ducks but they are not necessary. Chicken feed will work fine for an adult duck. Only ducklings require a slightly more specialized diet. In essence, they require a greater amount of niacin in their diet. This is because ducklings grow much faster than chickens and hence, the niacin is needed for the bones of a duckling to grow properly. To supplement additional niacin to one’s ducklings, one can simply add some brewer’s yeast into the feed.
On average, an adult duck consumes about four to six ounces of feed in a day. To prevent wastage of feed, one can measure out amounts before placing them into the feeders. However, it is important to also note that the amount of food consumed by a duck varies across the seasons. During the winter where it is colder, ducks tend to eat more as more energy is expended on keeping warm. Contrastingly, ducks eat less in the summer as they are able to more easily find bugs and weeds when foraging. At the end of the day, you should throw away any leftover feed. This is especially so if it is wet.
Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are another important part of a duck’s diet. Therefore, leafy greens like lettuce, grass, or spinach can be added into their diet too. Ducks do not enjoy eating greens that are wilted, therefore, one could leave these greens within their water tub. This preserves the greens and they are able to enjoy it easily. Ducks also enjoy other vegetables and fruits like peas, corn, cucumbers, and watermelon.
Other supplements for ducks are things like coarse sand or dirt as ducks need this to help in grinding their food within their gizzard. Laying ducks would also need crushed oysters or eggshells to help them in laying strong eggs.
These are the two crucial concerns a beginner would face in raising their ducks. As long as they follow the steps within this guide, they will be able to easily raise their ducks.