We got ducks! We brought them home just shy of 4 weeks ago. It's been a super cute, sweet and fun adventure with a few challenges.
Let me say first ducks are not chickens. We have raised chickens since 2010 and chickens are easy. Not a giant learning curve. Tons of websites, blogs , social groups and books that all say close to the same things. I know a lot of people with chickens I can always pick their brains. Ducks have all the resources but everything is different. I know no one with ducks and they aren't as intuitive.
So I brought home ducks thinking they needed a warmer, a place to play in water and food. What I found out is ducks are not born waterproof. They can drowned or freeze to death in a tiny bit of water. They need to be kept dry until fully featured. How is this true? I see ducklings in the pond swimming. Well they have a Mother duck. The Mother duck has waterproof oils she is always rubbing on her babies helping them survive while they grow. Ok so no water to play in? No, they can play in water under supervision for shot periods of time. They will need to be completely dried and put back in their warm brooder when done.
Feeding your ducks. Well they are babies feed them chick food right? NO! Chickens need different things than ducks. Chickens grow slower and should start on a medicated feed to prevent common chick illnesses. The medication in chick feed is very bad for your ducklings. It can kill them. The feed store recommended Flock Raiser. No medication. I didn't guess that was wrong. Made since I used it with my quail. Quail are game birds I guess ducks are too. Well Flock Raiser isn't just without medication it's also high in protein. Fast growing birds need higher protein to support muscle and feathers growth. What is didn't know is some birds are fine on Flock Raiser and some still need more. I found out the hard way. My duck had a seizure. Backyard Chickens forum has duck owners that say this can happen for a few reasons. Infection, neurological or low vitamin B3. There's no duck doctors so my inner science geek had to weigh out the symptoms and try and treat. Well the day before the seizure the duck kept sitting and had shaking legs. I thought it was cold and heated it up. Seemed to be correct until the seizure. A few places noted shaking legs and seizures could be they need Niacin/B3 I could give them niacin crushed up( not slow release) or try mixing Brewers Yeast in their food and water. I got Brewers yeast. We've been using it a week and the ducklings seems to be more active. Less sitting and no seizures that I can tell. I've been giving them a scoop in their food morning and night.
Oh wait food morning and night. The food will get wet. Ducks dip their food in their water making a mess. The food gets soaked and will mold. Mold is another duck killer so change the food often. As ducklings they need a lot of food. As grown ducks you limit the food to a cup in the morning and the evening. Ducklings needs the food for fast growing. Ducks if they eat food all day will develop a fatty liver and get very sick. Again it could kill them. Back to the seizure. We added Brewers yeast and are upping their protein until fully feathered. Guess what there are unmediated chick feed with higher protein that Flocker Raiser. I found this bag and will see how it goes. I was told it's good for duck and other meat birds. No we aren't eating these duke purpose ducks.
Other things we can add in moderation to our ducks diet are peas, mealworms and sardines. Don't worry if your ducks won't eat them. They are just as picky as kids. My ducks do not like sardines and they love peas. Ducks also need water to eat so they don't choke. They dip their food and clean their nostrils by dipping their beaks while eating. This makes a huge mess and gets the ducks messy and wet.
Next challenge. How to keep the ducklings dry. If they get messy and wet you can safely assume they will get everything around them messy and wet. Keeping them clean and dry is a chore you can't ignore. I've set up a Rubbermaid tub as their brooder. The tub has holes drilled in the bottom for extra draining. The tub sits in a baby pool to collect the water.
The first bedding we tried was corn cob. We used it with our turtles and our chickens. It's ok with ducks but doesn't keep them dry. It's just easy to dump in the trash for a quick cleaning. I'm cleaning their brooder twice a day.
Since I go through a ton of bedding when I ran out of cob I used Aspen shavings. They are very clean and don't create a lot of dust. I use them with our Guinea pig and chickens.
No dust helps prevent respiratory issues. Don't ever use cedar it causes cancer in some animals. With ducks shavings are a nasty wet mess. Off to Tractor Supply I went for more corn cob. Well tractor supply does not carry corn cop cop so I was stuck trying to find something that I could use. The manager of the store showed me corn cob horse bedding which is a pellet that when it gets wet absorbs the water and breaks up into a dust. So far this is my very favorite I can change the ducks bedding once every other day. That's with them dumping a ton of water. My ducks are dry.
Last and something you have to do is allow your ducklings to bathe. They are dirty. Their features are coming in and itch. It's also super cute and a great time to talk to the ducklings and bond. Find a sunny or warm place. Put enough water for them to cover their feet and sit and watch them play and clean themselves. Limited time. We do it 15 to 20 minutes. Dry them off and put them in their warm brooder. They end up cute and fluffy.