Its Easter period and you want to purchase a baby duck or multiple baby ducks, or you either found one and you need help. Here are some tips on how to successfully grow them into adulthood.
A baby duck is called a “duckling”. Most ducks are aquatic birds, found in both salt and freshwater. A group of ducklings can be called a paddle, bunch, flock, paddling, waddling, raft, brace, team, or simply little ducks. Honestly, it all comes down to what you want to call them.
A baby duck cannot survive on its own without its mother’s warmth and protection. Until they grow feathers, ducklings need the oils on the feathers of their moms -this provides them with waterproofing abilities. Ducklings should never be placed in water.
They could die from cold even if the outdoor temperature is warm because they can’t grow their own feathers until they are several weeks old. It is necessary to provide ducklings with the proper amount of heat at the proper amount of time, usually between two to six weeks, depending on the weather and the rate of feather development. This leads us to a debatable question.
ARE HEAT LAMPS REALLY NECESSARY FOR BABY DUCKS?
You can put a heat lamp over the brooder at a corner. This ensures that if they are cold they can go under the light for some warmth, and if they get too hot they can move out from under the light. But you should know that ducklings don’t need heat for as long as chicks do. Start out with a temperature of 90oC. A thermometer or a light bulb with a red filter can be used.
From there on you could dial down the temperature by 1 degree a day until you reach 70 degrees. You don’t have to be precise with this though, the ducklings will let you know if they are uncomfortable- be sure to pay attention.
If you check up on them and see them peeping loudly and gathered together bring back some of the heat. If they are sitting with their mouths open, then maybe it’s too hot for them, you should reduce the heat a little bit.
But what if you don’t have heat lamps or simply do not want to use them? What happens when there’s no electricity or there’s a shortage of electricity? The answer would be to simply mimic nature!
Build your ducklings a well-insulated nest constructed with straw bedding, feathers, or papers, and put your ducklings into a shelter. The idea is to have your ducklings in a coop, an insulated coop. This will make them huddle together naturally and keep each other warm- with the aid of some added nesting materials, they should be able to grow- even without a heat lamp!
HANDLING AND CARE
Brooding ducklings takes a special kind of love and patience. You’d be amazed by how often they mess up their brooder, but asides that they are sweet and fun to raise. Just like children, you get a room all nice and clean in one moment before you know it, the room’s completely tattered and untidy. It is the same with ducks, they frankly just want to have fun!
Their brooder will need to be cleaned regularly, at least daily. Don’t expect a nice clean duckling. They poop everywhere and spread their provided feed everywhere. They may be clean birds (they bathe themselves) but they are messy!
Baby ducks should be handled with care as they are very fragile and can easily get injured through rough handling- I can’t stress that enough. You need to approach them with a gentle touch you know. DO NOT drop ducklings anyhow, just don’t.
Baby ducks are possessive; they are social creatures. They take the first thing they see as their mother, so if you’re raising multiple ducklings without a mother they will become close and bond together. If you’re raising a lone duck you’d need to spend more time with it so it can get attached to you. Baby ducks easily feel alone when they’re not socialized with.
Baby ducks can get hurt easily if the place they’re standing on is slippery. A condition called spray leg could develop and you’d then need to get that treated. This can be avoided by cleaning the place they stay regularly. If there’s no momma duck around, you could improvise by putting a washable stuffed animal in with the ducklings so they’d have something to cuddle with and be so much secure.
As I said, ducks don’t like to be alone. I would advise you get at least 3 ducks as this would make them much happier.
Baby ducks need starter feed with 20-23% protein for 3 weeks. Too much protein can cause a condition called “Angel wing” where the feathers on the wings stick out upwards instead of flattening against the body, and too little can cause strains of nutritional deficiencies and health problems. Protein regulation/reduction should be ensured after the first 3 weeks.
Their feeds can be supplemented with oats and the likes, to reduce protein.
Baby ducks can eat the same starter feed that chicks do, but they need more niacin than chickens. The niacin helps ducklings’ bones develop correctly as they grow extremely fast. You can add brewer’s yeast to their food in a 5% ratio (recommended).
Feeds should be placed in wide bowls or containers that can’t be tipped over. Ducklings have a large appetite for food; if your ducklings don’t seem hungry frequently then there might be something wrong. You should give them a NON-MEDICATED STARTER FEED.
A medicated feed could cause various wrongs to your ducklings. It’s a fact that ducklings eat more than chicks do and could overdose on the medications which in turn could make them sick. Chick feed is always medicated to prevent a respiratory disease (coccidiosis) which ducks do not have problems with. Make sure not to purchase adult waterfowl feed for ducklings.
Finely chopped greens and fruits (not too much) are also important to a duck’s diet. Ducks won’t eat wilted or frayed greens, so one trick is to put small chopped amounts of greens to float in a bowl of water. This ensures the freshness of the green and in turn, keeps them occupied playing and paddling for the leafy treats. They are more likely to eat varied diets later in life if introduced prior to their matured growth.
GRITs are also recommended for your birds to have access to. This is simply grounded stones that help to grind up food in their gizzard.
It won’t come as a surprise that WATER IS VERY IMPORTANT for ducks. They NEED water to swallow their food. Baby ducks require a constant supply of clean water (usually accompanied by their food), deep and sturdy enough for them to put their head.
You should know that your ducklings will get in their bowl of water at any chance they get, and can do lots of nasty things in there. You could introduce some clean rocks and marbles into the water bowl to help prevent this and to also help their bowls not to spill.
Baby ducks can start swimming almost immediately (a week old). Provisions should be made for their swimming but note: Ducks lack the essential oil needed to keep afloat of water. Therefore, they should be supervised whenever they are near water (which should be for a short period of time), at least for the first five weeks. 10-15 minutes should be enough to ensure their happiness and well-being. So even though they love water, they can still drown as they are very young. Drowning is one of the major causes of duckling deaths! You should ensure you get a mini pool just for your ducks.
Once your ducks grow to a couple of weeks you can let them run free in your yard, provided you have a secure yard. Baby ducks are survivors contrary to what you might think, and they are intelligent as well. So make sure to have fun with them and take pictures too cause they grow fast!