The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Simplifying ducklings


Since I don't have any experience with ducks, I'm doing everything by the book at first.  (In case you're curious, "the book" means the duck chapter in The Resilient Gardener combined with Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks.)  But I'm already starting to wonder which troublesome aspects of duckling care I can safely change. 

First up is the waterer situation.  Ten ducklings managed to empty a pint of water out of a traditional waterer in an hour and a half, and I suspect most of that liquid ended up in their bedding or feathers.  Although ducks do need to submerged their heads from time to time to Ancona ducklingsclean their eyes, I'm wondering if a nipple-based waterer can be their primary drinking source if I give them an open container of water once a day for eyeball purposes.

Books also recommend that you not brood chicks and ducklings together, the primary reason being that ducks empty their waterers all over the bedding and all over the chicks, making the latter sick.  But if we keep the bedding dry with a better waterer, perhaps it will be okay to raise all 36 fluffballs in the same place?  I'm on the fence about this one, though, because it would be pretty interesting to keep feed consumption data on both types of birds separately (although that would also require Mark to build another outdoor brooder).

The other big difference between chicks and ducklings is that the latter need more niacin in their diet.  I plan to offer the ducklings some brewer's yeast instead of a chemical supplement, but I've also read that the real solution is to make sure ducklings have access to plenty of bugs.  That shouldn't be a problem since we'll have them out on pasture by next week!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We have always raised them together, but the ducks are very messy. We changed the bedding daily. Last year we put the chicken and duck adults on one of your waterers and it works very well for both[Thank you so much for that!!] That said, we haven't tried it with the little ones, but it's definitely worth trying - and a potential money maker if you could develop a nipple based duckling waterer. Those little guys really go through the water - and they get it everywhere.
Comment by Robin Sat Apr 26 07:54:20 2014
To drink ducks scoop their water from their water source and then lift their heads so that the water runs down their throats. I am not sure that they will manage a nipple drinker.I used to make sure that there box was big enough so to keep their bedding well away from their water.Make sure their water is not deep enough for them to drown themselves, I found they were very prone to doing this.
Comment by Chris Sat Apr 26 08:31:43 2014

Anna and Mark,

Ducks need a lot more water than chickens, most importantly to clear their nostrils. They also need water while they are eating, and yes, they definitely spread a lot of water around. However, we, and many others, raise chickens and ducks together with no problems. We have found the large plastic founts to be the best for ducks - they don't clog and they allow the ducks to submerge their beaks to clear their nostrils. In addition we use plastic mortar mixing troughs for the ducks to bathe and swim. After they are grown, we pasture them in the enclosure around our pond, and also provide a plastic fount for water next to their food in their duck house, which is a predator-proof enclosure. Adult ducks get herded into the duck house at night and get locked in until morning - otherwise they are sitting ducks for predators.


Comment by Harry Sat Apr 26 08:32:52 2014
Howdy, I can't stand the mess the ducklings make with water in a bowl and so I nipple water them. I take each one up to a rabbit roller ball nipple waterer and tap their beaks to it. After about 2 tries one gets it and the rest copy. I do raise chicks and duck together but no bantams, too small and fragile. My ducklings however seem to not like as much heat as the chicks. Good Luck.
Comment by Ruthlynn Savoy Sat Apr 26 16:16:07 2014

Ducks absolutely LOVE, and I mean LOVE water for play, for health, and mating rituals. They will drink and play in any water source. They LOVE mud!!! They need water when they eat. They love to put their food in the water. Do not be alarmed at how nasty the water will get....they don't care. Poop free water and Ducks do not mix.....:o) If you fret over it you will be changing their water 5 times a day. Once is sufficient.

They are so comical, and fun to watch. You will notice that they are very timid too....they will all move together but will wait until one is brave enough to do so. So cute.

Anna just use common sense and they'll be fine. They live in the wild without human help. I got ours because a clutch of them showed up in my small frog pond. I was so excited about it too. I knew nothing about Ducks but read a little bit on the internet and that was that.

Be aware that they will die from heat. They need water to keep cool. I lost two the first summer. But now I keep lots of water around.

Happy Ducking.....

Comment by Edith Sat Apr 26 19:29:36 2014

Greetings, One lesson I learned is no water in the coop for the ducks. No matter how tip-proof the container is, they will get their bedding and the floor soaked, so they don't need it at night (when they're bigger). I use the shallow and deep plastic livestock water troughs (30 gallon and 50 gallon) as well as small-sized kiddie pool. They spit mud and food into their water, so it essentially ferments and bubbles if it's not changed. I tend to change all of their water 1x per day, but sometimes 1x every other day. It's truly quite wasteful as far as water goes, so I have located our garden next to their pen and dump the containers in that direction. We had nice pumpkins, lettuce, carrots and leeks from the dirty water last year. Ducks are a different animal than chickens, but I prefer them here in the Pacific Northwest. Have fun with your flocks!

Comment by Jennie Alice Lillard Wed Apr 30 12:44:26 2014
Why not just make a simple duckling waterer from a gatorade bottle and a milk jug? Google duckmanjoel duckling waterer and watch video.
Comment by Joel Fri Feb 20 18:50:31 2015

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