Bubbles Feathered Beauties

Quality, well cared for and very loved feathered beauties raised right

Raising Waterfowl

When raising waterfowl it can be really rewarding and yet so frustrating at the same time.    Let's face it, raising waterfowl can truly be a mess.   We all know waterfowl love their water and it is no different than leaving a couple kids home with Dad and having Dad do bath time.  The kids and Dad had a blast but oh what a mess they made.   



One of the most enjoyable things waterfowl owners love to do is sit and watch them play in their water.    We love to watch them swim around, dive in the water, play and groom.   It is all very relaxing for us to watch and enjoy.



When raising babies, a new waterfowl owner usually can hardly wait to watch the little rascals play in their water for the very first time.   What some of you maybe did not know is that just because a duck or goose loves to swim and you see them with their mamma's in the water,  there is a big difference between a Mamma raised baby and one that you hatched. 

Ducklings and goslings can be introduced to swimming water as early as one week of age but you must be very careful.   In the wild the mother shares her oils with the babies which helps to repel the water from them.  When raised in captivity they do not have the option.    When first introducing you babies to water,  they must be able to walk in and out of the water very easily.    The water should not be too cold and they must be able to find their heat lamp for rewarming without difficulty.    As they have no oil on their feathers at this age,  they cannot be in the water for long periods or they will become waterlogged and chilled.     Do not allow this to happen!   But this exposure to water speeds the development of their oil gland and they can probably be swimming freely by five or six weeks of age.

Ducklings and Goslings do not take heat well, so be sure not to overheat them.    They like a temperature of 90-92 degrees for the first 3 days, then 85-90 degrees for days 4 to 7. 
Typically the temperature can be dropped about 5 degrees a week and turned off during the day by 2-3 weeks and turned off completely by 3-5 weeks in cooler weather.    If you are raising them in a warm climate, they may not need extra heat after a week or two.    You will just have to observe them.    As they grow and add weight you can allow them to venture outdoors for brief periods during the day.     Once they are fully feathered they can stay outside all the time (7-9 weeks) though they should still have some shelter from the sun and heavy rains.
Make sure that when feeding your new ducklings to NEVER FEED THEM MEDICATED FEEDS.  Give ducklings an un-medicated duck or chick starter feed   I prefer game bird starter feed mixed with flock raiser.    It is recommend  to feed a non medicated starter with 20% protein for the first 10 weeks, then switching to a 15% grower for weeks 10-18, and a 16% layer after 18 weeks.   A flock raiser is a great addition to their feed as it has more nutrients in it than most specific breed feeds.    Adding brewer's yeast to their food is also a good plan to give ducklings for extra niacin as most feeds are too low in Niacin for ducks of all ages.    Ducklings have no teeth but appreciate finely chopped fruits, vegetables or greens.   Small insects and worms make good treats, as well.    Always make sure they have fresh water readily available at all times.  They can easily choke on their feed if they don't.
To keep ducks laying the year around, they must be supplied an adequate amount of laying feed that provides a minimum of 15 to 16 percent crude protein.   Most chicken laying rations prove satisfactory, although those that are medicated have been suspected of causing illness—even death—in ducks, especially when birds are raised in confinement and cannot dilute the potency of the medications through foraging.   To reduce waste and prevent ducks from choking, pellets are preferred, but course crumbles normally work out okay.   Fine, powdery feeds should be avoided.  Feed can be left in front of the birds at all times in a trough or hopper feeder, or it can be given twice daily in quantities that the ducks will clean up in 10 to 15 minutes.   The first method insures that the ducks are never deprived of feed, while the second system helps prevent feed loss to rodents and encourages the fowl to forage during the day.    However, laying birds cannot be expected to continue laying consistently, particularly during cold weather, if their intake of concentrated feeds is inadequate.    To produce mild-flavored eggs, feed containing marine products should not be utilized.    Dr. George Arscott, head of the Oregon Stat University Poultry Science Department, also urges that cottonseed meal not be used in breeding or laying rations since this protein supplement contains a toxin that can reduce hatchability and produce strange coloration in eggs, especially if the eggs are stored several weeks before being eaten.   You might also want to keep in mind that feed stuffs such as corn and dehydrated or fresh greens cause bright-colored yolks, while wheat, oats and barley result in pale yolks.  While producing, ducks are very sensitive to sudden changes in their diets.    To avoid throwing your birds into a premature molt and drastically reducing egg production, it’s wise to never change feeds while ducks are laying.    If the brand or type of feed you’ve been using must be altered, do so gradually, preferably over a span of at least a week or 10 days.
Water containers do not need to be elaborate, although I do suggest that they be at least four to six inches deep to permit the ducks to clean their bills and eyes.   For just a couple of ducks, a gallon tin can will suffice — and is easily cleaned.    For a larger number of birds, a three- to five-gallon bucket placed below a slowly dripping faucet or outfitted with a float valve works well.    Larger containers — such as a child’s wading pool or an old hot water tank that has been cut in half — will be enjoyed for bathing by ducks, but can be a nuisance to clean our regularly.    Ducks do not need bathing water to remain healthy.   To prevent unsanitary mud holes from developing around the watering area, it’s advantageous to place all watering receptacles on wire-covered platforms or locate them on the outside of the pen where the birds must reach through fencing in order to drink.    During cold weather, when drinking water freezes, an electric water warmer (a variety of such devices are available from the larger poultry and game bird supply dealers) can be used or lukewarm water should be provided a minimum of two or three times daily.

With their well-oiled feathers and thick coating of down, ducks are amazingly resistant to cold and wet weather.  For ducks in general, a windbreak that is bedded on the protected side with dry litter usually provides sufficient protection in areas where temperatures occasionally drop to 0º F.    However, for laying ducks, feed conversion and egg yields can be improved if ducks are housed at nighttime whenever temperatures regularly fall more than 5º to 10º F below the freezing level.    The duck house can be a simple shed-like structure (approximately three feet high) and does not require furnishings such as raised nests, perches and dropping pits.    When ducks are housed only at night, a minimum of three to five square feet of floor space per duck is recommended.    If you anticipate keeping your ducks inside continuously during severe weather, providing each bird with eight to 15 square feet  helps keep bedding reasonably dry and sanitary.    Because ducks roost on the ground at night, they are susceptible to predators.    Under most circumstances, ducks should be locked up at nighttime in a yard that is tightly fenced with woven wire or netting at least four feet high.    In areas where thieves such as weasels, raccoons and large owls are known to roam, it is much safer to lock ducks in a varmint-proof building or pen at nightfall.

For consistent winter egg production — especially in cold climate — ducks, like chickens, must be exposed to a minimum of 13 to 14 hours of light daily.    Therefore, during the short days between September and April, laying birds need supplemental lighting in most areas of the Northern Hemisphere.    Small flock owners often ignore this requirement and end up being disappointed with their birds’ performance.    However, day length is extremely important since it is the photoperiod that automatically turns the reproductive organs of poultry on and off.    The intensity of light required is low.    One 25-watt clear or white bulb located five to six feet above floor level will provide sufficient illumination for approximately 100 square feet of ground space.  Probably more important than intensity is consistency.     If you are using any type of heat lamp or lighting in your birds pens, make sure they are extremely secure and kept clean as fires can easily be started if precautions aren't taken.      It is paramount that the length of light never decreases while birds are producing heavily, or else the rate of lay can be drastically curtailed or brought to a sudden halt.    One method is to leave a light burning all night, which helps in keeping the birds calm.     However, ducks exposed to 24 hours of light daily seem to have a tendency to go broody after several months.    A better system, and the one that seems to be used most  extensively, is to purchase an automatic timer switch (small, dependable models are available for about $10 from most hardware dealers) that can be set to expose the birds to 13 to 16 hours of light daily by turning the lights on before daybreak and off after night fall.     To prevent premature broodiness and molting, 16 to 17 hours of light each day seems to be the upper limit for ducks.

If you would like to make a nesting box for your ducks, the ideal size for most sized ducks is  12 x 18 x 12 inches deep

Duck

First Pictures Head of a male African Goose             Second Picture   -   Male Toulouse Goose