Raising Ducks, My Crazy, Quirky Feathered Friends

I decided a couple years ago for some reason that I wanted a couple baby ducks. If you knew me this would not surprise you one bit. So I set about first of all finding out where one goes about buying a duck. I’m hoping that I can save future duck lovers from having to search.

Where do I find the ducks?

First you should decide if you waant to start from scratch and hatch your own eggs or if you want to start with ducklings for your first run at it. I’ve done both and they are equally rewarding. If you have children it’s really fun to get the eggs and hatch them yourself. To find baby ducks you don’t need to look any further than your local feed store if it’s in the spring. There are some great sites on the internet as well. I like www.efowl.com for both. If you order live ducklings they’ll arrive in about a week and you can start right away cuddling their fuzzy little butts! If you decide to get eggs you will need an incubator and some patience. I’ll talk about the eggs in a minute.

I got the ducks now what?

Ducks are super easy to care for but first you should know that they are messy animals and will need their cage cleaned a couple times a day. Also, they will love you but rarely do I get one that wants me to pet or hold him. They will love to follow you around the yard and quack for food. Okay, back to the ducklings. Have their cage ready, Line the bottom with some sort of absorbent bedding. Pine works fine. Don’t use cedar! No one told me this when I started but it’s bad for poultry. You can buy the feed at your local feed store it’s fairly cheap, about $15 for a 50 pound bag. Its poultry layer crumbles. They don’t need a pool when they’re tiny but you will need a heat lamp for the first couple weeks. I have water and feed silo’s that I also picked up at the feed store for about 5 bucks. What I find though is they just drink and drink from the water and play in it till their bedding is soaked and the water silo is empty. Go figure, they are ducks after all! To keep them dry over night because of this I would change the cage late in the evening and then just leave the water out so they didn’t stay wet and chilled all night long.

Wow those two weeks went fast!

Now your babies are about 2 weeks old and growing fast. In another couple months they’ll be full grown. By the time the ducklings are 2 weeks old I start letting mine be outside for the day and bring them in at night. While they’re out I have a little pen in the yard so they can eat grass and play. Most of the ducks predators are nocturnal so they should be fine during the day, unless you have a lot of stray dogs that wander in and out, or cats. If that is the case then make sure to have a cover on your pen outside so you don’t have a massacre. At this age I put a small pool, like a kiddie pool with them so they can clean themselves and swim a little. If you don’t have one then use the sprinkler, mine love to run in and out of the sprinkler chasing each other. Put food and water in the pen as well.

They’re all grown up!

Once they get the adult feathers, which is about 2 months old your ducks will be fairly self-sufficient. I happen to live on a lake so this is the point when I just have them follow me to the yard without the pen and let them find the lake. For the first couple nights when it starts to to get dark they’ll still happily let you herd them back to their night time cage. Once they get the taste for that water though, they won’t come back in. That is not to say you’ll never see them again. If I don’t go out to feed mine by a certain time they march their little feathered butts right to my back door and stare through the window! When I go out they run right up to me. Now if you don’t live on a lake or pond just make sure you give them a pool to swim in. If it was deep enough for them to dunk their head they’d be most happy, but it’s not completely necessary. They love scraps too, wilted lettuce and vegetables. If the veggies are too big they need to be chopped very small.

What if I buy fertilized eggs instead of ducklings?

I didn’t forget the babies before they hatch. You will need an incubator. I have tried the cheap styrofoam type and the hatch rate was very bad. I also have an incubator that only holds 7 eggs but it is digital and maintains the temperature very well. It also counts how many days until they hatch. Duck eggs take about 28 days to hatch at about 99 degrees. you must keep the humidity level up. It takes a little practice though and you may be disappointed. My first try I had 32 eggs and 6 ducklings hatched, giving me a 19% hatch rate. The 6 that hatched were from my digital incubator. Some are more difficult than others. Peking ducks seem to be fairly hardy and easy to hatch while Mandarin ducks are difficult, and expensive as well.

Raising ducks can be very rewarding. Their personalities are adorable and once they’re grown you can get eggs from them to eat, which are delicious I might add. Enjoy raising your ducks!

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