28392 questions

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by TLWR, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. TLWR

    TLWR Songster

    Jul 10, 2010
    southern AL
    I've researched online, I've read books (which seam geared more toward lots of ducks, not just a few), I've read and/or scanned many many posts in this forum, yet I still don't feel like I know what I'm about to do.

    We live in southern AL on 6 acres. When we bought the house a couple of months ago, I told DH I wanted a couple of ducks. He said as long as he could get eggs from them, fine by him. We've agreed on 2 Indian Runner females. I might add in a pekin as well. I can get a pekin locally, but I've not found a resource for runners locally, so have looked online for a few places where I can order just a couple of them.

    I'm not really sure what we have for predators around here, though I do know there are plenty of large black snakes around and we have deer. My neighbors have a pond on their property as well as 2 horse and 3 muscovy ducks. Our property is fenced, though the side we share with the horse neighbors is barbed wire, they could venture next door under the barbed wire, if so inclined.

    The questions:

    1 - it's mostly in the 90s here during the day mid 70's at night. If I order some runners and put them in our dog kennel on the patio (covered), will that work or do I still need to get a heat lamp for them?

    2 - I can get a pool for them, but would like to build a pond on the property - how big would it need to be to accommodate 3-4 ducks and have it 'natural' so I'm not cleaning it out?

    3 - housing/night time protocol - I'm still looking at options on duck housing, but would like something with a vinyl floor so I can just hose it out and not worry about rot/decay/etc. Do they have to be closed into the house at night or can I close them into a smaller fenced area made more secure/predator proof? Should their house be raised off the ground or if fenced around, on the ground is fine?
    3a - should they be put in their house once it gets dark? If so, how will they deal with being housed up longer in the winter? And in the summer, are they going to be quacking at first light (I was out at 4:30 yesterday with my sick dog and heard roosters up already, I'd like not to have my ducks add to the noise)?

    4 - feed - I know not to use medicated feed and I can use chick starter. How much will I need for a few ducks, how long and when would they move onto something else (and what am I looking for then)? Will the amt depend on what they are able to forage for themselves since we plan to let them have run of the yard?

    5 - free range - ideally we give them free range of the yard. We have 3 dogs (1 is quite sick and won't be around much longer [​IMG] ), so we'll have to see how 2 do with ducks as they have free yard access when I'm home/awake - otherwise I close the gate and they get the dog yard. How soon can I give them that free range? Yard is still quite wooded as we are slowly figuring out what/how we want to clear it, but there is a sizable amt that is fenced that is cleared.

    6 - If I pick up 2 pekins locally (or a pekin and something else local), can I introduce 2 indian runners (if still hatching) when DH returns from his isolated duty tour late this summer? Or is it better to get them all at once?

    7 - duck sitters - Ideally we'll have somebody come stay with the dogs and they can also take care of the ducks as well, but if for some reason we can't do that, if they have access to water and we leave food and confine them to a small portion of the yard, can they do a few days, or we'll still need to have somebody come in and do duck duty?

    8 - what do I need to have ready before I order/bring anybody home? I have a dog kennel/crate for the first couple of weeks, but beyond that?

    Ok, so maybe not 28392 questions, but I'm sure I have more that I've forgotten, but the above are the main ones.
    Thanks [​IMG]

  2. Miss Ducky

    Miss Ducky Chirping

    Jun 29, 2010
    I can answer a few-but I am fairly new to duckkeeping, so don't quote me [​IMG] Most is taken from what I have read.
    1) Yes, you will need a heat lamp, at least for the nighttime. You should probably place it beside the pen rather than in it. You might be able to get away with just a regular light bulb. Just watch them to see if the are huddled beneath it, to determine whether you should get a brooder lamp.
    3) Lots of people have secure pens, though you need to make sure they have some kind of shelter in there (Such as a dog house) On the ground is fine as long as the flooring is secure enough to prevent creature from digging under it.
    3a) They will need to be put into some kind of predator proof house at night. I do not think they will mind being in longer in the wintertime. Don't know about noise level. Males are quieter, but I suppose that doesn't really help you, needing eggs. Speaking of which, Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners are best for eggs. Good choice on the Pekins, I've read that they make sweet pets [​IMG]
    6) Probably best to get them all at once, as babies, so they can bond on each other. My aunt has a Pekin and an Indian Runner who never leave each others side!
    7) You will need someone to at least change their water at least one a day, and ideally the food. And how big of a corner of the yard are we talking?
    Good luck and have fun with your duckies! Are they going to pets or are they strictly livestock?
  3. TLWR

    TLWR Songster

    Jul 10, 2010
    southern AL
    Pets with egg benefits [​IMG]

    I think I'm leaning toward this for night time enclosure, with the small enclosed (top and bottom) run - would they need to be 'locked in' to the house at night or could they still have access to the little run? Is there a benefit to letting them have a little run at night if secure?

    The place I can give them a smaller enclosed area is probably about 75'x50'. The previous owners had it partially fenced for something and it would be quite easy to add another length to completely enclose it - especially after spending 2 weeks installing 1500 feet of fencing on my own!
  4. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    Welcome! [​IMG]

    Good that you are being so thorough ahead of time!!! I am keeping eleven runner ducks, who arrived on 2/24. They seem fine. I can offer you my best responses.

    Nighttime temperatures will be too cool in the 70's until they are several weeks old. They need to be near 90F the first week, dropping 5 degrees a week until they are okay at the temperatures of their environment (mine stayed indoors for three months because it was still very cold at night, and I had no source of heat for their outdoor house).

    Regarding the pool versus the pond, I use two concrete mixing pans for my eleven runners. Once (rarely, twice) a day I empty them by lifting one end. I have made a small channel to the grape arbor, so I am changing the ducks' water and fertilizing and watering the grapes at the same time. They are not as artistic looking as a pond, but much much much less expensive and much lower maintenance. Ponds require proper siting, and depending on the source of the water, ponds can fill up quickly with nutrients (not to mention duck poop nutrients) which produce algae and odor, need to be managed for mosquitoes (the solution to mosquitoes could be quite toxic to ducks), need to be aerated, need a filtration system, attract predators . . . . I'll stop there, since you can see I am not sold on the benefits of ponds for domestic ducks.

    Check in with Wifezilla - she has more recent experience with ponds, so she can give you some good information.

    If you want a pond, go for it. But do some serious research on ponds first.

    Our duck house is a double-walled plywood box, with openings on top covered with half inch hardware cloth. I have posted pictures of it somewhere here at BYC [​IMG] I covered the floor and about five or six inches up the wall with vinyl flooring sheets. I covered the edges with 1"x3" furring strips to keep yuck from getting underneath. I don't need to hose it. I use pine shavings, sawdust and an occasional topping of straw for bedding. I add several handfuls of peat moss when I add much bedding, because this deep litter method is actually a slow compost method, and peat moss lowers the pH which reduces production of ammonia (at least, that is what I have been taught and it seems to be working). Anyway, I don't have to do much to clean out the house. In the morning, I lightly rake the top layer, getting some fresh droppings. Those go on the garden. Then I use a garden stake or a rake handle to stir the bedding, getting air throughout it. This keeps it from going anaerobic and producing ammonia and other nasty gases. It also makes it a better insulator. After raking and fluffing, I sprinkle about a half a cat litter bucket of shavings on top. If the nest boxes need fresh straw, I take care of that, but that is not needed every day.

    Attached to the house is a night pen, completely enclosed in half inch hardware cloth (top, bottom, sides). The bottom has sand with sawdust on top. This is where their water bowls are. It gets pretty damp, so I do need to shovel out the bedding more frequently. There is no set schedule for it. I use the smell test. When it needs to be changed, I shovel it out and put it on the garden, then replace the sawdust with a one or two inch layer, and add more when the current layer gets soaked.

    We have a l o o o o n g list of predators, so I lock them in at night, into the house/pen setup. That is surrounded by two strands of equine electric fence tape.

    The house is up off the ground about eight inches. That should help with dampness, but I still need to put a hardware cloth skirt around the bottom before autumn, to discourage rodents nesting under there. The cats help, though.

    My ducks do give a call at first light, but when I don't respond they quiet down. They give a call after another 15 to 30 minutes. If I am not out there by 7 or so, the calling does get more frequent. I usually let them out around 6:30 or 6:45.

    Having a small secure pen is nice because most ducks, I am told, do like fresh air. Once they are full grown, they are quite cold hardy, they say. Some complain that their ducks will not go inside, even in snowy weather. Mine sleep in the house but seem to appreciate having their veranda.

    For feed, yes what they forage will affect how much boughten feed they eat. Ducklings need three times the niacin chicks do. If you will use chick starter, please add some niacin to their water (100 mg/gallon is recommended by Storey's Guide for niacin deficiency, so once they are foraging, something less than that should work), or sprinkle their feed lightly with brewer's yeast. Bugs have niacin in them, but as I have written before, nutrition is a bit of an art. Niacin deficiency has dire consequences, though, so it would be good to make sure they are getting some supplementation with their chick starter.

    Two to three weeks is a good time to shift from starter crumbles to grower or grower/maintenance pellets.

    Some hawks will nab small ducklings, so watch out with the free ranging while they are small. Perhaps a county agent can tell you what kind of predators you need to be concerned about. Also, ducklings get themselves into the most ridiculous trouble faster than I can imagine. They can impale themselves, get stuck, panic and hurl themselves into things . . . Just be aware you may have to do quick rescues of the unexpected sort.

    People introduce mixed-age ducks all the time. It has its challenges, and depends on the ducks. A word of caution, though. Runners are a small breed, Pekins larger. Ask around and see if a Pekin drake can harm a female runner. Unless you have all females, it would be good to consider size differences.

    I would have someone check on the ducks if I had to be away overnight.

    For bringing them home, a watering setup that won't make you crazy - plan for the immense amount of splashing they do. Also, the waterer needs to be not so deep they can drown (remember I wrote about the trouble they can get into?). They need to be kept warm enough, they need bedding that is easily changed (this is for you and for them). They need good ventilation and protection from predators (we have housecats). They need a feeder they won't flip or be able to stand and poop in, and enough room that they don't get on each others' nerves as they get bigger. I like having vitamins and electrolytes handy in case anyone feels puny. A first aid kit is a good idea. There is a sticky for that, I think. Initially, triple antibiotic, gauze and vet wrap may be the way to go. There will be other opinions.

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