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Duckling has imprinted on us, what do we teach it?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Brex, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. Brex

    Brex Out Of The Brooder

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    It's a bit of a sad story, but hopefully it won't end so sad...

    A few months ago we had a fox get into the coop and took about half of the hens, all their chicks and all but three of the ducks.
    Since then we've given one of the ducks away, and managed to have three chicks hatch in good health... Unfortunately the two remaining Indian runners are notoriously bad at keeping eggs intact. So this time two of our hens went broody we jammed some duck eggs under her too... Well after the long wait only two duck eggs were left. One got crushed in a motherly brawl between the hens leaving just one.

    We all love our ducks and have tried many times to get ducklings raised, but in the end dogs, foxes or illness seem to take them before they're anywhere near full grown. Well the date came and four little chicks popped out of their eggs. A day later and the mother hen decided that waiting around for the last egg was not going to happen. I went in to check it out one last time and noticed it had started to break out!

    Nights have been getting really cold around these parts so we took the egg in and put it under a heat lamp.

    Much later and there was hardly any progress at all, much later than that and we decided that it was a choice of watching him die in his shell or assist with the hatching process.

    Well after a very nerve-wracking and lenthgy operation the little guy made it.
    He was very weak, but after feeding him some mashed egg yolk he seemed to perk up a bit.

    Now without making this tear jerking story too much longer, here's the end result...

    The little guy now thinks we are his mum!
    We've tried unsuccessfully to put him back with the hen and her four chicks, but he cries and runs back to us!
    I've read around and found this is a permanent state.

    We have named him "Charlie" as we are unsure of the sex, and as it looks like we've inadvertantly become parents.
    We have time and love and were considering getting a pet just days before so we are dedicated to seeing to Charlies needs, but we're not sure on what behaviour or activities to teach him?

    He seems to know where water is, how to peck and eat bugs. He is only two days old at the Moment so no swimming lessons for a while...

    Is there anything you guys can recommend?
     
  2. duckyfromoz

    duckyfromoz Quackaholic

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    Firstly- welcome to BYC Brex- and congratulations on saving the one little duckling against so many odds.

    Unlike chickens- ducklings are a lot more independent- and dont need to be "taught" things like a mother hen will show here chickens. Once they know where the food and water is- they are pretty much right. Swimming instincts are very strong- and the can paddle and dive without assistance from a very young age. Charlie can have a swim - but you have to make it warm shallow water- and only for a few minutes- making sure you towel dry him and put him back into a warm brooder to finish drying off. Their down at such a young age can quickly because waterlogged until they grow feathers and are able to preen themselves and spread oil on the feathers. Again this is something that is a natural instinct- and they will do themselves without being taught by a mother duck.

    He would be happier with a friend- but at times a mirror- or a soft toy can help them to be happier on their own. He will cry when he cant see you - he has imprinted on you- and like any baby duck that cant see its mother- it will call out.

    At this stage providing food, water, warmth, clean bedding and company is all you really need to do for him- there will be many other things as he grows though. Type of feed- size of brooder - a safe place outside- integration back outside with your duck when he is older. For now enjoy while he is so little, as they grow up so fast- and do some reading on here- there are so many great threads on things you may find interesting and helpful in raising you little duckling.
     
  3. Brex

    Brex Out Of The Brooder

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    Well thanks there DuckyfromOz!

    Some useful things to know there!
    Usually if we have to incubate eggs we get them right back out with the rest of the birds quick smart, but not this little guy.

    I'm not sure what to expect really, and I worry we might lose him after such a traumatic hatching.
    I shall continue to search for tips on how to raise ducklings here, but there are a few important questions I have...

    How much/often should he be eating?
    There are containers of food in with him, but he has only eaten when we feed him.
    I can't be sure he is eating from the containers when we're not around...

    How much should he be sleeping?
    Today we took him outside to see if he would bond with the hen and he did a fair bit of running around.
    This afternoon he slept quite a bit and continues into late evening. Is this normal?
    I know he is very young at two days old, but we wanted to get him to bond asap.

    How can I keep the humidity up?
    We don't have a professional brooder, just a cardboard box and infra red lamp rig.
    Would an evaporative air cooler (water aircon) machine ithe same room help?
    He seems to have dry eyes. :-/

    Thanks for the time!
     
  4. duckyfromoz

    duckyfromoz Quackaholic

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    The duckling doesnt need humidity any more- just heat, but if his eyes look dry- make sure the water container for it is deep enough for it to put its whole head into. If he is getting too hot in the brooder he will move away from the heat so make sure there is space in the box for that. Getting too hot can dehydrate them- and one sign of that in ducklings is in the eyes.

    Ducklings of that age will eat and drink and sleep mostly when in a brooder. Outside with the mother things are a bit different - and they do walk around a lot. He must have had a big day... Usually I find form day 3 - 4 they are awake a lot more and much more active.

    They dont eat very much to begin with either- they use up the absorbed yolk and then the eating gets more frequent. Do you have any poultry vitamins on hand?? Giving the duckling a bit in the water could help to give it a boost. Pity we werent closer..as I was given a single duckling to raise yesterday- I could have given you this little one to raise with your single one so they werent both alone.
     
  5. xke4

    xke4 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good Morning
    I work in wildlife rehab specifically I raise all the ducklings that come in over the season till they are juveniles. Quite often I will get one in at a time.....or get one Wood Duck and 8 Mallards. (Mallards being little piggies....gobbling up all the food before the Woodie calms down enough to eat). In that case, I often have to raise one by itself. As long as there is food always available with fresh water deep enough that they can get their bill into it but not swim in it, and warmth they are fine. A feather duster duct taped to the side of their enclosure is instantly "Mom" ( but I suggest you have 2 on hand cuz they do get poopy and need frequent washings).
    Occasionally, someone will drop off an adult duck that they have raised in their daughter's bedroom and now can't stand the smell.......or one that has been dumped at a pond and expected to suddenly adopt the behaviours of a wild duck...forage and migrate for instance......and the darn thing is a Rouen that would need wings like a Boeing to migrate with. Regardless the reason, no matter what degree they are bonded to people, two weeks in my "Duck Boot Camp" with my 3 permanent rescued ducks is enough to make them completely forget they once sat on my knee and wrapped their necks around mine in a hug. I suggest to you that once they are adults, you introduce him to the others and keep a watchful eye that no one gets nasty. Do it when they are having swim time or when you have just given them some yummy treats so there is a bit of a distraction.....not just "hey! that guy is new!! Let's pick on him!!!!" Is there a separate place where you could maybe house him for a day or two with one of your more placid ducks for company for a few days?
    Once again, I would stress that you wait until he is full grown to give him a fighting chance. If it were me, in another month or so when the snow disappears, I would take a cup of mealworms out, let the 2 adults out on the lawn, throw down a few mealworms, release the ducky and watch. Initially he might stay close to you but I bet in time, curiousity will take over and he will be investigating the yumminess of mud right beside the others. Good Luck.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2011
  6. Brex

    Brex Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks Ducky and thanks xke4!
    It's great to be a part of an active forum, and you guys really deliver!

    At the moment Charlie has a small dish of water with a stone in it. I read on another post this helps to stop drownings, but perhaps I'll need to put a bit more water in it so that he can wash his eyes/face.

    His box is pretty large, and one half is fully shaded. Charlie often gets up and moves around from hot to cold areas.
    I've noticed that only one of his eyes seem odd. He seems to have it half closed and it's always last to open when he wakes up.
    As I said before, he had a big day outside today, so perhaps it's dust or an irritation from the grass...
    Nonetheless I got a wet ear-cleaner (qtip?) and gently cleaned around the eye incase it was dyed food.
    Not much improvement but i'll see what it's like tomorrow.
    (I remember during the assisted hatching that that eye was first out and upwards, I hope there was no damage to it! )

    I do no have any poultry vitamins, but I intend to go into town tomorrow and inquire about them. I also need something to feed the little fellow, as all I have at the moment is pollard and water mixed.

    Ducky, I'm in NSW inland a bit and north. Thanks for thinking of me and poor Charlie! I think I'll ask around town and see if anyone has some ducklings recently hatched. He'll need a friend!

    Xke, great idea with the duster! I didnt have a duster handy but and old rag hung from the edge of the box works great!
    Charlie often curls up in his tiny tent when things get too hot under the lamp.
    I will try to reintegrate him to the rest of the birds, but as it stands the only two other ducks i have left are his parents. They pretty much keep to them selves being surrounded by a bunch of chooks, but I'll give it a go anyhow.

    One more question for the pros,...
    As Charlie is an Indian runner, he has a long neck... When he sleeps his head flops about in a funny but uncomfortable looking manner. Is this normal? I try to keep his box lined with bunched rags on top of the newspaper, but he pretty much sleeps wherever.
    Great advice and thanks a bunch guys!
     
  7. Brex

    Brex Out Of The Brooder

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    Oh and by the way, we only name animals we intend to keep as pets.
    It might be a bit odd to name Charlie, but people know about our weird rule and assume that if we don't name an animal it may someday be eaten... [​IMG]
     
  8. xke4

    xke4 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:But not till he has grown to their size, right? Just checkin'
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2011
  9. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

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    A crusty eye is not unusual with a rough hatch. When I had a solo duckling hatch with a crusty eye, I just dabbed it daily with a qtip soaked in saline solution. It was fine after a week or so.
     
  10. Brex

    Brex Out Of The Brooder

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    Well I'm back again after a bout of internet problems and occasional cussing!

    Things have been going well with us and Charlie!

    Thank you all for your advice and instruction!

    Here is a the first of a few pictures we've taken.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Charlie has began to grow and develop much more personality these last few days!
    He's much more inquisitive and has worked out two methods of escaping his box... We only recently discovered the second... [​IMG]
    He will chase us around the house, and when tired of pecking at spots and bugs, often falls asleep on our feet or hands...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Charlie also seems to be completely bonkers for 'Mum & Dad', crying out whenever we're far away or simply out of sight!
    He also seems to chitter along with us when we're in conversation... just three humans chewing the fat?!

    Charlie has finally decided he can eat on his own, and now proudly feeds and drinks on his own.
    The one thing he hasn't figured out yet (or is too lazy to do anything about) is to roll over from on his back...
    A few escape attempts ended with him stuck on his back simply chirping and gazing up at us!
    I also woke up one morning to Charlie sleeping still on his back, He woke to my belly deep laughter but so relaxed in his position, dozed off again! [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I'll admit when I thought of getting a pet, a duck was not the last thing on my mind, it wasn't on my mind at all!!!
    My Wife is a little disappointed that we don't have a puppy, and continues to ague that I love Charlie more, but deep in both our hearts we know that no other pet will do now!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     

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