Emergency: 10 ducks dead and counting. Please help!

HeatherFeather

Songster
10 Years
Feb 16, 2009
191
7
121
Severn Bridge, ON
I am raising meat pekins for the third year. For the first 2 years we had incredible success, raising no more than 25 at at a time. We never lost any. This year, we went all out and I got several orders from restaurants.

I started with 156 last Wednesday, and now I have lost 10. I can see that there are several which are becoming weak and I will lose those ones tomorrow. What is different than when I raised small numbers are 1. that the brooder is tighter and therefore more humid. and 2. that I started bedding them on wood shavings the first day. Previously I had bedded them by layering old feed sacks over shavings and changing them out 2-3 times a day for the first week or so. I had figured this was too many ducks to do that with so I started straight out with shavings. It is also really hard to crawl to the back of the brooder...I am brooding them in a 4X8 ft stall. There is a sheet of drywall installed on the top, and 3 heatlamps inside.

Today I lost 4 ducks. My husband cut 2 of them open and we found their gizzards full of wood shavings. There was nothing in their crops or stomachs. I had suggested that we should kill a healthy one and check its gizzard for comparison but he didn't want to.

My husband thinks I should start putting sand down instead of shavings. I'm not sure this will work as its not absorbent.

Any suggestions as to what I can do would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Heather
 

Luelromun

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 21, 2013
38
2
26
Sorry for the loss of the ducks! Not for your sake,for the sake of the ducks! I feel that starting with that many in that small space,you are going to lose more than you have already! And your husband guts one to see inside? Seriously? I certainly understand making a living however do you have to be so Caveman or Redneck style about it! I have ducks foe breeding and eggs not for slaughter! GREEDY will get you nowhere! These are beautiful ducks,I cannot for the life of me understand! Good Luck with the greed factor!
 

Christabelle

Songster
7 Years
Jun 22, 2012
475
37
108
Dayton NV
 Sorry for the loss of the ducks! Not for your sake,for the sake of the ducks! I feel that starting with that many in that small space,you are going to lose more than you have already! And your husband guts one to see inside? Seriously? I certainly understand making a living however do you have to be so Caveman or Redneck style about it! I have ducks foe breeding and eggs not for slaughter! GREEDY will get you nowhere! These are beautiful ducks,I cannot for the life of me understand! Good Luck with the greed factor!

I hope your at least a Vegan... If not your just a troll and hypocrite.
 

DuckCommander

Chirping
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
122
7
86
Alberta
I hope your at least a Vegan... If not your just a troll and hypocrite.
I applaud this comment! Beautiful birds yes. But specifically bred for the purpose that she is using them for! Such is life. If you don't agree then become a vegan and don't force your beliefs onto others.

It is smart to do an autopsy on a sick or dead bird. That is how your save the rest - by finding out what the problem is to prevent it from happening to others.

I have heard of using sand as bedding. Have you thought about peat moss?
 
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BickeringToast

In the Brooder
7 Years
Dec 14, 2012
95
2
43
Jersey, GA
Luelromun: Her husband did not 'gut one' just to 'see inside'. He essentially performed an autopsy (that means the duck had already DIED) to try to determine why the ducks were dying. Greed? You think that 1 family selling ducks (that they paid for as ducklings and fed) to a restaurant is some multi-million dollar operation and only the greedy will do it? If you want to address greed then you should contact a few factory farms (most likely where any chicken, beef and pork you eat comes from).

DuckCommander: I am vegan and I definitely applaud Christabelles post! I am vegan because of the heinous treatment of animals in factory farming. In recent years more options for humanely raised meat and dairy animal have become available and both my husband and daughter eat meat and dairy and I am often VERY tempted
big_smile.png
. I also applaud the OP for not only offering an in-demand product that was raised humanely, but because she obviously cares about the animals well being enough to find a solution to the problem killing these ducks.

OK, off my soapbox now
tongue.png


BTW: I am certainly nowhere even close to an expert in ducks (actually 'clueless' is more like it) but 32 sq ft seem pretty small for 156 fast-growing Pekin ducklings. Or am I wrong?
 

Going Quackers

Crowing
9 Years
May 24, 2011
7,839
970
371
On, Canada
I have heard of people having young ducks ingest shavings before BUT i have raised a lot myself, and on shavings straight off and not had the problem.

Some questions, frankly, that is a lot of birds for that area, next how is the feed? is there truly enough and are they capable of all getting to it, if some are not getting enough they may resort to eating the shavings if hunger takes over.

You can certainly switch to sand, and see how things go, i have never used it but i know others do but seems more popular with chicks vs ducks.
 

HeatherFeather

Songster
10 Years
Feb 16, 2009
191
7
121
Severn Bridge, ON
Thank you so much for all your support! Yes, we operate a small pasture based organic livestock operation. We actually pride ourselves on treating animals humanely, and I actually was vegetarian for over 20 years. Now I believe that grass fed meat is more ecologically sustainable than tofu, and imported nuts, and I put my efforts into producing food for those on a 100 mile organic diet. The restaurants we took duck orders from are fancy places which cater to the locavore diet. Off my soapbox now!

So, this is just the brooding phase, and in another 1.5 weeks they will be out of the brooder and free range on pasture, they aren't staying in the stall! However, I do have other brooder space available, and I could easily move nearly half of the ducklings out if need be.

Inside the stall, they have 1 bell waterer, 2 one gal waterers, 2 feed hoppers with a 12" base, a 18" long trough of feed and 2 pie plates of feed. So I think its hard for them to go anywhere and be far from feed. However, when I put in new shavings twice a day, I always see some of the ducks chowing down on them right away.

So this am, there was one more dead :( That's 11 altogether, or 7%. And I find it so hard to think that they may have suffered in any way. They don't look terribly uncomfortable, they just get weak and slow; I don't think they are eating or drinking once they are full of shavings. I think that I know for sure in the future I am going to raise them on mesh for the brooder stage. But I can't set that up right now, it would be disastrous to try and take that on right now, and manage shuffling the ducks around, mucking the stall, building a frame, sloping the floor ect.

This am, I gave them 3 big pie plates of straight sand. Ordinarily, I cut the first 2 days feed 50/50 with sand, for all poultry. I figure that gets them through the first few weeks in the brooder and then when they are on pasture they will find pebbles, as we have a pebbly clay soil. So far this has always worked, and the one time we were low on sand we got a couple chicks with a pasty butt (Salatin recommends this to prevent pasty butt). Anyways, I am hoping that the sand helps to move things through any duck which has eaten shavings. I am going to go out and get that coarse chick grit this am as I think that would be better.

With the cautions on that perhaps I have crowded them too much, I am considering moving a large group of them, maybe 30 to another brooder, and setting that brooder up with sand as bedding. Should I do this? They seem 'dense' in there, but there seems to be enough feed and water space for them all as there is always available space, they aren't piling up or mobbing the heat lamps....they seem no more or less crowded than when we brood chicks, and we use Salatin's stocking density rules for that. So the math works out to .26 sq ft per chick when we brood chicks and the ducklings we stocked at .20 sq feet. so it is a little more crowded.

Thank you so much everyone :) I really appreciate the support. There are so few people raising ducks on this scale, so it is hard to find advice sometimes.

Heather
 

bigtrout

In the Brooder
8 Years
Mar 24, 2011
70
6
43
NW PA
One more thing to check, you say that the brooder is covered and contains 3 heat lamps.

There are other threads on here about Teflon covered heat lamps giving off fumes which are toxic to birds, seems to me that some of the heat bulbs sold at Tractor Supply were in fact Teflon coated.

As far as the food, shavings thing...I have brooded alot of ducklings on shavings, and yes they may eat a piece or two but dont generally make a meal of them. Something else has to be wrong for them to eat them like a meal. Some ideas may be to add a couple food containers to make sure they know its food in front of them, and also if you got these as day olds...i have noticed that sometimes I have had to dip their beaks into the food for them to recognize its food for the first time. Perhaps get some green leaf lettuce and chop it very fine and mix it with the food, ducks seem to have an instinct for greens so that may help them recognize that the lettuce is in with food and where the food is.
 
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EdenCamp

Songster
7 Years
Makes sense that they are confusing shavings as food.
Chicks are more perceptive than ducks getting started -
maybe mix in a few chicks a couple days older that know how to eat when you start them out?
Or give a few out of each hatch an "eating lesson" to teach the others?
 

Amiga

Overrun with Runners
Jan 3, 2010
23,213
2,816
551
Southern New England
I have found each cohort of ducklings is different. Holderread writes of a duckling that filled its belly with the free choice grit instead of food. We just see odd things like that sometimes.

I would split up the group, reduce the population density in the brooders, try sand bedding. I suppose you could try chopped straw if you can get it for a reasonable price.

Also, think about increasing the amount of available feeder space per bird.
 

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