First timer; duckling questions because all I know is they're cute.

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Hatrick, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. Hatrick

    Hatrick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After three years of raising chickens in my suburban backyard we finally moved to the country where much to my husbands dismay, I can bring all sorts of animals home. That being said I am bent on getting some ducks this spring. As pets, pest control for the garden and my sheer obsession with their cuteness and quacking are all the reasons we're considering getting some Rouens. So, questions:
    Can I use the 100 gallon aquarium I used as a brooder for my chicks for ducklings?
    I read that they can be let out to free range as young as two weeks?
    I also read that if we get a drake it may attempt to mate with our chickens?! We want to have the ducks and chIckens free range together?
    How many is too many? We were thinking about getting just one pair.
    We have a giant bathtub that we pulled out of our house during a reno, could we turn this into a water source/pond for two Rouens?
    Any other general opinions on Rouens or major differences between raising ducklings and chicks would be greatly appreciated, as well as suggestions for other breeds that maybe we should consider.
     
  2. Dolly1218

    Dolly1218 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Im new to ducks as well, but I thought I could give my two cents on what I have heard/learned so far :)
    I think you can use the aquarium for the brooder. I used a medium sized plastic dog kennel, I took the top off so the heat lamp could reach low enough. I moved them to a bigger area so they have space to run and play now.
    I think they can be let out at 2wks or even younger as long as it is warm enough outside, and only for a little while. Its still snowing where I live, so they will have to wait longer before they can go out and play :(
    I dont know about ducks mating chickens, but I know chickens and ducks shouldnt be kept together, since chicken poo can get the ducks very sick.
    I have 3 Indian Runner ducks, I already want more! So too many, is up to you.
    I think the bathtub would work, as long as they have a walk way out of the water, and as ducklings you have to be careful they dont get chilled after a bath. But keep in mind how you would clean it, because the water will get 10x messier then you think! My girls poo as soon as their feet touch water.
    Like I said before, Im new to ducklings too, so hopefully someone more experienced can give more/better advice :) Good luck!!
     
  3. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Hi, Hatrick!

    I have had Runner ducks for two years and Buffs for two months. I am smitten![​IMG]

    They are a bit of work, but I find that when I set up their environment well, it's less work. And they are fun and full of personality!

    Dolly1218 makes some good points.

    Based on my limited experience, and what I have read here on the forum, I would say think about the recommendation that one drake needs to have at least three ducks, sometimes six. Now as a counter point to that, there are people who have pairs. Perhaps someone who has pairs can tell us how they get it to work, because there are a number of Duck Forum denizens whose ducks have had terrible injuries from drakes mating with them too much. For myself, I'd have more than one girl per boy.

    The aquarium may work out, at least for the first two weeks. What I found with the four foot long Rubbermaid tub I used for our runners, is that it got pretty humid in there pretty quickly. Ducklings cannot neatly sip their water. It dribbles, and they can't just drink it, they have to play with it. Figure out now, before you have the ducklings, how you are going to keep water and food before them 24/7 for at least eight weeks without ending up with a smelly, unhealthy swamp for a brooder.

    My solution was frequent (sometimes five times a day) changes of bedding, a splash catcher to go under the water and catch a large portion of the water, and probably a few other things I cannot remember now after two years. Please don't let yourself get frustrated. Read up on the forum about how different people manage. But with an aquarium, humidity will potentially be a serious health issue. They need to be kept away from drafts, yes, but they splash so much I would be concerned about there not being enough evaporation.

    Oh, speaking of evaporation! I test drove the brooder before their arrival, and easily kept the temperature at 90F, the temperature to keep ducklings their first week. The morning after they arrived, I checked and the temperature was between 75 and 80F. Yikes! The evaporation from all the water they splashed pulled the brooder temperature down about ten degrees. I fixed that problem by adding another heat lamp. I used ceramic lamps left from a pet snake that had passed away. Those are less likely to shatter when they get splashed.

    In addition to water for drinking, they will need to be able to wash their little heads frequently, to avoid serious sinus and eye infections.

    When I read "free range" I think of unsupervised outdoor time. Not at two weeks, I wouldn't. If you mean closely supervised outdoor time, if the weather is cooperating (the temperature is above 75F, it's sunny), and you are right there to make sure they're not getting chilled or harassed by other animals or getting stuck between two twigs or trying to swallow a roofing nail the carpenters left in the lawn, then sure.

    Many people let their ducks and chickens run together. Some number of them work out fine, but some have reported drakes hopping on and injuring chickens. That's difficult to predict. It can be done, though. But watch carefully if you try it. Also, the ducks' water habits often annoy chickens.

    How many depends on how much space you have for them. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks has some suggested minimum areas, and I think 25 square feet per duck if their forage area is limited. I have 160 sq. ft. of day pen plus 64 sf of house and porch for the ducks, that is where they are when I cannot watch over them. But we have an additional over 2000 square feet of garden area they can roam in, with supervision. It's all fenced. We have a long list of predators nearby.

    The tub sounds like a fabulous idea! and Dolly1218 rightly pointed out that you must make sure it is very easy for the ducks to get out of the tub. They'll need steps or a ramp. Slick straight sides can be impossible to get out of, and ducks can drown by becoming exhausted trying unsuccessfully to get out, then collapsing in the water.

    The Rouens sound wonderful! I like my smaller breeds, but Rouens get some good press around here.

    Aside from the water management, remember ducklings need about three times the niacin chicks do. They are sensitive to too much humidity, fumes (like cleaning fluid), moldy bedding and feed, and like chickens can get bumblefoot.
     
  4. Dusky Beauty

    Dusky Beauty Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Welcome Hatrick!
    You'll find that the residents here on the BYC duck forum are horrible enablers! LOL

    As for brooding: I'm sure an aquarium will work just fine. I bought a 40 gallon rubbermaid tote that I use with fantastic results and plenty of room. I was able to brood 10 goslings in it for a couple of weeks even before they got just too big. You'll find that waterfowl are like potato chips! You can't have just one (pair)! You'll need a heat source and that can be provided with a desk lamp and 100 watt lightbulb (the old style, not the high efficiency-- you're going for warmth, not light) if your indoor temperature is stable. I have a specialized tin chick lamp from the feed store ($15) and had to swap out the high wattage chick light bulb because it was just making the brooder too hot. I find I only need that much heat if I wanted to brood outdoors. I've also used an electric heating pad underneath a tote bin with some success.

    For breeds, ask yourself what you want from your birds. If you're attracted to the mallard-esque plumage and dual purpose is all you want, rouens fit the bill just fine. If you want ducks "for pretty" anconas, swedish, cayugas, buffs, and welsh harlequins are very popular.

    Typical meat duck breeds include Pekins, silver appleyards and Muscovies, and the favorite layer breeds are khaki campbells and harlequins.

    My personal MVPS are welshies-- they are really pretty, fantastic layers, very calm, good mothers and great foragers. Cayugas are my other favorite for the gorgeous black plumage that shimmers like green satin. My cayuga hen's first egg was jet black. YES BLACK!! and they've been lightening up every day she lays.
    The breeds I'm not too crazy about are my hatchery quality swedish. I don't find any attribute they have all that stunning. The best personality award goes to my clever khakis who are forever breaking into the family in ground swimming pool-- and Tiny Tina, my little wild mallard. She's got the loudest voice out of the entire bevy and has a distinctive cackle and is always laughing.

    To get a good idea of what breeds are out there Metzer's website has a good sized catalog and a ton of information on each and every breed they stock.

    You won't need to worry about a drake raping your hens as long as he has a girlfriend or three of his own, so more incentive to get a couple more (and perhaps mix up your breeds!)
     
  5. Hatrick

    Hatrick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok, so the plan was to have the ducks free range on all of our 3 acres that currently has no fencing. We will be getting fencing in the spring but it will be to keep larger animals (goats, sheep, horses etc.) contained, not really to contain ducks and/or keep out predators.

    Our chickens are in the barn at night and when we let them out in the morning they basically wander about for the day. This is the same kind of situation that we want for the ducks if possible. Maybe we could build a duck house in the barn?

    It won't be 75 degrees here in Ontario until probably July. So at what age can they handle being outdoors, 8 weeks?

    Six ducks seems like a lot when we'll only have a small water source, no?

    I definitely need to prepare myself for the messy brooder onslaught. Pine shavings as bedding? That aquarium was a pain in the *** to clean with just chicks in it do maybe I should consider this Rubbermaid container idea.

    I'm willing to consider other breeds, I just liked the look and apparent personality of the Rouen. Plus they're so big...I want to hug them. Lol...I need a hobby. :)
     
  6. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Could you describe your small water source? We have nine Runners and two Buffs and no stream or pond on the property and things are just . . . well . . . ducky.

    We do have a good well.
     
  7. Hatrick

    Hatrick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well we were considering turning an old bathtub (it's about 60" x 36" and quite deep) to provide them with somewhere to swim, although if that's completely uneccessary then I would rather spare myself the work. We'd like to convert into a pond...one I won't have to clean or refill, so a pump and/or filter system.
    Do I really need at least three females to one male? I would need a pretty big duck house for four ducks, no? Could I put the duck house in the barn with the chickens?
    Sorry...too many questions.
     
  8. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    No, not too many questions. There are tons of things to decide at first.

    Male to female ratio depends on the drake. There are breeding pairs, but there are many stories of a single duck being overworked by a drake. Proceed with caution.

    I have a 65 square foot winter pen that I can expand another 20 sf or so if needed, for eleven small (3 to 5 pound) ducks and it works very well. So that's about 8 sf per duck. For 4 ducks, 8x4 is 32, or a 4´x8´house. The nine Runners have done well in spring summer and fall in their 32 sf house with attached 30 sf porch. The Buffs came along in winter, and I reckon they´ll do just fine in the slightly smaller house and porch for overnight in the milder seasons.

    Pumps and filters are an entire discussion thread unto themselves, and I think we have had a few on the forum. Perhaps a search will turn up some technical details that will help you.

    As long as there is a ramp or something the ducks can use to easily exit the pond you should be fine. That is an unanticipated problem when people first set up a duck swim feature. I use concrete mixing pans and a doggie kiddie pool, as they are easy to dump, rinse and refill.

    There are some very neat ponds and pools out there. Again, try a search of the forum.
     
  9. Dusky Beauty

    Dusky Beauty Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I house my 23 ducks + gander in a chain link dog run. I mounted the 300$ panels onto my pre existing fence to double to footage. I don't have a predator problem but if I did I would also fasten panels of hardware cloth over the whole thing to eliminate any spaces weasels, raccoons, rats, snakes etc. could squeeze into. I've got straw scattered on the floor of the run to protect their feet, a couple of single nest boxes, an extra large doghouse for inclimate weather, and a fly tied on for shade. (That's like a shade flap vs. a tent. In Arizona this is vital!) for water I keep a black rubber short tub in the cage. It's plenty water for all the birds to drink overnight and they tend to squeeze in for quick baths one or two at a time anyway.

    They get out at 8 am to free range over about 3 acres of my back yard, recently venturing into the horse pens on a bug hunt. I have a lot of grass and trees in the back yard, a shallow rubbermaid tote I use for a regular "yard animal water" for any of my dogs or birds. I have a kiddy pool but it has begun to splinter and crack so "the pond" is hole the pool used to line! LOL. They don't mind so much the mud!
     

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