How cold is too cold?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Joshin, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. Joshin

    Joshin New Egg

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Spokane, WA
    I live in Eastern Washington state, our winters are cold. Sometimes dry, sometimes heavy snow. Average temperatures tend to be in the 20's during the day and teens or single digits at night during the coldest part of the season. We have three runners in an A-frame duck hut. It has a small hardware cloth A-frame run attached to it and some small vent holes at the top of the A-frame hut. There is no door on the hut (no way to access it from outside to open and close it, plus we use DLM in the hut and the waterer is in the run).

    I read all summer how ducks could survive the cold with a warm house and deep litter. Now that we have snow on the ground and temps dropping into the low 20's tonight, I'm worried! Our plan was to cover the run with a tarp to keep wind out and provide some slight insulation. If weather isn't too bad during the day, we would still let them into their fenced free-range area outside the hut and run. We have a heated dog dish for drinking/dunking, but we drained the pond for winter and with our temps it's unlikely they will get much swimming time for the next three months, will this be an issue?

    Also, the girls are 6 months old and haven't started laying yet. Someone at the feed store told me they may not start until spring because our exceptionally short northern days interfere with the start of laying (we already are down to about 9 hours of sunlight, and most days are heavily overcast). Does this sound right? I kept reading 5 months online for laying, and our girls are definitely girls with very loud quacks and no tail curls.


    Please set this duck mama's mind at ease or let me know if there is something else we should do :)
     
  2. countrygoddess

    countrygoddess Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hello from a former Western Washingtonian!

    I have chickens, not ducks, but have followed conversations in which ducks are the subject or are mentioned with regards to snow. I live in Vermont where temps get a bit colder than yours do in the winter (at times it can get down to -20's to -30's during the nights--this hasn't happened in years) and as long as I keep drafts away from my flock and keep their water liquid, they are fine. During the day, I open their door and they make the decision to come out or not. I usually throw some straw down on the snow to encourage coming out for fresh air and that tends to work. If you can secure a tarp over the run, that'll help keep strong winds out. I don't think you really need t cover the end, though--it's best if they can have that for air circulation. I'm going to go look at the other threads in which this was discussed and link them here for you...
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  3. countrygoddess

    countrygoddess Chillin' With My Peeps

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  4. countrygoddess

    countrygoddess Chillin' With My Peeps

  5. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    Welcome, Joshin!

    Many ducks are quite cold hardy, given enough dry bedding and kept out of the wind. Now, let me tell you about my runners.

    They never read the book or took that advice. Below 35F some of them were shivering, barely walking around, necks scrunched down. Body condition was deteriorating. Egg production stopped.

    I moved them into our walkout basement, where I had already made a duckie storm shelter. Within days, body condition improved, egg laying started up again, they were relaxed and active. I would let them outside, but when the bellwether ducks would shiver and hunker down, everyone came inside. The light, by the way, was not kept on in the basement, so they did not receive more light. I think that light matters, but temperature also matters very much.

    So ask the ducks. How are they doing? Are they relaxed, happily noodling around, active, in good body condition? How are their feet?

    Regarding bathing, the first pot of water in the morning is generally used for splashing. An hour later I change it out, and they drink from it the rest of the day. So a large heated bucket should work out, if your ducks are like mine, and there is no guarantee they will act anything like mine. Little individualists, they are.
     
  6. Joshin

    Joshin New Egg

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Spokane, WA
    Thank you for the answers so far! My issue with the other threads I found was no one lists temperature or the amount/type of ducks [​IMG] Fifteen pekins in 30 degree snowy weather is a lot different than three runners in 15 degree weather! Even in Storey's, they are always talking about large flocks, it seems.

    We got down to 19 degrees last night. We tarped the house and run, but the husband forgot to plug in the dish warmer after he changed their water yesterday...I pulled back the tarp to let the sunlight in a little bit ago and they came out in the run to greet me briefly before going back in the hut. Their water had no signs of ice in it, so it looks like it stayed warm enough so the water didn't freeze, at least. Our ducks are runner mutts, from a mixed flock of runners and Campbells. Two are very obviously runners with the wine bottle shape, and one (Shirley) looks more like a Campbell -- slightly smaller and not quite as upright. Shirley was walking a little funny when she first came out, but then she began running/waddling normally with the other two. I'm going to have husband check her feet when he wakes up in a bit because he's our official vet, lol! No shivering, but they were pretty quick about going back in their hut. We don't normally open the free range area until about 10 am and it is still 25 degrees out, so no surprise there.

    I'm not sure what we will do if they have to come inside. They holed up in our bedroom last spring when we first got them, and the smell was enough, even with daily bedding changes, so that we slept on the couch in the basement. I don't think I could survive all winter on the couch! We also have four cats and a dog inside and no other "safe" room to lock them up in. Our basement is finished and the only separate room down there with a door is my eldest son's bedroom.

    This is a good trial run for winter cold, I hope! It's supposed to be really cold again tonight, then we are back up in the high 40's day/low 30's nights for the next 10 days. If we notice any problems, we should have at least a week to come up with a solution!
     
  7. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Southern New England
    For what it is worth, the way I keep the runners in the walkout basement is on a few inches of wood shavings and - the key, I think - is that I have their water bucket in "the water station."

    I think I can put the picture here.[​IMG]

    I used to use straw bedding, but then every bale I bought for a while was moldy so I switched to shavings. I put sawdust pellets in the bottom of the watering station (bottom of a large dog crate) and use a straight sided stew pot to reduce splash. Works well. I fluff it daily, sprinkle more pellets on every few days, and clean it out about once a week.

    My basement smells nice. Kind of woodsy.

    Takes fifteen minutes to do room service most days. Add an extra fifteen for full cleanout of watering station, and occasionally I need to change out all the bedding and that can take 45 minutes since the area is close to 100 sq ft.




     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  8. ChicagoDucks

    ChicagoDucks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 27, 2012
    Chicago
    Back in the 1960s, a group of scientists subjected Mallards and Black ducks to cold temperatures to study the effects of cold on survival and metabolic rate. In one of the trials, an ordinary mallard was put by itself in a cage in a freezer at -26°C (-15°F) for 36 hours and the duck survived it well.

    Here is more about it:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/634866/how-do-ducks-fair-in-the-winter#post_8554765

    I've read some impressive stories from BYC duck forum posters from Canada about how ducks fare in the cold north! Yet another reason ducks are better than chickens [​IMG] !
     

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