How would you know if it were, in fact, too cold for your ducks?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Amiga, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    What signs would one look for?

    I have read some great posts about how we know when they are okay even when the temperature is below freezing. But I doubt that one size fits all. Sometimes there are unusual, extreme conditions. What might some of those be?

    What about behavior that indicates a duck is too cold? Not just a duckling, but an adult duck. They tend to hide it, I am told, if they don't feel well, because that is their survival instinct. How would one figure it out?

    How about the smaller breeds? Their surface to volume ratio is much larger, so they physically cannot store as much heat as a larger duck. How does one scale up or down for that?
     
  2. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    I go by what Holderread says. Don't worry if it is above 20 degrees. I've noticed that my ducks preferred to stay on hay when it was below 20. So we covered the entire floor in the small pen with hay. They went out at -2 degrees and decided to stay out. My husband let them out of the pen into the snow at -2. They did not like it at all. They moved fast, ran, and tried to fly. Eventually they plopped down into the snow looking miserable. All that in about one minute flat! We rounded them back up into the pen with the hay on the ground. They looked so much happier there. Today I let them back into the large daytime run. It is snow covered everywhere, but we did build 2 shelters filled with hay and put some hay onto the ground. It is above freezing so they are having fun bobbing through the snow. So I run it by those numbers:
    Above freezing large outdoor run with hay filled A-frames and some extra hay on the ground.
    Below freezing small pen with hay filled shelter, hay on the ground, and access to the back yard.
    Below 20 the small pen only. Again with hay filled shelter and hay covered ground and access to the heated duck house.
    They are always sleeping in the insulated heated duck house at night.
    Other people may have other ideas, but this works for me.
     
  3. duckyfromoz

    duckyfromoz Quackaholic

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    Amiga- adults will huddle together the same as ducklings do in a brooder when cold. At least some adults ducks have the instincts to get out of the wind and chill if a warmer area is available - but others will just go out in any weather. If the ground is snow covered - and there is nothing to forage- they have no reason to wander around anyway- so will just sit there anyway so it would make sense to keep them in a pen where there it is at least warmer. In summer months they will snooze stretched out- in winter its more huddled up feet raised up further against the body. They can conserve body heat well and even when half covered in snow- can still keep their inner core temperature stable. Have you ever seen photos of white swans sleeping on the snow?? It must be bitterly cold and yet they have the ability to insulate themselves against it.
    Just like animals who hibernate- ducks with a higher body fat will be better able to handle conditions. Its really important to make sure the amount of food given and the type over the winter will make up for not being able to forage and catch insects.
     
  4. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Thanks, katharinad and duckyfromoz,

    I am doing the best I know how, and so far we have not had extremely cold (I am thinking below 20F) temperatures at night. Days are in the 30s and 40s F right now, nights have been in the 30s F, tonight expected to be about 25F. I am thinking ahead, want to decide how I will know to put them into the basement at night instead of the unheated (but double-walled, insulated with a plexiglass ceiling/roof) house with a foot or so of litter with four inches of straw on that. I have been leaving their sliding door open about a foot wide so they can go out to the veranda and stretch their legs and drink at night. They nap for a while, then get up and walk around and chat with each other, then nap some more, at night.

    I put a piece of luan on one side of the veranda this week, and bubble wrap across the top of the veranda. Next week I plan to look into a sheet of multiwall, a clear insulated panel often used for greenhouses (lets light in, is transparent, but insulates a bit). If I get the three long sides (two sides and the top) of the veranda shielded from wind, I think that will help keep the house a little more sheltered. I could also cover the end of the veranda (which is the door) with 6 mil plastic.

    I want the place well ventilated, but I am not sealing edges, so I think they will have plenty of air, and the veranda door stays open during the day while they are in the day pen (that way they can run to the shelter of the house and veranda any time).

    They have been louder since the weather has turned colder. They call more in the morning, greet me more loudly when I step outside, and call (for me?) during the day.

    I think they are fine right now. I just don't quite know where I am going to draw the line. I would have them indoors if the wind were howling and it were 10 F. But between that and 20 F with little wind, not so sure.

    A couple of my runners are molting. Sheesh. That is another concern of mine. Again, so far they seem fine. I have an indoor/outdoor thermometer hooked up on the side of their house so I can check the temperature inside (at about 4 inches above their heads while they are lying down). It has not been below 36 F in the mornings when I get them their breakfast and let them out into the day pen, even when it's been closer to 30 F outside. Once they all go out, the indoor temperature soon drops to the same as outdoor.

    And everyone is walking fine, eating fine, acting normal.

    I give them a few cups of maintenance pellets, free choice oyster shell (still get three eggs a day), six handfuls of rolled oats, two handfuls of dry cat kibble and it takes the ten of them a little over a day to eat it up. I also give them a bowl of salad almost every day (depending on what I have it could be lettuce or sprouts), and peas two or three times a week.

    There is almost always at least one duck sitting on the ramp at the door at night, instead of inside the house. Perhaps she is the guard duck.

    I am thinking at some point I will just close them into the house at night, as I did when they were outside at three months old and the nights were around 40F. That means no water, no leg stretching (it's a 4'x8' house), but I "tuck them in" around 9:30 to 10:00 p.m., and let them out between 6:30 and 7 a.m.
     
  5. Where The Wild Things Are

    Where The Wild Things Are Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well...last week here it dipped into the sub zero temps for a few days. I freaked myself out and put the ducks in the chicken coop and resorted to heating the coop as well. Friday I decided that was not my wisest decision and have rethought everything. I have stopped putting my ducks in the coop at night, and pulled the heat lamp out of the coop. My ducks prefer to sleep in their pond so I took a pick and broke through the 6" of ice and vacuumed it out (pondovac 3 pond vacuum) filled it with fresh water and installed the Christmas gift that Santa dropped off early. They got a pond heater, they have been extra good. (ssshhh don't tell them, but it's more for me than for them) I have just come to the conclusion that both ducks and chickens are far more hearty than I can imagine. I would do anything for them, but I think in this case...less is more. They have open water, and a hut with clean dry bedding. I keep their little bellies full. Beyond that, they can decide if they want to sleep in the pond, the hut, or out in the snow. They might be crazy, but they are not dumb. Besides, they ALWAYS let me know when they are not happy...ducks are so soft spoken after all [​IMG]
     
  6. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    They are pretty hardy little crits.

    We have two who decided to start molting within the last week or so. I have been watching them, and so far so good, until this morning.

    With a 30F forecast for overnight, we woke up to 20F this morning. okay, not a tragedy. Some frozen water, a frozen hose, no big deal. But then I saw Einz sitting on the ground, legs tucked in tight, shivering (she's one of the molters). Shivering is not a good sign to me. She is one of our larger runners, and I picked her up yesterday to check her weight and general condition. She seemed fine.

    So rather than decide she can tough it out, the flock is in their shelter in the basement (has windows, is around 50F) until the sun comes over the ridge. We live in what my mom's family would call a "holler." Our sunrise is hours later than official sunrise. So it takes a while for the frost to come off.

    If Einz weren't molting and shivering, I think everyone would be outside. But rather than traumatize her and Vier by taking only them into the shelter, we are making a flock event of it. They will get back out this afternoon, in the sun, and hope that the weather forecast (for upper 30sF tonight) is reliable. I feel that separation from the flock has its own downside.

    I suspect Einz's flock instinct is stronger than her desire to stay warm (in the nice, well-bedded, dry duck house). Yes, there are straw and dry(ish) leaves out in the day pen.

    Thanks everyone for weighing in!
     
  7. gofasterstripe

    gofasterstripe Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Amiga...are your ducks named 1 to 10 in German. Einz being 1 and Vier being 4
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  8. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Yes, I thought the German numbers as names sound very nice. Einz was the largest duckling, the most outgoing and friendly. Elf was the smallest, and we named the others as seemed fitting. Zwei was always near Einz, and so forth.
     
  9. Where The Wild Things Are

    Where The Wild Things Are Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well it will be interesting to here about funf and sex...LOL
     
  10. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Yes, I feel obliged to explain to people who don't speak German that Sechs sounds like "sex" but it means six.[​IMG]

    And Fünf, aside from being impossible for some people to pronounce, generally does not raise any eyebrows. They are all sweet.[​IMG]
     

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