Switching to Ducks from Chickens questions

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by shamrockmommy, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. shamrockmommy

    shamrockmommy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi
    I've had hens for a few years now. I keep them in tractors (one is 4'x8', one is 5'x8' and the last is 4'x16') I have a total of 9 chickens in them.

    Chickens are great for eggs. Sure. I have a/an egg eater in the big tractor, which has 4 hens in it. I also have had several go broody on me this year, resulting in less eggs. I don't have fertile eggs to hatch, and don't want to add to the numbers in the coops anyway.

    I have a vicious sebright hen, who crows and lives in the 4x8 with a bantam old english game, who is her best friend. I have tried very carefully over several weeks to introduce more hens to them and the sebright will attack and tear them apart once I release the newbies from their pen inside the tractor (and I leave them in there for weeks!).

    They are also noisy! cackle before laying an egg, cackle because the favorite nest box has another hen in it, noisy because they laid an egg. LOL

    I'm about over chickens, honestly!

    So for those reasons, I was hearing great things about ducks. They're quiet, lay better than hens, and don't mind new additions to the flock.

    How can I convert the tractors for the ducks, what do they require? Right now the tractors are 4 season, with a roost on one end that is a little 4'x2' coop with 2 nest boxes on the end. Do they need a nest box? Do they roost or do they just lie down and huddle?

    Also, for water, do they need an open water source? Would a rubber feed bowl work ok for water?

    I'm not sure when/if this will happen. Currently this set of girls in the 4x8 and 4x16' tractors are just over a year old.
    the ones in the 5x8 are 2 months old.

    What about feed? What do they eat? What do you use for a feeder?

    What are your thoughts ducks vs hens?
    Thanks!
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Ducks are messy ! I'm not certain how well they would do in the limited spaces you are presently using.
     
  3. plottster

    plottster Out Of The Brooder

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    We have 7 chickens and recently added 3 ducks to our flock. Two are Khaki Campbell’s and one Powerman 3000 or something (hybrid). The ducks are really cute and do not free range nearly as far as the chickens. They usually just sit around under in the shade. However I do not think that they are any quieter than chickens, the females are just as loud as my rooster at times. (The drake is quiet) They don’t seem to make noise as much as chickens but it is loud when they do. They currently eat chicken food but not layer variety. They love treats such as peas, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage and mealies. They are a bit messier because they need water to eat and they mucky up the water feeders really fast. They also have wetter poop and require bedding changes more frequently. It is my personal opinion that chickens are easier to take care of but ducks are still great. I suppose the quacking could be less with other breeds but again mine aren’t really much quieter than chickens.
     
  4. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    Ducks are like having puppies all their lives. Messy, messy and messy.
    They need entertainment, better quality feed, swimming pools. They poop a lot.
    Provide hours of silly antics. eat lots of bugs and do lay lots of rich eggs.
    Free ranging is best for ducks.
     
  5. Welshies

    Welshies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ducks are very messy. However their ease, low maintenence, temperaments, and cute factor make up for that! As long as you practise good management their poop does not cause too much mess. You will need more than one waterer- mine are 9 weeks and they drink 5 gallons of water a day (I have 6)! Different breeds lay better than others, and different breeds are noisier than others. Mine are very noisy, but I've seem many which barely utter a noise. Muscovies are very quiet, and Pekins and Calls are extremely noisy.
    I have my ducks moving into a 4-season tractor this weekend. It's heavy, so it's safe, and well fenced. Most ducks can't fly, but you should have a roof. Ducks need, at minimum, 3 square feet a duck, I like 4sqft in the coop. In the run, I try to give 10sqft, but in my tractor they only have 6sqft, so they'll have to free range. Make sure it's easy to clean, and very well ventilated.
    You can use chicken feeders and waterers for ducks. However, they need something to wash their eyes and nostrils (nares) in, so I also give them a partially covered 5 gallon bucket to dip their heads in. You need to partially cover the water source if it is open, or they will play in it, get chilled (if ducklings, or winter), make a mess, and poop in it! They eat duck or all purpose poultry feed, 16-18% when 6 weeks or less, 6-18 weeks, 15-16%, then switched to maintainer. When they lay their first egg, switch them to layer, and provide them with calcium (oyster shell, egg shells). They need 24/7 access to grit (I like to give them this when little too, even if not eating greens-- it helps them digest their food better) You can raise them on chick starter, but they need a niacin supplement. When older, they can also forage for most of their diet, if supplied a suitable habitat. Most domestic ducks don't need swimming water, but I take mine down to our dugout once a week for a treat and a bath. They love it. I would like to take them even more, but I'm very busy.
    Ducks are herdable, so free ranging is easy as they don't go far, and you can herd them to different places. I make sure mine are herded from a young age so they are very consistent with it.
    I prefer ducks over chickens. IMO, their poop doesn't smell as bad, once you get used to it. They look better, are MUCH hardier to cold (my ducklings, when not feathered out, had no heat lamp. They were fine. In fact, when my Lab was shivering, they were out playing and splashing in the water. However, I provided them with deeper shavings, and tighter housing than if they had a heat lamp). They're more tameable, easier, and more low maintenence.
    Ducks, actually, can be as high or low maintenece as you want. I only check on mine once a day, to feed, water, pet, interact with them. I hang out outside when they're free ranging, but not necessarily within sight- just hearing range. I know someone who is always with her ducks. She walks them, checks on them every hour, and so on. So really, it's up to you. I know when I need to be away for a weekend, my ducks can be by themselves in a pinch as long as lots of water, enough food, and a bit of outside area is provided.
    Raising ducklings isn't hard. They're hardy, and the mess is easy to get around once you develop a system. I raised mine in the back of a stock trailer, and used a dog kennel for a shelter. They did well, without a heat lamp. If you don't have a heat lamp and you have more than 4 ducklings, they can be raised successfully and feather out faster.
    Also, you can buy hatching eggs and place some under a broody hen. The hen should hatch the ducks eggs successfully. That method works well.
     
  6. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our ducks are so low maintenance and their manure is far easier to manage and more beneficial over chicken manure. The mistake many people make is to use absorbant bedding with ducks. If you would not want it in the rain, do not use it for ducks. You have to embrace the fact that ducks love water and you will live in harmony with them and their way of living.

    Ducks are so much cleaner than chickens but because they bathe in water instead of dirt you need to think about where to keep water that will not make a mess. People claim that ducks make mud but dirt and water make mud so keep your water off the dirt and you will not have mud. Duck water is full of nutrients for plants so we like to keep our water in places where it will most benefit the vegetation.

    Ducks are more predator savy but they still need protection from predators. They do not like enclosed spaces so they prefer to sleep with a watchful eye in an open space with light - we have a porch light that stays on for them. They are awake more at night and sleep more during the day, like cats.

    If you socialize them with the understanding that they are not entirely dependent on you, they will not make many demands but if you allow them to train you to meet their every need they will make an aweful ruckus when you are not present to cater to their whims. We keep feed out at all times but the ducks like to forage rather than stand around the feeder all day.

    Ducks have strong social bonds and they look out for each other. They can be very vocal if they are separated from their family groups so it is important to never have a lone duck. It is very traumatic for them to be separated from their social group. People are great sources of food for ducks and they will love you for it but they need other ducks to cuddle up with day and night. A traumatized duck is a sad sight and they will make alot of noise searching for a missing loved one. Understanding their social needs is a big part of responsible duck ownership.
     

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