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Raising Ducks

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duck hatching eggs illustrating an article about raising ducks

HATCHING EGGS

This is our first time raising ducks and so when Hannah, our duck, began spending most of the day sitting on her eggs we were very excited.

As we waited it seemed as though Hannah had been sitting on  her eggs for months but in reality the time frame was much shorter – probably only about 28 days.

duck and drake walking illustrating an article about raising ducksUsually Hannah, and her mate, Harry spend most of their time foraging around the garden for slugs and insects, or swimming in our tiny pond.

So it was a big change seeing Harry foraging along by himself while Hannah hunched down in her nest.

WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

She seemed to have been sitting on them for so long we were worried that perhaps she was sitting on unfertilised eggs, but then on the 4th July we heard strange little squeaky noises coming from the old dog kennel that is home to Hannah and Harry.

duck with two newly born ducklings illustrating an article about raising ducksOn closer examination those little squeaks were coming from the two tiny heads we could see peering out from underneath Hannah.

The next day we counted another little head and another, until finally four ducklings emerged, complete with fluffy little bodies.

UGLY DUCKLINGS?

At first the ducklings walked so close together they looked like a walking, cheeping, ball of fluff with lots of little legs.

Once they separated from each other we could see that they are absolutely beautiful.

For the first couple of days ducklings survive on the remains of the egg yolk inside them.

After that they need food to be provided for them and that proved a little bit more difficult that we had thought.

A visit to our local providers was in order and I asked them for duckling food. They didn’t have specific food for ducklings but recommended ‘chick-starter.’

But the shop had run out and said there would be none in until the next day. I went home and began researching other foods suitable for ducklings.

group of ducklings eating porridge - illustrating an article about raising ducks

NINE LIVES

As I looked through my books and trawled websites I came across warnings that chick-starter should not be given to ducklings because it may contain medication specific to baby chickens that could poison baby ducks.

It seemed like a stroke of luck that the providers had run out of  ‘chick-starter’ and if like cats, ducklings have nine lives then that’s one gone already.

According to John Seymour’s wonderful book, The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, the ducklings could be fed barley, or other meal.

I also learned  from the Homegrown website that they could be given cooked egg and greens.

I decided to make my own duckling food based on what I had available and what I grow in my own veggie garden.

Click here for my recipe for duckling food:

FOXES, HENS, MAGPIES AND OTHER THREATS

duck and drake watch their newborn ducklings eating - illustrating an article about raising ducksOne of the challenges of raising ducks is keeping them safe from predators like foxes and pine martens.

We have a large chicken coup where we have our chicken house for the hens and an old kennel for the ducks.

DANGER FROM PREDATORS

When the ducklings arrived we needed to protect the ducklings from the hens as we heard that occasionally a hen will attack a duckling.

I also noticed a larger than usual gathering of magpies above the coup – probably waiting to snatch a duckling.

We decided to build another little coup within the coup.

Neither of us is any good at DIY so the structure is very simple – just a few posts and chicken wire with rocks placed around the bottom to keep the ducklings in and so we can easily slide food underneath the wire.

We roofed it the easiest way we could think of – with green windbreak sheeting which has been very successful at keeping the magpies out.

WATER

three ducklings eating from a bowl - illustrating an article about raising ducksWater is obviously very important.

We provide water to drink in a chicken waterer.

As ducklings are not fully ‘waterproof’ when they are young we fill a paint roller tray with water for the ducklings to learn to swim in. 

The paint roller tray provides a ‘shallow’ end and a ‘deep end’ so it’s ideal for easy access until the ducklings are more proficient swimmers.

The ducklings are now just over two weeks old. Since they were born we have seen them change a little each day.

At first they spent most of their time sitting under Hannah, keeping warm and safe.

But now they are becoming more lively and are out most days, walking around the coup and hopping in and out of the water. 

They seem to be thriving, as they get a little bigger and stronger each day.

DUCKS OR DRAKES – HOW TO TELL?

four ducklings by a fence - illustrating an article about raising ducksI still don’t know which sex they are but I have noticed the smaller, yellow duck has the beginnings of a little white crest on his/her head, like Harry, her father, so I am wondering if this could be a male?

If anyone reading this knows how to determine the sex of ducklings please let me know, otherwise I’ll just continue enjoying the suspense.

Back soon

Grace

FOR MORE ON HENS, DUCKS AND ALL THINGS FOWL – CLICK HERE

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