Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ducks at 2 weeks

The ducks are growing very quickly.  They are very perceptive and attentive and cock their heads sideways to scope me out whenever I come into view.

I see some teeny tail feathers
Pretty much the daily routine is as follows:
  1. After my morning coffee, I pay them a visit in the basement.  I remove their waterers and replace the wet pine shavings around the waterers with dry ones.  I rinse out waterers with hot water and refill, give them a little talking to and off to work.
  2. In the evenings, every other day or so, I pick them up and put them in my "duck carrier" - a canvas bag with a sturdy bottom.  As gently as I try to do it, they do not like getting picked up.  It scares them.  Then upstairs for a bath.  When they were small they went in a wash basin.  Tonight they got the real bathtub.  This creates extreme excitement and they dash, dive, preen, clean and splash.
  3. When they seem done cleaning themselves in the water or a max of about 5 - 10 minutes back to the brooder with a quick towel off.  They proceed to then preen, clean and fluff every bit of their bodies, and then collapse under the heat lamp to dry and warm.
  4. Before I turn in I clean the wet shavings again and change their water for the second time that day.  It gets cloudy from food particles since they drink when they still have food in their mouths.  I have figured out how much they drink daily, so I just fill about that much plus a bit of extra.  
This doesn't take that much time, and I like figuring out what works and what doesn't so I can be more efficient and set up their waterers best for minimal soggy brooder.  

Brooder addition
They like to hunt for imaginary bugs in the wood chips but there is only so long that is entertaining so not surprisingly they seem a bit bored at times.  A clump of weeds added to the brooder offers some entertainment as they root around in the roots... just make sure its not a plant with tough stalks or too long grass that they can choke on.  I give them some finely cut lettuce and kale right out of the hand once a day or so.  

I did expand the room they have, I cut a hole in their storage tub and made a cardboard tunnel connecting to another tub so they have double the room.  They do like it, and seem to also like sleeping in the tunnel at times.  When I see images of duck brooders packed full of too many ducks, I can understand the complaint about the smell, but with plenty of space for 3 ducks, there is no bad smell with regular refresh of shavings around the waterers. 

The hottest spot in the brooder has been 80 degrees this week.  They are not often directly under the lamp, but sometimes they are to warm up and stretch their legs out and doze, so I know it is not too hot for them.  If they were constantly huddled as far away from the heat lamp as possible, it would likely be a sure sign it was too warm.

New waterer set up
Ducks like to submerge their whole bills and their whole heads if possible into their drinking water. To give you an idea of how long their necks stretch, they stand outside the metal pan that surrounds the waterer shown above, then they reach in and can hit the bottom of the waterer with their bills.   This popular idea has many variations of containers you can use.  Figure out chest height on your duck and that is the bottom cut for the hole. Fill with water and top with the lid.  Then they can drink and dunk with minimal spilling and no pooping in it and no feet stomping in it.  I also used square sided plastic orange juice containers and I liked those because I could fit multiple ones into the space easier than a container with curved sides like a plastic bucket or a yogurt container.  

Lessons Learned so far:
  1. Wood chips are the way to go.  When one duck seemed to accidentally be ingesting wood chips while hunting invisible bugs, I had 2 very short stints trying alternative bedding, both of which were big fails, at least for me.  Shelf liner: the poop sat on the liner and even with rinsing it out once a day it was gnarly.  Also, the little foam bits seemed to please the ducks and they popped them off and ate them.  No good.  Towel:  Um, no.  Can we say high maintenance?  Wringing out a poopy duck towel, rinsing it, washing it and air drying it twice a day.  No way.  Back to shavings and they are working great.  
  2. Don't give them chunks of grass with tough stalks.  I gave them a clump of winter rye cover crop and I watched one duck ingest a huge, tough stalk by gulping it down.  I thought for sure "Oh crap, I'm going to have an impacted crop on my hands" and it did stay in the crop for about 24 hours because I picked the duck up and massaged it to feel.  I let it be, though, and made sure they had plenty of chick grit and she was able to grind it up and poop it out luckily.  Ducks grind their food in their crops with bits of grit and rocks, just like chickens.  They are very enthusiastic about plants so make sure what you give them is tender and finally chopped.  I learned my lesson that, yes, a one week old duck can wolf down something you thought was so big it wouldn't even try to eat it.  The second lesson is, don't be too quick to try to remedy something.  Often letting it be is the best route.  I have learned that with chickens - try to observe and learn and do what you will know will help, but don't be too quick to jump to action because often the creature will take care of the problem itself and you could just make it worse.
  3. They are afraid of getting picked up, though I do it once a day to get them used to being handled and having their bodies and feet inspected for health checks.  They are not into it.  I keep them in view of the other ducks because they don't like to be separated, but they are still not into it.  I'll keep working on it though.  They do like company though and seem to enjoy when I sit with them.  If I just check on them and keep going, they peep peep peep peep which I think translates as "Hey, come back over!"
  4. Ducks are very active.  They need more room than chicks, period.  They really zip around.  
  5. "Minimal water spilling" means that the brooder is not completely soaked, only 1/2 soaked.  The catch pan around any waterer set up seems like it would need to be very large to catch all the water.  They dampen about 1/4 - 1/2 of their brooder, despite the things I have done to lessen the water spilled and I think that is probably as good as it gets.  I can't imagine a bone dry setup with them, and that's ok.  I definitely see why it would be difficult to brood chicks and ducks together as chicks like it dry, are smaller, and move slower and ducks grow like champs, love mud and water, and stomp and zip around like a pack of wild things! 

No comments:

Post a Comment