Duck Raising, Part 3 Management

Litter Management

Ducks drink and excrete more water than land fowl. Duck droppings contain more than 90% moisture thus extra measures are necessary to maintain litter floors inside sheltered areas in dry condition. Fresh bedding should be regularly added on top of soiled or wet bedding. Old litter should be cleaned out regularly and replaced with a fresh batch.

Ducks in semi-confinement grow where ducklings spend most of their time outdoors during the day after the first three weeks, waterers should be located outside as far away from the house as possible. This reduces tracking water to the litter. Duck yards may be maintained in clean condition by removing the upper few inches of the soil and replaced with clean soil when necessary.

Ventilation

Backyard duck houses or small flock duck houses do not necessarily need mechanical ventilation such as those in commercial duck buildings. Nevertheless, small duck houses enclosed on all sides still require proper ventilation. Adequate air exchange may be provided by window openings and ridge ventilations. Larger duck houses that are enclosed on all sides may be equipped with ventilation fans.

Commercial duck buildings should be designed with the advise of an agricultural engineer or expert to provide proper ventilation to the shelter.

Lighting

Supplemental lighting, when provided, greatly increases the laying period of ducks. Lack of supplemental lighting makes egg production seasonal and dependent on natural day length. By adding artificial light, the daily light period is extended to 14 hours and prevent any decrease in day length provides adequate light stimulation for ducks to lay eggs continuously for seven to 12 months depending on their ability to lay and other conditions.

In semi-confinement growing, it is ideal to turn artificial lights on at a set time before sunrise and off after sunrise, and on again before sunset and off again after sunset to maintain a constant light period of 14 hours and a dark period of 10 hours each day. This may be accomplished through the assistance of electric time clocks that turn lights on and off at set times. However, if timers cannot be used, lights may be left on 24 hours a day or switched on and off manually as necessary. Forty watt light bulbs, 8 feet or 2.4 m to 10 feet or 3 m high, spaced 14 feet or 4.3 m apart provides ample light (one foot candle at duck eye level) to stimulate egg production.

Growing ducks, however, do not necessarily require artificial light. Ducks are nocturnal and can feed and water in the dark, although artificial lighting is needed during the first few days as the ducklings will need assistance in getting started in drinking and eating in the dark. Supplemental lighting should be provided for the first three weeks. Growing ducks in totally confined shelters as in commercial production will require some light every day.

Dim light from low wattage bulbs can help at night to prevent stampeding if the flock is disturbed. Increases or decreases in day length should be avoided as much as possible during the development period of breeder-layer ducks.

Feeders and Feeding Space

Most feeders for chicken and other poultry are acceptable for ducks, granted they are provided with ample space for the larger bill of ducks and their shoveling eating motion. Trough feeders may be used if ducks are hand-fed. When using feed hoppers, they should be constructed so that feed will slide down freely into the bottom of the hopper as feed is consumed. Feed wastage can be prevented by providing an apron in front of the feeding area. This catches the feed that is dropped or billed out.

Ducklings eat frequently during the early growth stages. The need to eat becomes less frequent as they grow older, as they are able to store increasing amounts of feed in their esophagus at each feeding. At age four weeks, Pekin ducks are able to consume at least 100 grams of pellets at a single feeding.

For the first three weeks, each animal must be provided with 2.50 cm or inch feeder space. This space may be gradually reduced by half as long as there is no crowding at the feed hoppers. Developing breeders that are being fed with a daily allotted feeding must be provided with ample feeding space so that all birds can eat at once. This requires about 10.0 cm or 4 inches of linear space per duck.

Waterers used for other poultry like chicken may be used for ducks. However, the size of the duck’s bill should be considered. Waterers such as troughs, cans, or jar-type equipment may be used provided the drinking area is at least 4.0 cm wide. This also applies to automatic trough, cup or Plasson waterers. When using nipple waterers, they should be adjusted to the height of the ducks.

For ducks raised indoors where the floor is bedded with litter, waterers should be located on a wire-mesh screen to reduce wetting of the litter. Commercial duck houses are recommended to have a cement floor drain underneath the water screens.

Starting and growing ducks must be provided with a minimum of 2.5 cm or l inch of linear watering space per animal. Developing and laying breeders should be provided with 5.0 cm or 2 inches watering space. When using nipple waterers, 15 nipples should be provided for every 100 starting and growing ducks. Developing and laying breeders should be provided with 20 nipples for every 100 ducks. Starting ducklings should always have access to watering cans, troughs or jars until they are able to drink from nipple waterers.

author: Carmela Abaygar, Marid Digest

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