Care of Ducklings
Most information and technology for brooding chicks may be applied to ducklings. Ducklings hatched artificially must be provided with a warm and dry brooding area that is free of drafts. The brooding area must also be maintained to be rat proof. Ducklings should be provided with a source of heat at least until they are age one week. Feed and drinking water must be situated near the heat source so that ducklings will learn to eat and drink after they are placed in the brooder.
Ducklings that have not learned to drink within a few hours may need assistance, thus the caretaker must dip their bills in the drinking water to coax them to start drinking. Earth or cement floors must be bedded with clean dry litter such as wood shavings, rice hulls and similar materials. Woven bamboo mats and sawali may also be used as floor mats. Newspapers may be put down on wire floors for the first few days if there is a draft problem.
During the months of January and February when nights are cooler, artificial heat should be provided for at least 10 days. Kerosene lamps and electric bulbs are sufficient heat sources.
Ducklings require 30 °C temperature at the time of hatching as they are not yet able to regulate their body temperature. They develop the ability to produce and conserve heat and regulate their body temperature as they grow older. They will be able to better regulate their body temperature after the duckling is fully covered with feathers and down.
- At age seven days, ducklings should be provided with optimum temperature of 27 °C;
- at age 14 days, 23 °C;
- at age 21 days, 19 °C;
- at age 28 days, 15 °C; and
- 13 °C at age 35 days until about 49 days.
- Developing and laying breeders also have the optimum temperature of 13 °C.
A good indication if ducklings receive ideal brooding temperature is their behavior toward the heat source. Ducklings huddle close to the heat source when temperature is too low and pant away from the heat source if it is too high. Ideal temperature is reached when ducklings are spread evenly in the brooder.
Ducklings should be sexed before placing in the brooder. Males intended for meat purposes must be raised separately from the females. Ducklings are transferred from the brooder to the growing house when they are age six weeks. Layers on the other hand, must be transferred from the brooder to the laying house at age four months.
Nutrition and health Ducks should be provided with all their needed nutrients regardless of how they obtain their food.
Backyard ducks that are able to forage may be able to survive, grow, and lay eggs by consuming available food by consuming green plants, insects, table scraps, crop residues and spillage. However, ducks feeding as suck will grow very slowly and produce a small number of eggs.
Backyard farmers must provide supplemental feed to increase growth rate and egg production. Ducklings should be provided with a wet starter mash for eight weeks.
Native ducks raised in the native method are fed four to five times a day with moistened boiled rice for the first 33 weeks. Feed must be given at night for the first few days. Drinking water must be provided in troughs or fountains on the second day. At age one month, ducks may be fed with small fresh water snails and boiled palay (unhulled rice). Wet mash easily spoils when left in the troughs for long periods thus only feed to be consumed within ten to fifteen minutes must be placed in troughs.
Corn, soybean meal, fish meal, dried whey, rice bran with oyster shell and bone meal with vitamin-mineral supplements may consist the mash feed for duckling. At age one day to six weeks, ducklings must be fed with a starter mash with 10-21% crude protein. At age six weeks to four months, ducks may be fed with a grower mash with sixteen percent protein. At age four months and above, a layer mash with sixteen percent crude protein may be provided.
Ducklings learn to eat more readily if feed is given at intervals. Their appetites are developed to fill up in between drinks, digest food quickly and be ready to eat for the next feeding time. At age five weeks, ducks may be given green feed such as chopped leaves of kangkong, camote, ipil-ipil and legumes at a minimum of three times a day. Ten grams of green leaves per duck per day is sufficient.
Pellets may also be introduced as feeds to the animals. The pellet system is a feed-saving device. Pellets of each kind of feed are ideal, however, pellet size must be suitable to the duck’s age.
Vaccination and medication programs must be administered to the animals to prevent viral infections and bacterial diseases. Ducklings at age one day to seven days must be administered with antibiotic or sulfa drug preparation through drinking water to prevent bacterial infections like salmonellosis, collibacilosis and staphyloccosis. At age eight to 14 days, ducklings may be given antibiotic-vitamin-mineral mixture through their drinking water to increase the animal’s resistance against bacteria) diseases. Ducklings aged 21-28 days may be given multivitamins to increase their resistance.
During stressful conditions like a change in climate, ducks at age two to four months may be given antibiotic vitamin-mineral mixture to be administered through their drinking water. Fowl cholera vaccine may be given to the ducks at age four and a half months by way of intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. An antibiotic vitamin-mineral mixture must be given to the animals three days before administration of vaccine and again three days after to combat stress. During the laying months, antibiotic vitamin-mineral mixture may be given when needed. Sulfa drugs should not be administered during the laying period unless absolutely necessary.
author: Carmela Abaygar, Marid Digest