Are you a newbie in duck keeping? Waterfowls are hardy animals that rarely get sick, but if you want them to thrive and be productive, you need to know how to keep your ducks healthy and happy.
So, today, we gathered 21 tips to help your waterfowl stay in good shape and have a better quality of life.
Whether you’re raising ducks as a pet, egg layer, or breeder, you’ll benefit from this guide which will discuss how to:
- choose the right food
- provide better environment
- manage health issues when raising ducks
So, if you want to gain more insight into how to take care of a duck, let’s dive right in!
We’ll start off with one of the most crucial elements in ducks’ health.
Water Tips to Keep Your Ducks Healthy
Water means life for ducks. It’s crucial for your waterfowl’s digestion and overall well-being. So, you need to provide an unlimited clean and drinkable water source.
Each duck can consume 4 cups of water daily. Thus, a small flock of 4 ducks may need a gallon of drinking water daily.
But here’s a tip to keep your ducks healthy and happy.
1. Give them access to swimming water.
Besides drinking water, ducks also need deep water to submerge their heads and clean their eyes and nostrils.
Without access to swimming water, your waterfowl may suffer from oil gland issues and various health problems.
If you have a pond in your area, you don’t have to worry about it when raising ducks. But a small kiddie pool will do the trick if you don’t have one.
But know that your waterfowl will make it dirty and muddy in no time. So, you may need to clean the pool daily and scrub it out with a brush and some vinegar to eliminate algae.
Remember that stagnant water can cause botulism, and dirty one can lead to wet feathers and contribute to salmonellosis.
So, while it’s a lot of hard work to incorporate it into your everyday chores, it’s necessary to keep the pool clean for your ducks’ health.
Note: Supervise your ducklings when bathing and swimming in pools because they can get cold and drown.
Choosing the Right Food to Keep Your Ducks Healthy
Food is another vital part of ducks’ health. So, here’s another duck-raising tip to ensure your waterfowl can get the best nutrition.
2. Provide quality duck feed
Ducks can eat a wide range of food, from hay to vegetables like lettuce to commercial duck feeds. But if you want to kickstart your ducks’ growth, you should give the ducklings a complete and nutritionally-balanced duck starter diet that meets their niacin requirements.
When they turn three weeks old, you can start giving them duck growers until they’re seven weeks old.
And from then on, you can upgrade to a maintenance diet for the adult flock.
If you want to breed your ducks to lay eggs, you need to provide a duck layer feed and breeder diet to optimize your waterfowl’s breeding performance and egg production.
Aside from their main diet, you can also opt to provide the following to keep your ducks healthy and ensure they can grow faster and stronger.
3. Give them some supplements
Giving supplements to your ducks can strengthen their immune system and reduce the chance of being sick. Here are some natural supplements you can use:
- Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is great at killing parasites.
- Molasses and kelp contain minerals like Iron, calcium, potassium, etc.
- Oregano or wild marjoram and garlic are good antioxidants and can kill worms.
- Probiotics and apple cider vinegar help maintain your duck’s healthy body by boosting its immune system, aiding digestion, and helping control worms.
Just mix the electrolytes with their water to reduce stress and keep them hydrated in the hot season.
Laying ducks need higher amounts of calcium in their diet to have stronger eggshells and prevent laying problems such as egg binding. However, there is a caveat. Do not overdo it.
Ducks need less calcium than chickens; too much calcium for ducks can be bad.
Even though most layer duck feed contains calcium, it’s not always enough. So, we recommend providing supplementary calcium to your ducks using oyster shells, crushed limestone, or eggshells.
Ducklings’ niacin requirement is twice as compared to chicks, so you must provide quality feed that meets their needs.
Adding a niacin supplement, like brewer’s yeast, will help if you’re feeding your ducks with chicken feed. But it’d be best to give your ducklings a feed specially-formulated to provide sufficient niacin.
4. Reward them with some bugs
Ducks enjoy a variety of insects, such as worms, slugs, and other crawling creeps. Some even enjoy catching flies.
If they can’t find tasty insect treats from free-ranging, you can buy mealworms and live crickets from pet stores.
5. Get the greens ready
If your waterfowl can’t free-range, providing them with leafy greens and vegetables such as lettuce, cucumber, peas, and herbs like oregano, basil and parsley can help them fulfill their needs.
6. Prepare some grits
As you probably know, ducks have no teeth and cannot chew. That’s why these birds should also have access to GRIT, a ground-up stone that aids in grinding food in their gizzards.
7. Limit the treats and avoid unhealthy ones
Feeding your ducks with too many treats can make their diet unbalanced. Your waterfowl may lose interest in their main feed.
The rule of thumb is to keep your ducks’ treats at just 10% of their diet.
A few extra carbs won’t hurt them. But adding too much grain or excess treats can lead to problems in egg production, feather quality, and other health issues.
You also need to avoid feeding your ducks unhealthy treats such as:
- white potato or potato peels
- dry or undercooked beans
- castor beans
- apple seeds
- onion and garlic
- spinach, kale, and swiss chard
- dairy products (because they’re difficult to digest for ducks)
- fatty and salty foods
- highly processed or fried foods and junk foods such as chips, cereals, and french fries
If it’s impossible to avoid the foods above, at least limit their intake because feeding unhealthy treats can be worse than overfeeding.
8. Avoid contaminated feed
Never give moldy foods to your ducks to avoid toxication, especially the aspergillus fumigatus mold. It can be fatal to ducks because of aflatoxins.
Another contaminant that is dangerous for your ducks is Mycotoxins. It can even cause death if not treated.
That’s why ensure not to let your duck feed to molds to avoid unwanted effects.
9. Give your ducks a foraging time
Foraging is an innate behavior in ducks. They love to do it whether it rains or shines.
So, give your ducks free-ranging time to exercise, stretch their body, and fulfill their vitamin E and A requirements.
Fencing Tips to Protect Your Ducks
10. Keep the predators away
Since most domestic ducks can’t fly well, you don’t need to build a high fence unless the breed you choose is an excellent flyer. A three-foot-tall fence is enough to keep them contained.
But their inability to fly also makes them vulnerable to predator attacks. Therefore, you need to cover the duck run with more wire fencing to keep the predators away.
Maintenance Tips for Your Ducks’ Environment
Now that you have lots of how to meet your ducks’ after and nutritional needs, let’s move on to how to raise ducks in a safe and clean environment.
11. Don’t overcrowd your ducks
Overcrowding can lead to stress and make it difficult for you to clean their pen. So you need to provide enough space for your ducks.
Each of them needs at least five square feet of space in the pen at nighttime.
But during the daytime, it’s best to give each duck at least 50 to 100 square feet of space where they can free-range and forage for food and insect threats.
12. Maximize ventilation
If your duck’s coop is enclosed, you have to provide ventilation. The minimum ventilation needed for a coop is one square foot of window or vent space per duck.
13. Change the beddings
Your ducks’ beddings should stay as dry as possible because molds can grow on wet beddings and cause aspergillosis. So before it starts to smell, we recommend changing it regularly.
14. Deep clean the house
Cleaning is a vital part of duck care to prevent diseases from spreading. So, clean their coops thoroughly every six months by scrubbing the walls, floor, and other surfaces with soapy water or a mixture of vinegar and water.
Don’t forget to scrub and disinfect the water source feeders to prevent molds from growing and avoid infection.
15. Check the hot spots
Make sure there are no poop-collecting or building spots in the yard or coop of your ducks.
If your ducks prefer one area of the yard and hang out all day, you might try temporarily denying them access so that area can heal.
Move your ducks’ water supplies and shade sources sometimes to prevent the area around them from becoming bare and muddy.
16. Separate the ducklings from adults
Ducklings are prone to duck virus hepatitis, so to prevent it from spreading quickly, you need to separate the younger ones from the adults.
17. Practice biosecurity
Other ducks can get infected with viruses and diseases, which can sneak into your flock, usually by importing new birds. So, if you’re planning to add new birds to the flock, make sure to quarantine the newcomers for your existing flock’s safety.
18. Prepare for Winter Season
Ducks thrive in warmer weather but can also handle cold winters with your help. What do ducks need to survive the winter season?
One of the vital elements for their survival is water that won’t freeze over when the temperature dip below the freezing point. They need it to keep them hydrated and clear their sinuses.
So, if you want to keep your ducks healthy during winter, you need to either provide water in a heated bowl or keep their shelter warm so it doesn’t freeze over.
They don’t need swimming water during the cold season, but drinking water is non-negotiable.
You also need to provide comfortable bedding for your waterfowl and ensure good ventilation and no draft in the pen.
If you notice a draft inside the pen, you can block it and keep the heat in using bales of straw and hay.
Adding a little weight during winter can also help keep your waterfowl warm. So, if possible, feed them more high-protein foods and high-fat treats when preparing for the cold season.
How to Manage Health Issues to Keep Ducks Healthy
In this section, we’ll discuss how to look after ducks’ health and prevent diseases.
19. Minimize the stressors
Stress can negatively affect the ducks’ immune system and make them prone to diseases. So, if you want to keep your ducks healthy, you must reduce the stressors such as:
- dirty smell or environment
- not enough food
- no swimming water
- rough or excessive handling
- being bullied by other dominant ducks or poultry birds
- being chased or harassed by dogs, humans, and other animals
20. Get Them Vaccinated and Dewormed
Regular deworming and vaccination are essential parts of veterinary healthcare for many animals. However, ducks hardly ever require them.
But vaccines are available for several illnesses, including chicken cholera, duck virus enteritis (DVE), and duck viral hepatitis. So even if ducks are usually not immunized, you can opt to get them vaccinated if you want to protect them from diseases.
Heavy worm loads are typically not detrimental to healthy ducks, but some people prefer to deworm “to be on the safe side.”
However, chemical dewormers are becoming outdated. Dewormers are losing their efficacy to parasite resistance more quickly than they are created.
So, it’s unnecessary unless your ducks suffer from a heavy worm load and need treatment immediately.
21. Give them Companions
Ducks are social animals that enjoy the company of their fellow waterfowl.
If you want to raise a duck as a pet, you need to ensure that you can provide the socialization time it needs to keep him happy and satisfied.
But if you want him to thrive, giving him a male or female duck companion would be great!
Common Questions About Keeping Ducks Healthy
What is the healthiest food for ducks?
The healthiest foods for ducks are organic cracked corn, oats, rice, chopped lettuce, frozen peas, and sliced grapes. You can also feed them sweetcorn, seeds, and bird seeds.
How do I keep my pet duck happy?
You can keep your ducks healthy and happy by giving them plenty of space to sleep and forage, keeping their beddings clean and dry, and offering water and quality feed.
They’d also love you if you provided them a shade in summer and a comfortable shelter during winter.
How do you tell if a duck is stressed?
One of the major signs of stress you must look out for is lethargy, sudden lameness, weakness, appetite loss, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If your waterfowl suffers from depression, that can also be a sign of stress.
What foods are poisonous to ducks?
To keep your ducks healthy, you must avoid feeding them foods that are toxic to them, such as bread, raw meat, and eggs. avocado pits and skins and rhubarb and its leaf.
Garlic, onions, and potatoes(raw or peels) are also not good for them because they contain toxins, although a little can’t harm them.
Final Tips on How to Keep Your Ducks Healthy
That wraps up our list of tips on how to keep your ducks healthy! If you’re a newbie duck owner, we hope it has been helpful to you.
Ducks are easy to raise birds, but they also need your help to grow and thrive. You need to be attentive to their needs because even if they’re hardy animals, they’re still prone to predator attacks and minor accidents.
For example, the ramp that leads to their coop is not wide, and the slope is not gentle enough, they tend to jump and hurt themselves.
They can also be predisposed to bumblefoot when constantly walking on hard surfaces.
And it’s your job to provide them with a comfortable home and safe environment to keep them healthy.