Overcrowding ducks can be extremely detrimental to their health, growth or egg production. Providing adequate floorspace at each stage of development is basic to successful duck raising. While undercrowding is not usually a problem, it is better to stock ducks at near the recommended density (see table below) in cold weather so that body heat will help warm the room in which the ducks are confined.
Floor Space Allowances For Ducks
Age of days = Space/Duck (sq ft)
- 1 = 0.31
- 2 = 0.62
- 3 = 1.10
- 4 = 1.47
- 5 = 1.90
- 6 = 2.28
- 7 = 2.48
- Developing Breeders = 2.69
- Laying Breeders = 3.02
Flooring for Ducks
Duck keepers should avoid flooring that will injure the skin covering the feet and hock joints of ducks. The smooth skin of ducks is not as tough (not as cornified) as that of land fowl, and is more susceptible to injury when ducks are confined on surfaces that are too rough, or abrasive. Slats, wire floors or cage bottoms may cause injury to the feet and legs of ducks, unless these surfaces are smooth, non-abrasive, and free of sharp edges. Stones, mixed with the soil covering the duck yards can also cause injury.
The detrimental effect of flooring on ducks increases with the age and size of the duck, and the longer ducks are confined to the flooring. The likelihood of injury is greatly reduced if wire occupies no more one-fourth to one-third of the floor area. Properly constructed wire floors are usually a better choice than slats, which can cause leg deformities as well as injury to skin. If wire floors are used, floors for ducklings under 3 weeks should be constructed of 1.9 cm (3/4 inch) mesh, 12-gauge welded wire, attached to a frame designed to keep the wire flat, and minimize manure accumulation. For ducks over 3 weeks, 2.5 cm (1 inch) mesh is best. Vinyl coated wire is preferable, but smooth galvanized wire is satisfactory.
Management of Litter and Yards
Ducks drink and excrete more water than chickens or turkeys. Their droppings contain over 90% moisture. It is therefore necessary to take extra measures to maintain litter floors inside sheltered areas in a dry condition. This will require regular addition of fresh bedding, on top of the bedding that has become soiled or wet, and when necessary, cleaning out the old litter and replacing it with fresh litter.
Under semi-confinement growing, in which case ducklings spend most of their time outdoors during the day (after the first 3 weeks), waterers should be located outside, as far away from the house as possible. This will reducing tracking water to the litter. During periods when temperatures drop below freezing, water must be provided indoors. Duck yards should be maintained in a clean condition by removing the upper few inches of soil and replacing it with clean soil (preferably sand) whenever necessary.
Feeders and Feeding Space
Most feeders used for other poultry, are satisfactory for ducks, provided sufficient room is allowed for the larger bill of ducks and their “shoveling” eating motion. If ducks are hand fed, simple trough feeders work fine. If feed hoppers are used, they should be constructed so that feed will slide down freely into the bottom of the hopper as feed is consumed. Providing an apron in front of the feeding area, for catching feed that is dropped or billed out, will reduce feed wastage. During their early stages of growth, ducklings eat frequently, much like chickens.
As they grow older they are able to store increasing amounts of feed in their esophagus at each feeding, and thus need to eat less frequently. By about four weeks of age, Pekin ducks can easily consume 100 grams or more of pellets at a single feeding. It is important to provide about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of feeder space per duck for about the first 3 weeks. Afterwards this can be gradually reduced to about half this amount so long as there is no crowding at the feed hoppers. Developing breeders that are being fed an allotted amount of feed each day should be allowed plenty of feeding space so that all birds can eat at once, which requires about 4 inches (10 cm) of linear space per duck.
As a general rule, ducks need twice as much feeding space as hens. Flock feeders are the most satisfactory types of feeders for ducks. Provide each duck with a feeding space of at least 12 cm (the equivalent of four 2 m flock feeders per 100 adults).
Waterers for Ducks
Waterers designed for chickens and turkeys are usually satisfactory for ducks, as long as the size of the duck’s bill is considered. Trough, can or jar-type waterers can be used so long as the drinking area is wide enough (at least 4 cm) for the duck to submerge its bill. The same requirement applies to automatic trough, cup or Plasson waterers. Nipple waterers, if properly adjusted for the duck’s height, are also satisfactory. If waterers are located indoors where the floor is bedded with litter, waterers should be located on a wire-mesh screen to reduce wetting of the litter.
In commercial duck houses it is usually advisable to construct a cement floor drain underneath the water screens. For starting and growing ducks, provide a minimum of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of linear watering space per duck. Increase this to 2 inches (5.0 cm) per duck for developing and laying breeders. If nipple waterers are used, provide 15 nipples per 100 ducks for starting and growing ducks and 20 nipples/100 ducks for developing and laying breeders. Starting ducklings should always have access to watering cans, jars or troughs until they have learned to drink from nipple waterers.
Swimming facilities are not essential. However, pools can be made available where outside runs are provided. Concrete ponds 1 m wide by 0.25 m deep are satisfactory. To keep litter in the shed dry, place the ponds away from the house. Alternatively, saucer-shaped pools 0.25 m deep and 2 m wide may be used. In both cases, good drainage is essential. To limit wastage of eggs, it is advisable to prevent outside swimming until about 10.00 am, when most eggs will have been laid (most ducks lay their eggs in the evening and early morning).
Although swimming water is not necessary, ducks do need plenty of clean drinking water. Birds should be able to immerse their heads completely and hence clean and prevent blockage of their nasal passages caused by food and dirt. Keep drinking containers shaded at all times. To prevent damp litter, place drinking vessels outside the shed or on a wire grid. Provide about 3 cm of drinking space for each adult bird.