For species that have more difficulty learning to eat, we use shallow pans of water, these are also filled will marbles. Floating food is then placed in the water. We have found that most ducklings can learn to eat using this method. Having a wire top on these brooders is important, especially when brooding any of the tree nesting ducks. These ducklings have amazing climbing skills, and can still manage a foothold on even a smooth plastic surface.
In about a week , the ducklings are moved outside to a larger brooder. These brooders have wire floors, and also provide access to swimming water. At this stage, ducklings still need a heat lamp, and protection from the weather. One side of the brooder is boxed off and completely covered and a heat lamp is provided there. The ducklings spend about 2 weeks in these brooders. Once they begin to grow some feathers, they are taken out of the brooders and moved to small grow out pens. These pens all have a sand and gravel floor a small concrete pond. Ducklings are still provided with some cover from the weather, as a hard rain storm combined with a drop in temperature can still kill them at this stage. Once the ducklings have reached their adult size and are fully feathered they are moved into our larger holding pens. These pens also have a sand and gravel floor and a concrete pond. Here the birds will be housed until they are shipped out to their new homes in the fall.
Pictured below a group of silver and whites woodies in one of our holding pen. Picture taken in 08.
We try to have all birds housed in the correct aviaries with their mates by late fall. This allows them plenty of time to settle into their new homes and to get acquainted with the others birds in the enclosure before breeding season begins. Nest boxes are ready for the birds to start checking out by late winter. We try to make sure there are 3 boxes for every 2 nesting pairs in an enclose. Pictured to the left is a standard wood duck style nesting box. If your birds are pinioned you will need to include a ramp so the birds may walk up to the box.
How we Raise our Ducks
Ground nesting species will often nest under natural cover if it is available. In the absence of plant cover a few well placed cedar branches in the corner of the aviary may make a suitable nest site. Ground nest boxes may vary widely in size and shape, depending on the species that will be using them. An easily made and cost efficient ground box can be made out of plastic storage container, simply cut out the entrance hole to the desired size, and line the bottom of the tote with sand and then nesting material. These boxes last for many years especially if they are keep out of direct sunlight. Many of our birds will use these just as readily as the more expensive cedar boxes. Pictured below is a silver bahama who had made her nest in one of these boxes, she was quite upset about being disturbed for the picture.
Our newly hatched ducklings are placed in small brooders, some of which are nothing more than a large plastic container. The floor of these containers are lined with newspapers, and a top layer of paper-towels. Ducklings are provided with a heat lamp, food and water. It is important that the ducklings are not allowed to become wet and chilled, marbles are added to their waters so they can not soak themselves.