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So, How Much Trouble am I In?

 
pollinator
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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I came home from work this morning to find that my turkey egg popped along with a couple more quail.  I've got 2 dozen chickens in the brooder along with a handful of quail.  I took the two quail and the poult out and put them in the brooder.  When I did, I noticed that several of my duck eggs had pipped.  My total experience with ducks to date is that I got a trio of Ancona ducks six days ago.  They are still steadfast in their belief that I will strangle them if I get close even though I feed them and haul gallons of water a day for them.  I really like them, though.

So, what do I need to know about brooding ducklings.  I feed a fermented 30% game bird mash with apple cider vinegar mother and yeast for added niacin.  Right now I've got about 8 duck eggs that could hatch from a veritable smorgasbord of parents.  I also have a dozen Pekings about a week away and another dozen grab bag in a month along with six Ancona.  I've got experience with chickens and quail.    One of the Ancona ducks is showing signs of going broody, so I'm going to encourage that as much as I can.
 
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina
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There is a champion duck breeder in upstate NY, I am proud to say is my niece, who can answer any of your questions and/or sell you natural remedies. Alexandra not only breeds award winning ducks and geese but she is an amazing herbalist. She's the only one in my family who listened to my words about living sustainably. She has built an amazing homestead. She's also very generous with her knowledge. The links to her FB page and Etsy shops are below.

https://www.facebook.com/peaceloveducksny/

https://www.etsy.com/market/duck_hollow_farm

https://www.etsy.com/market/freya_apothecary

Hope this helps
Angelina
 
gardener
Posts: 2505
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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I've had "Noisy Ducks" - anything domesticated from mallards like Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners - for many years now and yes - they're flighty and freaked out easily! Food is a great bribe, and since I'm in the Pacific North West which is having a worse than average big slug year, they are my current bribe. They now recognize my "slug container" and come close to the fence in the hopes of getting a prize. Once tadpole/froglet season is over, I will use Lemna "duckweed" to do the same thing. I also soak whole wheat overnight and put it in their bucket of water (they need the extra B vitamins and they need to dunk their heads, so it does both jobs for me) and gradually they've got to the point that they'll come and start dunking for it before I've even finished filling the bucket, but that took a long time...

One of my favorite tricks is to use a Muscovy mom - totally laid back South American Wood Ducks - no relation to Noisy Ducks - to hatch out my Noisy Duck eggs. I've got three Muscovy moms sitting on Khaki/Golden 300 cross eggs right now, due in the next week. Muscovy are very friendly ducks, so it gets the ducklings off to a good start in the, "trust the two legs - they bring you food" department.

Although I do use a friend's incubator when I'm concerned about fertility and want to check it without frustrating a feathered mom, my first choice is to have a real mom, or at least a surrogate mom, raised my birds as I think they learn "duck manners" that they just don't learn if they're not taught them from as young an age as possible.
 
Timothy Markus
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Thanks for the responses. 5 had hatched out by the time I left for work last night and they were in the brooder with the chickens, quail and a single turkey.  They sure are the cutest of the bunch and I can't wait to see what they turn out to be.

Angelina I visited the etsy shop.  I really like the soap in wool with a duck on it.  There is a thread somewhere here about something much like that.

Jay, I think Mucovies and maybe the 300s will be my next addition, though the 300s will be challenging to find around here, I suspect.  I'd like to get some duckweed for all the birds.  I'm sure I can find some around here somewhere but I'm debating buying some of a known variety to start with.  How much of it do you feed?  I used to sprout wheat and oats for my hens, quail and rabbits and I really liked how they did on it.  I might do that again at some point but I like the idea of soaked wheat.  

I love the eggs I'm getting from the Anconas and they're waiting for me at 6:30 when I get home.  I'd love to hatch out more than the 6 I've got in right now but I think this is the last round for the incubator for now.  I will encourage them to sit and was thinking of making a couple of these to put in the 4x4 pen:



Would they possibly go broody with a nest tube like that in the pen with water and feed outside in the fenced area?  I am starting to think that I'd like a Christmas goose this year and I'm brooding anyway...

 
Jay Angler
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The "Industrial" food production system has mostly bred out broodiness in poultry. I don't have a reference handy as to which of the more "heritage" birds are prone to broodiness and which ones aren't. That's an area where I'm hoping the interest in raising animals based on permaculture principles will support  a return to more natural ways of raising the next generation. I've not had any luck with either my Noisy Ducks or my geese so far as successful setting is concerned, although my geese just seemed to be getting the hang of it when we lost fertility. I've got a goose now who is acting broody, but the best I could give her would be Muscovy duck eggs that I've pre-started in the incubator (because I think my Muscovy males are too old and aren't very fertile so I was doing a test).

Part of my long-term plan if I can get it to work is to "re-teach" setting and brooding to the Noisy Ducks by breeding pairs that were at least raised by moms. They're soooo... flighty though, that the only way I think it would work is if once they appeared ready to set, I move their nest to a quiet spot with their own feed and water. I pretty much do that with the Muscovy because if I didn't, some other girls would sneak into the nest and add extra eggs that wouldn't have the same hatch date. In the wild, a mom would hide the nest from everyone else, but on our farm, if they hide a nest where it can't be protected, when they set a raccoon will get them. I use what I call "brooding cubes" that are 4' x 4' with a nest box, a small hanging feeder, and a rubber pan of water for the ducks. If you want, I can try and take a picture and post it. The ducks get locked in until they hatch, but geese it is normal for them to come off their nest and forage for periods, so during the day I open their door. Geese really have to have grass to eat - they'll get sick if just fed feed.

Despite how people have bred birds though, every 3 years or so, one of my Hubby's Industrial Laying Chickens will go broody - we have a girl sitting on eggs right now by chance. They usually manage to hatch a few chicks and do a fine job of raising them.
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 932
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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I'd love to see a picture if it's not too much trouble.  I've hatched out a couple of Serama chicks with a couple more in the incubator. I'm going to see if I can get them to hatch out quail eggs for me.  I'd love to be able to get the girls to hatch out as much as possible, especially after losing power for only a couple of hours today.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1384
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
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Something must be going around, cause I just became a duck dad today.  Totally did not plan that.  Uh. . .got some fertilized eggs dropped off here, and I don't even have any idea what breed they might be.  

So all I can say is however much trouble you're in, I'm probably in worse.

Will ducks eat rau muong? what do you do if you don't have a lack of duck problem but have a duck problem? is there a way to grow duckweed in a kiddie pool--without also growing kids? mosquitoes? do ducks eat mosquito larvae or do they just dunk around them? what if they're both boys? do they need companions? what if they imprint on the cat?  I'll check out the facebook page mentioned above now.  Oh, and how mad will our neighbors be if we have ducks in the yard? our landlord?  Thanks team!
 
Jay Angler
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I was able to get a number of sets of "dog exercise pen" material needing minimal repair. I've turned several into duck "sitting cubes". Some of these pens are actually sitting on hardware cloth for safety from rats, but the one in the picture was simply plopped on top of a duck who wanted to set in the nest box under this tree. I use bamboo poles from my patch to support an old corroplast sign (4'x4') because I got them free, but they're starting to die, so I will splurge and replace them with aluminium if the "permanent brooder cubes" Hubby's been promising for 4 years don't materialize.

I've also used salvaged signs for the "baby bumpers" on the bottom foot of the cube. This keeps the babies from sneaking out while mom is trapped inside still. As soon as I see mom off the nest with babies, I move them to a 4' x 8' bottomless cage which is supper easy to move to fresh grass every day. They stay locked in that for 1-2 weeks. At first I only let them out when I'm in the field and can keep a bit of an eye on things. Once they show that they and mom are being safe, they stay out most of the day.

The rubber pan is great for both sitting ducks and when the ducklings are small as they can "swim" safely. They're normally used for feeding larger animals.

You can just see a square container hanging from chains from the front wall. That's a simple feeder made from a recycled container which is for mom's feed. A day or two before hatch, I put a baby feeder in for mom and ducklings to use.

There are lots of alternative set-ups one can make, but these have worked well for us. I feel for a Muscovy sitting on eggs, the 4'x4' footprint is adequate. Any smaller and she's likely to be pooping where you don't want her to. Larger would be OK, but would take more material. The key is to keep her safe from predators, keep other ducks from adding extra eggs or kicking her off the nest, and keep her shaded from too much sun which could kill the eggs. If you take the time to observe your ducks, you get to know what they like or don't like. They aren't keen on me moving them from a nest box where I can't protect them to one where I can, but they usually settle down within 24 hours once they see they've got food, water and most importantly, a nice clutch of eggs.
dog-exercise-fencing-for-sitting-duck.JPG
You can see the happy mom on her nest. She's used to me changing her water and adding fresh mulch.
You can see the happy mom on her nest. She's used to me changing her water and adding fresh mulch.
 
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You will need to increase forage and/or cut the 30% protein starter with oats or wheat from 3-4 weeks through feathering to prevent angel wing. Remember that brewers yeast is also upping protein.

https://www.metzerfarms.com/NutritionalRequirements.cfm?affiliate=undef&CustID=25686263

This is a good nutritional chart reference. They also have a feed mixing calculator on the site.

Congrats on your new birds! Baby waterfowl are the sweetest!

 
Noel Young
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Noel Young wrote:You will need to increase forage and/or cut the 30% protein starter with oats or wheat to decrease % protein from 3-4 weeks through feathering to prevent angel wing. Remember that brewers yeast is also upping protein.

https://www.metzerfarms.com/NutritionalRequirements.cfm?affiliate=undef&CustID=25686263

This is a good nutritional chart reference. They also have a feed mixing calculator on the site.

Congrats on your new birds! Baby waterfowl are the sweetest!



Edited to clarify in quote.
 
Timothy Markus
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Thanks for the head's up, Noel.
 
Timothy Markus
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I'm three weeks in with ducklings.  I've cut their feed to 24%, fermented and non-medicated.  I've got years of experience with chickens and quail, but the ducks are incroyable.  I think my 3 week old ducks are 2.5 to 3 times bigger than the chickens hatched a week earlier.  They're eating me out of house and home, but they're growing so fast and they act delicious.  I absolutely love quail, but the ducks are my new favourite.
 
Jay Angler
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Timothy, unless your birds are getting a lot of low-protein forage, if the "24%" refers to protein, that seems high to me for 3 week-olds. I hope they're getting lots of exercise, as that improves the texture of the meat. With my husband's meat chickens, we put the feed at one end of their shelter and the water at the other end and when we let them out into their portable run, the water goes out to the far end of the run. We move their shelter and run to fresh grass everyday, as birds don't eat poopy grass out of choice. Yes, it's more work, but until we get fencing for paddocks set up, it keeps young birds safe and the results are delicious.

Yes, ducklings come out of larger eggs and don't look back! With a mom watching them closely, and a guard gander "sort of" on duty, I've let 3 day-olds out while I'm working in the area, and by 2 weeks, they're out from 10am to ~5pm. A photographer friend came by and wanted to take some pictures of Messy Mom's group of 8 and she gave him what for!
 
pollinator
Posts: 471
Location: Central Texas
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Timothy Markus wrote: I've cut their feed to 24%, fermented and non-medicated.


Are you feeding a fermented crumble feed?
If so, how do you ferment the crumbles?

I have been fermenting the scratch grains for my poultry, and then mixing the dry crumble (24% non medicated) with the grains when feeding. I've wondered if I could ferment the crumbles alone, or with the grains, but was worried that it would just turn into a bucket of slop that the birds wouldn't want to eat.
 
Timothy Markus
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I've dropped it down to about 21% now that they're 3 weeks old.  

I've got 30% crumble and 18% pellets and I mix them to get the protein that I want.  I ferment it with ACV and baker's yeast.  It's a wet slurry that rises but I like that as I can just pour it into troughs.  I also add a niacin pill to the bucket first for the ducks.  I started fermenting for quail and they never wasted any of it at all.  The ducks do as a fair bit of it ends up in the water. Right now I'm draining most of the water and adding the rest with the wasted feed to the worm bins.  I'm not sure if feeding them dry food would cut the waste but I suspect not.

I'm in lockdown right now because of Nature's Asshole, the raccoon.  I've lost two hens and one of my ducks may have lost an eye.  On top of that, last night I awakened and felt as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I felt something terrible had happened and found that it had gotten into my worm bin.  The older chicks and ducklings are outside in a brooder with enclosed runs, separate with the ducks having about 10x the space.  They run around and swim, so they do alright, but I'm limited to bringing them grass right now.  Hopefully soon I'll be able to get them rotating and eventually free-ranging under supervision.  At least I'll be collecting bedding for compost.
 
Kc Simmons
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Location: Central Texas
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Take my daily apple for the great Alderron reference

Sorry to hear about the raccoon. After having an armadillo almost clean out my outdoor worm beds, I've been keeping a few bins in the house as a "backup" population.
I also understand about having to keep the fowl on lockdown. My problem is that the people who live around me think their dogs have the right to go wherever they want and destroy whatever they please; so all of my birds are in coops until I can get the back pasture fenced.

I will try fermenting the crumble feed. With the scratch grains, I've found they would never eat the cracked corn in the blend when I fed it to them dry, but they do eat it after it's been fermented. I have just been soaking in water, though sometimes I'll add some of my sourdough starter discard or ACV to the water. I'm feeding geese, ducks, turkeys, guineas, peafowl, chickens, plus some pigeons and doves. Pretty sure the waterfowl wouldn't mind it being soggy, and probably the chickens, but I'll see how the others tolerate it.
Thank you for sharing!
 
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