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Duck... duck... duck... SURPRISE!!

 
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We have 5 Buff Orpington hens. This breed tends toward 'broody', and we knew that, going into it. In fact, we were delighted by it! Our girls are 14mos old, now, and three first went broody, a couple months ago - so we got some fake eggs to put under her, then swapped them out for chicks, when the time was right. It went off beautifully, and the only chicks we lost were our fault (sad story I'm not going into, right now). So we have 5 laying hens, and 6 healthy Black Austrolorp pullets, all happily eating ticks, and making us very happy. But, another one went broody, almost 3weeks ago, so we ordered a batch of Pekin ducks for her to raise. The ducklings shipped, today - but, now shes left the nest, and refuses to go back!

We were all set with everything we'd need for our hen to foster the ducklings, but not for me to raise them. There's no electricity in the coop (& I'll not raise another brood in the livingroom!), so they'll have to be kept how warm? For how long? Our heart lamp broke - as in,  exploded directly over our first batch of chicks, sending glass flying everywhere, and we were lucky none of the chicks was hurt, and they were pretty much done needing it, anyway. Needless to say, I'm rather leery of using one, again. I'm set for containment, feeding & water needs, but heat. It's averaging upper 90s here, during the day, but drops into the lower 70s, at night. Help, please?
 
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In a pinch, surround a small area with something like milk jugs filled with hot water?
The chicken left the "nest", but did you try showing her the ducklings to see if she had any interest in being a mom?
How many in your "batch"?  Ducklings in a small space with a lid over them don't need a whole lot extra - much better feathers at day 1 than chickens.
Good luck. The last lot I had to look after I used the top of the brooder on blocks in my bathtub. Ducks - even ducklings - go through a *lot* of water, splashing most of it!
 
Carla Burke
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Thanks, Jay! Night time,  during the first couple weeks is my biggest concern, honestly. We don't have the ducklings, yet. We placed the order on Wednesday, after she'd been on the fake eggs for 2weeks. She left the nest on Saturday - Independence Day, lol. TSC ships their baby birds on mondays and Tuesdays - but, no one was in the shipping office, when we called to cancel the order, and the young man who answered said he'd try to get it canceled, but couldn't make any promises. Like I said, I've got pretty much everything set for them, except for that rather crucial night time issue. The bottles might work. Especially if I move them into the sun, during the day. Geo-thermal heating, at its finest!
 
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Our daughter uses the bathtub in the spare bathroom to raise her chicks until they are old enough to go outside.
 
Carla Burke
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Anne Miller wrote:Our daughter uses the bathtub in the spare bathroom to raise her chicks until they are old enough to go outside.



Our 2nd bathroom is a 3/4. Right now, I'm really wishing we could run power to the barn!
 
Jay Angler
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We run our brooder off a 14 gauge extension cord that's about 50ft long. How far away is your barn?

The floor of our brooder is insulated. You only need a warm area for sleeping with a little water access at night. The issue is that it will need to be cleaned out daily because ducks spill so much water, but if you're only talking 6 ducklings, a large tote bin would do. So long as they have a warm, sunny, out of the wind area for day-time naps, that's likely enough by day 3 judging from how my Muscovy moms raise their own and Khaki Campbells. When they're awake and foraging, they don't need the warmth they need when they're napping.
 
Carla Burke
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It's about 100? 125ft? I'm really liking your idea of the water jugs. The thing is, it's pretty warm here, and I'll only have to worry about it for a couple weeks. To give you an idea ofthe temps, it's 79°F here, right now. The lowest it is supposed to get tonight, is 75, and within 3hrs of that, it's supposed to be back in the 80s and climbing, again. My thought is to fill the jugs with water, set them in the sun during the day, and move them to the ducklings, overnight. As it happens, we go through a fair amount of vinegar, and I rarely just throw the jugs away, so I've got loads of them. My fil also has a (very generous) habit of sending us steaks, and I have a similar tendency of not tossing all the styrofoam shipping containers. So, I'm thinking I'd I find a way to combine those, I'm going to be golden, lol.
 
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We've raised duckling in the house--or garage--in rubbermaid tubs with an incandesent bulb. It works pretty well. And, ducklings aren't as messy or escapy as chicks are. They don't seem as loud, either. When we had a chick in the house, the dust it kicked up as it scratched and pecked was pretty bad. Ducklings don't do that!

What we've done, too, is have them in the rubbermaid inside during the night, and then carry them outside on warm days to play and poop in the grass. Then, when it gets cold, we put them back in the rubbermaid and bring them inside. That way, their bedding doesn't get too poopy.
 
Carla Burke
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And, another surprise!! They're a day early!!
So, I took a large dog crate with a plastic tray that slides out, for easy cleaning, and formed some 1/2" hardware fabric around the bottom half, to keep them in - and other critters out, and put it half way in the sun/ half in the shade (and it actually stays that way, all day). Then I rustled up a bunch of vinegar jugs, filled them with hot water, and tucked them around the inside of the dog crate, on the sunny side, to warm up, during the day, and give off heat, at night. Then added 1gallon gravity waterer, the chick feeder with the biggest holes (I'll swap that out later, when their bills get too big), and tucked their shipping box in, on its side, and tucked the cute lil' boogers in. They're so very sweet!
Five or six are destined for the freezer, but we plan to keep a drake & 2 or 3 females, and we have friends who'd like a drake - so, one for them. All this is presuming we don't get too attached, lol.
 
Carla Burke
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The pics were taken at various stages of my progress on the crate. They started squeezing through the wires, almost right away, lol. I tucked them back in, and kept working. I just hope my efforts are enough to protect them. The crate is the size you'd need for an adult lab or German Sheppard, so as they grow, and don't need the water numerator for heat anymore, they'll have more space to move around. There are 10 if them, straight run, so mixed genders. I just hope I have at least 2 or 3 females!
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Jay Angler
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Pretty cute there! I've got a number of crates which I've added "baby bumpers" to and one that really needs better ones than it currently has. In fact I should get to work on that *before* things get critical as I'm babysitting a friend's banty hen who's on 4 eggs and due sooner than I'll be ready - dang chickens only take 3 weeks instead of ducks who give me 4 to 5 weeks to prepare!

Yes, hopefully you'll have a few girls in there. For those who are new to the duck game, as they start to get their mature feathers, the boys start doing a little "wolf whistle" and the girls start doing the traditional "quack" sound we associate with ducks. The trouble is that young ducks are such groupies, it's *really* hard to tell where the noise is coming from. I had two that were pretty identical and I thought I was hearing a quack out of the pair, but couldn't identify which until I grabbed one and she quacked all about the indignity of it! I gave her a pretty green ankle bracelet for that quack!
I've got a group of 8 ducks that are just approaching that stage and so far all I know is "some of each"!

Please keep us posted as to how your "solar duck heating experiment" goes.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:
Yes, hopefully you'll have a few girls in there. For those who are new to the duck game, as they start to get their mature feathers, the boys start doing a little "wolf whistle" and the girls start doing the traditional "quack" sound we associate with ducks. The trouble is that young ducks are such groupies, it's *really* hard to tell where the noise is coming from. I had two that were pretty identical and I thought I was hearing a quack out of the pair, but couldn't identify which until I grabbed one and she quacked all about the indignity of it! I gave her a pretty green ankle bracelet for that quack!
I've got a group of 8 ducks that are just approaching that stage and so far all I know is "some of each"!

Please keep us posted as to how your "solar duck heating experiment" goes.



Wait, WHAT? Because that was my next question, lol. Sexing a critter with internal genitalia is kinda mysterious! In fact, I've often wondered how they could sex them right after hatching, too guarantee all one gender. This time, it didn't matter, so we didn't pay the extra - but, with three chicks, John has a thing about roosters, so we only get hens. We were told that once they're like a year old, or so, the drakes get a tail feather that the girls don't. But, we don't want to wait that long to separate them, or we'll end up getting to attached to all of them, and none will make it to the table! So, this sound... a wolf whistle?? Can you elaborate, please?
 
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This site has call recordings of drakes and hens: http://www.majesticwaterfowl.org/artquacks.htm
 
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Jake Esselstyn wrote:This site has call recordings of drakes and hens: http://www.majesticwaterfowl.org/artquacks.htm

That's definitely the "girl" sound - particularly that "rasping, low tone" that I find will show up before you hear a youngling make the full "quack", at least among the Khakis I've raised.
The "boy" sound is the typical adult male voice, but I didn't hear an example of the "wolf whistle" that young Khaki males seem to make as they're transitioning from the harsh "cheep, cheep, mommy I lost you" baby sound to the adult male voice. We're under siege from a pack of coons at the moment, but I will try for a recording today between me and a friend who's *really* good at such things.
 
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Ducks are anatomically different to chickens in that drakes have a penis and cockerels don’t. At a young age, you can get a drake to show himself by pressing gently either side of his vent.

Here are a few urls.




https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/ballistic-penises-and-corkscrew-vaginas-the-sexual-battles-of-ducks

https://blog.cacklehatchery.com/do-ducks-have-a-penis/








 
Carla Burke
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Well, we lost the runt, last night. This poor little one was only about 1/2 the size of the others, and it got pretty chilly (by ducking standards), the last couple of nights. It's mostly been hot enough, during the day, to heat the water jugs sufficientlyfor the nights. But, yesterday, the littlest one (so much smaller, that it was pretty much always pooped on, by the others, by virtue of being under them!) was laying in their watery mess. John found it, and thought it was dead, so he got me out there, and while it wasn't, it did die several hours later, despite my efforts to warm and stimulate its appetite. I believe it had been trampled in the puddle - again, and was too weak and cold to get up. I'd checked on them a couple hours earlier, and had noticed then, that the smallest one seemed a bit off, but not much. That one had always been much slower, so I'd kept an eye on him, but I have a feeling that unless he'd become a 'house duck's, he probably wouldn't have made it, anyway.

So, since the jugs weren't warming enough, during the day, hubs went and bought a small heater for them. And, it blew the power to 4 outlets - the one outside, on the porch(where it was plugged in), and 3 more, on the same line, in the kitchen. Thankfully, even though the fridge is on the same wall, it had its own line, and was unaffected. Now, we wait for the electrician, tomorrow. These ducks are getting expensive.
 
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For our farm, for any farm related assets, I always prefer to buy the right tool for the job and make sure what I do buy will last. The brooder heater shown in the Amazon example below is what I bought, and it has raised generations of incubated chicks. As it happens, I also by preference buy hatching eggs rather than live chicks, but I did that because I had a breeder handy and could buy hatching eggs locally, although I have bought them by mail successfully.

If you have bought live stock and it came with a runt, they should give you a credit for that against your next purchase.

Maybe if I get around to trying broilers in quantity, I would buy live chicks but when I was doing it, I raised ‘triple purpose’ birds for meat, eggs and backyard pets. All birds that started to crow went into the freezer before their vocalising became a problem to neighbours. Since these were Orpington’s, by the time they matured enough to crow, they were big enough to eat.

Here is the brooder plate:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brutkastenhandel-25-Chick-Brooder/dp/B00TPML0Z8/ref=mp_s_a_1_4?adgrpid=52347569999&dchild=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIw8assaLT6gIVSuvtCh0ShQnmEAAYASAAEgIwtvD_BwE&hvadid=259164783097&hvdev=m&hvlocphy=1006552&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=10574931675474902009&hvtargid=kwd-355457590287&hydadcr=18847_1812072&keywords=brooders+for+chicks&qid=1594953941&sr=8-4&tag=hydrukspg-21

This might suggest a workaround for some project you have going:

We keep our entire (insulated) wellhouse toasty in winter with a couple of incandescent light bulbs - on that stays on all the time and another as a backup in case the first bulb burns out. The backup is on the same circuit, it only backs up the primary lightbulb, not the power, and it operates off a plug in thermostat block that switches on the other lightbulb if the temperature gets down into the 30s. In addition to that, we do have a tiny gas heater that we can light if we get sub zero weather or if the power goes off.

On the plug in thermostat plugs, I was going to show what they look like using an Amazon example, except all the ones I could find on Amazon are ‘smart’ using a digital  display to set the temperature when they should come on, or <horrified> that use Alexa and verbal commands to set the temperature range. (Since I won’t knowingly invite an electronic spy into my operation, I won’t recommend to someone else either.)

The ones I bought for the well house are preprogrammed at around 40 degrees - nothing to break or fail for years and were about a fiver each.

 
Carla Burke
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We're just getting our egg base going. As I stated in the OP, the only reason we went ahead with this order, initially, was because we had a hen go broody, and planned to let her raise them. If John does decide to raise foul, we would absolutely invest in the proper equipment - but that's a couple more years down the road. Our original intent had been 2 orders in 2 years (1 chicks, 1 ducks, primarily to get us into our own eggs, with the majority of the ducks eventually ending up in the freezer), and at about the 4 or 5 year mark *maybe* adding pheasants and more ducks, all for the freezer. We tried to cancel the order, because we didn't want to raise more ourselves, yet - but, it didn't work out that way, because of the timing. I grew up on a farm, so I'm familiar with the need for correct equipment, when you plan to do something often. This was a fluke, and I've no way at this point, tp prove it was a runt. I'm not ready with space, electricity in a barn, e.t.c, for a permanent set up - might never be.
 
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I empathise - I had a broody hen that just wouldn’t quit and went to a local farm and bought 4 chicks and a duckling to put under her. That taught me a lesson. She completely disowned the chicks and took the duckling. So I ended up raising 4 chicks inside that was an unwanted burden until they were big enough to go outside. I’ve also put fertile eggs under a couple of broody hens. I think they successfully raised 2 of the 10 or so that hatched. Broody hens are not necessarily good mothers, or at least ours weren’t. I think perhaps hens are better mothers if they were raised by a real hen themselves.

The main lesson I learned from trying to use broody hens is that it is perfectly possible to get a broody hen to raise a duck - but I wish I’d known how to check the sex when I bought those chicks and duckling so I would have rejected the male I brought home. “Junior” is too much of a pet to put in the freezer, but I wish he wasn’t imprinted on the hens because he pesters the heck out of them. He pestered the heck out of the two ducks I had before he arrived. In the end, he battered one of the ducks to the point that I had to rescue them. The Orpingtons are so big, they can take care of themselves, so he is part of a small flock, but otherwise he would be a problem as to what to do with him - and he is part of the reason I keep the birds in two flocks instead of one - so I can keep that drake separated from the female ducks.



 
Carla Burke
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I can see that. My first batch (10 Buff Orpingtons), purchased last spring, I raised in the livingroom, lol. Then, in the fall, just before they were due to start laying, we took in a very sweet foster hen. A week later, still no eggs, but the foster hen had settled in beautifully, with the others, we had a massacre, when 2 local dogs, allowed to roam freely heard them outside, when we'd gone to town, for a couple hours. We came home to find 5 dead. The other six ended up so traumatized, it took them a couple more months, to finally start laying with any kind of regularity. Being down to 6 it's the only reason we bought more, when our first girl went broody, this spring. She very successfully raised 6 of the 10 Black Austrolorps we tucked under her, after sneaking the fake eggs under, the back out from under her. In fact, Miss Broody had only just finished integrating them with the ready of the flock, when Broody Twozday went broody. We didn't want her heart broken, but didn't want more chickens, either. So, I read up, to see if ducklings might work, and we ordered the BAs, because we are under heavy aerial predator pressure, with hawks, owls, and bald eagles all calling our homestead 'home'. John had heard that black chickens could often fool those birds into thinking there were ravens, and they'd leave the flock alone.
Thursday evening, right before the July 4th weekend, after the ducklings were ordered, Broody Twozday got off the nest, and wouldn't go back. Friday, we called ttpo cancel the order, and were told they'd try, but everyone in shopping had been given the day off, in observance of the holiday. But, their babies all ship on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the order had already gone to their queue. We thought we were in the clear, when they didn't ship Tuesday, but sure enough, they shipped first thing, on Tuesday, and arrived on Thursday - a day earlier than the estimated eta. I was scrambling! All the rest look fine - growing strong and fast. Except, they poop on each other. A LOT. Yuck. I gave them a (no soap) bath, one day, and wore a silly prem about them, afterward. Later that day, they were all pooped on, again. Screw it. They'll outgrow it, lol.

The poem:

Ten little ducklings, preening in the sun.
They all hated bathtime - every single one!
They poop on their siblings, they poop in their food!
They needed their baths - it was for their own good!!

I'll get pics up, if I can,  later.
 
Jay Angler
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Mary Combs wrote:

he is part of the reason I keep the birds in two flocks instead of one - so I can keep that drake separated from the female ducks.  

Unless you're back-yard sized, having multiple flocks or at least the infrastructure to separate into that when necessary, is good back-up for a number of reasons.
1. As you've identified - a problem bird you don't want to cull.
2. To control which birds are mating with which.
3. In case of an unexpected predator problem...
...the list goes on.

I've had good success with chickens mothering birds they've hatched, but trying to get them to take chicks/ducklings they didn't actually hatch is hit and miss because the eggs make noises before they hatch that "readies" the mom for the next step. The other thing that helps is having a quiet, separate area for the bonding process to take place - and quiet includes keeping the human contact to a minimum, not just other fowl. Our brooder has a window between it and a run, so I'm known to sneak through the run quietly for a little peak if I'm worried. The sound chicks/ducklings are making are a good indication if things are OK, without even looking.

So far as males are concerned, I'm a big fan of them being raised by "real moms" so they learn manners, and the moms should be as close in breed as possible. Unfortunately, we mostly have to rely on Muscovy moms to raise our Khaki Campbell ducklings, but the males we've kept have done fairly well. We've had more difficulty with a rooster who was a singleton than males that had siblings, so clutch size seems to matter also.
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