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Orphaned duckling on the way, any advice?  RSS feed

 
Destiny Hagest
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A lady in town found a little baby duck in the middle of the road, wandered all over looking for where it might have belonged, and couldn't find its family, so she's bringing him out to me in a few hours.

I have 3 peking white ducks, females, that I let free range in my yard and put up in their house at night. They're very mild tempered, just huge. I live in central Montana, where days are getting into the high 80s, but nights get down in the high 40s still.

My thought is that it's not likely the adult ducks will take the baby and care for it, just because it's kind of randomly showing up, but have people found that ducks are quick to take in strays?

My plan was to keep the baby inside until it gets a bit bigger, break down some of the back up duck feed we have and serve it as a mash in a sort of brooder for the little guy until he gets a bit bigger. Does that seem like a sound plan? Anything better than that stuff I can feed him?

I've raised baby chickens, but never a baby duck. I'm just wanting to give the little guy a chance if I can.
 
Burra Maluca
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We raised an orphan duckling last year.

This is her - her name's Midge.



We kept her in the house for quite a few weeks at night, but she'd go outside during the day. Though she'd often hang out on the doorstep.



Then another, slightly younger, duckling got injured and needed separating and some special care, so they became buddies and moved into their own special run at night, where they could snuggle up to keep warm.



Then the pair of them liked to play at being aunties with some of the younger ducks. But if the mother of those ducklings spotted them, she'd chase them away.



But Midge would always take the opportunity to leave the other ducks and hang out with the humans if the opportunity presented itself.



And no matter what you tried to do outside, Midge would turn up to help.



But sometimes we'd let her come back into the house and sit on my lap and look at the laptop, just like old times.



These days, she's fully integrated with the rest of the ducks, but she's always the last to go to bed and hovers by the doorway hoping for a quick cuddle. No photo, I'm afraid. I'll have to take one.



 
Destiny Hagest
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She is so cute Burra, thank you for sharing! So what did you wind up feeding her? My big ducks just kind of forage with the occasional food scraps and supplemental feed, but I think I remember reading baby ducks need more of a mash?
 
Burra Maluca
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I've been racking my brains trying to remember. She's a muscovy, and could snatch flies out of the air from a very young age. She snatched a midge at just a couple of days old, hence the name. I know that we bought her some dried gammarus, sold as fish food. Then she progressed to chopped up versions of what we feed the adult ducks. Lots of walks outside to find bugs seemed to be important. I can't remember anything else specific we did for her, except lots of cuddles.
 
Miranda Converse
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If at all possible, I would try to find another duckling to keep this one company. Not the easiest thing to do since people aren't always hatching ducks like they are chickens but it's worth a try.
Two years ago we went to the feed store and there was a single lone duck in the chick brooder. Someone had found him and brought him to the feed store hoping they could care for him so we took him home with us. We tried finding a duckling friend for him but the best we could do was two 4 week old ducks that had no interest in him. He became very attached to us, followed us around during daily chores and was always close by. Then puberty hit and he thought we were his mates. A 10 lbs Muscovy biting and flapping at your legs can be pretty painful and hard to get under control, it was not fun. It took about a year for him to relax and start to accept that he was a duck and not a person. There were quite a few periods where he would seem stressed and depressed (pulled out all his chest feathers at one point), I think being imprinted on us and us not being with him 24/7 was hard on him. Despite being a total pain in the rear, I loved that duck.
I guess my point is, try your best to get him to know he is a duck and not a person unless you are willing to accept the drawbacks of a human imprinted duck and keep in mind that it's not just you that will be affected by it. The duck will suffer some as well unless you are always around...
 
Miranda Converse
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Oh yea, and we feed our ducklings gamebird starter. We feed it dry but you have to make sure there is enough water they can dip their full bills into, including their nostrils.
Just make sure you don't give them any medicated feed. Since ducks are such pigs they can easily overdose themselves on the medication.
And they love peas
 
Destiny Hagest
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Thank you both so much for the advice! I'd love another duckling, but I'm not sure I'll be able to find another one in this area, we're pretty rural and even people in town rarely raise them.

He's a FEISTY little buggar! Jumps up to bite our fingers, he's not very happy about being captured, but he's oh so cute He must be less than a week old, he's still fuzzy. Looks to be a mallard duckling by his markings. Very active though.

I have a small space heater on his brooder on one side and he's by my window for light. I mashed up some duck feed for him and game him a dish of water - he's eaten and drank plenty, but I think I'll take him outside a bit today too and see how he likes grass and algae. My neighbor has a big green pond, I may see if I can get him a cup or two if he likes it.

I'm going to try to handle him as much as I can to make him a bit more, erm, friendly. In the mean time, this little badass definitely needs a badass name, so I'm wracking my brain for something suitable.
 
r ranson
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Digit-izer? As in he eats digits (fingers)?

Soaking the grown-up feed is a good idea. Even when they have access to chick feed, the mums often go to the grown up feed and put it in water for the babies to eat.
 
Miranda Converse
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Destiny Hagest wrote:Thank you both so much for the advice! I'd love another duckling, but I'm not sure I'll be able to find another one in this area, we're pretty rural and even people in town rarely raise them.

He's a FEISTY little buggar! Jumps up to bite our fingers, he's not very happy about being captured, but he's oh so cute He must be less than a week old, he's still fuzzy. Looks to be a mallard duckling by his markings. Very active though.

I have a small space heater on his brooder on one side and he's by my window for light. I mashed up some duck feed for him and game him a dish of water - he's eaten and drank plenty, but I think I'll take him outside a bit today too and see how he likes grass and algae. My neighbor has a big green pond, I may see if I can get him a cup or two if he likes it.

I'm going to try to handle him as much as I can to make him a bit more, erm, friendly. In the mean time, this little badass definitely needs a badass name, so I'm wracking my brain for something suitable.


If he's a week old, there's a good chance he already imprinted on his mama so you might not have the issues we had with ours. I believe the imprinting happens within the first 3-5 days. I would say the easiest way to get a duck to like you is to give it peas. They are little piglets and are very food driven!
 
Lorinne Anderson
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When a single duckling is found one of two things has likely happened, either it got lost on the way to water or it was snatched and dropped by a predator.  Either way, locate the nearest body of water and that is where you will find Mum.  Once she is located (confirm by assessing her ducklings and that they are the same coloration and size as the foundling) and gently toss into the water, in her direction. 

Mallard Duck 101:  Most commonly found are mallards, they nest quite far from water (up to 12 city blocks) as it is safer to brood the eggs away from water that attracts predators.  The day the eggs hatch she marches them to water. and commonly loses several along the way (ducks don't count), in road drains, at curbs, any obstacle that causes a baby to be trapped, even temporarily.

Always search for other lost ducklings, tuck the foundling into your shirt so it has warmth, and head for the nearest calm waters.  Once there, take out the duckling and get it to peep - Mum will eventually hear it and you will hear her calling back.  Ideally wait until she is in sight, but sometimes the brush is too thick, you may just have to trust fate...but in a perfect world you will see Mum, confirm her ducklings match yours and reunite them.  When baby hits the water it will start peep, peep, peeping, calling for Mum.  If she is in earshot she will race to her baby.

I must council against trying to keep or raise wild ducks, in most places this is illegal, but truthfully, especially with a single, success is unlikely.  Fostering with another duck or chicken can work in a pinch, but then you have a duck with a severe identity crisis that will likely never be able to rejoin its own species.  If reunification is impossible (Mum is dead) then contacting a wildlife rehabilitator is the best and most humane option.  Just google your area plus wildlife rehabilitation, or call a local animal shelter, vet, or humane society - they often can refer you.  Most States/Provinces regulate rehabbers through the department that handles wildlife/environment, you can likely find links on their websites to the nearest help.
 
J. Adams
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Thank goodness your other ducks are female. I've seen otherwise friendly male ducks kill ducklings in a backyard or barnyard setting (not in the wild). As it grows in strength, I'd introduce it to the others slowly, maybe even one at a time. Sometimes a newbie will be welcomed, other times it will be rejected and treated poorly if tossed into an established crowd too quickly. Ducklings aren't waterproof on their own. They need the oil they get from their mothers to make them float and swim without drowning. Once it gets its own feathers, it will then produce its own waterproofing oil.
 
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