Learn on the job: What I’ve learned about the ducklings (so far)

Learn on the job - ducklings at 25 days old

The whole process of purchasing ten day old ducklings and growing them to adults has been a relatively new one for me, so I’ve had to learn quickly. Certainly I’ve never had this many at a time before. They become quite a handful when there are ten of the cheeky ducklings running around and avoiding me at all costs.

Ducklings grow quickly

I’m sure the ducklings grow as fast as any other young bird. The ducklings have grown really fast. We’ve had visitors that have come with only a week’s separation, and we always get a comment along the lines of “Wow – how fast do they grow?!” Check out our Instagram account for pictures from the first day to recently.

I’ve only had two ducklings at a time previously, and that was far more manageable. Ten together, has been quite an interesting ride!

The amount of food and water they consume has grown exponentially. While I was initially concerned about their deaths due to heat overnight, I’m now far more worried that they will suffer from a lack of food or water if I’m out for an afternoon. Of course they’re always fine, but the ducklings are eating probably four times as much food as they were when I first got them.

Once the birds are three weeks old, they are actually quite big and heavy. Rach requires two hands to carry them now, which makes catching them in difficult to reach places very difficult. Fortunately my hands are large enough to safely wrap around the whole duckling.

Ducklings consume

I’ve left a container of food in their box with sufficient food for all ten since they arrived at our house. However, if they’re given the opportunity to eat some nice fresh greens – or grass seeds – all ten ducklings will go wild.

Not only do the ducklings consume food and water in great quantities, but their bedding is constantly requiring a change. Having to learn that the bedding must be changed every day (or else the whole room will smell) has been manageable though. The problems begin to arise when there are other commitments that require I be out of the house for a day or two at a time. The cleaning / food / water conundrum becomes quite the balancing act.

Learn and adapt

Sometimes the ducklings just don’t like to do things – and will do everything in their power to avoid whatever it is. My ten ducklings are quite averse to being separated from the others. This makes transporting the birds very difficult, and makes cleaning out their brooding box – every day – a bit of a nightmare.

Not only will they chirp and squeak in distress when separated, but they all do their very best to avoid me picking them up. All ten have bonded together and are miserable when apart. Even for small periods.

As a result, I hope to organise some system in the future that will allow them all access to an outside area that doesn’t require me moving them one-by-one. I also hope to make some improvements on the system to clean their home box.

Even my method of catching each duckling has evolved over time. It may sound silly, but originally I just chased them and caught them as best I can. Now I know to bide my time and strike when the opportunity arises! This means I just hang over the ducklings, and when they relax, then I quickly reach for the closest bird. A much easier process, let me assure you!

How to implement my learnings

In the future I hope to make some changes that will make life easier for me and the ducks. Having the time to learn what works and what doesn’t is only useful if I actually take action.

While I want to encourage the fast (albeit healthy) growth of the birds, I want to give them every opportunity I can to lead a safe and nutritious life. Happy birds will hopefully make more delicious eggs!

One obvious problem that I’m encountering is the requirement that every day I move the ducklings from their brooder box outside to a pen. This is a time consuming task, and the ducklings are very difficult to first catch – and then move into the pen outside. At the moment I’m leaning into the box from an external window, so it’s lucky I’m in reasonable physical condition!

I’m not really sure how to overcome this problem on a meagre budget. If I had all of the money in the world, then I’d get some sort of shed and make an external pen accessible via a poultry door. Once the ducklings are outside, I can then clear out their internal home. Unfortunately this dream will probably be a long time in the making.

What to do in the near future? Well, I’m toying with the idea to adapt a shipping container. Obviously in their original state shipping containers are completely unsuitable for poultry such as ducks. But if they could be customised with sufficient air flow (and roof protection to prevent the container getting too hot) then I think it could be a good option. One of the benefits of shipping containers is that they should be transportable. Which is a great option considering we’re currently working on another person’s property.

There’s not much I can do about the quantity of food, water and bedding the ducklings consume, but there are some tweaks that I would like to do in the future. A bigger watering system would be handy – something that doesn’t need to be refilled several times each day. I’ve found a number of designs online which I plan on investigating further. Feed is less of an issue, but if I can make a system to give the ducklings everything they require – with less involvement from me – then I think that can be useful for when I’m not available.

While I’ve been able to learn a lot, there’s still plenty more to research and problems to overcome so I’ll keep you all posted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *