Taking care of ducks at home on a pet sit
After a couple of sits in New Zealand which involved both caring for ducks and raising ducklings, I don’t mind telling you that I've taken to the task like a “duck to water”. Who would have known that ducks could be so much fun!
We've learned a few things too about taking care of ducks at home on a pet sit, and I'm going to share what we've discovered on this house sit so you'll be confident if you find your pet care duties include looking after ducks and ducklings.
What to feed ducks and what not to give them
Most importantly, if you are caring for someone else's ducks, please follow the owner’s instructions for food and their general wellbeing and care.
If the ducks you are looking after are free range, they will forage and eat grubs and worms found on the land. However, it is good to also supply commercial pellets to keep them happy and healthy. We found that the time spent feeding our ducks was a nice way to stay connected with them each day.
As well as their free range food and pellets, you can also feed them a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. But there are some things you shouldn’t feed ducks. These include spinach, bread and onions, to name just a few. You can read more about why bread and other junk food isn’t good for ducks, especially in parks.
Ducks don't have teeth and instead grind their food internally, so they need grit to help with this. If your ducks don’t have access to soil and you are including raw food in their diet, you will need to provide them with some form of grit. Dried and crushed egg shells are an easy supply of grit which you can make at home, or you can buy commercial grit.
It's important to start feeding ducklings with starter crumb as soon as possible after hatching. This is a high protein feed that the ducklings need for their first 2-3 weeks. If you can’t get duck starter crumb locally you can feed them chick starter crumb.
You must provide water beside the feed as they need to wash the crumb down. If they don’t have access to water they can choke on the crumb. Next, you’ll move them on to grower pellets for another 6-8 weeks.
Providing shelter for ducks
Ducks don't roost like chickens, but providing them with a dry place to sleep, safe from predators, is still important. This is also a good way of providing somewhere for them to lay their eggs.
Ducklings, especially those without a mum to care for them, will need to be kept away from other adult ducks until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Like chickens, ducks have a “pecking” order which can be rough on the little ones, and sometimes they can be attacked by the other ducks.
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Access to water for drinking
Contrary to what you might think, it isn't necessary for ducks to have access to a pond, but it's easy enough to provide a hard plastic paddling pool for their use.
Access to fresh drinking water is essential though and it's important they have several places to be able to drink fresh clean water at all times. The water should be free of germs and toxins that are harmful to ducks.
Any water containers should not be less than 4 inches (10cm) deep - this ensures that your ducks can immerse their entire bill to keep it clean.
A not so fun fact - ducklings can easily drown! If they get into water and can’t get back out, they will die of hypothermia. So if you have ponds or pools that they can get into, you must also provide a way for them to get out. Or better yet, fence them away from those places on the property until they have their adult feathers.
I have spent hours constructing steps and planks out of paving stones and tree branches and it is so satisfying watching the ducklings learning to use them.
Supervised swimming only please for these tiny adventurers!
Incubation of duck eggs
Duck eggs are sometimes incubated and the ducklings reared without a mother. Ducks are not always great mums which is why some owners choose to incubate the eggs themselves.
The most important thing once they hatch is to provide warmth. If they had a mum she would keep them warm herself, so when the ducklings finally emerge from their shells, it is easiest to keep them warm under a heat lamp for the first week of their life.
This time span will depend on your climate. If you have lovely warm sunny days, you can put them outside in a small pen in the sunlight too.
Eggs, eggs and more eggs!
Finally, let's not forget about the eggs that our ducks generously provide for our benefit.
Duck eggs are fantastic for making sponges and other baked produce. The shells are more porous than chicken eggs so they don't keep as long, so that's all the more reason to make that cake today!
Well, that’s our quick intro to looking after ducks on your house sits. We hope you will get the chance to be as charmed by these feathery friends as we have been!
guest post - Clare & James
Clare & James are a Kiwi / English couple lucky to have retired early. Full time house sitters since 2015, they've completed 100+ sits across Europe, Australasia, Asia and the Americas. With no homebase and a minimalist lifestyle, they travel with what they can carry on their backs, continuing to enjoy living and learning as part of their incredible life journey. Follow at: www.jamesandclare.blogspot.com
Last updated on October 20th, 2021