Considering raising ducklings on your homestead (or backyard)? I’m sharing what I wish I knew before getting ducklings in this post.
Raising ducklings: what I wish I knew before getting ducklings
If you follow along on Instagram, then you probably already know that our experience raising ducks has been interesting to say the least. Ben and I had high hopes for adding ducks to our modern homestead. He insisted that based on his research, ducks were all around easier than chickens. Less mess, more hardy, and an abundance of duck eggs – what could go wrong!? To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even bother to do my own research about ducks. Ben thought it was a good idea, and adding more animals to our homestead is always a good idea in my mind. Needless to say, I anxiously waited the arrival of our adorable ducklings.
Adorable? Yes. Insane? YES. Hardy? NO. Let’s dive into some tips for raising ducklings and what I wish I knew before getting ducklings, shall we?
Over the past 2+ years of homesteading, we have raised 37 baby chicks on our farm. Out of those 37, we lost ONE within the first 24 hours. It’s not uncommon to lose a baby chick now and then, so I felt pretty confident that our successes with raising chicks would translate to success with raising ducklings. Boy, was I wrong.
We ordered 20 ducklings, and 1 arrived dead. Within the first few days, we continually lost a duckling every 12-24 hours. Ultimately, another FIVE ducklings died. Thirty percent of our ducklings died – those are really bad odds. Increased loss is definitely one of the things I wish I knew before getting ducklings.
BEDDING can be fatal
After the first few duckling losses, we contacted the hatchery, and they confirmed that we were following all of the proper guidelines for raising ducklings. After experiencing even more losses, we contacted the hatchery again. They informed us that seeing as we were using fine pine shavings rather than the large pine shavings, the ducklings were likely eating them, which caused a blockage and ultimately suffocated them to death. Ducks are REALLY messy, so I kept adding fresh pine shavings to their bedding to keep it clean, but apparently my desire to keep them healthy actually killed them. I still feel absolutely awful about this mistake.
For the record – we’ve always used fine pine shavings when raising chicks and have never had an issue. I’ve never seen this duckling warning labeled anywhere, so if you’re reading this and experiencing unexplained losses, then switch your bedding ASAP! Once switching bedding, our losses stopped. (To clarify, the hatchery was in no way responsible for our losses.)
Of course, ducklings are messy. I honestly wasn’t concerned about the mess. We live on a farm, so poop and messiness is just a part of daily life over here. No biggie, right? Wrong.
We planned to brood the ducklings in the house for the first week or two, and then move them out to the barn. That sounded like the perfect amount of time for our family to enjoy them inside the house before they got too big and made everything stinky. Well, between ducklings constantly dying and the water party they kept throwing inside the brooder, I wanted them OUT of my house.
Thankfully we were able to safely move them to the barn until they were old enough to move to their outdoor duck house. Now that they’re outside, the mess is far more manageable, but holy moly, that was intense. If you’re thinking abut raising ducklings and your only option is to brood them inside the house, then I would strongly recommend only having 2 or 3 ducklings to reduce the mess and to maintain your sanity.
Speaking of things I wish I knew before raising ducklings- ducks are insane and really intense. While chicks are curious and calm, ducklings are extremely skittish and sprint as far away from you as possible, all while you’re refilling their water or food bucket in an effort to KEEP THEM ALIVE. Silly ducks.
But that’s okay, because I’m learning to love their weird quirkiness, and I’m convinced that one day they’ll tolerate my presence. Maybe they’ll even like me if I get super lucky!
I’m not 100% sure on this one, but based on our experience, Runner ducks are far more crazy than other breeds. We personally have Indian Runners and Cayugas on our farm. The Cayugas follow the craziness of the Runners, so it’s difficult to determine if our Cayugas would actually be less crazy without the influence of the Runners. Who knows.
What I wish I knew before raising ducklings
You might be thinking that I complete regret our decision to start raising ducklings, but nope. We ordered another six ducklings, and they’re scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks. Perhaps we’re gluttons for punishment, but I prefer to believe that we’re always up for a challenge 😉