Lemon the Duck

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Laura Backman
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Located in upstate New York, Little Heirloom Acres Farm & Preserve, provides a safe home for abandoned and abused animals. Our Rescue focuses mainly on the "Hard to Place," such as farm animals. Rescued, Ducks, Geese, Chickens, Rabbits, Cats, Dogs, Goats, Donkeys, Pigs and many more, call our farm home. They are all provided with large grassy pastures, premium diets and a lot of love and attention. Since adoptions are a rarity, many of these animals will live out their lives in the tranquility and safety of the farm. Since 1998, our farm has rescued over 4,000 animals and is currently the home to over 800 rescued animals. We are also dedicated to educating the public on proper animal care and the pursuit of a better life for all farm animals...William


A quote from William...Breeding season is finally over here at our farm and this morning I opened up the gates of the breeding pens and let all the segregated breeding ducks and geese back into their communal flocks. I am always amazed at how the bonds the geese share with one another are so strong that even separation for eight months out of the year does nothing to lessen those bonds. Good friends remain friends, brothers stay close and the sisterhood among the females stays as strong as ever. Like a family reunion they seek out their closest confidants and friends, have conversations about their winter and spring spent apart, and remark about the recent changes to the farm. There is no squabbling over territory and they all know their place in their goose society. There is a real sense of tranquillity now on the farm. To watch geese interacting with one another in a large flock peacefully, is truly something to behold. To watch them just reaffirms the importance of letting geese be geese and ducks be ducks. I couldn't imagine denying them that privilege.

Here are examples of some of the aid William provided to others...


We've had a huge black bear...Other than taking up the bird feeders what can I do?  Electric fencing is the only way to stop a bear.

I just got a new member into the family...a 6 week old Australian Shepherd puppy...will playfully chew on anything he can get a hold of. I would like to introduce him to my 7 adult ducks to him so they will not have problems...

Australian Shepherds have a (bite) response. Its in the breed makeup. They are used to nip at the heals of livestock to get them to move. Aussies are a very dominant breed and require a very strict owner...Aussies can be very protective and an un trained dog will guard ferociously...If you can return the puppy to his litter mates until 8 weeks and his first set of shots, it would make a world of difference.

I read a paper that concluded that there wasn’t a head member in a flock and each duck took over the lead...is always a leader?

In my flocks with males, the males are always the leaders. In my all female flocks, the head female takes on the "male" role. I've even had females grow a haphazard drake feather and get darker head coloring (in colored ducks).

Sometimes my buff duck lays an extra egg...always without a shell.                                                                                                     Eggs laid void of shell are normally a sign of a malfunctioning shell gland. A calcium injection may help short term but getting your duck back on a proper schedule will be better long term.

Ram horn snails... would that be ok for ducks?                                                                                               
Slugs and snails are host to internal parasites and therefore shouldn't be deliberately fed to waterfowl.

My 7 month old male runner ducks is aggressive...Is this some thing that is going to go away?

Male runners are aggressive by nature. It may go away at certain times of year but not completely. Its near impossible to "train" aggression out. Any physical attempts at curbing the behavior will likely make matters worse.

I have a three month old Rouen and she makes high pitched coughing or sneezing sounds. This happens once in a while each day. The vet found nothing wrong. 

Ask the next vet to do an endoscope. I had a duck that developed cysts in his throat. We removed them and he was much better. 

A Note from William...At this time, given all the recent recalls and problems with commercial feeds, I and Little Heirloom Acres Farm and Preserve at this time cannot endorse any commercial feeds. Until a proper investigation reveals the actual nutrient

levels in these commercial feeds, I am recommending my natural home mixed diet (click here)


I have a question about one of my female ducks...I noticed that it sounds like something is crunching inside of her stomach...she is eating and drinking fine and acting normal except for that sound.

Normal digestion noise. Strong digestive muscles, fermentation, gas, lungs on top, deep chest and hollow bones.....a duck is like a feathered amplifier with webbed feet and a bill. Its normal, don't worry.


Does anyone know what I should be feeding a wild orphan gosling please? It looks about a week old. I know they are grazers so do I just give it chopped grass or does it need turf?

Chopped grass and a protein supplement. 16% is more than enough. Any more and he'll get angel wing or leg issues.

I have added crushed  niacin into the ducks' water but it doesn’t dissolve.....?

Are you using "Flush" or non flush Niacin...non flush is time released or dissolves too slow. Make sure its not non flush. Dissolving in hot water first then adding it to the cool water will help too. Sometimes it takes a while. Also most of the time the Niacin dissolves but the "filler" starch doesn't. After a half hour the niacin has fortified the water.

I live in the middle of Wisconsin...have a bit of a mosquito problem...what could I put into my ducks pool, and my chickens water as well, to get rid of the mosquitoes?

You simply are going too long between water changes. Whether or not the ducks or chickens mess the water, water that is sitting long enough for mosquitoes to develop is not healthy for the animals. Chickens especially prefer to drink clean fresh water,preferably between 50 and 60F and will drink more if its like that, which is good. There is no safe substance on the market... so water changes every two days is the answer.

My vet had told me, after bringing in one of my ducks, to stop using the pine shavings because ducks will eat them with their food and otherwise and it can cause an impaction of the bowel. 

Geese only eat what they ate in the first couple of weeks of life so unless they developed a taste for them then, there shouldn't be a problem. Geese and ducks are of this earth and as such have instincts to know what naturally is edible. I have kept ducks and geese on a mixture of pine and cedar shavings for the past 18 years and I still have some geese in their 20's living in houses bedded with pine and cedar...I feel confident in the use of shavings with the waterfowl. The ammonia absorbing qualities of pine shavings would far outweigh any risks anyway but I do not believe there is a risk. 

I just took in 3 little ducks that are suppose to be 9 weeks old. They are thin and small, looking bad and like they are three weeks old...the owner SAID he fed them corn, chopped veggies and rice...What should I do?

Please post a picture so I can see exactly what we're dealing with as far as development problems. I may be able to tailor a diet that would better suit them. 

I ave a 12 day old pekin duckling with a bald belly.

We always have a couple every year who obsessively preen their bellies bare...as long as mites aren't a fear, I wouldn't worry. Give them more fiber in their diet and something to do. Floating bits of greens in their water keeps them busy.

I have 2 white pekin ducklings approx. 6-8 weeks old. Sometimes they pant or have open-mouth breathing when the temperature in their coop isn't too warm...80's during the day lately. Is this panting or open-mouth breathing normal? 

The perfect temperature for ducks is in the 50F range. Much higher than that and its considered hot by their standards. Large breeds like Pekins are less able to tolerate hot temps due to their high body fat.

Is hay was something ducks would enjoy?

We just soak the hay and alfalfa in their water. With the alfalfa, we just let them rip the leaves off, which they love to do. The hay is timothy grass hay and we usually just chop it with hedge trimmers. We have 400 + ducks so a scissor would be a bit of a chore. You could use a scissor though. Alfalfa is a great source of protein and fiber, but unless they have grown up on it, it may be hard to get them to eat it. You also have to make sure the alfalfa has been harvested and dried correctly. Alfalfa is prone to leaf shatter (the leaves dry and fall off making it useless) and make sure its not moldy. Alfalfa has higher moisture level so mold can be a problem. If it smells musty at all, don't feed! Timothy hay, chopped and floated in the water is good for fiber and trace nutrients. Ducks usually readily eat it too. As with any fibrous feed, make sure grit is available at all times.

I have a Pekin duck is sitting on a clutch of eggs that will soon be Pekin/Mallard ducklings...any advice?

A Mallard/ Pekin Cross can be as long as 36 days to hatch, depending on outside air temperature...you must be prepared to brood these babies inside, because if a couple hatch, the Mom will likely feel the need to abandon the rest. So you need to keep the Mom on the nest, without her having to feel the need to "take care" of the first hatchlings. As they hatch and dry off under the Mom, take them and put them into a brooder with a heat lamp on one side and a place they can be moved away from the heat. We use a small shoe box with a rolled up towel within the larger brooder box. That way you can move them around to the correct temperature without handling them. The babies need time to rest at a temp of about 75 - F 80 for the first day. Do not offer them water or food for the first 24 hours after they hatch either. Babies are wobbly when first hatched and you have to make sure they do not flip onto their backs for the first day. They need to be watched closely. You cannot get them out of the egg yourself. Only the chicks can do that. Unfortunately, if they can't make it out themselves, then they will die. "help outs" are usually weak and deformed in some way. Hatching out is natures test and something I believe strongly in letting happen naturally. All the hatchlings need to go through the resting procedure before starting the true brooding process. So it may turn out that you have to set up a couple of different brooding areas for the different ages. When they are all over two weeks old, you can put them all together though.The main issue.. is to keep mom on that nest and disturb the nest and Mom as little as possible. Pekins are not known for their mothering abilities, so proceed with caution and don't do anything that could break the moms concentration.

My duckies are bored, what are the best toys to fill thier day?

Small dog sized, rubber "Kong" balls and toys. We put dried cat food in them and our Muscovy ducks love rolling them around to get the treats out.

Has anyone here raised turkeys? I'm getting a dozen, day old Royal Palms...I can't seem to find consistant information.

Turkeys need medicated turkey starter for the first month and need to be kept at F 100 for the first week (but be able to move away from the heat), A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar should be added to every quart of water to acidify the water and to keep bacteria down. Turkeys have very weak immune systems and can easily die if not kept extremely clean. They should be started on fine mesh raised wire floors (1/8 inch mesh) and shiny marbles should be placed in the waterers to encourage them to drink. You must make sure they are drinking for the first three days and if not you have to dip their bills in the water frequently. At a month old you should offer them free choice whole oats and grower feed. Make sure they have grit available. A dozen turkeys will require a fair amount of space to avoid pecking problems so remember to increase space substantially as they age. 12 square feet per bird at two months old! It is advised you feed them medicated turkey grower as well to prevent Black Head disease, a common disease in turkeys. Make sure they always have a constant clean supply of water to avoid leg problems, with the medicated turkey feed. Any other questions? Turkeys are wonderful birds, but twelve is an undertaking! We have a flock of 40 now on two acres of land. They are a joy to have around.

My 3 year old cayuga drake is starting to evolve a couple white feathers, I thought only female cayugas feathers turned white...

This is normal. Some Cayuga males will develop white feathers with age. This is also linked with infertility and a drop in testosterone levels, though it is not a sex change. Many hatchery type Cayuga males will develop white feathers at age two or three years because there parent stock has been so overly inbred. Pure Cayuga males from a good strain will not develop any white feathering though.

My two 8 week old pekins are house ducks. They are fully feathered and warm, soft bundles of fluff...with every flap and flutter - feathers fly...everywhere. Is this normal feather loss? 

Pekin Ducks mature early and begin to do their juvenile molt at eight weeks old...your Pekins molting at this age is completely normal. Pekins should be encouraged to grow slower so they have a better shot at developing their bone structure and heart to have a better chance at a long life. I would encourage you to start putting them on a diet and restricting their feed now. No more than a cup of concentrated (pellets) feed per duck a day, divided into two feedings. The worst thing for Pekin ducks and this goes for any type (Jumbo/meat hybrids or standards) is to have them mature too early and start to lay at too early of an age.

What kinds of lettuce are good for ducks?
Things like chicory, escarole and leaf lettuces are all good...with the exception of Escorol/Chichory , all leaf lettuces have about the same nutritional value. They are good for roughage, but if giving greens...stick with the darker greens. We are phasing out the use of escarole chicory and leaf lettuces and opting for the more nutrient packed Kale, Collard and Dandelion greens. We had a group of ducks and chickens on leaf lettuces and another group on kale and Collard greens. The group that ate only the Kale and Collard greens had better yolk formation and the yolks were a deeper orange color and more firm. We will see if that made a difference in hatching rates in a couple of weeks. Our birds all have access to pasture, but get supplemented heavily in the early spring with greens because the pastures are not nutritionally viable yet. If Romaine is the only green they will eat, its OK, but you should try and get them to eat Kale or Collard greens if possible especially if grass is limited.

Has anybody ever used those disposable puppy training pads for their ducks?

I did have two ducks shipped to me before and both arrived with respiratory infections. They had the pads taped to the bottom of their carrier and the lining had ripped during the trip exposing the cotton and silica inside. The ducks made it, but not without meds and a lot of time. They both developed mechanical pneumonia I am convinced it was from the pads. I have had many other adult ducks and geese shipped with straw as a bedding and never had a problem. There are so many other options that if possible I would avoid them though. Many if not most brands have silica added as a drying agent. It is a very fine dust which can irritate the delicate lungs of a bird. In a pinch or as a temporary use, probably not a problem. But I would not use them on regular basis. They also offer no footing. Some are quilted though, but still the silica worries me.

I just bought a bag of cracked corn...I noticed that the bag had little circular areas inside where the dust had stuck (at least I think it is dust). I then began to wonder if it wasn't dust but mold due to the circular shape...should I be worried or is this common with corn?

Though any mold is hazardous to the birds, with corn, it is mainly mold that is formed pre-harvest, while the corn is still out in the fields that is the most dangerous. These are the molds that produce mycotoxins which will kill an animal. These mycotoxins cannot be seen with the naked eye and are not always present even with noticeable mold. However, as I said, any mold is bad and if there is any question, the feed should be discarded. Corn harvested in some areas of the US should probably be avoided, particularly on the East coast where they have had a very wet summer and have milled corn containing this mycotoxin. Also, it is far better to feed whole corn rather than cracked. Cracked corn has had its protective, mold resistant covering broken leaving the germ inside vulnerable to mold. Cracked grains of any kind will spoil and mold much more quickly than whole. If feeding corn, I strongly recommend feeding whole corn. There is sometimes questions about ducks being able to eat whole corn, but I have never seen a problem with standard ducks choking or having problems with whole corn. The only ducks I would not feed whole corn too, would be Call ducks. They are too small to handle the whole corn. Moldy feed would have a musty smell to it. You would see both white dust particles floating around when its dried and green on the actual grain. If you still have questions about whether or not mold is present, you can take a cup or two of the grain, spray it slightly with warm water and then smell it. This would enhance the "mold smell" to make it easier to identify. Again, if there is really any question, it is better to just throw it out and switch to a different grain such as whole wheat. If one bag of corn from your local feed store is moldy, probably all the bags will be, since they would have come from the same harvest.


... Corn cannot be substituted for pellets. Corn is an incomplete, hard to digest grain and will not offer enough nutrients to the ducks. Corn can be used to "stretch" feed but only in the winter. Corn fed during the warmer parts of the year will cause major health problems for the ducks. Corn is also very high in fat and can lead to fat ducks. Ducks like corn and will eat it until they burst. Corn also carries with it some concerns such as mold problems especially feed corn. We have been experimenting with popping corn. Fed "UN-popped" in whole kernel form. Corn grown for popping has a thinner shell, is smaller in size and more easily digestible. It can be used as a treat or to give extra warmth for ducks in cold weather. Its not cheap though.

    If using corn (feed corn or popping) as a "stretcher feed," with grower pellets ,it should not make up any more than 20 or 30% of their overall diet and should not be fed at all in warm weather. Whole oats (#1) or Wheat is a better choice for the warmer months.

    Remember too that the more grain you add to their diet, the higher the protein % needed in their pellets. A 50/50 mix of grain and 16% protein pellets, will not give the ducks what they need. For a 50/50 mix to  work you will have to increase the protein level of the pellets to about 20%. Higher protein pellets are normally more expensive, so the cost savings are not really there with this option. GRAIN SHOULD NEVER MAKE UP MORE THAN 50% OF A DUCKS OVERALL DIET.


I've noticed by 4 year old's bill...has gotten very light in color. I was advised a few months ago to give him carrots mixed into his food. I did so and it helped slightly, not at all the color he should have. Is there anything else I can give him to improve the color.

A male ducks bill color will lighten or darken and intensify with different seasons. Breeding season will bring on the darker and intense coloration. All male ducks regardless of breed do this. Pekin bills get more orange, Campbell bills get green, Cayuga, green with orange spots and so on. Dark leafy greens and clover (high in Vit C) can improve bill color, but this is only important in breeding or show birds. Male bill fading is really just a cosmetic thing and usually does not signal any big problem. As long as the bill is structurally sound (not rubbery or scooped) there is nothing to worry about. The same does not hold true for female ducks. An excessively light bill is a sure sign of calcium deficiency and the problem has to be solved before major health problems arise.

I have a 7 month old Cayuga female who only weighs 3.2lbs. According to the books I've read she should weigh at least 6 lbs when grown.  Is she abnormally?

Depending on where your Cayuga came from, there could be a big size difference. A hatchery Cayuga or "Production type" will usually weigh around 4 1/2 - 5 lb at adulthood. A true pedigreed Cayuga will weigh about 6 lb for a female and about 7 lb for a male when adult. It will take a full year for a duck to reach their full body size and an additional year for them to reach their mature weight. I don't consider a duck to be adult until they reach their second year. When improperly bred the first thing to lose is size, so hatchery birds are normally very small compared to their pedigreed counterparts. Still, even in pedigreed strains, you can still have very small birds come out of even the best lines. Not breeding these small birds is important to keep Cayugas true to their standard of perfection.If your Cayuga was from a hatchery, then I would say she is right on track for her weight at 7 weeks.

Info on Jumbo Pekins (click here)

Dietary Needs of Waterfowl and Feed Restriction (click here)


Does anybody know if grass seed is harmful to ducks?

Healthy, non treated grass seed is safe for the ducks. However, I would not recommend putting birds on a freshly planted lawn for at least two weeks after seeding. The reason is because grass seed molds very easily, which is why most now comes coated with anti-fungal (Which is toxic to the birds.) Two weeks should be enough time for grass seed to germinate and any mold to run its coarse and be safe for the ducks. Any newly seeded plot for ducks needs to be done with non treated grass seed. Treated can remain coated and not germinate for quite some time so there is always a risk when using the treated seed.

How wide should the duck ramps be?

For ducks, the wider the doors and ramps the better. Ducks tend to get very exuberant about getting out of their houses and if the ramps are too narrow they may have difficulty staying on. Now, if we are only talking two or three ducks, and the house is in a predator proof pen, in which they can go in and out as they please, then a narrow door and ramp should be okay. The ramp must be the same with as the door way to prevent injuries though.

Found one of our male mallards in the bunny coop. He is missing feathers from the top of is head down to his tail. Any suggestions? 

This is definitely male on male aggression and if there are other males in a group of three or more, the two highest birds will gang up on the lower birds. Once this aggression starts it sometimes will not stop until there are only two left alive in the group. Also, the beaten up males want so much to be part of the group that they will return and keep getting attacked. He needs to be separated and any other males in the group should be watched for signs of male aggression. A good cleaning, bathing water and some antibacterial ointment should be all that is needed. The area should scab up in the next few days and new feathers will emerge in two to three weeks


Silver and Red hunt at all hours of the day and night. Fox do not have a set hunting time. They are opportunistic and will seize the chance to get a meal when the opportunity presents. Fox have a good sense of their surroundings and know if they are in a dangerous situation. Once a fox feels comfortable in an environment he will take advantage of any food he can. If the fox knows he has prey available he will stay until the pray is no longer available. You must never let your ducks or cats be out unprotected.

Rats, Protecting Your Waterfowl (click here)  

Just where does the chicken come from and how did it become part of life as we know it?                                    Gallus gallus or The red jungle fowl of China and southeast Asia is thought to be the genetic base for the domestic chickens, though some domestic chickens can have other genetic components. Breeds like Silky and Sumatra probably have added jungle fowl species. European geese trace their ancestry to greylag and snow geese, while Chinese geese come from anser cygnoides or the wild swan geese of Asia. No domestic geese trace ancestry to the Canada goose, which BTW is not a true goose but a brant.

Dri-deck...that stuff looks great and with the holes in it that will be easier to rinse off.  Just a question on the holes though, that uneven surface won't hurt a duck's feet?

If you place the dri-deck over the ground that has been prepared with a layer of sand, a layer of peat moss and a layer of gravel, then you do not need to use bedding. Simply hose off the dri-dek in place and let it dry. The feces will fall through and micro organisms will take care of it. You will need to replace the sand and gravel every two or three years though. The dri deck is fine for their feet. I have not noticed any problems with it at all. If you use stall mats you have to use something on top to absorb moisture and ammonia (pine/cadar shavings). Also, stall mats have a tendency to get slippery when they are wet so pose a slipping danger and so need to be covered with bedding.

When I was outside with momma duck and the babies, I noticed momma duck seems to step on them often...stepped on a couple of them pretty hard. Are the little ones tough enough to handle that? 

Letting a domestic duck mother raise her own babies is risky at best. It is not at all uncommon for the mothers to crush there babies under foot, or not tend to their feeding needs.... mother ducks have less of a need for food like their babies and many times the mothers will wander around searching for food while their babies expend a lot of energy following her and never get a chance to feed or drink properly. 


Do geese need extra niacin?

Geese need twice as much niacin as ducks, but can get all they need from freshly chopped, succulent, green grass, which they absolutely need from day two on.  Ducks don't graze as much as geese do so I always recomend niacin in the water for the ducks. If your goose is not getting enough grass, then yes you should add the niacin (250 mg per gallon of water) Make sure your Sebastopol is getting whole oats in his diet (at least 20% of his ration and no more than 30%) It is crucial for the breed to prevent twisted wings. I don't know where you got your Sebastopol from, but certain strains are very inbred and prone to leg problems and blindness (there are immune system problems and vitamin absorption problems in certain strains). To battle against these traits, Sebastopols need a multi vitamin added to their water at least three times a week for the first eight weeks of life.

My duck had a serious bill injury, the vet gave me topical baytril and a wound wash, are those things that could be used?

For a serious injury Baytril could be used...You should not use anything more than a topical antibiotic ointment for minor scrapes and cuts (a damaged caruncle is really no big deal). Do not use any oral antibiotics as they would cause more harm than good. 


I have two cayuga drakes ...one is beautiful with full thick feathers but one can’t seem to produce them like that, his are thin and even bald in some spots. 

Cayuga ducks have very thin and oily feathers. It is very important that Cayuga ducks have constant access to bathing water, that is changed regularly. Cayuga ducks also require a lot of sunlight to keep their feather quality good. It is important that Cayugas have a low protein 14 -16% maintenance diet with a high amount of animal fats such as additional cat food. They also benefit from black oil sunflower seeds and whole wheat added to their diet on a regular basis. Cayuga ducks (and all black ducks) absolutely need to do a full molt once a year, preferably in June or July. During their molt they should have a special diet. Something similar to what we use would be:


Daily Cayuga ration 11/2 cups per day


60% - 22% protein, Gamebird pellet

20% -  Whole Wheat

10% -  Whole Oats

10% - Black Oil Sunflower seeds


Good quality cat food,

A handful every other day, throughout the molt


Once a duck has bad feather quality, you can't change it until they molt. The proper diet during a molt makes a big difference.

I have two 5 week old ducks, and then I also have 6 chicks (same age). Do the birds need lights on during the night? 

Ducklings from age 0 - 6 weeks old should have light available at all times. The intensity should be varied though. From week 0 - 4, 24 hours of light is needed. This is usually provided by a brooder light (red is preferred). From 5 to 8 weeks heat and extra light should be provided only when needed. At night and on cool days.  After eight weeks no additional light should be provided. This is especially true of female ducks and critical for the egg breeds like Runner, Campbell and Pekin. Light should be on a natural schedule to avoid early laying cycles in immature ducks which will cause reproductive problems (egg binding, internal laying and soft shelled eggs) It is VERY important to let the sun go down and the natural light diminish slowly. NEVER turn off a light to total darkness. And NEVER turn on a light suddenly while ducks are in the dark or check on sleeping ducks with a flashlight. Doing these things will cause hysteria and panic among the flock members usually resulting in leg injuries, scratched up backs from pilling and sometimes broken bills from smashing into walls. Get the ducks into their house shortly before night fall and let them bed down for the night naturally. They will let you know loud and clear when they are ready to emerge from their house in the morning.  

How to treat Bumblefoot (click here)

Silky Ducks...(click here)


Hot temperatures...

Take empty soda, juice, or other large plastic bottles and fill wit water and freeze them. They make large blocks of 'ice' for ducks, bunnies, or other animals to lay against to keep cool.

I was going to add oats to my flock raiser, but I wondered what kind to use?

The hulls are the reason why whole oats are the absolute best to be feeding. The whole oat with the husks add the extra fiber to their diet. This slows growth when they are babies, and when molting, slows feather growth to allow for proper feather development. It also creates a nice lose environment inside the gut to aid in digestion. Whole wheat and corn will cut protein levels to help slow growth, but will not give them all of the same benefits that whole oats will. Corn, wheat and pelleted feeds all swell in the stomach and create a mass that is sometimes hard to digest. By adding the whole oats you will lesson chances of stomach inflammation and allow for a better digestion. Ducks and geese that have whole oats added to their diet, live longer, have less health problems, better fertility and an all around better life. Whole oats also aids in the birds getting the most out of their feed simply because their digestive systems are functioning more efficiently. Whole oats should be started at two or three weeks of age if possible, so ducks will learn to eat them and continue in adulthood. Older birds will learn to eat them if their owners are patient. If a duck is leaving the whole oats at the end of a meal, chances are that the bird just is not hungry enough.  A strict control of diet and not offering any other food until the duck or goose learns to eat the oats, are sometimes needed. This should only be done with a healthy bird of course.

List of Safe Vegetables and Fruits for Waterfowl Feed (click here)

Chicken feed instructions Chick to Adult (click here)

Blue Cayuaga ducks (click here) 

I had a question of how old the ducks could be to take the water out of their housing at night? 

We generally do not allow birds access to food or water at night, but there are exceptions. In winter when nights are long, we do give them access to heated water buckets out on their predator proof water porches. We also give access to water at night for our bantam breeds, this is because they can dehydrate much more quickly than the large birds. Spring through fall all our standard ducks do not have access to night time water. This has worked out fine for us for at least ten years, and we have never had a problem. You do have to train and condition the ducks to not have water at night though. You can't simply take it away. To condition them you must figure out exactly how much water they are going through at night. Then you slowly over two weeks time decrease it until no more water is available to them. Once this happens it is important to never allow them water at night, otherwise to get them off it you will have to start the process all over again. Cutting off water without first conditioning them can cause a premature molt and if the ducks are laying, egg binding. Our laying flocks do not have access to food or water at night and we have never had any egg problems. It is just the shock of the sudden change that would cause a problem.

Is there a "weed and feed" product that can be used with ducks? We have alot of clay so getting grass to grow anyway is difficult.

A top dressing of a mixture of peat moss and compost spread over the yard will solve your clay problem and allow the grass to take hold.

Yellow Swedish Ducks (click here)

I have 6 ducks corralled in a 900 square foot pen. I would like to lime and seed the rest of the lawn and then let them loose...(with me outside too). ...how long do they need to stay off a limed lawn?

With 150 square feet per bird, you shouldn't have too many problems with worms, but they will trash the lawn eventually. Splitting up a pasture into two or more sections is a really good idea. You should also have a dry yard area where the ducks stay during wet weather. You don't want them on the turf when it is wet because they will wreck it. If liming for ducks, you must use organic lime. We broad cast it over the areas and water it in...you would want to wait about two or three weeks (depending on the time of year, spring and early summer grass grows faster) for good grass re-growth for ducks. On a newly planted pasture, you should wait at least two months so the grass has a chance to develop a good root system. A mix of White clover and perennial Rye would give you the best results.

I decided to start [my ducks] on greens today. I got them some kale...They went bonkers! Ate every single bit of kale...How much greens can I give them? 

They can have greens free choice as much as they want. You can't overdo it. Just make sure they have grit available.

Would it be okay to feed my ducklings some fresh alfalfa sprouts?. 

Ducks and geese rarely "like" alfalfa, but it is good for them and they will eat it if it is the only green feed available. When extra green fiber is needed alfalfa pellets will usually be readily eaten as well as dried alfalfa hay or chops soaked in water. If you want to plant a patch of something, plant a nice patch of White Clover. It is good for them and they will happily devour it. Don't let them into the patch though, you could cut some as needed and feed it to them as a treat. It will keep the ducks from wrecking the entire patch. Alfalfa sprouts have little to no nutritional value to the ducks.

I've read of how dangerous Geese can be to ducks.And ducks and chickens get on fairly well...what about ducks and quail or ducks and pheasant? I've been asked about taking in other game fowl since I have ducks.

Unless you have facilities and the discipline to keep from cross contaminating, you should not attempt this. Avian influenza can be spread as well as salmonella infections from wild birds to your domestics. We do rescues but have them at a separate facility acres away (20) from our preservation flocks and are now actually moving our rescue operation to a separate property all together. My advise to you would be not to do it unless you can be sure you can maintain high standards for bio security. From a "getting along" stand point, female pheasants tend to ignore waterfowl, but males can get very aggressive toward all other birds. Quail and Partridge will get picked on by the ducks and prefer a much dryer environment...pheasants and partridge are flighted birds and will need a covered pen in order to house them. Wing clipping is usually a constant chore (ground birds pluck out their damaged "clipped" feathers and will grow new ones), so you will need to plan for appropriate housing.

I want to discourage someone from raising Mallards...just don't think it makes sense to raise babies then let them go.

Domestic bred Mallards should never be released. These birds parents never went through the rigors of the wild which proves their ability to survive. In nature only the strong survive long enough to pass on their genetics and their abilities to survive. In captivity all are allowed to survive. Most babies from domestic Mallards lack the skills and instincts needed for wild living. Further more once they loose fear of humans and come to depend on humans for food, it its a death sentence for them in the wild. Domestic Mallards freely breed with wild Mallards, the result being larger wild Mallards that can't support the extra body mass on a wild diet and they end up starving.  Releasing domestic Mallards messes up the genetics of wild ducks for many generations.

Is there a special kind of avian netting to deter hawks. I only have the stuff that keeps birds out of the garden. Are ducks any less tasty than chickens?

The installation makes a difference...tape needs to be on stakes in a grid pattern throughout the yard, otherwise the hawks will see it as a solid object. The idea is to make many streamers and in so doing you are making too many variables for the hawks to deal with. (too much for a hawk to be worried about at one time). The "scare" ribbon is not really scaring the hawks, its confusing them. Much like the stripes on a Zebra confuses lions. The hawks are unable to fixate on any one subject so they abort their attack. Ducks are easier prey than chickens. Ducks are much slower and tend to panic and run themselves into corners and areas they can't escape from. If you have very determined hawks, and the properly installed ribbon doesn't work (we have all kinds of hawks and eagles and have never lost a duck with scare tape in place) then you will need avian netting suspended correctly and high above the ground. Simply having the netting will not deter an attack it must act as a strong physical barrier. Avian netting placed too low will allow a hawk to grab the ducks through the netting. Hawks will stretch the netting as much as they can to get at the ducks.

Heat lamps...

...Because heat lamps are being used for brooding waterfowl, you must make sure it is the correct kind of heat lamp. Not all lamps are the same. Heat lamps used for waterfowl brooding should be shatter proof and made of Pyrex glass. Ducklings and goslings frequently shake water from their bills and faces and if this water hits a non Pyrex bulb, it will shatter into many pieces all over the birds and brooding area and could cause a fire. Look for the more durable and unfortunately more expensive (twice the price) Pyrex bulbs designed specifically for brooding or for bathroom use. Also make sure the bulb is in a ceramic fixture. The heat of the lamp can easily melt the plastic on a cheaper clip light fixture. 

I am considering adding some geese to our ducks. How much more space will be needed and how much more mess will be made by a Pilgrim or American Buff goose versus a Cayuga or Pekin duck?

DO NOT keep Ducks and geese together in a small enclosure. Geese are territorial by nature and small fights will erupt even among members of their own all goose flock. Geese solve these "small" disputes with hierarchy and pecking order fighting. They are not mean, it is just their nature. Geese grab other geese by the back of the neck, chest and pinions. They wing beat their opponents with strong blows and will mount them to show their dominance. If this is another goose opponent, only minor damage may occur. However, if the gooses opponent happens to be a duck, the outcome will be much more serious. It is not at all uncommon for geese to kill ducks. Not because they want to kill them, but just because they are acting out their natural instincts on how to settle disputes in a goose flock. I have found that geese are not diabolical creatures. Geese are fair and abide by strict social order. Ducks do not fit into this order and if kept with geese, they will eventually suffer the consequences. If out on a very large pasture, geese and ducks will seek out their own territory and fights among them will usually be non existent, except for the occasional chase. In an enclosed area ducks cannot escape the geese and the geese will enforce their dominance. Death to the duck is usually the result...DON'T HOUSE DUCKS AND GEESE TOGETHER.

I have a week old runner duckling..since I woke up this morning has developed a crooked neck, it almost looks like it is taking the shape of an S. Is there any thing I can do to "fix" it?

Crooked neck is usually a birth defect and sadly their is nothing you can do about it. It normally does not show up until a couple of days after hatch or even weeks after because this is when the ducklings begin their rapid growth. Some birds can live happy lives with this deformity if it is mild, others with a more severe deformity will often succumb because the twist in the neck will impede feeding and drinking.


...worms are the intermediate hosts to many internal parasites and they should not be intentionally fed to your ducks. Even the earth worms that you buy from suppliers are wild collected. Earth worms are difficult if not impossible to propagate in artificial settings, so the vast majority of earth worms for sale are from wild populations. These wild, uncontrolled populations are infected with parasites. It is far better to stick with larva or meal worms which are raised in controlled environments.

Weasles and Minks (click here)

Hawks (click here)

Is celery safe for ducks?

  Yes, celery tops (just leaves) are good for ducks. Ducks usually like them, so do geese. 

Broody Ducks...

Some ducks can become very broody and be very reluctant to get off a nest. Some actually have to be encouraged just to eat or drink twice a day, by physically removing them from the nest. When a duck is so broody that her life is in danger your only choice is to take her out of the situation completely. This means a well lit pen (for at least 24 hours) void of any dark corners or potential nesting sites. Litter or shavings should be sparse, but kept clean. towels or rubber matting are even better for flooring as they won't encourage broodiness. She should be offered a maintenance feed low in protein and balanced for calcium/phosphorus. Her water should have vita and electrolytes added and she should have plenty of green feeds and plain grit available. 24 hours is usually enough to break the broodiness, but sometimes it can take as much as three days. When returning her to her normal pen you should have removed all access and evidence of her previous nesting sites.

Feeding your ducks eggs...

Hard Boiled eggs are fine to feed to your ducks. However, you must not feed them the shells of eggs that have just been hard boiled. The shells need to be completely dried. Avidin is a protein found in the egg whites and in the membrane. This protein binds Biotin and interrupts biotin absorption. Biotin depletion will cause Sticky eye, dry cracking skin that often bleeds, sores on the bill, and sticky eye. Studies have shown that while "hard" boiling the egg will destroy the Avidin protein in the whites, it may not destroy the protein attached to membrane. The membrane will stay attached to the shells of hard boiled eggs. The additional drying will destroy the protein and make it safe for the birds to ingest. Also, birds that eat raw eggs or shells that are not properly dried will start to crave eggs. These birds will begin to consume their own eggs. Once this vicious cycle of egg eating starts, it is very difficult to stop. It is also risky to give shells that have not been properly dried because of bacteria levels. Eggs are a perfect medium for bacterial growth. Wet shells or shells that contain even minute amounts of moisture will enable bacteria to take hold. For this reason you cannot set out a bowl of egg shells free choice. Inevitably the ducks will get these shells wet and set up the perfect bed for bacterial growth. I recommend giving free access to oyster shell. It is safer, takes longer to break down (giving the birds a steady supply of calcium) and poses no Avidin or Biotin binding problems or bacterial growth problems. If you decide to feed the egg shells, then you must properly heat and dry them and offer them in small amounts every day to keep them safe.

We have 5 runner eggs in the incubator right now...one of the eggs has a round crack in the end of it. It's not leaking or anything. Should we let it alone or put something over the crack?

A crack in any part of the egg is never a good sign, but a crack in the end where the air space is located is devastating to the embryo. Eggs should be candled and examined for flaws before being set to prevent this. If the crack is small and on the sides of the egg, it can be carefully taped (although not a good idea), but taping the airspace end would prevent the egg from developing correctly. Also, a large crack will allow bacteria to penetrate the egg causing the embryo to die. Because of where the crack is located, you need to be concerned about proper dehydration of the egg. Improper dehydration will cause defects in the embryo and probably death. Are you sure there is a living embryo developing? Do you see spidery veins attached to a central spot or is it just a dark spot floating around in the center of the egg? Have you been incubating them properly? Spraying them every day with luke warm water, cooling once a day etc..? I would suggest making sure the cracked egg is indeed fertile, then you have a tuff decision to make. Leaving a potently dead egg in with the other "healthy" eggs could mean disaster for the whole hatch. Bacteria in the incubator from the dead egg could invade all the eggs. You also have to be prepared for deformity if the embryo is allowed to develop to hatch.

My duck is eating her eggs.  Is she doing this for nutrition because she needs the calories etc, or to get rid of that particular egg? 

Egg eating is usually a sign of Biotin deficiency.  Eating raw eggs or shells from eggs that have not been properly oven dried at 350 degrees for 1 hour, can lead to biotin binding. Avidin, is a protein that is in the egg whites and it will bind Biotin and make it impossible for the bird to absorb Biotin from any feed sources. The more eggs she eats, the more biotin deficient she will become. My advice would be to mix some dried skim milk and brewers dried yeast into her feed, about 5% of each into her existing pelleted diet should be good. Grains are very high in biotin, but waterfowl cannot absorb any of it from grains because they process their food very quickly. This quick digestion doesn't t allow enough time for the bird to absorb the biotin. Look at her legs and feet also. Are they dry looking? Is her feather quality rough? these are also signs of Biotin deficiency. It is a very common problem with ducks, but is easily cured if measures are taken quickly to correct it. 

How do you get rid of the amonia smell in the duck house?

A duck house should never smell of ammonia. If you can smell it, then it is already at a toxic and dangerous level for the birds. A duck house needs adequate ventilation at all times. Preferably two wire covered vents positioned at either end of the house, at roof level. You should have a minimum of three inches of bedding in summer and eight to twelve inches in winter for added warmth. You can mix cedar with the pine, but cedar does not have ammonia binding qualities that pine has. If you are trying to limit bedding changes to once a week or less, then stick to just pine. Ideally the bedding should be completely changed at least twice a week. The bedding needs to be stirred every day and any wet spots removed between clean outs. Dry bedding, is ammonia free bedding. I also do not recommend giving water in their night house. As long as food is not available, the ducks do not need water over night.

Mandarin Ducks (click here)

My campbell ducks, who are very very noisy all quack very very loudlyall day long.

Some strains of Khaki Campbell's are very noisy. They possess a yelling type quack and can be relentless. It mostly has to do with how much Mallard or Runner duck they have bred into them (the noisiest of the breeds) Unfortunately there is really nothing you can do to quiet some of them down totally. Usually if they are happy they will be quieter, but some just enjoy quacking and yelling. A free choice feeding of Whole oats and plenty of pasture will usually quiet them down. Also, if you were to limit their feeding to morning when you first let them out they will learn not to expect food in the later part of the day. This will stop them from begging for food all day. If that doesn't work the only other option is to limit the amount of food you give them to about a 1/2 cup per bird and let them forage for the rest. Khakis were bred to be good foragers and need the activity to keep them content. If not given ample exercise and room to forage they will be impossible to live with. They will yell and quack and each flock member will try to out do the other resulting in some very loud calling for long periods of time.

My duck has been laying eggs with weird shells. Her shells have crusty little bumps on them. 

The "extra" shell deposits are caused by the age of the duck or a signal that the end of the laying season is upon her. Also, the extra calcium deposits are not in actuality extra. She is probably deficient in calcium (which can occur with age or extended laying cycles). Her absorption of calcium is being interrupted causing irregular calcium deposits instead of a smooth even coating. I am not sure exactly what you are feeding them, but laying ducks require that their calcium and phosphorus levels are being met...The layer feed makes sure that a highly available calcium source is always there. A vitamin supplement would be a good idea and also sticking to one commercial feed at a time.

How do I safely mark my one month old ducks to be able to tell them apart?

We use plastic colored cable ties exclusively here on our farm. They come in many colors and are easy to put on. These cable ties are used by zoos because they are easier to size than the pre cut bands. You do have to cut perfectly flush and we do ad a drop of crazy glue to ensure they don't get smaller. The "ring" should move freely on the leg but there should not be so much slack as to allow the band to slip past the dew claw or get caught in anything. Also, it is a good idea to get the UV rated ties because they last much longer and stay flexible in the cold weather. With leg bands it is important to inspect their leg bands at least once a week for signs of irritation or tightening. With just three or four ducks you should be able to tell them apart once they all are adults. 

Are there any kinds of vegetable trimmings that I should not feed to my ducks?

Yes, Do not feed Eggplant (toxic), Potatoes (skins turn green in light and will be toxic), Peppers (to acidic) or Celery (the "strings" can cause an impacted crop) leafy celery tops are okay though. Also, no Avocado (toxic) and you should limit the amount of citrus fruit given.The peals from supermarket cucumber, apples and some other perishable fruits are heavy with waxes and pesticides, so they should also be avoided unless they are organic. Non organic grapes treated with sulfur based preservatives should also not be fed to the ducks. "Treats"in the form of fruits with high sugar content should only make up 2- 5% of their total diet, vegetables can make up more but remember it is a lot of bulk and water. So, you need to make sure your ducks are getting their daily allowance of concentrated feeds so there is no doubt that their dietary needs are being met.

Leafy greens are the best, followed by green vegetables, colored vegetables and berries, a lastly fruits.

Can one use the quarter inch square hardware cloth for the ducks instead of the one half  inch square ?  Is it similar in strength?

1/4 inch hardware cloth is usually very week and can easily be ripped apart by a raccoon. The welds on the 1/4 inch are very weak because there is not enough wire surface area to weld properly. We use the 1/4 inch hardware cloth for the flooring when we brood our turkeys and guinea fowl and I always have the problem of it breaking or loose welds. I would stick to the 1/2 inch. If possible, try and get the PVC coated kind. This will resist rusting and last ten times longer. The coated kind is excellent for vents, but too expensive for large enclosures.

My 2 cayuga drakes’ bills and feet are fading from jet black to orange and yellow. 

Most Cayuga drakes from hatchery stock will have faults such as orange feet, legs and bills, sometimes they will also develop white feathering. It is completely normal. The trait for black bills and legs is bred for in a good breeding program. Pure bred Cayugas do not have orange bills or legs. The reason the color changes is a result of a dilution gene that is present at hatch but takes a while to show itself. This is the same type of "hidden" dilution gene that makes all white female European geese (Embden, Sebastopol, Roman) hatch with a gray saddle back but later become all white. It just takes a while for some traits to become apparent. There is nothing you can do about this color change and it is not a sign of a nutritional deficiency or health problem.

My duck has a leg problem, she is favoring her right leg.  Anything I can do or should be looking for?

 Just keep her calm and in a small quiet area where she can't move around too much. Watch for hock swelling or redness. I am sure she will be fine after a couple of days. With any kind of leg injury it is always a good idea to give extra Niacin. Give 200 mg per gallon of water for about a week.

History of the African Goose (click here)

Golden 300 Hybrid ducks (click here)

I have 13 ducks that are about 5 weeks old..one has a quivering leg when he stands up. 

That is a sign of a genetic leg weakness. If caught early, it can be helped but not cured. Add 200 mg of Niacin (crush tablets into a powder) to 1 gallon of water. Do this religiously for the next month. All water available has to have the niacin supplement added. Give them as much fresh, actively growing, tender grass as you can. Grass has a very high niacin content, salad greens don't. 

Are fire ants bad for ducks? 

Move! Fire ants are near impossible to get rid of. They develop extensive colonies and are voracious predators. Usually if the ducks or geese have access to water they will be able to get them off, but an animal should never be kept in an enclosed area where fire ants can be. The only other thing is to call an exterminator, but it seldom works long term.

Has anyone used an automatic coop door opener? 

We use the solar powered ones for our hen houses. They shut very tightly and are predator proof. All that said, they are unreliable for waterfowl. Waterfowl, especially ducks, have a tendency toward defiance and will sometimes prefer to sleep under the stars, leaving them at a high risk of being predator food. They always need to be manually shut in at night. 

Does chicory contain a significant amount of calcium? 

Chicory, does have significant levels of calcium and other trace minerals, but they are only available to species that have long digestive processes (longer than 22 hours). Ruminants gain the most out of these forages, while horses, waterfowl and humans gain the least. Chicory has such high levels of calcium that it is usually not advised to allow free grazing on chicory for sheep and goats. The reason being, it is known to cause urinary stones. Also, it is the basal stem and roots that contain the highest levels of calcium. The non photosynthesizing chicory, known as "endive," sold commercially, contains about twice as much calcium than the green plant. For waterfowl that have such high rates of digestion, they will gain the most calcium from oyster shell (gets caught in the gizzard and allows for an extended absorption time) or other highly digestible calcium supplements. The Chicory would be an insignificant source.


Our adopted bunny, a mini rex, is using a of type shredded paper

product for bedding. I was considering straw but was afraid he would

eat it since it looks so similar to hay. 

Straw would be fine for a rabbit to eat if he wanted. We regularly feed straw to our donkeys too because they too are desert animals that need the extra poor

quality roughage. 

Why are greens bad for bunnies? I thought that was something they ate naturally in the wild, much like ducks? 

The reason we don't recommend giving greens to domestic rabbits is domestic rabbits were developed from wild rabbits living in warrens in scrub land. Dry vegetation. Hay and pellets closely mimics that diet.Domestics still lack the enzymes to digest lush vegetation...I would stick to just hay and pellets with exceptionally clean water. 


Great Pyrenees with birds (click here)

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