Q. What do ducks eat in the wild?
A. Ducks in the same family with
the Mallard are called dabbling ducks and their diets are made up primarily
of insects, and small creatures found in or near the water including snails,
crayfish, small fish, some plant material, etc. There is another group of ducks called diving
ducks, which subsist almost entirely, on fish and other water life they
catch while diving beneath the surface of the water. An example of a diving
duck would be the Merganser.
Q. I am having very poor hatches of duck eggs in my
classroom incubator. It is a forced air styrofoam machine with an automatic
A. Assuming that you have the temperature set properly and are
providing the proper amount of moisture for the eggs, the problem is almost
surely the use of the automatic turning device. Such turners do not rotate
the eggs from one side to the opposite side. Neither do they position
the eggs properly for waterfowl, which is on their sides. Lay the eggs
on their sides and hand turn the eggs 180 degrees at lest twice each day
and your hatches should improve. You will probably have to remove the
turning device in order to do that. All of the above information applies
equally as well to goose eggs.
Q. I am losing ducklings after 3-4 days in my wooden
brooder. They appear to be healthy when I put them in the brooder.
A. Ducklings and goslings are very vulnerable to infection for
the first few days of their lives because their navels are an easy entry
point for bacteria until they are fully healed and closed. Common bacteria
(primarily Salmonella) is almost always present and will attack ducklings,
goslings, and chicks if proper sanitation is not practiced. Before the
young birds are placed in the brooder, a powerful sanitizer should be
used on all interior surfaces. I prefer Tektrol but a diluted chlorine
bleach/water solution will also work. Wood can harbor bacteria for a prolonged
period so it should not be assumed that sanitation is not required if
the brooder has not been used in a long while. Some breeders place their
brooders outside on a sunny day to let the sun sanitize it after the season
concludes. Such a practice is fine as long as it does not take the place
of a thorough soaking with a chemical sanitizing agent. Metal brooders
are less porous and therefore easier to sanitize than wooden ones.
Q. I have lost goslings while using the chick starter
commonly available in my area. Is medicated starter feed a problem for
A. the medication you mentioned is common in chick starter and
protects them from Coccidiossis which frequently causes losses among chicks
especially when they are under stress. It is a very common bacterial infection.
Waterfowl can get Coccidiossis but it is much less common in them. Coccidiostats
which are arsenic based are lethal to waterfowl. Brands such as Renosal
are arsenic based. Coccidiostats that employ Amprol do not harm waterfowl.
The best policy is to avoid medicated starter feed.
Q. Can one sex ducklings
and goslings day old?
A. It can be done but it is a pin point operation
and is best left to those with experience. Ducklings can be sexed by differences
in their voices by about six weeks of age. Goslings are more difficult
to sex even as adults (see article on geese for more details).
Q. Help! My flock of six week old goslings was caught
in a rain storm and they are lying all over the yard and are not moving.
Are they dead? What happened to them?
A. Both goslings and ducklings are very vulnerable to hard rains
until they are well feathered. Their lungs are located near the surface
of their backs and are easily affected by hard/cold rain. If found quickly,
they may not be dead. Try reviving them by placing them under a strong
heat lamp or even in an oven set on a low temperature and door open. In
either case, towel them as dry as you can and then keep your fingers crossed.
Speed is of the essence. I do not let young ducklings or goslings outside
for extended periods unsupervised until they are well feathered over the
backs. Do not assume that because some sort of shelter is provided, that
they will have sense enough to use it.
Q. My flock of ducks sleeps overnite in an area in
front of our barn which is protected by a big yard light. There was never
a problem with predators until recently when I began losing one or two
birds a night. Sometimes there was nothing left and sometimes only the
head of the victim was to be found. What am I dealing with and how can
I protect my birds?
A. You are probably being visited by a Great Horned Owl. He will
continue to prey on your flock until you make your birds unavailable to
him or until you have no more birds left for him to eat. Put the birds
in a tight barn at night or in a pen with a top made of wire mesh or a
solid roof. I do not recommend that you attempt to shoot or trap the owl
because they are protected. Besides, another owl or another type of predator
will find your flock sooner or later if you do not protect them better
at night. Waterfowl are creatures of habit and can easily be trained to
enter a pen or other shelter at night. Just make sure to close the door
Q. I own a small flock of Pekin ducks. How can I tell
the males from the females?
A. The females will be the ones which
"quack". The males have a hoarse whisper of a voice. Males also usually
have a couple of curled "sex feathers at the base of their tails.
Q. I have a pond and I have always wanted some ducks
to put on it. Will they be O.K. in that situation?
A. Probably not for long. In most places in the U.S. and Canada,
predators which will prey on ducks and even geese if they are unprotected
at night are plentiful. Raccoons, coyotes, owls, and mink are but a few
of the common predators to worry about. Waterfowl usually need shelter
at night if they are to be safe from such animals. If one cannot or will
not provide such shelter, one should not attempt to keep the birds.