Sunday, September 15, 2013

My New Ducks! Now What?

     I can not stress enough how important it is to have a separate cage for 'quarantine' when you bring home new birds!

     A bird may not show any obvious signs of being sick but doesn't mean it is 100% healthy. There are sicknesses that do not show any signs until it is too late and have most likely spread to everyone.

     You want to check the feet for cuts or lumps. If there are any open cuts or a lump with a scab (bumble foot which you can see how to treat in another post 'How to Treat Bumble Foot') you want to clean the feet. You can go to any grocery store and get Epsom Salt and put some in luke warm water then just let the bird soak for a bit. I like to let my ducks sit in the water until the water goes cold but that's just how I set the time. Then once you decide the bird has soaked enough you want to treat a cut with blu kote  which can be found at any livestock supply store such as Tractor Supply. You also want to get some gauze and place it over the cut then wrap the gauze to the foot with some self adhering wrap. I like to use the wrap for horse legs that you can find at Tractor Supply and they tend to have some of the colors that didn't sell on sale or even a '3 for $5' deal. You can use that self adhering wrap for just about any injury your duck gets, I have used it from a broken leg to bumble foot. The next thing you want to do is to put your duck in a clean cage where you can keep an eye on him or her. Then you can allow your bird to soak once a day and replace the wrap with clean supplies.

     If your duck is showing other signs of illness such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or lethargic I suggest using electrolytes in the water and some probiotics. A runny nose can be as little as something be in there such as dirt or as major as a respiratory illness. Watery eyes tend to be an eye infection or dirt, you can fix most of these with giving then a deep dish of clean water to cleanse their eyes and noses but what is this white foam in my ducks eye?? Well that also tends to be some stuck dirt or it can be a blocked tear duct in which some times a duck can dislodge what ever is in there but can sometimes require a vet going in and cleaning out the duct. With a lethargic duck you want to give electrolytes or nurti-drench with lots of 'treats' such as strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe or peas. Most times that can perk up your duck.

     If your duck has little bugs on it's skin it can either be fleas or mites. If fleas you can treat with flea drops for dogs... BUT only apply a SMALL amount under each wing. If mites you can give your birds a diatomaceous earth (DE food grade) bath by sprinkling a little bit on them or even rubbing it on to the bird. Be warned it dries out skin and can be a breathing hazard if it gets too dusty!  The next step I would do is remove any and all bedding, clean the pens, place DE and new bedding for everyone.

     I quarantine any bird for about 30 days before allowing them in with everyone else.

     I believe that is the basics. If your bird looks really ill and nothing is helping consult a vet asap!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Treats For Ducks.

I see people always asking "what can I give my ducks as a treat?". Well there are many options.

My most used one are:
Bell Peppers
Cranberry Sauce

Anything like pumpkin or cantaloupe that have huge seeds in, you want to remove them. Those seeds can cause an impacted crop or giving ducks too many smaller seeds can also cause an impacted crop. Any thing like apples, pears, and cherries should always have their seeds removed. I personally play it safe and never give my ducks seeds. Pumpkin seeds is ground up and given to ducks can be used as a natural worming.

I tend to mix different treats in a large bowl with cooked rice so that I can give every duck a nice treat with-out going broke. I just buy the instant rice at any grocery store. Rice is also something I keep warm in the winter to give as a warm treat to the ducks. For the summer you can take any of their treats you would give and dice them up, put them in water, and then freeze it. You can place these cubes of surprise treats in their pools or just on the ground and they can have fun trying to dig out the tasty treats!

Ducks also love meat! Who would have thought?? If I get a rotisserie chicken and do not finish it I will pull it apart and give it to my ducks along with cooked hot dogs. Ducks are omnivores and it's okay to feed them meat.

Another thing you can give them is the eggs you do not want. That is an excellent way to give them calcium. I will give my ducks even the shells from breakfast. When they see me walking with shells all the ducks get very loud and come running! They sometimes fight over the shells and chase each other which is fun to watch.

For more about Treats for Ducks check out this Amazing reference from Backyardchickens.

I am always going back and checking that to make sure I am not going to be giving them anything they are not supposed to have.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ducklings... How to raise them.

Ducklings are a lot of work! They love to make messes and they poo even more.

What to put them in.
They can be in anything for as long at it has high sides. Kiddie pools, tubber ware containers (the large ones for clothes), the bath tub, guinea pig cages, ect. You want something with higher sides because ducks can mange poo out at sonic speeds which somehow gets the poo way up on the side or even up and out of the cage which no one wants to have projectile poo everywhere!

Water and feed.
When a duckling is hatched from an incubator they lack the necessary oils that a mother duck would be able to give them that would allow them to float in water. With that they should never be given enough water they could drown in. A small plastic water containers that have the dome you fill and twist on the bottom with the slots over the water ring would be adequate and allow them to drink but not crawl into it or a shallow lid from food containers. You may need to show them where the water is by dabbing their beak in the water as well as the food. Never give a duckling feed with out water. They need the water to properly swallow and can choke and die with out it. The feed you should give to ducklings can NOT be medicated. You can give them the Poultry Starter by Dumor which is sold at Tractor Supply. Ducklings need more niacin then what most feed contains so you can give them electrolyte in their water which is also sold at Tractor Supply. I stop feeding the Starter when their feathers start growing in, then you can start the Finisher and after you use the bag up you can start to give them regular adult feed. They need niacin and giving them it directly in the water from brewers yeast will work or the niacin tabs you can find at a local store that carries vitamins should have them. Giving them peas is also a good source of niacin and they love them along with finely chopped lettuce. The should not be fed worms until they can be wormed and properly treated because worms can carry Gape-worm which is a nasty parasite. Ducklings can be put in a tub or other water holding device to "swim" with supervision but don't allow them in too cold of water because they cramp up and can drown. Make the water luke warm so it's not too hot either.

Temperature and bedding.
They will need a heat lamp for the first 3 weeks. The brooder should be 95 degrees first week, 85-90 degrees the second and 75-80 the third. If it is cold outside then hold off on them going out until they feather out. They will let you know when they are too hot or too cold. When they are far from the lamp and panting they are too hot and the lamp can be pulled up higher to make it cooler. When they are huddled as close as possible to the lamp and to each other they are too cold and the lamp could be lowered a bit but be careful that if you have a really strong/hot light to make sure you don't have it too close to anything that can catch on fire or melt. Do not lower it so far that the ducklings can bump into it and burn themselves. At all times make sure the lamp is SECURE there is countless stories of people losing an entire barn over a lamp that fell and caught bedding or something flammable on fire. Do not think it can't happen to you. Bedding will get wet constantly and if it is not changed enough it smells terrible when you do change it.  I have used flake bedding not the 'fine' or sawdust like bedding because the ducklings can eat it and can lodge in their throats. Stay away from cedar bedding. There are reports of the ducks having an allergic reaction to it or coughing. Puppy training pads work for the ducklings who like to find ways to eat the bedding and can easily be pulled up and allow for easy cleaning.

When to let them with the others.
I would let them with the others once they have get used to the idea of being outside and are familiar with the others with a fence between them. That way the adults do not think they are complete strangers and want to attack them or beat them up. There will be slight poking a chasing and it is the normal pecking order being shown. Just keep an eye out to make sure no major bulling is going on.

Ducklings do grow up and will no longer be "small, cute, and fluffy" and can NOT be dropped off at a local pond! Most ducks are domesticated and will not make it threw winter. And no their "natural instincts" will not kick in like a wild duck breed will. Just remember the saying "like a sitting duck" because that is exactly what your once "small, cute, and fluffy" duckling will be for any predator that is in the area.

How to tell the sex of a duck!

Some it comes easy and others not so much.
You can vent sex day old ducklings. I have heard within the first hours it is born is the easiest. I personally never tried it until they where walking. But be warned you can easily injure ducklings doing this. You can damage the reproductive systems and break something if you are too rough.. If done correctly no harm will be done. If you have a little boy duckling a little white wee wee will pop out, if a little girl nothing will come out.... but most times for me nothing pops out and it is still a boy! Very frustrating. So I tend to wait until their voices start to mature. When their voices start to come out of the duckling cry the males stay quiet and raspy while the females get deep loud boisterous voices. It can be hard to tell them apart if you wind up with all of the same sex. And the last way to tell is threw feathering. Males will get a "drake feather"  which is a curly feather that develops typically in the center on his tail. Females will not get this. Females tend to stay a bland color such as brown and males will tend to get brighter coloring. Just remember the male mallard how he gets the green head and the female stays a all brown. Not all breeds stay to this though. Take the Cayuga for example, both the male and female look the same! Dark black with a green sheen?? Well look for that curly feather for the male and the loud voice of the female.
Safe sexing and good luck with your adventures!

If you look closely he has the curl on his tail and has a dark colored head indicating male.

Can you spot the male out of the females??

Another picture of the curl on the tail.

A voice video will follow in the next few days of a male vs. a female. Hope this helped someone find out what they have!! Feel free to leave a comment with any questions!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bumble foot?

Bumble foot.. No one wants it.

I had come into once. I never want to go threw it AGAIN.
It starts out as a cut or crack on the ducks foot which can get all kinds of gunk in it. Small stones, dirt, pine tree needles, anything that can manage its way in there and you would be surprised what they get in there. Some ducks may need to see a vet to have the bumble surgically worked on. Most times if you can't afford a surgery or if it's not severe or very large you can do it yourself! There are videos of "bumble foot surgery" all over youtube. I know my vet didn't want to open it up and go in, said "it wasn't bad enough". So I went home with the directions to take Epsom salt and make it into a paste, let my duck sit in the tub in warm water  to allow the scab to soften, then peel the scab off  pull what ever I could out and then apply the paste and wrap the foot with gauze and medical wrap. I have found that the vet wrap for horse legs that self adheres works amazing and can be found at Tractor supply or related livestock store. It didn't do much, then again my ducks case of bumble foot in my eyes was pretty bad! So I was instructed to go back for a "home made" paste from the vet... drove back out and came home. Applied it. Still nothing! So I gave up on going to the vet since I was then ignored. I had to preform a surgery of my own. It is not for the faint of heart!
You need a disinfected scalpel, paper towels, regular towel, tweezers (both pointed and flat headed),a syringe without the needle, gauze and wrap.

Find a quiet room where no one can disrupt you or make loud noises to scare the duck. Disinfect the table you choose to use. The paper towels will be used to wipe the blood as you go. The regular towel will be to lightly cover the ducks eyes to help calm it. The syringe you can fill with a Epsom salt mixture to help spray into the wound to clear the blood so you can get a look for the "core". You can ask advice from a vet on how to exactly go about doing it.

After doing the surgery my duck didn't want to be in the house with us humans any more and decided to escape the cage and run down the steps to her friends! So she spent a few more weeks in the house and then allowed outside.

That was over a year ago and she is no longer limping! And she has been healthy since!

Bare necks on female ducks?

Well, if you have a bare neck or open spot on the back of your duck... you have an issue! There are 2 ways to fix it!

Get more females or lose a few males.

You see, there is what people who own ducks and they call it "duck math" and at some point or another we all fall victim to it. How it works is that one male should have at LEAST 2 female companions. The more female's to male ratio the better. When you have too many males to females the males can hurt your females. Some males may even gang up on one female and really hurt her! If they are in the water they can down her. Males can and will have a "favorite" female that they all want so they get what they want. They will pile on her and if she can't get away they will pull feathers out and draw blood. Ducks do have claws, some people may not know that, and they will gouge those nails right into her back. Ouch!!! Some places will sell "saddles" for chickens but do go up to a size for a small turkey. They help for after a male has over loved his companion with the back but not with the neck so once you noticed something is up the best thing to do would be to separate her until she is no longer raw.You can spray something on her like Blu Kote to help if there is any open wounds.

Here is a great site to find the saddles and other duck apparel!

You can find Blu Kote at a Tractor Supply or other livestock store near you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worming with Diatomaceous Earth

What I used: Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) It's important to use the food grade!

How it works: It can be sprinkled in the feed, bedding, and outside area where the ducks roam! It is also used against clumps in the feed and against bugs. It is a good preventative against mites and lice and other creepy crawlers that can cause harm to your beloved ducks! When used in the bedding it helps with moisture that can occur on the bottom of it and with the ducks watery poo! With that it helps keep the smell down.

Why does it work: It works because in the DE there are these microscopic cylinders with holes in them, when the bugs move across the DE these razor sharp cylinders cut threw the waxy covering on bugs then the powder gets in the cuts in the waxy covering and dehydrates the bug killing it! It works the same way inside the ducks bodies with internal parasites such as worms. And it does not do any harm to your ducks.

Make sure to use a face mask when applying. People with breathing problems like asthma (like me) will have attacks from it! I thought I would be fine until the wind blew it into my face. Terrible! And it's always better to be safe then sorry!
 Invermectin and Safeguard are 2 names I have heard many times in the worming world. More so the Invermectin. Invermectin has a broad spectrum use and  is safe for your ducks!