Friday, November 24, 2017

Different Types of Feed - Mash, Crumbles and Pellets



For first-time duckling and gosling owners, going down the feed aisle can be a frustrating experience. We are here to explain the different types of feed form you will encounter. These are only the final forms of the feed – how they are presented to the bird. It tells you nothing about their ingredients or nutritional breakdown.

Mash

Mash is a fine mixture of the ground grains, vitamins, and minerals that an animal needs and has roughly the consistency of corn meal. The benefit of grinding feed to make a mash is that the ingredients are mixed uniformly. If given the choice, the 'good bits' in a feed would be picked out if the feed was not ground, leaving some of the nutrition they need behind. With mash that is not possible.

The downside to mash is that waterfowl have trouble swallowing mash without added water. Therefore their tendency is to take the mash to water, wasting feed in the process and usually leaving quite a bit of feed in the water.

Pellets

Pellets start as a mash that has steam added and is compressed into its pellet form. This means that any bacteria that could have been in the mash is cooked out of the pellet, leaving a nutrient rich and clean feed.


There are many benefits to using pellets. The animal receives all of the nutrients it needs in each mouthful. It is easy for them to eat. Salmonella and any other potential pathogens have been destroyed and …. it is normally easier to pour from a bucket than mash.

Crumble

Between a mash and a pellet is a crumble. A crumble is a pellet that has been broken into smaller pieces, and has the consistency of Grape Nuts breakfast cereal.


Crumbles are typically made for young birds as it is easy for them to eat and it has all the advantages of pellets. But it is also easily eaten by adult waterfowl so do not shy away from an adult bird feed made into crumbles.

Whole and Cracked Grains

Many people like to save money by using predominantly whole or cracked grains for feed. This is cheaper than a commercially made, balanced ration. However, whole and cracked grains do not share the same nutritional advantages that processed feed has. It is like feeding your children only bread, pasta and rice. They also need the vitamins, minerals and proteins from fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy products. A balanced ration provides all these nutrients in the correct levels. If you simply add a mixture of vitamins and minerals to your whole and cracked grains, it will sift to the bottom and probably not be eaten.

Money Saving Tip

You can use whole and cracked grains as long as it is mixed with a balanced feed – and they are not under eight weeks of age or laying eggs. Our suggestion is that you can substitute up ¼ of your birds’ usual daily feed, but no more as this can imbalance their nutritional intake and cause havoc on their bodies.

When you next go down the feed isle, I will hope you have a better understanding of the purpose and advantages of mash, crumbles and pellets.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Treats Your Ducks Will Love!


Whether they are farm animals or pets, treats are enjoyed by all. Ducks are no different. Want to make their day? Listed below are our Top 5 Treats Your Ducks Will Love. After dispensing these treats, you'll believe your ducks are better fed than you are!

Word of Note

Remember, these are treats and should not be a large part of your ducks' daily feed. Doing so can and will unbalance their nutritional intake from their regular feed.

Snails, Bugs and Slugs

Ducks love slugs, snails, flies, earwigs – you name it, they'll eat it. We notice fewer flies in our duck buildings than our goose buildings because ducks chase after them! We have even sold ducks to citrus orchards to keep snails under control. They are especially good at eating mosquitoes, ticks, and other pesky insects, so they double as bug control. If your birds can't go after the bugs, you can always take the bugs to them. Collect all those snails and dump them in the duck pen. They will be gone almost immediately. Or give them purchased treats such as crickets that can be found at many feed and pet stores.

If you really want to give the little guys a treat, worms are a fan favorite. We offer Happy Hen Treats which are freeze-dried meal worms! They slurp them up like spaghetti.

Fruits

Apples and grapes.
Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, and other such berries and fruits are amazing treats for your ducks. Make sure to cut them up into bite-sized pieces. Just stay away from the citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.

Melons are also a great treat. I have it on good authority that ducks love watermelon. So when you're having some during the summer, cut a slice for your ducks! They'll love you for it.

Vegetables

Corn, zucchini, and salad.
While vegetables could already be a part of your duck's daily diet, there are a few they especially like. Peas, lettuce, carrots, corn, swiss chard, cucumber, zucchini, leeks, cabbage, and other such green veggies are great treats.

Don't have veggies? Most yard cuttings such as grass and weeds are considered good eats. No need to worry about what to do with dandelions as they will gobble them up along with other edible flowers and weeds you have.

Dairy

Feeding eggs to ducks might seem counter intuitive, but they have a whole bunch of vitamins and proteins from which they can benefit. Give them a hard boiled egg and watch them go at it.

Meats

Beef and turkey cuts.
Meats are rich in protein and, while ducks can eat them, make sure to offer them sparingly. Small pieces of cooked chicken, beef, and pork are excellent little tidbits for them to eat. Fish is, of course, a favorite.

Want to let your ducks have some fun? Release some feeder fish like mosquito fish or tiny minnows into a kiddy pool and let them dive after the critters. Food and exercise at the same time!


Friday, November 10, 2017

Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Other Items to Consider


Welcome back to our series of posts to help you get ready BEFORE your ducklings and goslings arrive!

To read our post on the brooder and bedding, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Brooder and Bedding.
To read our post on water and waterers, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Water and Waterer.
To read our post on feed and feeders, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Feed and Feeder.
 
Listed below are items that are not necessary, but are good things to have on hand for when your ducklings and goslings arrive.

Vitamin Packs and Electrolytes

When your ducklings and goslings arrive, they may have been on a rough trip. A vitamin/mineral pack mixed into the water gives them the vitamins and minerals they need for a quicker recovery. Pedialyte is an excellent alternative as it is designed to provide not only the necessary vitamins and minerals but also the necessary sugars and electrolytes. Do not worry about the amount as they can't have too much if you mix it correctly.

Pedialyte
Vitamin Pack
 A vitamin pack is also our go-to whenever there are issues that crop up with the ducklings or goslings, so having one on hand is a good safety net.

Sugar

I know what you're thinking.

Are you suggesting giving sugar to an animal?

Why are you suggesting giving sugar to an animal?

In the past we have suggested adding a small amount of sugar to water, just to help perk them up a bit. We ran an experiment a few years ago, however, and found that those that did not have sugar water actually did better.

However, there are several customers with whom we have spoken, including those that breed and raise birds, and sugar works like a charm for them. Take from that what you will.

If you decide to give them sugar, keep it to a minimum. We suggest about 1/4 cup or less to a quart of water.

Hardboiled Egg

Boil an egg, let it cool, chop it up, and let them at it. The vitamins and minerals in the yolk is what they really need. Chicken eggs are just fine if that is what you have on hand.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Heating


Welcome back to our series of posts to help you get ready BEFORE your ducklings and goslings arrive!

To read our post on the brooder and bedding, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Brooder and Bedding.

To read our post on water and waterers, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Water and Waterer.

To read our post on feed and feeders, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Feed and Feeder.
 

Heating and Heating Lamp

Ducklings and goslings are vulnerable after hatching and require a source of heat for a period of time. Originally, this was mama duck's job, but as there is no mama duck, you will have to find another source of heat.


Heat lamps are the easiest and most common way of heating your brooder. Here on the farm we use and offer heat lamps with 150 watt bulbs. The hood is aluminum and has a ceramic setting. If you want to find your own bulb, we recommend finding a clear white bulb. You can use a red bulb (infrared), but those are used primarily for chicks to prevent cannibalism which is rarely seen in ducklings.
Heating lamp in our brooder room
Heat lamps can be hung using chains from the ceiling or clamped onto a wall of the brooder. Temperature is controlled by lowering and raising the lamp. In the picture above, we have cut out notches in an aluminum flat bar and attached them to heat lamps to easily move them up and down.

We typically suggest starting at 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit under the heat lamp, but if you live in a warm area you may only need to turn on the lamp at night. It typically takes about a month or so for ducklings and goslings to start growing in their feathers. You can normally shut off supplemental heat within two to three weeks.

Make sure the heat source is off to the side so that they can leave the heat to cool off if they want. The important thing is to observe them. If they start huddling, you know they need more heat. If they stay away from the heat lamp, you can raise or remove it. If they start panting, then they are too warm and you can remove the heat lamp.

Brooder Thermometer

In order to know the temperature of your brooder, we suggest using a thermometer like the one we offer.

Warning!

Heat lamps can be a fire hazard if improperly handled.

Alternatives
If you decide a heat lamp is not for you, you can try a BrinseaEcoGlow Brooder. They make two sizes and Brinsea claims they are safer as they use 12 volt power for heating.


Hot water bottle and knit cover.
For those with no electricity, hot water bottles covered by towels are an effective alternative. Just be sure to switch out the water as the bottles cool, especially during the night.

We encourage you to get creative. There are many different ways of setting up your heat source.

What setup do you use?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Feed and Feeder


Welcome back to our series of posts to help you get ready BEFORE your ducklings and goslings arrive!

To read our post on the brooder and bedding, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Brooder and Bedding.

To read our post on water and waterers, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Water and Waterer.

Feed

A lot of people, especially first time duck owners, do not know what to feed their ducklings. That's fine though. We're happy to educate those that don't know.


Newly hatched ducklings and goslings need crumble starter feed as shown above which has at least 20% crude protein. Ideally you would find starter feed specifically formulated for waterfowl, but starter feed for chickens is fine so long as it has at least 20% crude protein. Any less and there can be growth problems in the future.

We do offer bags of waterfowl starter feed, but we do suggest visiting your local feed store first as shipping is expensive.

Feeder

Using a chick feeder allows them to get at the food, but not allow them to walk in it. This type of feeder will need to be exchanged for something bigger as they grow.

Feeder elevated on a 2x4. The feeder can be replaced with a shallow dish.
A shallow dish to hold the feed will work fine, but it gives the ducklings and goslings the ability to hop in and make a mess. Raising it up with a brick or block is an option - at least until they are older.

We offer feeders as well, but we still suggest visiting your local feed store first.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Water and Waterer


Welcome back to our series of posts to help you get ready BEFORE your ducklings and goslings arrive!

To read our post on the brooder and bedding, go to Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Brooder and Bedding.


Water

Water is the source of life. Regardless of when they arrive, make sure to get your baby birds to drinking water ASAP.



Dip their beaks in the water then leave them by the water. Make sure they tilt their head back so you know they drank. They will figure it out from there. Ensure they have access to the water at all times.

Waterer
The best way to provide water is to use a chick waterer. A tank sits on the top and slowly lets water into the small trough that circles the bottom. The trough is just big enough for the ducklings to get their tiny bills into it. They will need something bigger as they grow, but this is a good starting point.

Waterer assembled.
Waterer disassembled.
Some people try to use a shallow dish but this has two problems:
1) the ducklings can get in it and get themselves and their pen very wet.
2) there is not much of reserve of water – you will be repeatedly refilling it.
But if you must use a dish, elevate it with blocks of wood so they cannot walk in it.

Shallow dish on a 2 inch high octagonal piece of wood. The screws are there to keep the dish in place so that the ducklings do not knock it off.
You can also find this or similar at your local feed store. We also offer waterers on our website.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Getting Ready for Your Ducklings and Goslings: Brooder and Bedding


BEFORE your ducklings and goslings arrive, there is a lot to do and we understand that prep can be stressful for new duck owners. We are here to help! Future posts will cover more of what you will need including feed, water, heating, and things to have on hand for your ducklings and goslings upon their arrival.

Brooder
 
 This is a kiddie pool brooder with wood shavings. Please note that brooders should be in a well sheltered area, not outside.

The brooder is where the ducklings and goslings will stay for the first few weeks in their new home. A brooder can be anything from a box to a kiddie pool so long as they cannot escape and they have enough room to run.

No matter if you get two or eight ducklings, start with a space about 2’x2’. For each duckling over eight, add ½ square foot. Double these numbers for goslings.

Baby ducklings grow quickly! As they grow, however, the space needed grows with them. By three weeks, the minimum space for ducklings is 4’x4’ and an additional 2 square feet for each duckling over eight is required. Again, double the space for goslings.

Bedding

Hay and orchard grass.

The bedding in the brooder is important. Keeping the growing ducklings and goslings on a slick surface can cause them to develop splayed legs.

Splayed legs is where the ducklings and goslings legs stick out to either side and they cannot stand or walk.

We recommend that the material be hay, straw, or wood shavings as they provide easy cleanup and absorb moisture. While sawdust might seem like a good substitute, the ducklings may decide to eat it which is not good for their health.

Our brooder room setup.

Another alternative is ½ inch hardware cloth. This is fine for the first few weeks, but extended use of the hardware cloth can cause problems and discomfort for the ducks later.