Keeping ducks is an enjoyable hobby and these birds need only a moderate amount of care. However, like all animals, they have some basic requirements you must meet to keep them happy and healthy. Whether you keep ducks for meat, as pets, or as slug and snail eating pest controllers, there are some essentials for ensuring the health and well-being of your ducks.
You must shelter your ducks well. Most people choose to use a chicken coop-style shelter, such as a duck house, a duck coop, or a shed. The shelter must be large enough for all the ducks to comfortably walk around, stand up, lie down, and stretch their wings. The duck house needs an easily accessible run so your ducks can go outside while still being safely confined. This is really important at night as the duck coop and run protect your ducks from predators. If you want your ducks to breed successfully, make sure the shelter remains comfortably warm and has nesting boxes for your ducks to hatch their brood. Also allow them access to water to swim or paddle in to mimic their natural habitat. If you do not want to make a pond, place a child's paddling pool in the enclosure.
You have several options for duck bedding; however, if you plan on letting your ducks breed and raise their hatchlings, you have a smaller choice. For adult ducks, many keepers choose sawdust or wood shavings. However, if you have hatchlings, they tend to eat the shavings or sawdust, which can be fatal. Straw is a good alternative to sawdust for ducklings and works well for adult ducks too. However, straw needs changing more frequently than sawdust as it is less absorbent and leads to faster ammonia build-up. If left for too long, the ammonia is damaging to the feet, lungs, and eyes of the ducks.
Ducks need a varied diet. While they scavenge in the garden for insects like slugs and snails, they need a balanced diet. Duck pellets are a good choice, and you can choose a complete pellet formula that provides the most of their nutritional requirements. Aside from these pellets, you can use a range of fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy treats and supplemental duck food to ensure they get everything they need. You can also feed them your vegetable peelings. Use duck scratch grains and even grow plants such as dandelion, sunflower, and mustard, and pick the greens for them, allow them access to the whole plant, or let them eat the seedlings as they germinate. Only allow your ducks to consume natural sugars from fruits, and in moderation, because processed sugar is detrimental to their health. Ducks have a habit of choking on their food, so you must make sure that fresh water is always available in their enclosure.