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DUCKLING PROGRAM

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHERE SHOULD I KEEP THEM?

If you have limited space and plan to keep them in the house, a plastic tote works well. They don’t have the ability to jump over the sides (10-12 inches) until about 3-4 weeks if they are really ambitious.  The plastic on the bottom allows them to make a mess inside the tote and will not fall apart like a cardboard box will. A pet crate may also be an option, or your biggest cardboard box lined with something waterproof like a plastic shower curtain. 

As the ducklings grow, you may want to increase their living area (bigger tote, dog crate, baby enclosure over a tarp, etc.) If you choose to keep the ducks, you will want to explore coop ideas that have both an indoor and outdoor space. Google has lots of creative designs!

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WHAT ABOUT WATER?

Ducks love water, but they don’t need to be in or near water - it just needs to be available for drinking. Keep water available to them as much as possible, similar to free feeding. You can use a shallow margarine container or Tupperware. If you find they play and waste a lot of water, this is ok, but if it gets too messy and bothers you, feel free to place a stone inside the water container that takes up a large portion of the container.  This will prevent them from jumping in.

TELL ME ABOUT FEEDING!

A custom starter feed has been supplied. It is anticipated that the supplied feed will easily last you 4 weeks.  Additional feed is available for $15 for a small bag or $30 for a large bag. Free feeding is the best approach, which means having feed available to them whenever they are in their tote. They do a great job at regulating their food intake themselves. You can simply take a margarine container or Tupperware and fill it with feed.  You can place a stone inside to reduce spillage as they may enjoy digging in the feed with their bills.

This feed is all they need, but if you want to give them treats, that's ok! Try shredding greens into their water bowl, or roll them some frozen peas. Most fruits and veggies are ok for them, just no onion, raw potato, citrus, or avocados.

I HAVE A TODDLER...

Don't worry - we do too!

 

Teaching your kids how to handle ducklings is very helpful right away.  When the ducklings are small, have your kids to sit down and keep the ducklings on their lap, or use their hands as a ‘nest’ with 2 hands together. This is a challenge with so much excitement, we know as we have a busy toddler.  Also note that toddlers aren’t aware of their surroundings, so watch out that duckling #2 doesn’t get stepped on while duckling #1 is getting cuddles. If your kids are afraid of being pooped on, be sure to keep an old rag or towel handy.

TELL ME ABOUT THE BEDDING!

CAN I POST ON SOCIAL?

ABSOLUTELY! We would love to see pictures of your family with your ducklings! Please tag RiverBound Farms on Facebook or @RiverBoundFarms on Instagram so we can share in the fun and cuteness!

Ensure there is 1.5 - 2 inches minimum of bedding on the bottom of their habitat. This should prevent them from slipping.  Feel free to gather and change the bedding whenever necessary.  It is best to keep it mostly dry. If you find that it is constantly wet, consider adjusting your watering strategy so they play less and focus on drinking. If you do not have a garden or compost to dispose of waste, this can be collected in a garbage bag and returned to the farm. We highly recommend that you stick to the bedding provided, as newsprint and other bedding options can be too slippery, and can lead to leg problems. Do NOT use cedar shavings if you have them from other pets - they can be toxic to ducklings! Additional bedding can be purchased for $15 a bale if you need it.

WHAT TEMPERATURE DO THEY LIKE?

Young ducklings like to snuggle and cuddle. Keeping them warm is important for the first few weeks. They will enjoy the 20-22 C temperatures in your home. You will know if they are too cold if they are shivering (not out of fear) or not up and about ready to explore. As the ducklings age, they can tolerate cooler temperatures as a baseline. It is normal for them to explore (see activities below) and then come back to the heat for some rest.

A few ideas:

  • Keep them in a warm room in the house such as a bathroom that is less frequently used, or add a space heater.

  • Keep them under a heat lamp or incandescent light bulb that provides some heat.  As they age, raise the heat lamp or increase their space so they have the option to get away from the heat or come closer.  If ducklings are trying to get away (huddled in the corner away from the heat or are panting), it is too hot.

WHAT DO I DO ABOUT SLEEP?

No need to turn off the light to put them down to nap; they sleep when they want.  A normal day/night cycle is ok, but leaving the light on will not disrupt their sleep cycles.  If your environment is busy and noisy, consider giving them some quiet time.

At night time, we recommend putting them in a quiet room with the lights off. They may quack a bit the first few nights, but should settle down to a good 12 hour nighttime!

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY ARE RETURNED?

When ducklings come back to the farm, they either spend the rest of their lives here with us in the barnyard in our layer or breeder flocks, or they go to other families who have raised ducklings and have decided they want more! We have a waitlist for socialized ducklings; they're in demand!

So, rest assured that your ducklings will have a good home.

WHY DO YOU DO THIS?

There are a number of reasons! We benefit because our flock is now very comfortable with us, and with our kids. That means we feel safe allowing our kids to collect eggs and feed the birds, and the birds feel safe around us, which makes it much easier to pick them up and check on them if they need some attention.

Also, we've had issues with mink here on the farm previously. Having our most vulnerable babies out with families means that they're safe and well cared for - and they're much bigger and faster once they return, so they can get themselves to safety when our big geese tell them to!

Finally, we want to be able to share our knowledge about birds and agriculture with families. More and more, people are losing connections to the people and places where food is grown (or in our case, where eggs are laid!) The duckling program allows us to answer questions and teach people about what small family farms can look like in Ontario!

CAN THEY MAKE ME SICK?

Like all birds, ducks potentially carry bacteria in their guts that can make you sick. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your ducklings or their environment. Also, we know it is tempting, but we would advise not kissing your ducklings or swimming with them.

GIVE ME IDEAS OF THINGS TO DO WITH THEM!

  • Your ducklings will love to explore, they will show high activity and crash for sleep like most toddlers.

  • On warm sunny days, take them out into the yard or grass, let them pick at weeds, grass or bugs! Always give them the option to get out of the sun if it's too warm. Water should also be close by at all times.

  • Bath time – not required, but ducks love to clean in water.  This can range from kitchen or bathroom sink, bath tub, or kiddy pool.  This should be supervised time, especially for really young ducklings as they can get tired, soggy and drown. Guide them and watch them to see how instinctive swimming really is. 

  • Follow the leader – ducklings love to try and keep up with their families, so take a step back and see if your ducklings run towards you.

DO I HAVE A HEN (FEMALE) OR A DRAKE (MALE)?

All ducklings are unsexed; we don’t know whether they will be hens or drakes. We usually cannot visually differentiate between hens and drakes until 10-16 weeks of age. The cayuga males will develop a curled tail feather, and the buff Orpington drakes will grow grey feathers on their head and neck. You might be able to tell males from females around 6 weeks by their voices though! The females will make the distinctive quacking sound you expect from ducks, while the males will make a “mepmepmep” type of noise.

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT ON PICK UP DAY?

When you arrive at the farm, we will meet you outside and have your ducklings in a plastic tote. We will have some bedding for you to put into your box, and you’ll scoop up your ducklings for the first time! We will be available to answer any of your questions, and will have examples of housing and feeding that you can recreate at home. 

We will have a bag of custom feed and a wrapped bale of shavings for you to grab off of the back of our truck. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF... SOMETHING HAPPENS?

We get it. Sometimes a toddler's hands turn into vice grips, or you stumble and fall, or a predator gets into a pen. Though not common, losses and injuries happen. 

If something happens and one of your ducklings passes away, we will work with you to get a replacement buddy for your duckling (no charge), or we will take the remaining duckling back at the farm. Please do not let this concern keep you from having an awesome experience!

WHAT IF WE CAN'T SAY GOODBYE?

If at any time during the foster period you decide that you would like to keep them, just let us know. We will accept ducklings back with no rehoming fee until September 4, 2023. After that, a $20 rehoming fee will apply per bird.

If you want to keep them for eggs, female ducks will start to lay eggs around 24 weeks of age if they are provided with 16 hours of light per day. This means you will need to provide some additional light. A LED on a timer works quite well.

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