Ducks

What Breeds We Have

We have the Muscovy breed, here at Olive Tree Farm. In Spanish, they are known as “mudos”, which translates to mute… We soon found out why! These ducks cannot quack, in fact their voicebox is calcified, so the only noise they can make is a hissing sound.

What Do They Eat?

The ducks eat anything green: leafy veg, salad, grasses… But, again like the chickens, they also look for sources of protein. It’s not uncommon to see ducks eat snails, slugs and insects. They will also sift through damp or wet soil with their beaks to find extra sources of nutrition.

Housing

We have built several types of houses for the ducks to offer them somewhere to sleep and lay their eggs, but egg-laying seems to be all they do there. The Muscovys tend to prefer sleeping out in the open.

Brooding, Incubating & Ducklings

Brooding: As with chickens, you know when a duck has turned broody when she continuously sits on her eggs for a long period of time – only leaving the nest to eat and drink. We fence her and the eggs off from the other animals so the mother feels protected and safe. Muscovys take longer to hatch than other ducks: 35-37 days, in fact.

ducklings

Incubating: Like the chicken eggs, while we are collecting them ready to incubate, we will turn the eggs once or twice a day to prevent the yolk from sticking. Once they are in the incubator, they will be turned every 3-4 hours until the 31st day, the humidity set to 45-55% and the temperature at 37.4 – 37.6 degrees celsius. Every other day one of us will wet our hand and turn the eggs manually to simulate the mother duck, who will have been swimming and then sitting on the eggs while damp. They will hatch between days 35 and 37, so on the 35th we will up the humidity to 55-65% so it is easier for them to break through the shell and membrane.

Muscovy EggsDucklings: Ducklings are hardy little creatures. From the off they tend to eat what the parents do – though we do provide them with B1 Chick feed soaked in water just to give a little helping hand. We generally just keep an eye on them but trust mum to keep them safe and happy (if they were incubated, then they will stay in the brooder box and looked in on several times a day). We put in a bowl of shallow water for them so they may paddle, begin waterproofing their feathers and learn to swim without getting stuck.

Care & Maintenance

Ducks are very, very fond of routine. They like to be fed at the same time every day, and prefer it if you always wear the same clothes when attending them. They need very little from us, really, as they are very good at self-dependance. We may clip their wings occassionally and we constantly make sure they have access to clean water.

Illness, Problems & Treatments

Here is a list of common illnesses, problems and how to treat them.

BumblefootDuck PlagueDuck Virus HepatitisFowl CholeraImpacted CropInfectious BronchitisLamenessLiceRed MitesSour CropSplayed/Spraddled LegsWorms (Round & Tape)

• Bumblefoot

Symptoms: Swelling, limping, lameness, sometimes redness and often a black/brown scab on the underneath of affected foot/feet.

Treatment: Requires surgery to treat. We recommend that you take the affected bird to your local vet: but if you do not have access to one, there are various help-videos that will show you the procedure on YouTube (don’t forget to sanitize!).

• Duck Plague

Symptoms: Caused by the herpes virus, is very contagious. Sluggish birds, ruffled feathers, greenish-yellow diarrhea, sometimes stained with blood. Eruptive lesions found on mucus lining of the duck’s esophagus.

Treatments: There are none, though there is a vaccination which can be provided for unaffected birds.

• Duck Virus Hepatitis

Symptoms: Fatally affects ducklings between 1-28 days old. Spasmodic contractions on legs, enlarged liver that shows hemorrhagic spots. Ducklings can die within an hour with an arched back.

Treatments: No treatment will have any effect on an infected bird – there is a vaccination for unaffected birds as a preventative measure.

• Fowl Cholera

Symptoms: Diarrhea, mucous discharges, loss of appetite. Liver enlarges and becomes friable (easily crumbles).

Treatment: Improve sanitation as a preventative measure; the bacterium is easily destroyed by disinfectants and environmental factors. There are also drugs available from your vet, but note that the disease often recurs after treatment is stopped.

• Impacted Crop

Symptoms: Blockage in crop (it should empty over night). Feels like dough to the touch. Is normally caused by tough strands of grass.

Treatments: In a mild case; give bird only water for 24-48 hours. In a serious case; contents of the crop can be softened by turning the bird upside-down and massaging the crop. There is a risk of the bird choking, so you must allow the bird a chance to catch its breath in between attempts.

• Infectious Bronchitis

Symptoms: Drop in egg production and thin, rough and wringkly egg shells. Sneezing and gasping, discharge from the nose.

Treatments: There is no treatment for this disease. Secondary infections with bacterial diseases are common and antibiotics may reduce losses from these infections. The virus is easily destroyed by heat and ordinary disinfectants. Survivors of the IB virus tend to be carriers, so some chicken-keepers advise to get rid of the flock entirely, then clean and disinfect pens/housing and start again.

• Lameness

Symptoms: Ducks have very fragile legs and feet. They can get cuts on the underside of their feet. Duck may also strain a leg muscle, causing it to limp. Deficiency of Vitamin B3 (niacin) can also cause limping.

Treatments: Treat cuts by cleaning and keeping the duck on clean, dry straw. Treat strains with exercise – allowing the duck to swim to help the muscle heal. Can treat the Vitamin B3 with marmite on toast.

• Lice

Symptoms: White build-up around feather base near the vent – in bad cases, there could be a build up on the feathers, too.

Treatments: Wood-ash dust bathing can help against lice, can also buy poultry sprays. Applying petrolium jelly to bird will cause lice to fall off and the eggs won’t be able to hatch.

• Red Mites

Symptoms: Drop in egg production – in bad cases, the bird will look pale from blood loss. You will be able to see the mites at night, as that is when they gather to feed.

Treatments: See “Lice” treatment above.

• Sour Crop

Symptoms: Causes the mucous membrane in the crops to swell, giving the affected bird the appearance of having something apple-sized lodged in the neck. The overgrowth of yeast can also create lesions in crop, esophagus and mouth.

Treatments: Withhold water for 12hrs, and food for 24hrs. After the first 12hrs of no water, give clean, clear water with no additives. Continue observation. If after 24hrs the crop has not emptied, only give clean water. Do not feed bird solid food until the crop has emptied. Use a dropper to give the bird olive oil through the beaks, then massage the crop.

• Splayed / Spraddled Legs

Symptoms: Affects newly-hatched ducklings. Feet pointing to the side, legs twisted out from the hip and remain in that position until corrected.

Treatment: The legs of the affected duckling must be restricted – bandaged in the proper position. This will provide stability to the duckling, and will allow the duckling’s bones / muscles to grow and strengthen in the correct position.

splayed leg duckling.jpg

• Worms (Round & Tape)

Symptoms: Drop in egg production, weightloss & increase in hunger. Roundworm can be seen in droppings. Diarrhea can also be a symptom.

Treatment: Grated carrot, pumpkin seeds and cucumber are natural wormers for ducks.

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