Did you spot our new ducklings on Instagram last week? We now have 10 pekin ducklings that we are going to raise for meat. And after raising hundreds of chickens, we are learning that ducks are a very different bird. We have a ways to go before we feel more confident about ducks, but here are our initial impressions.
The first thing we noticed about the ducklings is their size. Compared to the broiler chicks hatched around the same time, they are just huge, maybe 4 times as big. And from what we can tell, they will get very big very quickly.
A little more on size: The pekin breed reaches a decent market weight in about 7 weeks, just like the broiler chicken. Yet unlike the broiler–widely regarded as a freaky breed for its proneness to health problems cropping up due to high speed growth–ducks are said to be resilient and healthy throughout their growth. As far as time is concerned, it seems like ducks might be a better animal to raise for meat. We’re excited to find out. According to the numbers, the broiler’s key benefit is the cost to feed them–they don’t need as much feed to put on more meat. It’s a battle of efficiency vs. health. But there are many other factors in raising food, including nutrition, morals, and flavor, all of which we will be exploring with ducks this year.
Another thing that anyone raising ducks will notice right away is how much water gets EVERYWHERE. They love the stuff and splash it like little maniacs.
This water-crazy behavior means more regular maintenance of their bedding. With broilers cleanliness comes down to managing their poop, but with ducks you have a lot, lot, lot more moisture on top of that. We are currently changing their newspaper twice a day now just to keep them relatively dry. Soon we’ll move on to the more absorbent pine shavings and will try to figure out a way to get the brooder to drain excess moisture. We are constantly evolving our methods as we learn!
And maybe this is just a bias we have from not being around ducklings as much, but ducklings seem so dang cute and funny! Chicks are cute and all, but do they have goofy bills on the front of their faces? Do they stand tall when they walk? Ducklings do, and it’s just awesome to watch. They are also more nervous than the chicks and run in circles when we reach into the brooder. I credit this to their potentially larger brains being more aware of danger. Also, they wiggle their tails a lot. Cute.
We are using a circular chick waterer for them right now and they seem to love running around it in a circle with their bills dipped into the water. From what we read, this is just the tip of the iceberg with their water antics. In a few weeks they will be outdoors and will have access to a kiddie pool of water–can’t wait to see what they do.