Wood ducks and Mandarin ducks are two of the most beautiful duck breeds in the world, and they are among the most commonly raised ornamental ducks in the country. While their low-maintenance lifestyle make them a go-to choice for aspiring breeders and bird owners alike, knowing exactly what makes them tick can save you time, money, and stress.
So you got your ducks, now what?
Receiving a live pair of animals in the mail can be a rather overwhelming experience that not a lot of people are used to. Being prepared for what to do upon arrival is a major part in making sure your ducks get off on the right (webbed) foot. Immediately upon receiving or returning home with your juvenile ducks, make sure to take them out of the box and place them into as stress free and quiet of an environment as possible. Give them food and access to swimming water. Excessive handling of your birds can put them on edge, especially in a new environment. Stress can cause ducks not to eat or act out of character in other dangerous ways as well. It’s also recommended to keep them in a separated enclosure from any existing birds you may have as older birds can bully younger birds and keep them from feeding properly. If problems exist between your existing ducks and the newbies, or you just want to be extra cautious, taking your older birds out of the enclosure to allow your new ducks time to acclimate is a great idea. Once you’ve given your juvenile ducks time to adapt, putting your older birds back in the enclosure at a rate of 1 bird per day usually allows for reintegration without causing the younger ducks to get spooked.
Other ways to keep your ducks calm
Creating a low-stress environment for your ducks can go a long way when it comes to keeping them healthy and happy. Along with the ideas provided above, here’s a few other ways to keep your ducks at peace:
- Avoid putting your birds in a small rabbit cage or hutch. These extra small environments will scare your birds and potentially make them act irrationally.
- Never cage your birds near a water source that they can see but not reach. This will cause your birds to frantically pace the walls of their enclosure in a behavior commonly known as running the fence. When ducks demonstrate this type of behavior it’s out of extreme stress. This level of anxiety can cause your ducks not to eat and potentially die.
- Using a square shaped pen instead of a rectangular one will prevent your birds from feeling cornered when you come in to feed them. A rectangular pen increases this feeling by making your ducks think you’re pushing them back into one end of the pen or the other.
- Providing your ducks with a hidden area where they can be completely hidden from sight is good for keeping them feeling serene as well.
They’ve been living in a box, feed them!
Feeding your ducks is obviously a major part of keeping them healthy, but feeding habits at a young age are even more important because they play a major part in how the bird develops. As we mentioned before, keeping the stress level of your birds low is crucial to helping them settle in. Ducks often won’t eat if they aren’t feeling comfortable. This is a problem many beginning duck owners encounter because they don’t get their birds in a calm environment quickly or safely enough.
Thought your toddler was picky?
When it comes to eating, your ducks can be quite picky. This isn’t just regarding the type of feed, but how it’s presented as well. Here is a few ways you can help get your juvenile ducks feeding properly in no time:
- Pick the right feed. Mazuri Waterfowl Feeder is great. Any 17% duck breeder pellet works for feeding juvenile ducks. If you can’t find this in your area, a chicken layer pellet will suffice as well.
- Try mixing your feed with grains like wheat, corn or milo!
- Spreading foods on the floor of your brooder and on the actual bird itself can encourage it to eat.
- Feeding live meal worms is a wonderful idea.
It just can’t be said enough, stress is a major factor in what makes birds eat or not eat, which can greatly affect their life and nutrition. Over-handling and over-crowding your birds is never a good idea, but doing this before they’ve settled into their new environment can have dire consequences.
Pinioning or clipping your birds
Oftentimes, new duck owners will have their birds pinioned prior to shipping. A common misconception among inexperienced raisers is that this means their birds can’t fly whatsoever. Pinioning does permanently and significantly reduce a bird’s ability to fly, but it can still reach heights of about 5-6 feet off the ground, meaning it can jump over the average backyard fence. Clipping your birds is a way to temporarily reduce their flying capability until their next molt. Clipping and pinioning come down to the needs of the person buying the birds and the type of environment they’ll be living in. If you want to keep your birds around an area they could normally fly away from or maybe you just don’t trust them to stick around, you may want to look into this. If you live in an area with a lot of potential predators, giving your birds the capability to fully use their wings might end up saving their lives.
Enjoy your birds
Owning your first pair of Mandarin or Wood ducks is a fun and fulfilling experience for everyone involved. While caring for them might seem daunting at first, these little guys are as low-maintenance as they come. Just remember to take the time to sit back and enjoy these beautiful animals!
Do you have experience receiving or raising ornamental or exotic waterfowl? Share your tips and tricks for creating a comfortable environment in the comments!