Flooring for ducks
Duck keepers should avoid flooring that will injure the skin covering the feet and hock joints of ducks. The smooth skin of ducks is not as tough (not as cornified) as that of land fowl, and is more susceptible to injury when ducks are confined on surfaces that are too rough, or abrasive. Slats, wire floors or cage bottoms may cause injury to the feet and legs of ducks, unless these surfaces are smooth, non-abrasive, and free of sharp edges. Stones, mixed with the soil covering the duck yards can also cause injury. The detrimental effect of flooring on ducks increases with the age and size of the duck, and the longer ducks are confined to the flooring. The likelihood of injury is greatly reduced if wire occupies no more one-fourth to one-third of the floor area. Properly constructed wire floors are usually a better choice than slats, which can cause leg deformities as well as injury to skin. If wire floors are used, floors for ducklings under 3 weeks should be constructed of 1.9 cm (3/4 inch) mesh, 12-gauge welded wire, attached to a frame designed to keep the wire flat, and minimize manure accumulation. For ducks over 3 weeks, 2.5 cm (1 inch) mesh is best. Vinyl coated wire is preferable, but smooth galvanized wire is satisfactory.
Management of litter and yards
Ducks drink and excrete more water than chickens or turkeys. Their droppings contain over 90% moisture. It is therefore necessary to take extra measures to maintain litter floors inside sheltered areas in a dry condition. This will require regular addition of fresh bedding, on top of the bedding that has become soiled or wet, and when necessary, cleaning out the old litter and replacing it with fresh litter. Under semi-confinement growing, in which case ducklings spend most of their time outdoors during the day (after the first 3 weeks), waterers should be located outside, as far away from the house as possible. This will reducing tracking water to the litter. During periods when temperatures drop below freezing, water must be provided indoors. Duck yards should be maintained in a clean condition by removing the upper few inches of soil and replacing it with clean soil (preferably sand) whenever necessary.
Feeders and feeding space
Most feeders used for other poultry, are satisfactory for ducks, provided sufficient room is allowed for the larger bill of ducks and their "shoveling" eating motion. If ducks are hand fed, simple trough feeders work fine. If feed hoppers are used, they should be constructed so that feed will slide down freely into the bottom of the hopper as feed is consumed. Providing an apron in front of the feeding area, for catching feed that is dropped or billed out, will reduce feed wastage. During their early stages of growth, ducklings eat frequently, much like chickens. As they grow older they are able to store increasing amounts of feed in their esophagus at each feeding, and thus need to eat less frequently. By about four weeks of age, Pekin ducks can easily consume 100 grams or more of pellets at a single feeding. It is important to provide about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of feeder space per duck for about the first 3 weeks. Afterwards this can be gradually reduced to about half this amount so long as there is no crowding at the feed hoppers. Developing breeders that are being fed an allotted amount of feed each day should be allowed plenty of feeding space so that all birds can eat at once, which requires about 4 inches (10 cm) of linear space per duck.
Waterers for ducks (see also Water)
Waterers designed for chickens and turkeys are usually satisfactory for ducks, as long as the size of the duck's bill is considered. Trough, can or jar-type waterers can be used so long as the drinking area is wide enough (at least 4 cm) for the duck to submerge its bill. The same requirement applies to automatic trough, cup or Plasson waterers. Nipple waterers, if properly adjusted for the duck's height, are also satisfactory. If waterers are located indoors where the floor is bedded with litter, waterers should be located on a wire-mesh screen to reduce wetting of the litter. In commercial duck houses it is usually advisable to construct a cement floor drain underneath the water screens. For starting and growing ducks, provide a minimum of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of linear watering space per duck. Increase this to 2 inches (5.0 cm) per duck for developing and laying breeders. If nipple waterers are used, provide 15 nipples per 100 ducks for starting and growing ducks and 20 nipples/100 ducks for developing and laying breeders. Starting ducklings should always have access to watering cans, jars or troughs until they have learned to drink from nipple waterers.
Duck houses or shelters for small flocks usually do not require mechanical ventilation as used in modern commercial duck buildings. However some ventilation is always necessary when ducks are kept in a house enclosed on all sides. Window openings, and ridge ventilation may provide adequate air exchange. If larger flocks are kept in totally enclosed houses, the use of ventilation fans may be necessary. Proper ventilation of commercial duck buildings requires the expertise of an agricultural engineer or someone with knowledge and experience in designing and ventilating poultry buildings. Modern duck buildings must be adequately insulated for ventilations systems to work properly. Ventilation systems for ducks should deliver a minimum of 0.2 cfm/lb duck weight at .05 inches (water gauge) static pressure and a maximum ventilation rate (when temperatures are above the desired point) of 0.8 cfm/lb duck weight at .02 inches static pressure.
The length of the laying period of ducks can be increased considerably if supplemental lighting is provided. If supplemental light is not provided, egg production will be seasonal and dependent on changes in natural daylength. Adding artificial light to extend the daily light period to 14-17 hours, and preventing any decrease in day length, will provide adequate light stimulation for ducks to lay continuously for 7-12 months, depending upon their ability to lay, and other conditions. If ducks are confined to a building at night and allowed outdoors during the day (or if confined to non-lightproof housing), the usual practice is to turn artificial lights on at a set time before sunrise, off at a set time after sunrise, then on again before sunset and off after sunset, maintaining a constant light period (14 hours, for example) and a constant dark period (10 hours in this case) each day. Such a lighting regimen is usually implemented with the aid of electric time clocks that turn lights on and off at set times. A light intensity of about 10 lux (1 foot candle) at the duck's eye level is sufficient to stimulate adequate sexual response in both drakes and ducks. In practice, however, breeding and laying ducks are commonly lit to provide 20-30 lux at duck level. Artificial lighting is less important for growing ducks. Ducks are nocturnal, and can find feed and water in the dark. However artificial light is important the first few days to assist ducklings in getting started drinking and eating. Totally confined ducks being grown-out for marketing, as in commercial production, are usually provided some light every day. It is also beneficial to provide dim light by means of low wattage bulbs during dark periods to help prevent stampeding if the flock is disturbed and to discourage feather pecking. During the development period of breeder-layer ducks, it is desirable to avoid either increases or decreases in day-length as much as possible. A recent publication entitled Poultry Lighting by UK scientist Dr. Peter Lewis and Dr. Trevor Morris (see Publications on Ducks and Related Publications) reviews research demonstrating excellent laying performance of Pekin ducks given a constant light regimen of 17 hours/day throughout rearing and laying. It is recommended that this resource be consulted for more information on lighting ducks.