Caring for ducks in winter is easy because ducks are cold hardy and resilient birds. Although the ducks need some special care once winter rolls around. Provide your ducks such an environment that can protect them from the cold and snow. Like most other waterbirds, ducks are well adapted to low temperatures. They are fine down to temperatures around 20° F. They can suffer frostbite on their feet below this temperature which could lead to amputation or lost limbs. However, there are a couple of things that you can do for your ducks to help prevent the frostbite and make them comfortable during the freezing cold season.
Ducks are very strong and hardy birds. But they require suitable shelter for protecting them from the cold weather. Ducks generally don’t mind being out in the rain. They are capable of being outside even in the harsh winter months. But high winds, sleet and ice storms, and also heavy snowfall are very stressful for ducks. The best way of caring for ducks in winter is to provide them the heat source which will allow them to get warm. You should either provide a shelter that the ducks can freely move in and out, or you should bring them in every night into a shed or other secured place.
Exact size of the shelter depends on the size of your flock. If you raise a minimum number of birds, then the size of the shelter should be small enough so that the collected heat of the ducks will warm it. But the shelter should be large enough to provide the birds with freedom of movement and the ability to escape the heat.
The shelter for your ducks should be well insulated. It should have adequate duck bedding, waterproof and windproof. The doorway should not be open if you have a pen or shelter that the ducks will have free access to. A rubber flap or something in line with a doggie door works great stop heat loss due to draftiness.
Artificial heating source such as a heat lamp will be good for providing the ducks with warming spot. A 75-100 watt standard variety (ceramic type) is recommended for the mature ducks. Ensure that the heat lamp is out of all animal’s reach, and is not near any flammable materials. Also ensure that the ducks can escape from the heat lamp area without going outside when they get too warm.
It is very important that the ducks are capable of drying themselves to stay alive, even though they are inherently waterfowl. Clean and dry bedding will be good for them. Change their bedding often, once per day will be good. This will help to prevent mold buildup which is especially hazardous during the winter.
Proper ventilation system is a must for the ducks. Ensure that the air inside the shelter doesn’t become trapped or stagnant. This can be hazardous if you are using a smaller shelter. Small air holes combined with good insulation are the key for achieving the right balance of heat and fresh air.
There are some duck breeds which are very winter hardy. For example, the Rouen or Pekin ducks are large enough and they will survive during harsh winters quite well. But you may need to take extra precaution if you have smaller sized breed such as Mallard or Call duck.
Adequate feeding is another major part of caring for ducks in winter. During the winter time feed your duck with proper amount of protein. During this season ducks generally require more nutrients to thrive despite the cold. You can either purchase ready-made commercial feeds from the pet store or order online. Protein is very essential for duck’s health, especially during winter. Check the percentage of protein in the food, and the protein percentage should be between 16 and 18 percent. Adding some greens in the food will be good. Cabbage, chard and kale etc are generally good greens for the ducks. And if possible provide high-fat and high-calorie treats before bedtime. Generally corn and peanuts are good option for this purpose. If possible opt for peanuts, because peanuts are a lot more healthy than corn.
Provide your ducks with as much fresh water as possible. Keeping a bowl of fresh water out for your ducks for all times will be good. Keeping the water inside the heated shelter during the winter will be good. And if possible check the water each time you check on your ducks. Replace the water immediately if it has become dirty or it has frozen.
Proper care and management can protect your ducks form excessive cold during the winter season. Always try to provide your ducks with sufficient fresh water and nutritious foods. Allow your ducks to bathe on sunny days.