Spruce Creek Waterfowl Farm

Specializing in Ornamental Waterfowl

Frequently Asked Questions

Please Note: These questions apply to wild ducks that I own (mandarins, wood ducks, ringed teals) if not otherwise noted.

When can i let my ducklings swim?

If they are hatched by their mother, she will rub off oil onto them to make them waterproof. If you hatch them in an incubator, they shouldn't swim by themselves until they are feathered out. However, you can let them swim as early as one week old in a small amount of water, make sure to watch them at all times and dry them off when they are done!

Will all ducks fly?

Any wild duck will fly and should be kept in an aviary. They won't fly if you pinion them when they are a day old or clip their wing feathers regularly. Any bantam duck (calls, BEI's, etc.) can also fly. Most farm ducks and domesticated breeds either can not fly or get a few feet off the ground and then flop down.

Do they have to have a pool or pond?

Wild ducks should have something to swim in, whether it be a small pond with a liner, a kiddy pool, or even a plastic tupperware container. They use the water to preen. Which in return, keeps their feathers healthy and good-looking.

If they have a pond, do they need drinking water also?

Yes. They will most likely dirty their pond water quickly, would you like to drink nasty brown water?

How do I keep their water from freezing?

In the winter months, we let the small pond freeze over, they can live without swimming for a few months. Make sure they still have access to clean fresh water, though. Every morning we fill up a waterer and replace it with the frozen waterer in the aviary; we just keep switching them out.

What kind of bedding should I use in the brooder?

I place wood chips (NOT CEDAR) in their brooder. I cover this up with paper towels for the first few days while the ducklings are getting their footing and learning to eat.

What should my brooder setup include?

An ideal brooder for wild ducklings should have a waterer, a feed dispenser, a heat bulb, thermometer, and some sort of top. The wild ducklings can climb very well; this is why a top is needed. The top can be wood with small windows or just some chicken wire. I've included a picture of my brooder earlier this spring. It doesn't have a top because it housed domesticated ducks.

How warm should the brooder be?

For the first three days, I keep my brooder at 95 degrees fahrenheit. Throughout the first week it stays at 90 degrees. Every week after that it decreases 5 degrees until the outdoor temperature equals the brooder temperature. Then, I let them out into the aviary.  

What kind of coop/house do they need?  

Because wild ducks can fly, they need a covered shelter. I keep mine in an aviary covered with flight netting. They also need shelter within the aviary for protection from the elements.                                                                 

When do they start to lay?    

Mandarins, Wood Ducks, Ringed Teals, and Call Ducks are seasonal layers, they lay and hatch eggs in the spring. Most will lay on their first spring. A good rule of thumb is if the male of whatever breed you have gets his breeding plumage in the fall of the year he was born, that pair will most likely have babies their first spring.  

Most domesticated and farm ducks are bred to be egg layers. These breeds will lay year round.                                                                                      

How do you tell if they are male or female?

With most wild species, the male will have a lot more color than the female. 

With domesticated ducks that descended from the mallard (i.e. calls, cayugas, khaki campbells, pekins) the male and female can be told apart by a couple ways.

  • Once fully feathered with adult feathers, the male will have curled tail feathers
  • Once ducks start quacking, the female will have a loud quack, while the male has a soft raspy voice
  • In some breeds, the male will be more colorful than the female.

As babies with either wild or farm ducks, they can be vent sexed exposing the sexual organs. This should only be performed by experienced sexers as it can harm the bird if done incorrectly.

Why do they act so afraid of people?

Wild ducks are naturally skittish. However, if you don't make sudden moves and continue a daily routine with them, they will calm down. We have also noticed that when we house the call ducks in the aviary during the winter, they teach the wild ducks to not be afraid of us.

Are they OK in the snow?

Ducks love the snow! They also have many tiny veins running through their feet which is why they can stand on the snowy ground and not freeze their feet. They also have their own "down" coat built right in. Make sure to provide them with shelter from the elements and they will go in there when they want to.

How many females to a drake?

Wild ducks generally form monogamous pairs and will not breed in trios.

What should I set my incubator at for duck eggs?

I have successfully hatched ducklings in an incubator set at 99.5 degrees with a humidity of 60-70% for the first 25 days and then increase it to 70-80% during hatching.