By Heather Harris of The Homesteading Hippy
Raising ducks on your homestead is fun. They are full of personality, enjoyable to watch and relaxing to be around. When the weather is warm, they are very low maintenance. Fill their pool with fresh water, add some yummy nourishing food, and collect the fresh eggs. In warm weather, they don’t even need a duck coop. (More on getting started with ducks here.)
Raising ducks in a cold, harsh, winter environment is a bit different, but not difficult. It takes a few extra steps of care and some planning ahead, but your ducks can be happy egg producers all year round if they have a duck coop to escape the nasty weather.
Give them some extra straw in their duck coop and run area.
Since most duck breeds don’t roost like chickens do, they are on the ground all the time. This will help keep them off the cold ground. We lay a full bale of straw down two to three times throughout the winter. We collect the old straw for our compost pile, then new straw is scattered through out the coop. The ducks will settle into the straw, and build nests to lay their eggs in. This makes it much easier to find their eggs instead of the daily hunt, too.
Think about how you will keep their water from freezing.
Ducks LOVE water and need it to eat their food. To make sure they have water on hand during the winter, I use several heated bowls and buckets around their coop so that I don’t need to worry about chipping away frozen blocks when it’s 30 degrees below. We have to fill those buckets two to three times a day, as they seem to spill their water everywhere. (Ducks are not the neatest animals with water.) We also remove it at night, since all they will do is play in it and make a mess.
Along with the water spillage, in cold temps, there will be ICE.
To combat slipping and sliding all over the place, we use straw around the water buckets by basically burying the water buckets in straw two to three inches deep. The straw helps to minimize the formation of ice. We replace it often with the old straw going into the compost pile. I have also seen people place their water buckets inside old tires to help minimize the spilling and ice forming.
Keep them fed.
Since ducks will not be able to forage for much food when there’s snow and ice everywhere, you need to make sure that they get enough feed. We usually plan on at least doubling their food rations each winter. That, along with fodder and added treats such as cracked corn, peanuts, or cabbage shreds will help keep them happy and healthy.
Ducks do NOT need extra light to continue to lay.
They also do NOT need a heat lamp in their coop. Both are a terrible fire hazard, especially if the coop is not wired specifically for lighting. The layers of fat and feathers that ducks are equipped with keep them warm, even when they are wet. Our ducks are five to seven years old, and still continue to lay five eggs a week in the winter without light.
As you can see, duck care in the winter is pretty easy. You can keep a happy, healthy flock all winter long, even in the coldest of areas! Do you keep ducks? What are some tips you have for winter care?
Heather and her family live in Northern Indiana where they work hard at raising 80% of their own food each year, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail, rabbits and a large garden. Join their (mis)adventures at The Homesteading Hippy or laugh with them on their new YouTube series.