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Duck Meat and Egg Production (Part 2)

Have you been wanting to start your own duck business? Here’s a no-nonsense guide to jumpstart your way to success.

A small flock of ducks may be raised in the backyard at a low cost. Apart from the brooder, which is needed for the first week or so, facilities and equipment for duck raising are fairly simple. Duck houses must be built in a quiet, cool place and should be at a nearest possible location to a stream or pond. Suitable local materials include bamboo, nipa and cogon. The duck house is ideally located on a well-drained area. Sandy soil is preferable for the duck yard as it drains easily after a rain. The earth floor of the duck house should be bedded with dry absorbent material such as straw or shavings. A low fencing of approximately 61cm is adequate for breeds that are not adept to becoming airborne like Pekins.

However, there two types of commercial duck housing, which are total confinement and semiconfinement. Modern total confinement housing is well insulated and mechanically ventilated. Ducks are isolated in age groups, whether in separate buildings or in separate pens with a solid partition between them. There are also two types of floor design, all wire mesh or a combination of litter and wire mesh with waterers located on the wire.

Water fowl drink excretes more water than land fowl. Thus there is extra demand on the ventilation and heating systems to remove extra moisture and maintain the ideal temperature. Ventilation systems in commercial duck houses may be the negative pressure type with adjustable or automatically controlled air inlets and exhaust fans located along the side walls.

Modern confined duck housing, when properly designed and managed, is capable of providing ducks with a high degree of protection from harmful effects of extreme weather and entry of avian diseases. It is ideal to have the advise of an agricultural engineer who is familiar with duck housing when designing the buildings, if it is available. The structure should be able to exclude wild birds from the buildings to prevent introduction and spread of diseases. Modern commercial duck housing helps to allow year-round production and marketing at an earlier age, and improves feedĀ  conversion and allows for a more predictable and usually better weight-gain.

Semi-confinement duck housing, on the other hand, allows ducks at age over two to three weeks to go outdoors during the day. Ducks at age over four weeks may spend their time outdoors with minimum usage of the shelter.

A swimming pond may be provided with measurements of 10.0 feet wide and 20.0 feet long for every 50 ducks.

Ducks may be grouped according to size or age. This facilitates management and minimize fights as these are common for ducks of different ages. Older ducks tend to push out younger ducks from the feeders.

Flooring and floor space
Overcrowding can be detrimental to the ducks’ health, growth, and egg production. Adequate floor space should be provided at each stage of the brood’s development. Undercrowding may not be a problem in duck raising, however, ducks should be stocked at recommended density when in cold weather so the body heat can warm up the room.
Each duck should be provided, with at least three to four feet of floor space. A shelter housing 100 ducks should be ideally measured at 4 x 4 meters and 3 meters high or high enough to allow a man to stand inside. The floor may be covered with rice hulls, corn cobs, peanut hulls or the like. These materials kept the flooring dry and clean thus preventing the spread of pests and diseases.

Indoor floor space allotments for ducks should follow recommended space for each growth stage. At age one week, each duck should be provided with at least 0.31 sq ft or 289 sq cm. At age two weeks, ducks should be provided with 0.62 sq ft or 576 sq cm. At age three weeks, 1.10 sq ft or 1024 sq cm. At age four weeks, 1.47 sq ft or 1369 sq cm. At age five weeks, 1.9o sq ft or 1764 sq cm. At age six weeks, 2.28 sq ft or 2116 sq cm. At age seven weeks, 2.48 sq ft or 2304 sq cm. Developing breeders must be provided with 2.69 sq ft each or 2500 sq cm, while laying breeders require 3.02 Sq ft or 2809 sq cm. Ducks allowed outdoors should have twice as much outdoor space as allowed indoors.

It is important to ensure that the shelter flooring is free from materials that can injure the skin covering the feet and hock joints of the animals. The smooth skin of ducks is not as tough as that of land fowl, and is more susceptible to injury when ducks are confined on surfaces that are too rough, or abrasive. Feet and leg injuries may be caused by slats, wire floors or cage bottoms unless these are smooth, non-abrasive and free of sharp edges. Stones combined with the soil in the duck .yard may also cause injury. Damaging effects of flooring on ducks increases with age and size of the animal as well as the time duration the ducks are exposed to the flooring. However, the probability of injury is significantly reduced if the wire floors are minimized to one-fourth to one third of the floor area. Wire floors, when properly constructed, may be better than slats. Slats can cause leg deformities and skin injuries. Wire floors for ducklings under age three weeks should be constructed of 1.90 cm or 3/4 inch mesh, 12-gauge welded wire, and should be attached to a frame designed to keep the wire flat and minimize litter accumulation. Recommended measurement for ducks aged more than three weeks is 2.5cm or 1.0 inch mesh. Vinyl coated wire is ideal, however smooth galvanized wire is also satisfactory.

Litter management
Ducks drink and excrete more water than land fowl. Duck droppings contain more than 90% moisture thus extra measures are necessary to maintain litter floors inside sheltered areas in dry condition. Fresh bedding should be regularly added on top of soiled or wet bedding. Old litter should be cleaned out regularly and replaced with a fresh batch.

Ducks in semi-confinement grow where ducklings spend most of their time outdoors during the day after the first three weeks, waterers should be located outside as far away from the house as possible. This reduces tracking water to the litter. Duck yards may be maintained in clean condition by removing the upper few inches of the soil and replaced with clean soil when necessary.

Ventilation
Backyard duck houses or small flock duck houses do not necessarily need mechanical ventilation such as those in commercial duck buildings. Nevertheless, small duck houses enclosed on all sides still require proper ventilation. Adequate air exchange may be provided by window openings and ridge ventilations. Larger duck houses that are enclosed on all sides may be equipped with ventilation fans.

Commercial duck buildings should be designed with the advise of an agricultural engineer or expert to provide proper ventilation to the shelter.

Lighting
Supplemental lighting, when provided, greatly increases the laying period of ducks. Lack of supplemental lighting makes egg production seasonal and dependent on natural day length. By adding artificial light, the daily light period is extended to 14 hours and prevent any decrease in day length provides adequate light stimulation for ducks to lay eggs continuously for seven to 12 months depending on their ability to lay and other conditions.

In semi-confinement growing, it is ideal to turn artificial lights on at a set time before sunrise and off after sunrise, and on again before sunset and off again after sunset to maintain a constant light period of 14 hours and a dark period of io hours each day. This may be accomplished through the assistance of electric time clocks that turn lights on and off at set times. However, if timers cannot be used, lights may be left on 24 hours a day or switched on and off manually as necessary. Forty watt light bulbs, 8 feet or 2.4 m to 10 feet or 3 m high, spaced 14 feet or 4.3 m apart provides ample light ( one foot candle at duck eye level) to stimulate egg production.

Growing ducks, however, do not necessarily require artificial light. Ducks are nocturnal and can feed and water in the dark, although artificial lighting is needed during the first few days as the ducklings will need assistance in getting started in drinking and eating in the dark. Supplemental lighting should be provided for the first three weeks. Growing ducks in totally confined shelters as in commercial production will require some light every day.

Dim light from low wattage bulbs can help – at night to prevent stampeding if the flock is disturbed. Increases or decreases in day length should be avoided as much as possible during the development period of breeder-laver ducks.

Feeders and feeding space
Most feeders for chicken and other poultry are acceptable for ducks, granted they are provided with ample space for the larger bill of ducks and their shoveling eating motion. Trough feeders may be used if ducks are handfed. When using feed hoppers, they should be constructed so that feed will slide down freely into the bottom of the hopper as feed is consumed. Feed wastage can be prevented by providing an apron in front of the feeding area. This catches the feed that is dropped or billed out.

Ducklings eat frequently during the early growth stages. The need to cat becomes less frequent as they grow older, as they are able to store increasing amounts of feed in their esophagus at each feeding. At age four weeks, Pekin ducks are able to consume at least 100 grams of pellets at a single feeding. For the first three weeks, each animal must be provided with 2.50 cm or inch feeder space. This space may be gradually reduced by half as long as there is no crowding at the feed hoppers. Developing breeders that are being fed with a daily allotted feeding must be provided with ample feeding space so that all birds can eat at once. This requires about 10.0 cm or 4 inches of linear space per duck.

to be continued…