4 Basic Needs:
Protection from predators-Every night they should be penned up in a building or a securely fenced area to avoid being a tasty meal for a would be predator.
Balanced diet-2nd leading cause to flock problems is improper nutrition. Avoid medicated feed. Get duck chow from your feed store.
A constant supply of drinking water- Ducks will not thrive if frequently left without water.
Clean and dry living area- Stagnant water holes and wet dirty bedding lead to illness.
Ducks don't need an elaborate house. Unlike chickens they rather stay outside day and night in most weather. A simple 3 sided staw/hay bale structure, stacked 2 high, will provide protection to keep ducks happy in areas where temperatures dip to 0*F.
Waterfowl sleep on the ground or on water. Best to bring them in at night if they free range. A fence with the bottom buried 6-12 inches in the ground and at least 4 foot high, enclosing the yard, is enough to stop many predators. However, for some of the craftier predators, a small building where ducks can be locked in after dark is a must.
The building need not be more than a couple feet high at the lowest point. In mild climates three solid walls and a 1/4 inch wire front for ventilation. In areas with severe winters, below zero, it's better to have a solid front with wire covered ventilation holes/slots at top and bottom of building. Straw bales maybe placed around the outside walls for insulation in the northern bitter winters.
Dirt or sand floors are best to ensure good drainage. Place the building on a slope or build up the floor 4-8 inches above level. Cover the floor with bedding. Most popular bedding materials are pine shavings or straw 4-6 inches deep. I like using straw and"deep litter" method.
Allow 3-4 square feet of floor space per bird for housing only at night and 6-8 minimum if they will be in the house continuously.
The most expensive item in duck raising. Commercial rations are the simplest way to provide a balanced diet. Pellet type feed vice crumbles will save on waste, as less is dropped on the way to the water. Feed formulated for ducks is not available in all areas, non-medicated turkey and chicken feeds can be used in place of duck mixtures. If chicken ration is used and niacin is not 25%-35% (mg) per lb of feed, a niacin supplement maybe added to feed or water. Protein requirements for laying birds is 16%. Holding ration while not laying is 12%-14%. Feed free choice or twice daily. Slowly go from one feed to another by mixing feeds as a sudden change in diet may throw a hen into a premature molt. Use of 18%-20% ration can be used during a molt to promote good feather growth. If a gamebird or turkey ration is feed the protein will be too high. One may mix the feed with grain to lower the protein % to the proper amount Click here to see How
Insects are a good source of protein. Ducks of all ages are superlative bug hunters. Hang a low wat bulb a couple feet above the ground in the duck yard at night and your birds will have an evening of dining pleasure.
Eggs. Can't eat all those eggs..? Feed them back to the ducks. Eggs are an excellent source of nutrition and considered a "complete food". When egg is added to the diet, they grow better, have shinier feathers, and lay more. Unprepared for those ducklings and didn't buy feed....use eggs. NEVER feed raw eggs. Boil them until the yolk is cooked throughly but not "grey". Chop them up shell and all for full grown ducks, remove the shell for ducklings.
Greens are a great supplement to the ducks diet. Toss some fresh greens in the water bowl or pool and they'll go nuts. A few greens high in vit A include: chard, spinach, romaine lettuce and alfalfa. Rabbit pellets are good source of alfalfa and easy for ducks to eat.
Grit and Calcium. Continuous free choice of granite grit, course sand or small gravel helps digest feed. During the laying season supplement diet with free choice calcium in the form of oyster shell, egg shell or ground lime stone.
Drinking water is required, a pool is not. Ducks however, enjoy a dip in the pool and are fun to watch splash around. A kiddie pool is inexpensive and easy to keep clean.
A constant supply of clean drinking water is a must. Ducks need to clean their nostrils and eyes often containers need to be deep enough to allow this. Buckets, dishpans, hot water tanks or 50 gal drums cut vertically in half are good water containers.
Have enough space for the number of ducks in your flock. Yard space needed per bird is 10-25 square feet with natural or artificial shade. Ducks are cool weather animals and suffer in the heat of the sun over 70F.
Ducks can handle wet weather but not muddy, dirty yards or buildings. Add layers of new bedding or remove and replace it as it becomes wet and dirty. Keep the yard free of mud holes and stagnant water, fill would be areas with sand or fresh dirt. Keep unhealthy mud holes from being made around water containers by placing them on wire covered platforms. Use buckets or pastic tuperware type containers instead of poultry water fountains that empty quickly due to water splashing out. Container top that is about level with the ducks back is a good height.
Most ducks start laying sometime after after 20 weeks of age. Clean eggs hatch better and remain fresh longer than eggs that must be washed. Washing is not needed unless eggs are badly soild. Have enough nests for your hens. One nest for every 4 hens is plenty. Nest size for med-large hens is 1 foot square and 1 foot high placed on the ground and don't need a solid bottom. If nests are in a building no cover is required. Keep plenty of fresh nesting material, like straw or hay, in the nest to encourage use, produce clean eggs and minimize breakage.
Don't allow ducks to eat old wet or damp feed. Once feed gets wet it spoils quickly and can cause serious illness. Put food and water far enough apart so they don't soak the food. Medicated feed is not needed. Ducks, when properly cared for, get very few if any diseases. If it's not sick don't medicate it...ducks may die from over dose of medicated chicken feed.
Empty, clean and fill the kiddie pool/swimming container at least once daily. Never allow the water to become putrid. Drinking water containers/fountains may need to be dumped and fill with fresh clean water 2-3 times a day. Scrub and wash all water fountains weeky to remove any build up and bacteria.