Many people ask us how to handle a pet duck during the winter months. Given the outdoor nature of a ducks and other waterfowl, the winter can pose some threats to your pet’s well-being. However, with some simple preparation and care, your pet ducks or even ducklings can thrive and love the winter months.
Here are some guidelines to follow-
- Shelter – Even in the harsh winter months, ducks are capable of being outside. The key is that you must provide them the heat source which will allow them to get warm if they need to. Essentially, you should either provide a shelter that the ducks can freely move in and out of (such as a Rubbermaid Shed), or you should bring them in every night into a garage or shed.
- Insulation – Any shelter you create should be well insulated, have adequate duck bedding , be windproof, and be waterproof. Also, if you have a pen or shelter that the ducks will have free access to, the doorway should not be open. A rubber flap or something in line with a doggie door works great stop heat loss due to draftiness.
- Shelter Size – Depending on the size of your flock, the size of the shelter should be small enough that the collected heat of the ducks will warm it, but large enough to provide the animals with freedom of movement and the ability to escape the heat should they get too warm.
- Heat Lamp – An artificial heating source such as a heat lamp works wonderfully to provide the ducks and other farm fowl with warming spot. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using this method -
- LiveDucks recommends a 75-100 watt of the standard variety, ceramic type, or infrared type.
- Ensure the heat lamp is out of all animals’ reach, and is not near any flammable materials.
- Make sure the ducks can escape from the heat lamp area (without going outside), should they get too warm.
- Dryness – Even though ducks are inherently waterfowl, it is vital that they are capable of drying themselves to stay alive. This is especially true during the winter time. Again, it is key to make sure there is adequate, clean and dry bedding available for them. You should change this often (once / day) to prevent mold buildup which is especially hazardous during the winter.
- Breed Hardiness – Many of the types of ducks that are available as pets are domestic breeds that are very hardy during harsh winters. The Pekin Ducks or Rouen Ducks, for example, are large enough such that they will survive quite well. If you have a smaller breed such as Call Ducks or Mallard Ducks, you may need to take extra winter precaution in colder climates.
- Ventilation - Make sure the air inside any shelter doesn’t become trapped or stagnant. If you are using a smaller shelter this can be hazardous. Small air holes combined with good insulation are key to achieving the right balance of heat and fresh air.
- Ponds – Pet Ducks will still enjoy bathing and splashing in ponds just like during the Summer. There are some deicing solutions available which will keep your pond area liquid if you would like to provide this comfort. Also, for small ponds, a pond heater may work wonderfully. LiveDucks.com recommends a company called Pond Solutions for small pond heating and deicing.
Ducks and other waterfowl are like other animals in that they have adapted to their climate and to all weather that they are naturally exposed to. However, keep in mind that your pet duck is most likely a domesticated breed. Much of their survival characteristics have been bred out over hundreds of years to make them a strong farm fowl.
Finally, do not let a harsh Winter intimidate you or keep you from ordering a pet duck. One of the main hatcheries eFowl.com uses is near the frigid Winters of the Canadian border, and the ducks still thrive as healthy as ever. Like most aspects of pet ownership, simple research and preparation will trump any extreme conditions that you may encounter.