under 3 weeks old (under 6 inches in length): In a small indoor cage with access to a heating pad or other form of heat (they are unable to generate their own body heat). Should not have access to water other than very shallow dish for drinking. A chick waterer is preferable and can be purchased online for under $1.00 at JeffersLivestock.com. This is very important, otherwise you may lose your ducklings to hypothermia or drowning. They are not water-proofed without their mother.
3-6 weeks old (between 6-9 inches in length): should be regulating their own body temperature; larger indoor or well protected outdoor cage. Introduce wading/baby pool once underbelly is fully-lined with feathers.
6-12 weeks old: house outdoors, safe, locked caging from predators (dogs, raccoons, etc). Use small gauge wire to wrap enclosure but never use chicken wire. Unlimited access to wading/baby pool to encourage "waterproofing"
12+ weeks: release; can fly and safely lift off water to escape snapping turtles. Is fearful of most humans and all pets. Has learned to seek out natural diet from soil and does not readily accept "handouts". Rate of survival is greatly increased by releasing groups of 2 or more juveniles together.
under 3 weeks old: primary diet should soley consist of Egg Maker Crumbles mixed 1:1 with water (unmedicated) available from the local Feed and Seed. Constant access to clean drinking water; "Chick Waterers" are ideal for this and cost $1-$3 at your local feed and seed. Can offer 10% dark greens and small insects. Anything else can lead to hypoglycemia (seizures from low blood sugar) or metabolic bone disease (not enough calcium, phosphorus, D3).
3-12 weeks old: In addition to earlier diet, allow "rooting" in yard and can also add Scratch Grains to diet (available from Feed and Seed or Food Lion).
The primary complaint in raising ducklings is mess and odor. The most efficient way to house ducklings indoors is in wire bottom cages so that spillage and droppings fall through to the newspapered tray below. Wrap a sheet or towel to cover all sides of the cage except the very front. This will prevent food from being flung everywhere while they "dabble'. Offer a toweled area in the cage where they can rest as a group and stay warm, but replace the towel frequently. Avoid using hay or straw for substrate; it encourages bacterial growth and heavy odors. Use diluted bleach to clean caging; primarily to neutralize odors.
Never raise a single duckling alone. Muscovies are domestic ducks and will imprint on humans, this includes sexual imprinting. Once mature, they will attempt to mate with humans (because they have been imprinted) following release. These ducks will be destroyed by Animal Control if complaints arise. Avoid this problem by raising at least two ducklings and allowing them to bond with one another instead of you (no matter how much they "peep" for attention). Handle them as little as possible and don't let them interact with your pets (otherwise they will think that all dogs and cats are friendly!). They will live longer after release if you raise them to understand that humans and pets are potential predators.
Do not release into an already over-populated area, otherwise local residents will "fix" the over-population problem themselves. Always take a fish net with you on releases in case a duck is not properly waterproofed and you need to rescue the drowning duck. Please keep in contact with us regarding the development of the ducklings, and do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns.
After finding a suitable nesting spot, the female will return each day to lay an egg. After she has finished laying all the eggs (between 12-30), she will remain on the nest fulltime to begin incubation. This will take approximately 34 days. The ducklings will all hatch on the same day, and then she will lead them to the safety of water. She will repeat this cycle up to three/four times per year.
Humane Domestic Duck Management
The goal is to humanely keep populations in check so that acts of cruelty against domestic ducks are reduced. Many people don't like Muscovy ducks and feel they have a negative impact on wild duck populations. When they outnumber wild populations, incidents of cruelty increase.
During the laying period (before incubation), the eggs are still dormat and should be vigorously shaken to cause the internal structure to change. Each shaken egg should be dated with a crayon the day it is shaken and returned to the nest. It can also be coated with vegetable oil. If the eggs are not returned to the nest, the female will mate again and start a new one. Do not shake two of the eggs so that the female will have young to care for, instead of starting another nest once she realizes that the eggs won't hatch. Keep the unshaken eggs on top of or away from any oiled eggs. The shaken eggs can be safely discarded one week after the female leaves the nest with her new ducklings; or 45 days after incubation began. NEVER shake an incubated egg; it has begun development and rather than rendering the egg infertile it will result in a deformed duckling.
Note: This information refers to domestic ducks only! It is a violation of federal law to disturb the eggs, nests, or raise ducklings of all wild ducks without first obtaining the necessary permits.