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Flying mallards can be an ideal addition to a waterside retreat or backyard pond. Not as big-bodied as domesticated breeds, mallards can elude their enemies by taking flight. The ducks reproduce naturally, hiding their nests among reeds or using a nest box you provide. Skilled at foraging for themselves, mallards provide an easy-keep choice.
Hand-raised mallards will tend to remain where they have been brought up, providing their needs are sufficiently met. For the first weeks of life, your ducklings will need supplemental heat as their feathers come in. Start with a 90-degree temperature, reducing by 5 degrees each week until you reach 75 degrees when they are 4 weeks old. Provide bedding that offers good footing to prevent crippling leg injuries. Straw or grass works well. Wood chips or sawdust will block intestines if swallowed.
Food and Water
New ducklings should be given chick starter for the first couple of weeks and can be switched to chick grower when they're about 4 weeks old. Provide fresh, clean water next to the food as ducks will take a mouthful of food and wash it down with water. A duck attempting to eat without water may choke. After ducks are fully feathered, you may turn them into a predator-safe area to supplement their diet with bugs, grass and other non-toxic vegetation.
Baby mallards can succumb easily to hypothermia or drown before they are fully feathered. The oil gland providing waterproofing does not develop until they're feathered in. Mother ducks in the wild waterproof their ducklings with oil transferred from their own feathers and oil glands. Watch newly feathered ducks the first few times in the water and make sure they can get out easily. A child's wading pool with large rocks on one end to stand on can make an ideal training area.
If you keep your mallard in a cage or pen, provide a minimum of 10 square feet for each duck. Provide a lean-to or house so ducks can escape rain, sun, wind and snow. A pool is not necessary, but make sure to provide water deep enough that a duck can dip its nostrils under the water to moisten its mucous membranes. Clean the pen or cage daily to prevent bad odors and bacteria buildup.
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