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Young girl with a duckling in her hand

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – When spring rolls around it may sound like a good idea to take a trip to the local farm supply or pet store to purchase a chick or duckling for a child’s Easter basket. More often than not, people do not understand the commitment they are making by purchasing this animal. This sadly leads to neglected animals. It is important to fully understand what it takes to properly raise these animals before buying them.

Chicks

Two chicks standing on a tableKen Macklin, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System poultry specialist, said before purchasing a chick, there are several items that are necessary to have at home.

“To properly raise a chick, people must have a heat source, such as an incandescent bulb, and a container to raise the chick in,” Macklin said. “In the container, make sure there is space for the chick to thermoregulate, meaning they can get in and out of the heat.”

There are also standard items, such as feed and water that people need to have. For chicks, they need to be fed a starter feed. Overtime, the feed will advance to other stages, such as a layer pellet feed. When it comes to water, Macklin suggests that people invest in a water jar, rather than just a bowl.

“A water bowl will work; however, people would have the extra task of making sure the chick doesn’t get into the water,” he said. “If a chick gets wet, they may start having problems staying warm.”

Macklin also said it is important to change the water often; he prefers changing it daily.

Ducklings

While there are some similarities in raising a chick and a duckling, there are some distinct differences to note. Ducklings will also need a heat source for the first part of their lives, but they do not require as long of a brood time as chicks do.

When it comes to the feed, the University of Missouri Extension publication Brooding and Rearing Ducklings and Goslings says that people can use a chick or poult starter feed for the first week to 10 days. However, people must use a feed that only contains additives approved for ducks and geese. Drugs found in some chick starter feeds may be harmful to ducklings.

Macklin said that having access to water is a must for raising ducks.

“Ducklings need a bowl or something with water in it, not only for drinking, but also because they like to swim,” Macklin said. “Ducklings can get wet because their feathers shed water, unlike a chick’s feathers, which absorb water.”

Understanding Their Habits

Aside from the daily management aspects, people should know the habits and natural instincts of these animals. Chickens need at least 5 square feet of space to live in. While ducks can live within these parameters, they are much happier in a larger area. This area must also include access to water for swimming.

According to Macklin, both chickens and ducks are naturally noisy and messy.

“Chickens do make noise, roosters much more than hens, but I find ducks to be even noisier and messier,” Macklin said.

Chickens often like to take dust baths in the sand or soil. Ducks like to dig in the mud and often quack loudly when something alarms or excites them. Also, like any other birds, the droppings from chickens and ducks are something that people will have to deal with.

One other thing people need to consider are the social aspects of these animals. Chickens are social animals and do not like to be left alone.

“If you only have one chicken, they need to be let out and played with,” Macklin said. “However, chickens are great to get in multiples. If you purchase several chickens, they can entertain themselves and do not need to be played with as often.”

Ducks are not as social as chickens, so having just one isn’t as much of a problem. However, they do prefer to be around other ducks.

More Information

Being raised as pets, both chickens and ducks can live for approximately seven years. When purchasing these animals, people are making a long-term commitment. They are much more than something cute and fluffy to put into an Easter basket. For more information on raising chickens or ducks, visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu

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