Ducks and their welfare needs

Duck welfare and protection

Protecting our animal friends and their mothers 

Ducks – animal welfare

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate not only people but also baby animals and their mothers. It’s a celebration honoring the mother of the family, the amazing bonds created and influences they have on our lives, the same goes for all our animal friends too.

Waterfowl are swimming birds like swans, game birds and geese, in fact, the duck is related to them but are smaller than them. These amazing birds need to be free to carry out their water-related behaviors, like head dipping and they always need access to open water sources for full body access. Normally they are found in places where there is water, like ponds and lakes.

Female ducks are called hens and have brown feathers, which help them to camouflage themselves from predators and protect their young. The male duck is called a drake and has colorful feathers to attract the female ducks.

Naturally, they will spend a lot of time in and around water. They have complex behaviors like regularly preening their feathers which helps them to control their body temperature and remove parasites. There is a special gland called the ‘Preen Gland’ above their tail which produces oil to help coat their feathers and keep them waterproof. Underneath these feathers are softer ones which help to keep the duck warm.

They love water and travel miles every year to live in warmer climates and rest, breed and raise their young. In their natural habitat, they can live from 2-20 years, sometimes wild ducks can live longer.

Farmed ducks

Alarmingly, under UK law ducks don’t have to have access to water only for drinking purposes which are usually only provided to them through nipple drinkers. This is totally unacceptable and the legislation should be changed to make it mandatory for all producers to provide farmed ducks with open water facilities allowing them full body access.

Ducks need fresh, clean water and easy access to plenty of it always. Even during extreme weather conditions, they need access to water. They spend a lot of their time eating in and around water and they need a balanced diet given their breed and age.

However, there are many farmed animals who have little or no access to water including ducks.

Reared in indoor and outdoor systems, these ducks are commercially bred to produce meat. These birds are reared until slaughter age which is approximately between 42-56 days old, they are then caught and put into crates for transportation to an abattoir.

In the UK, the bulk of commercial meat is reared in indoor systems.

Often thousands of birds crammed together within a building generally with no access to an open water source for bathing.

Even free-range birds are housed like indoor ones although they may be given access to an outdoor area during the day.

Healthy birds are alert and inquisitive, poor health can present symptoms such as; their head tucked under their wing, hiding and not moving around much.

Always contact a vet if you have concerns about their health or welfare.

 

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