Get your ducks in a row – What you need to know before bringing home ducks -
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Get your ducks in a row – What you need to know before bringing home ducks

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If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – do you know how to care for it?

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society recently had about a dozen ducklings from various locations around the GTA come into its care. Many were found wandering in urban areas, some in poor shape due to dehydration and lack of food.

Some people may think it’s fun to foster them as an activity for the family, but it’s important to keep in mind the specialized care they require. While ducklings are cute, know what you’re getting into before you agree to foster them or provide them with a life-long home.

Fostering ducklings
  1. Ducks need a large, fenced outdoor area with access to an insulated coop for protection against the elements during harsh weather, and to keep them safe from predators, including dogs, cats and wildlife. They cannot be properly cared for inside your home.
  2. Ducks are messy. Really messy. They love water and spend their time constantly splashing around in it. They also dunk their food in water, which means keeping their water supply clean and topped up can be a full-time job. As a result of all that splashing, their bedding – typically wood shavings – also needs to be removed and disposed of frequently.
  3. Ducks can quickly strip down a grassy area. They need a large, fenced area and are not suitable for the average backyard.
  4. Birds of a feather flock together and ducks need to be in the company of other ducks. They are social birds and need other duck companions to stay socially and mentally healthy.
  5. Just like any animals, ducks need a specific diet to stay healthy and thrive. A mix of scratch grains, bugs and greens, such as grass (or leafy greens like lettuce during the winter months) are needed.
  6. Ducks require routine veterinary care to keep them healthy. If you are thinking of adding some ducks to your family as a companion, first seek out an avian veterinarian who is willing to provide medical care.
  7. Like children, ducklings require supervision when swimming. They can drown if they are unable to get out of the water by themselves, and they also are susceptible to hypothermia as their feathers are not yet waterproof.
  8. If you have sufficient space and are prepared for the care that comes along with having a duck, check your municipal bylaws to ensure that you are permitted to keep ducks.
  9. If you’ve checked off all the boxes above and are prepared to meet the needs of these feathered friends, note that ducks live, on average, to the age of seven or eight years of age. Be sure you are prepared for that commitment
  10. It’s also important to note that there are many zoonotic diseases associated with birds and poultry that can be passed on to humans. Know the risks and practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, if you are thinking of welcoming ducks or other birds into your life. You can also find more information on the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention website.
ducklings, duck
The ducklings were found in someone’s backyard pond

What happens if you are no longer able to care for your ducks? Abandoning them by setting them free is not a humane option, as domestic ducks are unable to survive in the wild. Contact your local SPCA or Humane Society or a reputable rescue or sanctuary that accepts ducks to discuss re-homing options.

*Note: this information applies to domestic ducks only. Fostering or caring for wild ducks requires a special permit.

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