Keeping ducks is fairly easy (although quite messy), *touch wood* they are mostly problem free and thrive through the summer and winter months. However, since lockdown their feathers have appeared damp. Wet-feather can be a result of poor diet, lack of vitamins, parasites, no access to water or muddy conditions. Although we have supplemented the diets of our ducks since they have been in lockdown, they don’t have access to the plentiful grass and greenery that our 3-acre field offers them.
So, to try and tackle this issue, we have rammed up their diet, including several dark greens and cuttlefish in addition to the meal-worms, peas and tuna they were already getting – please consider sponsoring our ducks to make sure we can continue to supplement their diets throughout the bird flu lockdown.
You’re probably wondering, ducks are always in water, so aren’t their feathers usually wet anyway? Well, actually, no! Have you ever heard the saying “it’s like water off a duck’s back?”. This is a popular phrase to describe something having no effect on a person, just like water runs off a ducks back, having no effect on the duck itself.
Ducks have a gland on their rump which is called the preen gland. This gland produces oil in which the ducks ‘preen’ their feathers with, making them absolutely waterproof and ready to swim all day long without catching a chill. When preening, the duck uses its beak to comb the oil through his or her feathers. In addition, their feathers have very small hooks on them called barbicelli which interlock and create a protective waterproof layer for the duck, allowing the water to literally roll off their coat.
Although the case of wet feather in our ducks is mild, we decided to tackle the issue sooner rather than later. In order to treat wet feather, the best thing to do is host a duck spa day! We rustled up some lukewarm water to wash our feathered friends. There is debate over wether washing up liquid should be added to water, but we decided not to – in order to not disrupt their natural oil production. Always wash and move gently in the direction of the feathers, allowing any muck to run off the bird. Rinse them thoroughly and blow dry! Of course being careful not to get too close or burn the duck.
For the most part, the ducks enjoyed their spa day – they experienced some new scenery and enjoyed spending some time in warm water. The girls loved having their bellies blow dried and stood gracefully throughout. Deefer the drake however believed the hairdryer to be another male duck and tried his very best to ward off the noisy competitor, which in turn made it very difficult (but highly amusing) for us! It was a successful intervention and the ducks are no longer looking soggy and are very glossy and smooth.
We would also like to say a huge thank you to the Parish of Ockbrook and Borrowash who helped fund the duck pen extension! These guys are loving their new space.