Winter Duck Care
Don’t worry, the ducks are fine!
During the winter months, this is a regular declaration for many duck owners. When people see our ducks plopped down in four inches of snow or withstanding an icy blizzard, they often ask, are the ducks okay? Are they warm enough? Do they need a heater or heat lamp?
Luckily, ducks are extremely resilient, cold-hardy animals, which is why they were our first choice for a backyard farm animal. Here in Colorado, temperatures can drop below zero degrees during the wintertime and snow is a constant. Thankfully, ducks have remarkable physical adaptations that allow them to withstand our wonderful, snowy Colorado winters!
Ducks are equipped with some of the best natural defenses against the elements. These animals have a double-layer of waterproof feathers and an interior layer of insulating, downy feathers. Underneath all of those feathers, ducks have a thick layer of fat. This layer of fat helps them maintain a core average body temperature of 106 – 108 degrees Fahrenheit. To top it all off, they have a counter-current blood flow that helps reduce heat loss through their feet and legs.
These natural attributes help ducks weather even the most brutal winter storms. Despite these adaptations, duck owners need to take a few important steps to keep their feathered friends safe and happy in the winter.
3 Tips for Caring for Ducks in Winter
Provide a dry, wind-proof shelter
Ducks need a dry place to shelter away from wind, snow and moisture. While their feathers protect the body from wind and water, their feet and bills are still prone to frostbite. Adequate shelters should have a solid roof and walls that block wind and water (snow or rain). As an extra precaution, we line our duck coop with old, plastic Amazon mailers. These help reduce any wind or moisture that may penetrate the spaces between wood slates or cracks in the coop. A simple liner can also provide some insulation and protect from drafts.
It’s also extremely important to keep drinking water OUT of the coop. Ducks LOVE to play, splash and make a complete mess out of any source of water. Any water inside the coop can potentially lead to frostbite on the duck’s feet or legs.
As an important note, please avoid using a heat lamp in any coop or outdoor shelter. Heat lamps are unnecessary to care for ducks and extremely dangerous (fire risk!).
Ducks need access to fresh, unfrozen water throughout the day to swallow and digest their food properly. During the winter months, their drinking water should be changed several times a day to avoid freezing.
Our duck run is a short walk from our house, so we’re able to easily replace their water a few times a day. If frequent trips to the duck run aren’t feasible for your situation, a heated dog bowl is always a viable option.
Unlike chickens who roost when they sleep, ducks nest at ground-level. When the temperatures drop, it’s helpful to add extra bedding to the coop, so the ducks can cozy down into a warm nest. During the winter, we add extra straw to the coop to protect their feet from the cold ground and for their overall comfort.
So at the end of the snowy, winter day – yes, the ducks are fine! Evolution has equipped them with their own unique adaptations to withstand the winter elements.