Ducklings should have feed and drinking water available when they are started under the brooder or hen. Use waterers the birds can't get into. This is especially important in the brooding area since ducklings are easily chilled when they become wet while still in the "down" stage. Pans or troughs with wire guards are satisfactory. Place waterers over low, wire-covered frames to help reduce wet litter problems. Change waterers or adjust size as birds grow. The waterer should be wide enough and deep enough for a bird to dip its bill and head.
In some areas commercial suppliers have feeds formulated for duck feeding. Check with the suppliers in your vicinity. If duck feeds aren't available, start ducklings on chick starter for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Place feed for the first few days on egg case flats or other rough paper: slick-surfaced paper may cause leg injuries. After 2 to 3 weeks ducklings can be fed a pelleted chicken grower ration plus cracked corn, or other grain. Keep feed before the birds at all times and provide grower-size insoluble grit. Less feed wastage and better feed efficiency result from using crumbled or pelleted feeds.
Ducks are easy to raise because they are hardy and not susceptible to many of the common poultry diseases. The use of medicated feeds isn't usually necessary. Very few additives have been approved for nutritional or medicinal use in duck feeds. Waterfowl may be more sensitive to some drugs than other poultry. Incorrect use of certain medicated feeds formulated for chickens and turkeys could harm ducklings.
Small flocks of ducklings raised in the late spring with access to green feed outdoors generally have few nutritional problems. While ducks are not as good foragers as geese, they do eat some green feed and farm flocks are usually allowed to run at large. Cut green feed can be supplied to the birds when they must be kept inside in bad weather. Water for swimming isn't necessary for successful duck production.
Under commercial conditions, Pekin ducklings are ready for market when 7 to 9 weeks old. These birds weigh 6 to 7 pounds and have consumed 20 to 25 pounds of feed. Rouens raised under farm flock conditions may take 5 months to reach these weights. Muscovy ducks take somewhat longer.
The holiday retail duck market is greatest from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. Ducks grown for home use or limited local sales can be slaughtered any time. If ducklings are kept longer than 11 to 12 weeks, new pinfeathers begin to come out, making it difficult to pick them clean for another several weeks. Growers planning on any commercial marketings should make scheduling plans in advance with a processor or marketing organization.