Ducks (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB0079)

Introduction

This Code covers ducks of the Pekin / Mallard types and does not apply to Muscovies.

1. The welfare of ducks can be safeguarded under a variety of management systems. The system employed should be appropriate to the health and behavioural and physiological needs of the ducks. This, together with facilities available and the skill of the stockman, will determine the number of birds kept at any one time, and the way in which they are grouped.
2. Consideration should be given to the question of animal welfare before installing more complex or elaborate equipment than has previously been used. In general the greater the restriction imposed on the bird and the greater the complexity of the system or of the degree of control which is exercised over temperature, air flow or food supply, the less the bird is able to use its instinctive behaviour to modify the effect of unfavourable conditions and the greater the chance of suffering if mechanical or electrical failures occur. Thus systems involving a high degree of control over the environment should only be installed when conscientious staff skilled in both animal husbandry and the use of the equipment will always be available.
3. Large flocks can be managed successfully, but in general the larger the size of unit the greater the degree of skill and conscientiousness needed to safeguard welfare. The size of a unit should not be increased nor should a unit be set up unless it is reasonably certain that the stockman in charge will be able to safeguard the welfare of the individual bird.
4. All stockmen should know the normal behaviour of ducks, watch closely for signs of distress or disease and, where necessary, take prompt remedial action.
5. The good stockman will know the signs which indicate good health in ducks. He should be able to recognise impending trouble in its earliest stages and may often be able to identify the cause and put matters right immediately. If the cause is not obvious, or if the stockman's immediate action is not effective, veterinary or other expert advice should be obtained as soon as possible.
6. Important indications of health are alertness, clear bright eyes, good posture, vigorous movements if unduly disturbed, active feeding and drinking, normal feathering, clean and healthy skin, shanks and feet. Attention should be paid to any departure from the normal.
7. The early signs if ill-health may include changes in feed and water intake, in preening, in general activity, and diarrhoea (although ducks normally have watery faeces), in co-ordination and drooping of the eyelids. In laying birds there may also be a drop in egg-production, and changes in egg quality such as shell defects.
8. Ailing birds, and any birds suffering from injury such as open wounds, or fractures or from prolapse of the vent should be segregated and treated or, if necessary, be humanely killed without delay. (2)

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