In this article, we’ll share are our top 5 tips for pet or backyard duck parents who want to go on vacation without their poultry.
Vacationing without your poultry: is it possible?
We know what you’re thinking: why on earth would anyone want to go on vacation without all their ducks? It’s a fair question…
While you may be wondering whether you can get all of your waterfowl aboard an airplane as a registered emotional support flock, chances are airlines will not take kindly to your flightless waterfowl flying the friendly skies with you.
In short: assuming you want to occasionally be able to go on vacation without your poultry, you need to figure out how to do so without putting your fowl at heightened risk while you’re gone. Not to worry… we have experience in this area and we’ll share our top tips and recommendations for how to go on vacation without your ducks or other poultry!
5 tips: How to go on vacation without your ducks
We should start by saying that no two situations are exactly the same. You might have two indoor pet ducks. Maybe you have an outdoor flock that lives in an enclosed run night and day. Or maybe you have a large flock that free-ranges during the day before being cooped at night.
Since we don’t know your exact circumstances, we’re not going to tell you precisely what to do with your ducks when you go on vacation. Instead, we’re going to share general tips and best practices for keeping your ducks safe while you’re vacationing.
Some of these tips may apply to you, some may not.
1. Consider your unique setup – and maybe design a vacation-friendly duck run.
There is only one guaranteed way to keep your backyard ducks or other poultry safe from predators: keep them in a run for their entire lives. We don’t do this with our ducks, but we certainly understand why some people do.
The other major benefit of having a large run where your ducks spend their lives is it makes it much easier for you to take vacations.
You could easily put out enough food and water for your run-living ducks to survive for a weekend without you. However, longer trips of 3+ days would likely require someone to come over to provide food, water, and other care for your ducks.
If you’re still in the planning stages of getting ducks, you might want to seriously consider building a large run so you can have some semblance of a life outside of serving your ducks’ every need. Maybe the run isn’t where your ducks spend their lives when you’re home, but it could be large enough for them to spend a few days there while you’re traveling.
2. Consider boarding your ducks with a poultry-friendly vet.
We’re fortunate to have a wonderful avian vet 45 minutes from our home, Healthpointe Veterinary Clinic. They also board ducks and other exotic animals.
While boarding is a more expensive option, it may make sense if:
a) you only have a few ducks,
b) you have a duck who requires medication,
c) you have indoor/pet ducks.
While gone for a week during the holidays, we boarded one of our ducks with our vet since she required daily antibiotics due to a foot injury/infection. (Nope, not bumblefoot.)
We aren’t comfortable asking an untrained person like our duck sitter to medicate our duck, so it was nice knowing that she was taken care of by qualified professionals.
3. If necessary, find and cultivate a duck sitter.
We have two duck coops but no run. Our ducks are in our backyard which is surrounded by a 6′ fence. Inside the fence, fruit trees and shrubs make it nearly impossible for aerial predators to swoop in.
Thus, our ducks are free-ranging in our backyard during the day. They forage the rest of our yard in the evening while we stand guard, then go into their fortified coops at night. Knock on wood, in a decade of being owned by ducks, we’ve never lost one to a predator attack.
Given our setup, when we go on vacation we hire a duck sitter. We’ve had two duck sitters over the years. Both are youngsters who live in our neighborhood (a 17 year old boy and a 22 year old girl) who we knew to be responsible and capable.
Our duck sitter comes over once in the morning to let the ducks out of their coop and again at night to put them up. Food, water, coop bedding top-ups, etc. are also part of the requirements. (More on duck sitter duties below.)
We pay our duck sitter $20/day, for what amounts to about 15-20 minutes of work. Why? Because we want them to put forth their best effort and we want them to duck sit again next time we go out of town. (*If hiring a duck sitter who has to drive to your home, plan to compensate them for driving time and gas as well.)
If you’re having trouble finding a duck sitter in your neighborhood, a couple of other options are:
- utilize services like Care.com,
- join local duck/poultry groups on social media and find other duck fanatics willing to duck sit for you (you could also duck sit for them while they take a duck-free vacation).
4. Provide a detailed duck care checklist for your duck sitter.
If you hire a duck sitter, provide them with a detailed checklist to help make their job easier and to make sure everything that needs to get done gets done. We create our duck care checklist in Google Docs so we can easily print or share the list from anywhere.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of taking care of your ducks, here are other recommendations for your duck sitter’s checklist:
a. Include essential information at top of checklist
On top of our duck sitter’s checklist, we always include the following information:
- our phone number, just in case they lose their phone and thus our contact info;
- how many ducks they’re taking care of so they know all ducks are accounted for;
- when we’re leaving and when we’ll be back so they don’t forget or need reminding.
b. Seasonal variability
Keep in mind that your duck sitter’s checklist is likely to change depending on the season. So consider standardizing one checklist for warm seasons and/or when your ducks are laying eggs and one checklist for cool/cold seasons and/or when your ducks aren’t laying.
Seasons may affect providing calcium or other supplements, how and where water is provided, type and thickness of bedding, whether eggs need to be collected, etc.
c. Completion message
Request that your duck sitter send you a quick text message saying something as simple as “done” each time they’ve finished up.
While on vacation, we find it incredibly reassuring when the “done” text message comes in so we’re not left wondering whether our ducks are tucked away at night.
5. Conduct an in-person trial run with your duck sitter.
When onboarding a new duck sitter, we have them come over and do a morning and night trial run. That way, they can see where everything is, get some hands-on experience with our ducks, and ask questions.
There are lots of little things you do for your ducks without thinking about it that a duck sitter is not going to magically intuit. How full do you fill their food bowls? Where exactly do you place the water bowl in the coop at night? How do you use a stick to herd the ducks into their coops?
Yes, we pay our duck sitter for the trial runs for the same reasons mentioned above. Treat people well and fairly if you want them to do a good job and continue being your duck sitter next time you go on vacation.
Frequently asked questions we’ve received related to vacationing without your ducks:
Can you leave ducks alone for a week?
If you have a large duck run with automated feeders and a self-cleaning pond, you may be able to leave your ducks alone for a week. However, this is the exception not the norm.
Most backyard duck setups (including ours) require human attendants twice a day. If your ducks are left outside unattended for a week on their own with no food or water, they will very likely die from starvation, dehydration, or predator attack.
How long can I leave my ducklings alone?
The most we’d recommend leaving ducklings alone during the day is a few hours (assuming they’re in an indoor cage or brooder box). You can leave ducklings unattended at night while you sleep since they’ll mostly sleep through the night as well.
Ducklings require far more care and diligence than mature ducks. While you’re raising ducklings, plan NOT to go on vacation unless someone else is present to watch your ducklings multiple times throughout the day.
Can I leave my ducks out overnight?
No, leaving your ducks outside out of a coop at night is NOT a good idea – even if it’s just for one night. A sleeping duck is a predator’s dream.
If you’re in a pinch and have to leave town for one day or night without backup to help you, put them in their coop with food and water. They might not be happy about being forced to spend more time in their coop, but they’ll be alive.
Can you house-train a duck?
No, you can’t house-train or potty-train a duck. Ducks’ digestive systems rapidly produce excreta and they don’t have sphincters by which to control when they go.
So if you’re dreaming of house-training your ducks before you go to Tahiti, we’ve got bad news: your ducks won’t be house-trained when you get back but your house will be duck-trained, e.g. it will look and smell like it was infested by feathered pigs.
We hope the information in this article enables your ducks to stay safe and happy while you take a much-needed vacation!
Flap on over to other duck articles from Tyrant Farms:
- Video: How to safely pick up, hold, handle, and put down a duck
- Is it safe to raise human babies with ducks?
- Tyrant Farms’ duck health guide
- Duck winter care tips from the coldest climates
- 10 summer care tips for your backyard ducks
… and more duck articles from Tyrant Farms.