Does access to open water affect the health of Pekin ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)?


Access to open water is considered good for the welfare of Pekin ducks. These studies investigated the effect that the type of water resource, provided over either straw bedding or a rubber mesh, had on measures of duck health. Pekin strain ducklings (n = 2,600) were managed in pens of 100 on straw over a solid concrete floor. In study 1, one of two water resources (nipple, n = 5 pens; wide-lip bell drinker, n = 5 pens), was located directly over the straw. In study 2, one of three water resources (narrow-lip bell drinker, n = 6 pens; trough, n = 5 pens; and bath, n = 5 pens) was located over a rubber mesh. On d 16, 24, 29, 35, and 43, (study 1) or d 21, 29, 35, and 43 posthatch (study 2), 10 birds were selected from each pen and weighed, and then feather hygiene, footpad dermatitis, eye health, gait score, and nostril condition scores were taken. Treatment had no effect on BW in either study, but in study 2, ducks in the open water treatments had higher scores (P < 0.001) than those in the narrow-lip bell drinker treatment by d 43. In study 1, treatment had no effect on hygiene scores, but scores increased over time (P < 0.001). In study 2, ducks in the narrow-lip bell drinker treatment were dirtier than those in the bath treatment (P = 0.01), with those in the trough treatment being intermediate. In both studies, ducks with bell drinkers had worse gait scores than those in the other treatments (study 1, P < 0.01; study 2, P < 0.05). Treatment had no effect on eye health scores. However, ducks were less likely to have dirty nostrils when provided with more open water resources in both studies (P < 0.01), or were less likely to have blocked nostrils in the trough and bath treatments than in the narrow-lip bell drinker treatment in study 2 (P = 0.01). Provision of open water, particularly over a properly constructed drainage area, improved some aspects of duck health (improved feather hygiene and BW, and fewer dirty and blocked nostrils). However, further work is needed to investigate these treatments on a commercial scale.