Pekin ducks are waterfowl with their very specific behaviour. Drinking is part of that behaviour, whereby the birds like to fully dive with their heads under water. German practioners, a breeding company, the univesrsity of Osnabruck and Big Dutchman together developed a special type of cup drinker to meet this demand.
By Ad Bal
Called, 'Pekino' the innovative animal-friendly cup drinker was recently introduced by Big Dutchman. It allows ducks to drink water as well as to show their characteristic behaviour thanks to the deep-drawn shape of the cup drinker. In contrast to conventional drinkers, the birds can submerge their entire head and preen extensively with the water consumed. The result is a flock of healthy and satisfied birds and thus ideal growing results.
"We struck the right chord with this drinker," said product manager Jörg Hurlin looking back to its successful launch at the recently held VIV Europe in the Netherlands. "Since then, we have already received requests from Australia, Great Britain, France and Taiwan."
This interest occurs with good reason. Duck meat is a very popular food in many countries of the world. In China, Pekin ducks are one of the favourite dishes but also in Germany it is eaten quite frequently. Duck meat used to be prepared mostly for Christmas or Easter, but today it is on demand all year long.
In Germany, ducks are either kept in open or solid houses. For reasons of drinking water and litter quality, nipple drinkers have established themselves as a supply of water. However, they go against the birds' behavioural requirements.
If access to water for bathing is not possible, the European recommendation of 22 June 1999 (article 11, paragraph 2) prescribes that the ducks must be provided with water facilities sufficient in number and so designed to allow water to cover the head and be taken up by the beak so that the Pekin duck can shake water over the body without difficulty. Thus ducks should be allowed to dip their heads under water completely.
Ducks all in blue
This recommendation inspired the development of the Pekino. The ducks themselves have provided evidence to meet European requirements. In order to determine how deep the birds submerge their heads and how much they spread the water over their plumage, it was mixed with food colouring. Result: Pekin ducks coloured bright blue from head to uropygial gland.
Hygiene is also taken care of: "We have equipped the Pekino with a special rim to return water and an overflow protection. This significantly reduces water losses which improves litter quality," says Hurlin explaining another advantage of the drinker. A mobile pendulum ensures the cup is constantly replenished with fresh water, so that the duck itself ensures that the cup is kept full.
Pekino is fit for every-day use and it is the result of an ongoing joint project for two years of experts involving theory and practice. Besides Big Dutchman, contributions come from the Osnabruck University of Applied Sciences, two duck managers with many years of experience in the field, a veterinarian, a producer of drinking systems and a genetics company.
Source: World Poultry, Volume 30, no. 9, 2014