Hey Friends! This post is a long time coming!! This is the second spring I raised baby ducks and although I am still 100% learning and NO expert I figured I should share with you what I’ve learned and hopefully help you on your duckling journey!
First let me start by saying that ducklings are one of the cutest most precious creations there is! However, they are VERY messy. I had NO idea how messy. They also grow very quickly and those cute little babies will be loud teenagers in no time. Keep in mind that getting ducklings is a commitment but if you stick with it and have a little patience they will be one of your most cherished animals for years to come!
First things first! You need a brooder. Same idea as with chickens. I like to use some sort of plastic container. Most of the supplies other than the plastic container come from Tractor Supply
Large Storage Bin from Amazon CLICK HERE ( I always have 2, will explain why later)
Heat Lamp such as this one CLICK HERE ( Always have an extra pack of bulbs in case one goes out)
Click HERE for bulbs
Food Container like this CLICK HERE
Water Container like this CLICK HERE
All my ducklings have loved having some sort of stuffed animal they can sleep against. So I used a little stuffed alpaca. Be warned it will get very messy and dirty and you’ll have to wash it but they do love it and I think it’s comforting to them.
I will say however that we also have a traditional chicken brooder made out of wood ( see below) and I just raised our goslings in it. I actually think I prefer this best for ducklings in the future. It has airflow on the bottom and allows the whole coop to “breathe” which in turn makes it less messy and stinky. So if you happen to have one of them or can make one that would be a great option too! Pictured below on the left is the duck brooder and on the right the chicken one. However, If you have one like the one on the right I’d say that would work well for ducks as well!
When you get your ducklings they will be just a few days to a week old! In a short 8 weeks they will look like full size ducks and be HUGE! Be prepared.
Below is the brooder set up I had inside our home the first time we got ducks.
There are feeds out there which are specific to ducks you can buy such as below. They are however more expensive and harder to find sometimes.
For that reason you can absolutely use chick starter feed with a few tweaks.
Use ONLY NON-MEDICATED chick started feed. I use an organic one such as the one below.
Ducklings should be fed 21%-22% protein chick starter with a niacin supplement until 2 weeks of age. From 2 weeks till they are around 6 months (or until the first egg is laid) they should eat 16% – 18% chick starter crumbles with a niacin supplement. If you can’t find a low enough protein blend then add , a little uncooked rolled oats (breakfast-type oatmeal) to lower the protein content. The chick started listed above is 19% so it’s a good middle ground. If you start noticing their wings falling down and inability to move properly ( a condition called Angel Wing) Immediately give them a lower protein food. Or mix in uncooked oats and allow them to free range more.
To all your feed you MUST add brewers yeast in order for them to get enough niacin in their diet. If they don’t have enough of this they will develop complications with their legs. Their muscles don’t develop well and they end up crippled or worse. The easiest way is to mix some of the brewers yeast into their feed. You cannot overdose them on this. If you’ve got chickens in with your ducks it will not affect the chickens negatively so essentially they ca eat the same thing.
Grit- If in a brooder and not on grass or free ranging ducklings will need some grits to digest their food. I usually just add some in to their feed mixture.
Something like this works well. Chick Grit
At about 2 weeks of age you can start giving some greens and treats. My ducklings have all LOVED peas. Frozen peas as adults and when they are still little I just blend them up. Lots of fruit can give them diarrhea so stick with greens stuff and just the occasional fruit treats.
Do treats at around the same time each day so they associate you with something yummy. They will learn to come up to you and even eat from your hand if you do this.
Once they are 6 months of age they can eat the regular chicken layer pellets.
Ok friends, I cannot emphasize this enough. You MUST keep their brooder and water areas clean. That is super HARD to do! What has worked best for me is to do the following.
Line the brooder ( Unless you are using one that has chicken wire on the bottom and can “breathe”) with a couple puppy pads. Yes, the ones you potty train puppies on. This will allow them to soak up the water and poop the ducklings spill and makes it less messy if you will.
On top of that I put either straw or fresh pine shavings. I have used both, either works.
They must have fresh water at all times. For their water it has worked for me to place a round cookie sheet under the waterer. Use one that is bigger than the waterer and it will catch some of the spills. You can also use a plastic houseplant tray to catch all the spills. I have used MANY methods of waterers and such. I have found a simple one to be the best. Anything deeper and they will try to swim in it and make a bigger mess.
Some people use chicken wire over a paint tray and then place the water on that. It can help catch the water. I have not found this to work particularly well and it takes up more room. It’s an option however!
For 5 or fewer ducklings, a quart-size chick fount will work till they are about 2 weeks of age; for more ducklings or older birds, a gallon fount will be a more appropriate size. You’ll know if you need a larger waterer if you need to fill more than once per day. They need to be able to dip their beak fully under water to clear their nostrils.
As they get bigger you can elevate their water on a brick or such so they don’t step in it and get shavings and poop in their waster.
You must clean the brooder and change water AT LEAST once a day. I’d say I do it usually twice a day to make sure it’s clean and they have fresh water. This might sound excessive but trust me it’s not.
Ducks are of course great swimmers and love to have water nearby. You do not need to have a pond or fresh water source in order to have ducks. A simple kid pool from the store will do. They love love love to swing and play in it. Of course a pond is nice as well but anyone can have ducks even if you don’t have one! Please do have a source for them however so they can bathe and do duck things. You will have such happier ducks if you do so!
Wait one week until you place the ducklings to swim. When you do you must ensure they can touch the bottom as they will tire out quickly and could drown. Do not let them swim unsupervised. Once they are 5-6 weeks old and the oil in their feathers had developed they can swim unsupervised. I have let them swim in my bathtub and it s hilarious.
Ducks are MUCH more resilient than chickens when it comes to weather. They grow so quick they can tolerate cold and high heat much better. With that in mind however they will need some sort of heat lamp the first few weeks. After 2 weeks they will be much better anad unless it’s super cold they are albe to do well. General rule of thumb is a temperature of 90-92 degrees for the first 3 days, then 85-90 degrees for days 4 to 7. Thereafter, drop the temperature by approximately 5 degrees per week until they are fully feathered.Place the heat lamp to one side of the brooder so they can move away from the heat if they are too hot. Do not let them overheat. They do not like it when it’s too hot and they will pant and drop their wings when they are overheated.
Ducks are some of the sweetest animals. They are funny and have big personalities. When ducklings they will literally snuggle with you every night! With our first set of ducklings I held them every night. Once they reach about 4 weeks old they will no longer be interested in snuggles and will be loud and running around. Enjoy the snuggles as much as possible!
Once they start eating treats give them some around the same time each day. They will associate you with the treats and come running! :)
It will take about 8 weeks for your ducklings to look full grown. Remember to offer them a safe place to sleep at night with lots of straw to lay on. Give them plenty of fresh water and if you let them free range they will love eating up all your bugs and slugs! They are wonderful animals and I say everyone should own a duck at least once in their life.
If you have specific questions don’t hesitate to reach out to me!!