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How To Take Care Of Baby Ducklings

How To Take Care Of Baby Ducklings

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So you think having ducks is in your future? Maybe you want to know how to take care of baby ducklings before getting started. Well, if you are looking to get all your ducks in a row, you’ve come to the right place. Today we are going to talk about all things duckling-related. How to take care of them, what they need, and how to bond with ducklings. You will learn it all. 

Check Your Local Laws 

Before setting your heart on owning ducks, you first need to check the laws. Some cities ban poultry unless you own a certain number of acreage. Another thing closely regulated by some cities is how close your coop is to the property line. So read carefully and make sure you are up to code on it all. And make sure you meet all the requirements for a few ducklings since these birds are social animals. 

What Does A Baby Duckling Need? 

Duckling care is no easy task. You will need lots of equipment and time to care for the ducks. And it’s best to have all the supplies you need before getting those fluffy babies. It will reduce stress and make your job easier if you have it all ready to go. So let’s take a look at the supplies you need. 


Assuming that you are buying young ducklings that are only a few days old, you need a brooder to keep them. The brooder is a replacement for the nest and will need everything they need to survive. The best things you can use as a brooder are repurposed water troughs or a DIY plywood box. Just remember that the brooder needs at least 1sqft of space per duck and 18-inch tall sides. 


The next thing you will need to take care of ducklings is quality bedding. We love using pine wood shavings because they are cheap, absorbent, and reduce odors. Not to mention pine shavings can also be composted after it’s soiled. However, this bedding can get a little slick when wet. So we recommend putting a cupboard lining under it to prevent straddle legs in ducklings. 

Food And Water Source

And finally, you will need containers for food and clean water. You don’t have to go out and buy anything special here. Small dishes work just fine with these little birds. Just remember the shape of your duck’s bills for whatever container you use. Ducks scoop food and water into their mouths, so they need something a little deeper. 

It’s also a good idea not to have too deep of water. Otherwise, your ducklings will take a little dip in the water and get too cold. You might not think this is too big of a problem, but it can be detrimental. When a mother raises her clutch, she usually shares her protective oils with the babies. But since your babies haven’t had contact with adult ducks, they aren’t waterproof. So getting too wet will result in getting sick.

Can Baby Ducks Survive Without A Heat Lamp

You might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned a heat source for things you need to take care of your ducklings. Typically, a mother duck tucks her ducklings under her to keep them warm in the first few weeks of life. But if you are raising your ducklings in a brooder, they won’t have this motherly protection. That’s why a heat lamp is arguably the most crucial part of how to take care of baby ducklings. 

How Long Do Baby Ducks Need A Heat Lamp?

When you bring your ducklings home, they need to go straight into the brooder under a lamp. For the first week of life, they will need a toasty 90 degrees. And every week after that, you will reduce the temperature until it’s 70 degrees. But how long this takes depends on the time of year. 

In colder months, you will want to reduce the temperature by 5 degrees every week. So by the time your ducklings are ten weeks old, they won’t need a heat lamp anymore. However, in the summer, this process is sped up just a tad. For the first two weeks, you will need to decrease the temperature by only 5 degrees. But after this, you can start lowering the temperature by 10 degrees per week. Once your ducklings are fully feathered by 7-9 weeks old in summer, it’s OK to ditch the lamp. 

How Do I Know If My Ducklings Are Too Cold? 

If your ducklings are huddled together under the lamp, chances are they are cold. This is normal behavior for the first week as long as they venture away for food and water. But if they are also fluffed and not eating, you will need to raise the brooder temperature. 

How Do I Know If My Ducklings Are Too Hot? 

Another thing to watch for when you take care of ducklings is to watch for heat exhaustion. Some signs to look out for are panting, holding wings away from the body, lethargy, and staying away from the light. If you see this, raise the heat lamp to drop the temperature in the brooder. 

And to prevent overheating from happening again, here are a few tips. The first thing is that your brooder should have a warm and cool side. You aren’t trying to heat the entire brooder so the ducklings can regulate their temperatures. The second is to make sure there is ample ventilation, but not so much that heat escapes. That way, the heat isn’t trapped without an escape route. 

What Do Baby Ducklings Eat? 

Next on how to take care of baby ducklings is all about diet. We prefer to feed our ducklings a waterfowl starter diet mixed with a bit of water for the first 2-4 weeks. But waterfowl feed can be challenging to get your hands on in some areas of the country. You can use unmedicated chick starter feed and mix it with a bit of brewer’s yeast to remedy this. The brewer’s yeast gives your ducklings all the niacin they need for strong, healthy bones. 

After this age, you can switch your ducklings to a grower feed with 16-18% protein until they lay their first egg. After the first egg, your ducks are adults and will need a layer feed to keep healthy. 

But you can feed ducklings much more than boring feed. After three weeks of age, you can start introducing treats into your duckling’s diet. Dark leafy greens chopped up and put in the water dish are perfect daily treats. You can even try foods like dried river shrimp, mealworms, boiled eggs, and berries on occasion. Giving these treats are also a great way to bond with your little girls. 

What Should You Not Feed Ducklings? 

Ducklings can eat almost anything that we can, with a few exceptions. Here is a shortlist of foods to avoid:

  • Leaves and stems from nightshade plants
  • Caffeine
  • Medicated chick feed
  • Broiler chicken feed (prevents Angel Wing syndrome) 
  • Spoiled or moldy food
  • Bread
  • Seeds and pits from fruit
  • Nuts
  • Citric fruits
  • And iceberg lettuce, to name a few. 

Is It OK To Hold Baby Ducks? 

Imprinting is a vital part of duckling care. Imprinting is when your ducklings see you as their mom. They will follow you around, do what you want, and even seek out affection for you. We encourage you to handle your ducks as much as possible when they are young to form tight bonds. 

But how do you hold ducklings? The best way to gain your duckling’s trust is to hand feed them as often as you can. Every few hours, go in and provide your ducks their favorite treats while you reach out to pet them. Once your ducklings willingly come to you, you can try to scoop them up. 

Being very careful never to pull the legs or wings of the birds, gently cradle the ducklings. After a few minutes, put them back in the brooder and try again later. Soon your ducklings will line up for a treat and head-scratching if you take it nice and slow. 

Do Ducklings Sleep At Night? 

You might notice that your new hatchlings sleep a lot throughout the day. And it might have you wondering when the peak hours for sleep are. But don’t you worry. Most ducklings will become more active the older they get. And while they might snooze during the day, most of their sleep is at night. 

Unlike baby chicks, your ducks won’t roost while sleeping. Instead, they prefer to make a nest in bedding or straw on the floor to sleep. Most ducklings will begin this behavior from the day they are born. So there’s no need to worry about making a bed for them. 

At What Age Can Ducklings Go Outside? 

After all of your hard work, your ducklings have grown their feathers and are ready for the great outdoors. If the weather is nice and the nights aren’t cooler than 60 degrees, your ducks are prepared by 7-9 weeks old. You can move the ducks to an outdoor coop and introduce them to your flock without worrying too much. 

At this age, you can also start to give your ducks a small pool to swim in. Before the permanent feathers grow, your ducklings don’t have the waterproofing oils to keep them warm. But now, they are outside, regulating their body temperatures and swimming on their own. You’ve done a great job! 

And That’s Duckling Care

How to take care of baby ducklings isn’t too difficult of a task. If you are accustomed to birds and taking care of pets, ducks aren’t much different. Your pet duck will become an excellent companion and source of delicious eggs. Who could ask for more? 

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!

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