Caring for Baby Ducks: 14 Things You Need to Know (2024)

Caring for Baby Ducks: 14 Things You Need to Know (1)

Raising baby ducks, often known as ducklings, is a rewarding endeavor that can bring a lot of joy and pleasure. However, it also comes with its own set of unique challenges and requirements.

From understanding their dietary needs to providing the right kind of shelter, there are several aspects that you need to be aware of to ensure the healthy growth and development of these adorable creatures.

This guide goes over the essential things you need to know about caring for baby ducks, offering insights and tips to raise happy, healthy ducklings. Keep reading and learn more about the fascinating world of ducklings!

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Things You Need to Know About Caring for Baby Ducks

1. Ducklings need lots of water daily

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Ducklings have a natural affinity for water, not just for swimming but also for drinking. In their initial weeks, they can consume about one-half gallons of water per week.

This might seem like a lot, but it’s essential for their hydration, especially since they aren’t swimming as much yet to be able to retain moisture in their early stages.

Beyond just quenching their thirst, water is vital for their overall health. They use it to clean their eyes and nostrils, ensuring they are clear of any debris.

When caring for ducklings, always make sure that they have a steady supply of fresh water to keep their health and energy in check.

2. Ducklings need deep water bowls

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Baby ducklings have a unique way of eating and drinking that requires deep water bowls. They need to be able to submerge their entire bill in water to keep their mucous membranes moist.

This not only aids in their drinking process but also helps them dislodge any food stuck in their nostrils, promoting better health and hygiene.

Hence, it’s essential to provide them with appropriate-sized water containers and deep water bowls as they grow so they can keep their nasal passages clear and enjoy their meals without any trouble.

It’s an easy yet crucial step toward having happy and healthy ducklings.

3. Baby ducks are not naturally waterproof

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A common misconception is that all ducks, regardless of age, have waterproof feathers. However, this is not the case for baby ducks.

Unlike mature ducks, ducklings don’t have fully developed oil glands that coat and waterproof their feathers. Their initial covering, known as down, is not naturally waterproof.

This means that ducklings can easily become waterlogged if they stay too long in the water, which puts them at risk of drowning.

Moreover, without the protective oil, they may get chilly in cold water, leading to potential health issues. However, by the time they reach their fourth week, their adult feathers and oil glands start to develop.

At this stage, you can begin introducing them to water. Start with lukewarm water in a shallow basin, and keep an eye on them while they splash around.

As they get older and more comfortable in the water, you can gradually increase the depth and let them enjoy their natural swimming instincts.

Watch this video for some helpful pointers on getting your ducklings ready for their first swim:

Tips For Ducklings First Swim!

4. Unmedicated feed is best for ducklings

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When it comes to feeding ducklings, it is recommended to always use unmedicated feed.

The reason behind this is that ducklings are not as prone to diseases such as coccidiosis as chicks are, making the medicated feed unnecessary.

Moreover, medicated feeds usually contain amprolium, which is a thiamine blocker. Due to their high food intake, This substance can lead to thiamine deficiency in ducklings.

Thus, opting for unmedicated feed is the safest and most nutritious choice to guarantee the health and well-being of your ducklings. This way, you can give them all the nutrients they need without putting them at risk.

5. Too much protein can harm your baby ducks

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Proper nutrition is vital for the healthy growth of ducklings, and protein plays a significant role in their diet.

However, it’s essential to get the protein levels right. In the first two weeks of their lives, ducklings require a higher protein intake, with a recommended level of around 20 to 22%.

After this initial phase, the protein requirement can be reduced to about 17% from the third week onwards.

Overloading their diet with protein can lead to health issues, including rapid growth that their skeletal structure can’t support, leading to mobility problems.

It can even contribute to a condition known as angel wing, where the wing feathers twist outward instead of lying flat against the duck’s body.

Hence, it’s important to monitor and adjust their feed as they mature, ensuring they get the right nutrients without the risks associated with excessive protein.

6. Ducklings require extra niacin in their diet

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Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is an essential nutrient for ducklings. This vitamin aids their bodies in producing energy, processing proteins and fats, and supporting clear vision and a healthy nervous system.

While all birds need niacin, ducklings require it even more for their proper development. Without enough niacin, ducklings may experience growth problems and other health issues.

Helping out on my father’s farm, a simple and effective way my father used to supplement our ducklings’ diet with the required niacin was by adding brewer’s yeast to their feeds.

Brewer’s yeast is a natural source of niacin and can help ducklings get the right amount they need.

7. Leafy greens are essential for their diet

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Leafy greens are a must-have in a duckling’s diet, offering a range of benefits that promote healthy growth. Introducing your ducks to greens like kale, lettuce, spinach, and chard at a young age can be a good practice.

These vegetables not only provide essential vitamins and minerals but also keep them engaged as they love dabbling for these leafy treats in the water.

It’s a fun way to ensure they receive the nutrients they need while also encouraging their natural behaviors. Remember always to offer fresh greens, as ducklings tend to avoid wilted ones.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that while baby ducks enjoy these treats, they should be given in moderation and only as a supplement to their primary feed.

8. Baby ducks love to forage outdoors

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Foraging outdoors is a natural and delightful activity for baby ducks. When they explore outside, they actively search for insects, small plants, and other natural foods.

This not only provides them with a varied and nutritious diet but also stimulates their senses and promotes physical activity.

Moreover, foraging helps ducklings strengthen their leg muscles and become familiar with their surroundings.

It’s an important part of their growth, teaching them essential survival skills. When allowing ducklings to forage, it’s important to check the area for potential predators and hazards.

You can be confident that your ducklings will grow into healthy, energetic, and well-adjusted adults by striking a balance between exploration and safety.

9. Baby ducks grow faster than you think

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Regardless of the type of duck, ducklings grow at a remarkable pace, which often catches many inexperienced caretakers by surprise. This rapid growth is a sight to behold, with noticeable changes happening daily.

In just a span of 10 weeks, they can resemble almost fully grown ducks. By around 20 weeks old, these ducks reach sexual maturity and are ready to reproduce.

Thus, it’s important that caretakers are ready for these changes and are able to adjust their living spaces to accommodate their rapidly growing bodies.

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While it might seem convenient to brood ducklings and chicks together, it’s not the best idea. In my early days of raising poultry, I once housed ducklings and chicks together in a brooder.

Initially, it seemed fine. However, the ducklings’ love for water quickly made the environment too damp for the chicks. I learned the hard way that it’s in the best interest to keep them apart.

Ducklings have a natural affinity for water and enjoy splashing around, which can quickly dampen the brooder’s bedding.

On the other hand, baby chicks are sensitive to moisture. Long periods of exposure to water can be harmful to their health and can be lethal.

Given these distinct behaviors and needs, it’s advisable to brood them separately. By separating them, you can make sure that the ducklings and chicks have the best environment possible, according to their individual needs.

11. Ducklings thrive better with companions than alone

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Ducklings are social creatures by nature, and they flourish when they have companionship. Being in the company of their own kind gives them a sense of security and comfort.

When alone, ducklings may feel lonely and become stressed and anxious. Having fellow ducklings around not only offers them playmates but also teaches them essential social behaviors and skills.

Baby ducks can actually learn from each other, picking up on feeding habits and exploring their environment together.

Remember, a happy duckling is a healthy duckling, and providing them with companions is a step in the right direction.

12. Ducklings adapt to cooler temperatures sooner than chicks

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Ducklings and chicks have unique brooder temperature needs. Generally, you start with a heat lamp set at 90°F for both.

However, while chicks require a gradual temperature reduction of about 5 degrees each week, ducklings can handle a faster decrease of 5 to 10°F weekly.

By the time the brooder reaches 70°F, ducklings are usually well-acclimated, showcasing their resilience to cooler temperatures.

This is a significant advantage as it allows them to be introduced to outdoor environments earlier than chicks.

Nonetheless, it is always best to monitor their comfort levels and ensure they have a warm space to retreat to if necessary.

13. Frequent bedding changes are essential

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With their playful nature and love for the water, baby ducks have a tendency to make their bedding wet very quickly.

Unlike mature ducks, ducklings haven’t yet developed the ability to keep themselves dry and often splash water around when they drink or play.

This behavior, while adorable, means that their bedding can quickly become damp. Wet bedding is not just a cleanliness issue; it can also pose health risks.

A consistently damp environment can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and fungi, potentially leading to infections or respiratory issues for young birds.

Therefore, it’s crucial for keepers to monitor the bedding regularly, making sure that it remains dry and clean, and to change it frequently to maintain a healthy environment for the ducklings.

A tip I’d offer is to use highly absorbent materials, like pine shavings. This can extend the time between changes, making the task a bit more manageable.

14. A plastic brooder is best for managing mess

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While setting up for my first batch of ducklings, I experimented with different brooder materials. Through trial and error, I discovered that plastic brooders were the most efficient.

Baby ducks are known for their playful nature, which often results in a messy brooder. If you’re raising ducklings, you’ll find that opting for a plastic brooder offers several advantages in this scenario.

Firstly, plastic is water-resistant, making it easier to clean and maintain, especially given the ducklings’ love for water. Unlike cardboard or wood, plastic won’t deteriorate or become moldy from moisture.

Moreover, a plastic brooder provides a smooth surface, preventing the accumulation of waste in crevices. This makes cleaning easier for you and guarantees that the ducklings are raised in a clean and healthy environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What Is the Name of a Baby Duck?

A baby duck is commonly referred to as a duckling. As they mature, the males are known as drakes, while the females are called hens.

These terms help differentiate the young birds from their adult counterparts and also distinguish between the genders in the world of ducks.

What Not to Do With Baby Ducks?

When caring for baby ducks, it’s essential to be aware of certain precautions. Firstly, avoid feeding them medicated poultry feed, as it can be harmful.

Also, it’s crucial to avoid raising them in isolation, as they thrive better with companions.

Lastly, only introduce them to water with supervision, as they are not naturally waterproof from birth and can easily become waterlogged.

Can Ducklings Survive Without Their Mother?

Ducklings are incredibly vulnerable when left without their mother’s care. In the wild, a mother duck provides protection, warmth, and guidance, especially during their initial days.

Without their mother, ducklings face threats from predators, hypothermia, and even drowning.

While they can survive on their own for a short period of time, typically 1 to 2 days, their chances of survival significantly drop without maternal care.

What Kind of Shelter Do Baby Ducks Need?

Baby ducks need a warm and secure environment during their early weeks. A brooder, which can be a spare bathtub, dog crate, or cardboard box lined with plastic, serves as an ideal shelter.

It should be placed in a quiet and secluded area to keep the ducklings calm, as they tend to be skittish. The brooder should also be spacious enough for them to move around and should be kept in a draft-free location.

As they grow, transitioning them to a larger, predator-proof pen with proper bedding and protection from the elements becomes necessary.

Do Baby Ducks Need a Heat Lamp?

Yes, during the first few weeks of their lives as baby ducks, having a heat lamp is very important. Since they do not yet have their adult feathers, a heat lamp is the most effective way to keep them warm.

Generally, the heat lamp is started at 90°F, and the temperature is gradually reduced by 5 or 10°F each week until it reaches 70°F.

This heat source is vital until they develop thick feathers and can regulate their body temperature more efficiently.

As you continue learning how to take care of baby ducks, we invite you to share your experiences and questions in the comment section below.

Caring for Baby Ducks: 14 Things You Need to Know (2024)


What supplies do you need for a baby duck? ›

We recommend that you have the following items in your duckling brooder kit:
  • A Brooder. Miller Chick Brooder Kit.
  • A Red Heat Lamp and Bulb. 250 Watts Brooder and Heat Lamp.
  • A Chick Feeder. Little Giant 12 Pound Hanging Metal Poultry Feeder.
  • Waterer. ...
  • Bedding. ...
  • Duckling Starter. ...
  • Electrolyte Supplement.
Apr 28, 2022

What do newly hatched ducklings need? ›

Young ducklings need warmth, food and water and protection. You need to buy or make a “brooder” for their warmth and protection. Brooder: A large clear plastic storage bin works well for a “brooder box” for ducklings.

At what age can ducklings survive on their own? ›

The ducklings can't survive on their own in your yard because there isn't enough food. So you would need to feed them good quality duck food, specially ordered, and once you do, they will want to stay in your yard for 8-12 weeks until they are fully flighted.

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