So…as it being spring, ducklings our being ordered, shipped, and received by happy new duck parents(by the way..spring is the best time to get ducklings because the weather is the best)! I, as a new duck mom, researched EVERYTHING! I left no rock un-turned. I hope you guys that are receiving ducklings are here for some info about raising them. Ducklings are such an exciting thing but with them…comes lots of responsibility(hate to break it to ya). Through this article I will be giving you lots of info to help you raise your ducklings up to healthy and happy ducks.
The Brooder: A brooder is the place that the ducklings will stay in before they have all their feathers and can go out to their run(or to the pond). The brooder can be made of some kind of dog play pen or rubber tote box. I don’t recommend card board boxes because ducks are always playing in water…therefore…it will be wet all the time. A box made of wood is great or even a kiddie pool. Sectioning off an area in a garage with a piece of wire and putting a plastic tarp on the bottom works great! Ducklings grow very fast so finding a brooder they can grow into will be great so that you are not having to continually make a new brooder so they can fit in it. *Some people say that raising ducklings on top of mesh wire is great, but ducklings feet are so sensitive(more than chickens) so I don’t recommend doing it.
Here is a list of all the thing that go inside the brooder:
Shelf liner or Yoga mat: This is to be put at the bottom of the brooder so that the water the ducks splash around in won’t make the ducklings slip. Ducklings legs are not yet strong enough so using shelf liner or a yoga mat will help. You can use it till your ducklings are about 3-4 weeks.
Bedding: There are several things you can do for bedding. Some good choices will be chopped straw or large pine chips(not shavings or they could eat them). Some bad choices would be newspaper(get to wet and they might eat it), sand(could get to hot by heat lamp), and sawdust(to dusty and could cause respiratory issues). As ducklings grow they will realize that they want to play and splash in the water so their bedding will get very wet. Don’t hesitate to clean it out and put new stuff in! Wet and moldy bedding can cause very sick ducklings.
Heat: When giving heat to your ducklings you will want to use a heat lamp. Make sure it is very secure so that it does not fall and start a fire. Some people like to adjust the heat every week, but I would just higher it or lower it depending on the ducklings behavior. If the duckling where shivering and all huddled under the lamp then they where cold and I would lower it. If they where all away from the lamp and panting then they where to hot and I would higher it. When they got older I just turned the lamp off completely and turned it on when there where cold nights. Ducks only need heat when they are babies so don’t worry about giving it to them when they are adults. Anywhere from 5-6 weeks and they don’t need heat anymore(that is when they should be moved outside). If you have your ducklings in the summer you might not even need heat(if their brooder is going to be in a shed or garage or somewhere close to the outside heat) just watch if they start to shiver and then add heat if they need it.
Food and water:
Food- Food is best to be provided at all times for growing ducklings. The best kind of feeder is just a regular chick feeder or a ceramic bowl that they can’t tip over. It is best to make sure any wet feed is thrown out so that it does not mold. If you are wanting to know what feed to feed ducklings(along with supplements) look at one of my other article here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/feed-and-supplements-for-ducks.74246/ . One of the supplements ducklings have to have is niacin. They need it so that their legs can grow strong!
Water- Water is one of the main things in a ducklings growing life! The best waterers are the gallon chick waterers. They will not tip over and the ducklings can fit their bills and heads into the water. Makes sure the open is large enough for the duckling to submerge its whole head into the water so that it can clean it bill and eyes out. Don’t let it be to big or the duckling could get in and drown(as its feathers are not yet water proof and it can’t swim). Duck drink so so so much water! Because duck don’t have any teeth, they have to swallow their food whole. They do this by taking a mouthful of food and dunking it into the water and swallowing it so make sure they never run out or they could choke and die. Make sure they always have fresh water! As they grow you will have to switch to a different water(rubber tubs are the best!).
Outside/swimming: When duckling our about 3 weeks old they can have several minutes a day swimming in warm water. The sink or bath tub is the best place for them to swim. Makes sure they are supervised. As I said before they don’t yet have their water proofed feathers and could drown. Make sure to help dry your ducklings off so they don’t get chilled. They can also go outside on warm and sunny days. Make sure they are only out for several minutes in an enclosed puppy pen(or something of the like).
Treats: It is good to start giving ducklings treats early so that when they get older they are not picky. There are tons of great treats to give ducklings but make sure that they are cut small so the ducks don’t choke. Here you can find a good list of duck treats: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/treats-for-ducks-can-apply-to-chickens-too.74779/ . Also putting grass and weeds into the ducklings brooder every day will give them great nutrition. When they start to eat treats is the best time to start giving them chick grit.
Before and after getting the ducklings: Before you go get the ducklings it is best that you turn on the heat to get the brooder warmed up before putting the ducklings in. When you first get the ducklings it is best that you make sure they are all looking well and lively(not hurt legs or weak necks). When you get the ducklings home and into the brooder dip their bills in the water(it is good if you put a tad of sugar in their water to give them energy) and show them where they food it. Leave them alone for a while to rest and then you can go in to see them. Make sure they are kept in a quiet area were they can sleep.
When the ducklings are ready to go outside: They should be ready to go outside when they have all there feathers(by 6 weeks). Then you can put them in a run or out in a pasture or pond(depending on your situation). If you want you can give them food all day every day but I just give my adult ducks 1/2 cup each for 1 day and they seem good! Water is always needed and swimming water(if they are in a run a kiddie pool or dug in pool will work great) is great for them to preen in and clean off(as they have the ability to water proof there feathers).
I hope this helped you guys lots! I know it can be overwhelming, but it is so rewarding. Remember…have fun! I am so excited for you guys who are getting new ducklings! I have been in your place and was so excited!