Raising and caring for ducklings


Apr 1, 2013
Cave Junction Oregon
About grit at what age should this start? And is the age for ducks and chicks the same age? I think I got the wrong book. I got storeys guide to raising poultry thinking it was perfect since I have chicks ducklings and turkeys I'm just having a hard time finding some answers. Have found a awesome person on here who is helping me navigate some of your threads which are absolutely amazing and helpful thank you


Overrun with Runners
9 Years
Jan 3, 2010
Southern New England
Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks says

Coarse sand or chick-sized granite grit should be kept before ducklings at all times.


Under the section, Our Brooding and Rearing Procedures

Chick-sized granite grit and old-fashioned oatmeal (uncooked) are lightly sprinkled on top of the crumbles.


Mar 25, 2013
Shellburne, NH
Quote:Originally Posted by jdywntr

Okay, here goes.

These are some basics on raising ducklings. This information is based on Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks and information from Metzer Farms. This is not meant to provide emergency care only very basic information.

Be prepared and have everything set up prior to the arrival of the ducklings.

Something as simple as a cardboard box may be used as a brooder. Plastic totes, bathtubs, and wooden boxes can also be used.
You can line the bottom of the brooder with plastic sheeting (if brooding indoors) this will help with cleanup.
Put down a layer of bedding several inches thick. Pine shavings or straw are good and readily available. You can add pine pellet horse stall bedding to help with wet spots. Avoid slick material like newspaper. Paper towels can be placed over the bedding for the first few days. Watch the ducklings to ensure they are not eating bedding materials. Most will “taste” the bedding but not actually swallow it.
Wet spots should be removed and bedding replaced every day. If using shavings, avoid adding large amounts while the ducklings are in the brooder as shavings are very dusty. Cedar shavings should be avoided as they can give off fumes due to the heat lamp.

Ducklings need a brooder that is about 90° for the first week and then the temperature should be lowered by 5° each week afterwards. Once the temperature in the brooder is the same as the environment (inside or outside) the heat source can be removed. A thermometer is a great investment for someone new to brooding. The heat lamp should be placed so that the ducklings can get away from the heat if needed. Overheating is just as dangerous as chilling for ducklings.
Feeders and waterers should be placed at the perimeter of the heat source. Ducklings may not go to eat and drink if the area is too hot or too cold.
Ducklings need to have constant access to water whenever feed is available. They need to be able to wash their eyes and nares (nostrils) to remove dust or debris. A chick waterer can be used for the first week or so but they will quickly outgrow it. Adding large marbles to the base of the waterer will help to keep the babies out of the water. A non-spill waterer can be easily and cheaply made. A gallon milk jug or shallow food storage container can be used. Simply cut a hole at the height of the ducklings back that is large enough for them to fit just their entire head in. These will need to be replaced on a weekly basis as the ducklings outgrow them.
A platform can be fashioned out of a container covered in hardware cloth so the splashing of the waterer is contained there.
Place the waterer in the brooder in advance so that the water is room temperature. When the ducklings arrive, dip each of their beaks in the water and ensure that they swallow.
Ducklings should not be allowed to get and stay wet. Extreme care should be taken in allowing them to swim when young. Ducklings easily tire and can drown even in a small amount of water. A thorough drying is needed if they get wet.
Pic of homemade waterer https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/426909/non-spill-duckling-waterer
Here is another pic. Size of container, height and hole size will change based on duckling age. This is a 16 oz container and would okay for a few ducklings that are under 2 weeks.

Ducklings should have feed available 24/7 for the first 2 weeks. Ducklings should be fed starter feed with 18-20% protein for the first two weeks. This can be in a crumble form or a mash. Mash should be wet to make it easier to eat. If mash is used, it must be replaced several times a day to prevent spoilage. They can be given chick starter, duck/waterfowl starter, broiler starter, or turkey starter. Care should be taken when feeding a higher protein level feed as physical damage can result.
For many people, duck specific feed is not available. Many people have good results feeding starter or a feed developed for all ages/species. Layer feed should NEVER be given to growing ducklings as the calcium level is too high and can result in damage or death.
An ideal protein feeding schedule is given in the table below. Again, this is not always a possibility for many people.


0-2 weeks

2-8 weeks

8-20 weeks

First egg

Protein level





Medicated feed (in the US) can be given depending on the type of medication that is used. Medications such as amprolium and zinc bacitracin are not harmful to ducklings. Ducks have a higher body temperature and are not as prone to many illnesses. Coccidiosis is usually not a problem for ducklings unless sanitation is poor. Therefore, feeding medicated feed is not a necessity.
Feeders should be shallow for the first few days. Jar lids, egg carton flats or anything that will not tip but is very low will work. Once eating well, they can be switched to troughs.
Whole grains should not be given until ducklings are several weeks old.

If ducklings are fed chick starter a niacin supplement should be given for the first 10 weeks. Brewer’s yeast can be added to feed (2-3 cups per 10 lbs of feed) or niacin tablets can be added to water (100-150mg per gallon).
Ducklings do not need grit if they are fed only commercial feed. If grains or greens are fed, they need appropriate size grit.
Invest in a Book
Asking questions and getting answers on BYC is great. BYC is a wonderful source of information. But knowledgeable people are not always online to answer emergency questions. Invest $10-20 in a book geared specifically at raising ducks so that you have it to refer to in an emergency. I am partial to “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks” by Dave Holderread.

How Many to Get
Ducklings do best with other ducks. Some people have luck in raising a single duckling but ducks need companionship which is best provided by another duckling. Ducks can live up to 15 years and while "right now" you may have the time to devote to a duckling, it is unlikely that your life won't change in the next 10-15 years. Two ducklings will still bond to their owner but they will have each other to spend time with, play with and act like a duck with.

Can I Release Them?

No. Domestic ducklings raised by people do not possess the skills needed to survive on their own. They have not learned skills from a wild mother that they need to survive and are unlikely to possess migratory instincts, if they can even fly.
Here is some info from the El Paso Zoo on reasons they should not be released

Domestic ducks can also carry many diseases which wild populations of ducks do not have immunity to and which there is no cure for. New Castle Disease, duck virus enteritis (DVE), fowl cholera, paratyphoid, avian tuberculosis, chlamydiosis, bird flu and West Nile virus are just some of the diseases that domestic ducks can transmit to wild flocks. In 1993, Muscovy ducks, released into the canals in Venice, California, tested positive for duck plague, duck virus enteritis (DVE), a fatal herpes virus spread through feces. Ducks and geese on the canals began to have violent seizures and then died.
People were feeding the ducks and geese, which can cause them to have more and larger clutches. The canals had become overpopulated. This leads to stress from too many birds in too small a habitat, resulting in fighting, injuries, death and disease. All the ducks and geese in the canals were rounded up by the California Department of Fish and Game and killed out of fear that some birds might fly to other areas and infect wild flocks.
This issue received international attention, when residents tried to save their favorite birds by taking them to secret locations in an attempt to save them. However, it was the release of domestic ducks, compounded by feeding and the resulting overpopulation that was the real tragedy. (The full story and debate can be found in the Newsletter of the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, March 1994.

Keep in mind that just because someone has raised ducks it does not make them a duck expert. Some things work for some people/situations and not others. There are a few basic necessities for ducks. Quality feed, clean water, secure housing and good sanitation practices are all that is needed to raise healthy happy ducks.

Link on picking a breed, where to buy and genders https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/756004/info-on-picking-a-breed-where-to-buy-what-genders-to-get
Sorry, I tried editing this down but couldn't. What type of waterer should I use come winter?


Overrun with Runners
9 Years
Jan 3, 2010
Southern New England
I would think that by winter you are talking about adult ducks, not ducklings?

Some use heated livestock water buckets, some keep the shelter above freezing, some change out water that's frozen overnight.


Jan 28, 2009
Cecil Co. MD - 5Yrs. Chickens 4Yrs. Ducks
Lost a duckling to eating pine shavings. I am sure of it. Like an idiot I had some of the smaller shavings and in a rush I topped off their dampened straw with some of the shavings and left for an appointment. The baby I lost had curled toes on one foot and although it was getting around ok, I was attempting to correct the toes and physical therapy etc. and I have a feeling he sat resting in the shavings and chowed down. I feel like an idiot.

Miss Lydia

Loving this country life
Premium member
Oct 3, 2009
Mountains of Western N.C.
Lost a duckling to eating pine shavings. I am sure of it. Like an idiot I had some of the smaller shavings and in a rush I topped off their dampened straw with some of the shavings and left for an appointment. The baby I lost had curled toes on one foot and although it was getting around ok, I was attempting to correct the toes and physical therapy etc. and I have a feeling he sat resting in the shavings and chowed down. I feel like an idiot.
Not an idiot, just a very hard heartbreaking way to learn something.