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Adding New Ducklings to Your Flock

Adding New Ducklings to Your Flock
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If you own chickens, you are familiar with the term “chicken math”.  At first you are only going to get 3 hens and then before you know it you have 13, not because of accidental chick hatching, but adding new, cool breeds of chickens is addicting!   Well I can tell you “duck math” is also alive and well.  There may not be as many cool breeds of ducks as there are chicken breeds, but I have to say the ducks have wiggled their way into my heart and their hilarious antics and sweet natures just make you want to get more.  Luckily, adding new ducks to your flock is not as stressful and time consuming as adding new chickens.  Chickens have a strict pecking order in their flocks that rules every aspect of their day from who gets the choicest treats to who get the best roost space.  They are constantly jockeying for better position in the order so they don’t usually take kindly to new additions.

Ducks on the other hand, have a pecking order but it isn’t as strict so making new additions isn’t as stressful to them.  They may not mind more guests at the pool party, but especially if you are introducing ducklings to an adult flock that has a drake you want to ease everyone into the idea.

Drakes will be more territorial to newcomers during mating season (spring and summer).  Of course this is also when feed stores are flooded with sweet little ducklings, so it is when you are most likely to be making additions.  A drake will also be more aggressive if you are trying to add another adult drake.  Before you add another drake, make sure you will have at least 3-4 females ducks per drake to minimize fighting.  Additionally your existing females might also get aggressive if there is a drake present, they might want to make sure the newcomers know this is HER drake.  If you have an all female flock of adults and introduce ducklings this is usually the easiest with the least drama. It’s best to wait until ducklings are at least 7-8 weeks old and at least partially feathered out to start making introductions.

Adding ducklings to your flock

Step 1 – Initial Meetings

The first couple times you introduce the new ducks to the older ducks it should be on neutral ground.  Free ranging in the yard is a great place for the initial meeting.  There will be plenty of room to run away if needed and the older ducks hopefully won’t feel as threatened.  Stand nearby as they check each other out and be ready to break up a fight just in case.  Ducks are super inquisitive by nature so they will want to investigate these newcomers.  They know right away these new creatures are the same as them, even though they look different and are much smaller.

Some body language to look for include head bobbing, this is a duck greeting, a way to say “hi, who are you?”.  This is hopefully what you will see.  You will know negative body language when you see it.  The older ducks will run at the new ducks, using their necks to try and push over the ducklings.  If this happens, I would stay close, but let nature run it’s course.  Step in if the ducklings seem overly stressed or if the older ducks start biting.  I would stage these initial meetings once a day for maybe 15 minutes each for 3-4 days in a row. Adding duckling to your flock

Step 2 – Safe Cohabitation

After they ducks have met a couple times, the next step is to bring the new ducklings out for full days.  You most likely do not have the time to sit outside watching over the interactions so you will want to create a barrier between the old and new ducks.  This way they can see, hear and smell each other but no one can get hurt.  If your older ducks free range in the yard during the day,  try securing the ducklings in the duck run.  Alternately you can section off part of your run with some chicken wire. This lets the ducklings get used to their new home outside of the brooder and the old ducks get used to the idea of new ducks living in their space.  I usually bring the ducklings back inside the house at night to let the old ducks have their space back.  After 3-4 days of this we move to Step 3.  An alternative in step 2 is if you have an older duck that is taking to the ducklings and being nice, you can add the nice adult duck in with the ducklings in the run.  Let them all bond together before setting them free with the whole flock.

Adding Ducklings to your Flock

Step 3 – Overnight Visits

Next you want to let the ducklings spend the night outside where they belong.  Section off your duck sleeping area so you have two separate spaces.  Just make sure where ever you have your ducks sleeping is predator proof!  Preferably it is somewhere the old and new ducks can see each other the whole night but can’t get to each other.  After a couple nights of sleepovers, it’s time for the final step!

Step 4 – Full Fledged Friends

The last step is to let the old and new flocks merge.  Let them all out to free range, hold your breath and hope everyone behaves!  Try to make this happen on a day when you will be home all day so you can keep an eye on things.  Hang out with them for 15 minutes or so, if it seems like everyone is being cool, you can go about your business but try to stay close and make frequent check ins.  Definitely keep a closer eye on any drakes to make sure they aren’t being bullies and make sure you have plenty of food & water available so they aren’t fighting over resources.

That’s it!  In another week or so, you will  never even know to look at them that they were ever anything other than a big, quacky family 🙂  Keep in mind that just like humans, ducks have their own personalities.  Sometimes it takes hours for new ducks to decide they like each other – sometimes it is weeks or even months.

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Sharon D Drumm

Monday 10th of April 2023

Hi! I have a week old female buff whose sister unfortunately died shortly after arriving with us. I have 2 more on the way. When they arrive, the 2 new will be a week younger than our current duckling. We have been trying to strike a good balance between comforting the lonely chick and not handling her too much lest she develop separation anxiety when we put them outside. We have put mirrors and stuffies in her brooder, play chick sounds, and visit with her frequently. I'll tell you what - they definitely want and need company! the others can't get here soon enough!! My question is do you think when the new ducklings arrive the existing duckling will accept them okay? anything I should do to encourage their bonding?


Monday 10th of April 2023

Awww sounds like you are doing everything right! Poor little one, they really don't like being alone. We actually had the same situation last year but with goslings. It took us 3 weeks to be able to get more goslings so she wouldn't be alone. Geese & ducks both grow SUPER fast - so the size difference will be a little shocking when the little ones arrive, but most likely the older duckling will be so happy to have other ducklings to hang with the bonding should be pretty quick. And the little ones will catch up quickly in size. Our little gosling immediately took to her two new sisters, it was very sweet. Good luck!


Monday 11th of July 2022

My situation is so different than anyone else. We currently reside in an RV park that has ducks everywhere. One duck lost his mate about a month ago. It is rumored that she was run over. All the other ducks around our park have bullied him and now he hangs close to our RV. We are full timers that have a permanent spot in the park so we have started to take care of him. He now has a kiddie pool that he LOVES. He comes when I call him and for feedings. And I have even ordered a sign warning people about him and to slow down around our site. I know NOTHING about ducks. Looking up different species, I have concluded that he is a male Cayuga, probably around a year old. What else do I need to do? I want to keep him safe, but I also don’t want him to be lonely. We give him Fresh water daily and I empty the kiddie pool out every 3 days or so. Should I provide a different shelter than him hiding under our RV? I still allow him his space as I don’t want him to be scared off. Should I even try to introduce a couple of ducklings? Thank you for any help!


Wednesday 13th of July 2022

That is wonderful that you have taken this guy in, I am sure he appreciates it! I would definitely NOT get him ducklings. Adult ducks (especially males) are more likely to kill random ducklings than to care for them. It is quite normal for the other ducks to be bullying him, especially as the mating season is still going on. The good news for him is that ducks are not monogamous and don't mate for life like other wildfowl such as swans. While he might be sad that his favorite female was killed, he is certainly not doomed to be alone. Do these ducks live on the pond year round? Cayugas are a domesticated breed of duck, so either he is a different breed or someone purchased him and released him into the lake. Determining his breed might influence how you handle the situation going forward. Cayugas (and other domesticated ducks) are not capable of flight, they might be able to get 7-8 inches off the ground but that's about it. Domesticated duck breeds have been bred for generations to be too large bodied to fly, making them easier for farmers to keep. This means that he will not be able to migrate in the winter when the other ducks leave. Not only will this leave him lonely, but he is also likely to need more help in the winter staying safe from predators and finding food. If he is a domesticated breed and you stay at the RV park all year you might want to try and find him an adult female duck to hang out with. If he is a wild duck that will be migrating eventually you wouldn't want to get him a friend that won't be able to fly off with him! If you would like to email me a picture maybe I can help you determine his breed - in any event, thanks for caring for this little guy!


Thursday 7th of July 2022

I also need help. I have two adult drakes and recently incubated eggs and have five ducklings of unknown sex. At about 1 month old I let them out to free range. It went well for a while but now the two adults are chasing and attacking the ducklings. One is injured enough that it can't walk, one is limping. They need a larger area to run around in but how do I keep those mean drakes away?


Friday 8th of July 2022

Drakes are generally not super friendly towards ducklings. You will probably have to keep the ducklings separated until they are nearly full grown around 10 weeks (at least). The easiest way to do this is to get some 4 foot tall chicken wire and use it to divide your area so they can see each other but not get to each other. It will let the drakes get used to the ducklings being around but keep the ducklings safe until they are big enough to hold their own. For the injured ones, hopefully it is just a sprain or hurt leg that will heal on it's own. Make sure you have plenty of fresh water & feed for them and that you are adding extra niacin to promote strong legs. Good luck!

Tom Watkins

Monday 29th of November 2021

I have two rescued ducks a big white one and a black and white one. I do not know how old they are. I think I'm there third home. I don't they've ever been with females ducks after watching them chase my hens around and catching them at first now the chickens know how to escape them. I sent off for 4 females ducks (Rouens)and their growing like wild weeds when I introduce them will my Drakes overwhelm them ?


Tuesday 30th of November 2021

I would definitely wait to introduce the females until they are at least 16 weeks, because the drakes won't care if they are too young for breeding. But once they all settle in together, they should be just fine!


Friday 5th of November 2021

Hi Liz, I have five 14 week old ducks three males and two females. We are about to get 7 more females that are about the same age. Should we follow the same introduction method or will the ducks go together easily since they are all still young and not mating yet?


Friday 5th of November 2021

You should still keep them separated at first, but because they are so young it might not have to be for too long. I would start with letting them live side by side but separate for 3 days and then see how they do together. Some birds are also just easier going than others, so if you have a bully you just want to be careful. But each "flock" will likely stick with their hatch mates for several weeks or even months, as long as they aren't fighting each other that is fine.

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