Ducklings 101

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All I knew about ducklings before we got them was they are super messy.  That was enough to scare me away for years, but their cute little faces won me over eventually and I thought “how messy could they be?”.  The answer to that question is very.  Very, very messy.

Even though I like things to be clean in my house, I still think the ducks are worth it.  They are an awesome addition to our little farm!  Brooding ducklings requires a special kind of patience and love.  It will absolutely amaze you how quickly they will mess up their brooder, but they are just so unbelievably sweet and fun to watch it *almost* makes up for it.

If you have children, you are familiar with this feeling.  You get one room all nice and clean, then move to the next room.  When you return to the first room you find it completely destroyed, your cherubs staring up at you with angelic little faces like they did nothing wrong.  It is the same with ducklings, they aren’t doing anything wrong, both kids and the ducks just wanna have fun!

If you have a spare bathtub that is the way to go so a lot of the water can easily drain out, but you will still be cleaning up your fair share of gunk to avoid having it clog up your plumbing.  I don’t have a spare tub, so I have made a brooder out of a plastic storage bin (click here to see how I made it).  I clean the plastic bin THREE TIMES A DAY and there are only two ducklings in there!  Compare that with chicks, whom I brood 5-7 at a time and only have to clean the box a couple times a week.

Ducklings 101

Brooder set up

On the bottom of the box I put down rubber shelf liner.  This gives the ducklings a non slick surface to walk on and elevates the straw bedding a little so it’s not sitting in a pile of goo.  I have a small baking sheet that I put in the brooder box.  I put the feed and water dishes in the baking sheet to help catch most of the gunk & water they splash around, then I put a handful or two of straw in the rest of the box for bedding.

For a feed dish, you want to use something fairly shallow they can access easily.  I use a terracotta pot saucer.  For their water, I use a Mason jar water base for the first 5-6 days.  I don’t want to put a big dish of water in there with newborn ducklings to keep them safe from drowning.  Newborn ducklings are awkward and sometimes find themselves stuck on their back, you don’t want that to happen near the water!

They grow so fast that by the end of that first week, they will be having a hard time fitting their heads and bills in the dish.  Ducks need to be able to dunk their whole head in water to keep their nostrils clean & moist, and their eyes clear.  After the first week, I switch to a glass 1.5 quart baking dish.  It’s easy to clean and heavy enough the ducks can’t overturn it.

DIY Brooder Box

What do ducklings eat?

Ducklings can eat the same starter feed you would give chicks.  You want to find a non-medicated starter chick feed.  Ducklings eat a lot more than chicks and could overdose on medication making them sick if you get the medicated feed.  Chick feed is medicated to prevent coccidiosis, which isn’t an issue for ducks so the medication is completely unnecessary anyway.

To support duckling’s fast growth, you want to find a starter feed that is high in protein for the first few weeks (20-21%) if possible.  At around 3 weeks, the duckling’s growth will really kick into high gear and they will be going through feed like crazy.  Because of this, you want to switch to a slightly lower protein grower feed (16-18%) so they don’t go into protein overload.  If you can’t find a lower protein chick grower feed, you can “dilute” the feed by adding a low protein grain like oats to the feed.  Mix in raw, uncooked oats to replace about 25% of the feed.  Too much protein can lead to a wing deformity called angel wings where the wing joint sticks out instead of laying flat against the body.

Ducklings require 2-3 times the amount of niacin that chicks need, so commercial chick starter will not provide the necessary niacin that ducklings need.  Niacin deficiency can lead to bowed legs and joint issues so you should supplement your duckling’s diet.  Adding brewer’s yeast to their feed is an easy way to help them get extra niacin.  I like to mix the brewer’s yeast in as I change the feed.  If you add the yeast into your big bag of feed, the yeast will just sink to the bottom.  For every cup of feed I put in the dish, I mix in 1.5 tablespoons of brewers yeast. click here to read more about ducklings & niacin

For the first two weeks, I would avoid giving them additional treats, but after that, ducks like the same sorts of treats that chickens do – mealworms, bugs, fresh greens & herbs (try floating some herbs in the water, they will love it!), scrambled eggs and most fruits.  Once you start giving them treats beyond their feed, you need to provide the ducklings with grit (sand or commercial chick grit) to help them digest the food.

Ducklings 101


If you have brooded chicks before, you will notice that ducklings don’t need heat for nearly as long as chicks do.  This is because ducklings grow so much faster.  You will want to start out with a heat lamp warming the area to 90 degrees.  Use a heat bulb with a red filter to ease stress.  From there you go down about 1 degree a day.  You don’t need to go crazy about getting it precise.  Just raise your heat lamp up a little each day, and by the end of the first week aim to be around 83 degrees, and by the end of the second week around 76 degrees.

The ducklings will let you know if they are uncomfortable.  If you check on them and see them sitting with their mouths open panting, it’s too hot- back the heat off a bit more.  If they are peeping loudly and huddled together bring the heat back some more.

By the end of the third week, you are aiming for a temperature of 69 degrees.  If you are brooding the ducks in your house, sometime during that second week you are going to be hitting the regular air temperature inside and can turn the heat lamp off.  I brood my ducks in my sunroom which during the day is fine, but can get a little chilly at night, so I turn the heat lamp off during the day and turn it on at night if they need it.  After the third week, it’s off pretty much all the time unless we get a super cold snap.

Just how messy are they? Keeping them clean

What makes ducklings so messy?  Well there is the obvious, they poop a lot and it is pretty runny because of all the water they drink.  But in addition, and I think the bigger offender, is the way they eat and drink.

Ducks like to mix their food & water for digestion, so they will take a bill full of feed, eat it, then chase it with water.  But often there is still food in their bill, which gets into the water.  Then when they go back for more feed, there is still water in their bill which gets into the feed turning it into a gunky mess, and of course they are dropping both feed & water in between the two dishes.

When they are done eating, they like to dip their whole heads in the water about a dozen or so times to get clean and possibly get in the water to splash around a bit.  When they come up they are shaking their heads and bodies splattering water on all the walls, which isn’t too bad in the first 10 minutes or so when the water is clean.  After they have been eating and food starts dissolving in the water it turns brown and mucky and they shake that water onto all the walls of the brooder making every surface gross.

This is my schedule for keeping the brooder box MODERATELY clean.  The ducklings get cleaned the first time around 9 AM, I change out the straw bedding, wipe out all the gunk from of the baking sheet and clean & refill their water & food dishes.  Mid day, I do the same, usually around 2 PM.  Then before I go to bed around 11:30 PM, I do a bigger cleaning.  I take everything out of the box, including the shelf liner which by this point is caked with poo and mushed up food. I rinse the shelf liner in the sink, clean the baking sheet and the water & feed bowls.  Then I take a vinegar spray and wipe down all the walls & floor of the brooder box (click here to see how I make this natural cleaner).  I put everything back and add clean straw.

All nice and clean!
All nice and clean!
About 24 hours after totally emptying and cleaning everything. Keep in mind since the first picture, TWICE I changed out all the straw and cleaned the baking pan, water & food dishes
About 24 hours after totally emptying and cleaning everything. Keep in mind since the first picture, I changed out all the straw and cleaned the baking pan, water & food dishes TWICE – these ducklings are two weeks old

Swimming Lessons

Ducklings can technically swim when they are about a week old but they lack the oil in their feathers that help adult ducks be so buoyant.  In the wild, mother duck rubs some of her oil on her babies to help them swim.  Swim time should always be short & supervised during the first month of life.  A tub or sink filled with a little water for them to splash around in will be fine and they will have a blast in there.  10-15 minutes should be enough at first before they start to get tired.  A tired duckling with no waterproofing can easily drown so always be there to supervise.  Make sure you dry them off before you return them to the brooder so they don’t get too chilled.  After about 5 weeks, they should be preening to distribute the oil in their feathers and good to swim on their own for longer times.

Ducklings 101

Going outside

By the third week, you can start introducing your ducklings to the great outdoors on warm, sunny days (at least 65 degrees).  Make sure they are in a secure run or playpen and monitor their excursions to keep them safe from predators.  Keep the first few trips outside short, gradually lengthening their time outside to get them used to outdoor temperatures.  Somewhere around their 6th-8th week they should have lost their baby fluff and be feathered out.  But they can move outside permanently anytime after week 4 as long as nighttime temperatures are not too low (at least 50 degrees).  And by this point, you will be more than ready for these messy house guests to move to their new home!

Ducklings 101

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  1. Karla says:

    Thank you so much for all the info,we are hoping to move where we can get ducks and this is very helpful. The pics really give a better idea of what to expect, thank you again.

    1. Glad to help! Good luck with your ducks, they really are worth all the mess lol!

  2. Today was day two with our new 5, 14day old ducklings. I agree they are MESSY!!! And the SMELL of the duck poo is ugh, a smell in its own!!!
    My daughter had ALOT of pine shavings left over from horse camp so We have a 50gal rubber tub with the pine shavings and it seems to do well All day! I will turn the shavings half way tbrough the day and Before bed, I will add a thin layer over the other so they have dry for bedtime and change everything in the morning. It seems to work very well!! I also put their food in a metal pie tin, very shallow! I bought a gallon self waterer for them that works well, great $6 investment!! It has deep enough edges they can stick their bills in.

    1. That is great! I can’t even imagine doing 5 at once lol! We have done two ducklings at a time twice now and that smell was enough! They are awfully cute though 🙂

      1. Hayley says:

        I currently have one 7 week old duck and 2 ducks that are 2 weeks old. Would you put the older duck out on its own before the other 2 are ready to live outside? Or would you wait until the other 2 are ready and put them all out together? I currently have hens in a coop.

        1. If the three ducks are currently living together I would wait until the little guys are ready and put them all out together. The single duck will be lonely, even with the hens, she will want other ducks to hang out with. Good luck!

  3. day one here mums -indian runner – on the lake with the other 12, l got two from eggs left in nest. now in box with fine mulch in ensuite under heat lights very warm in there, rest of house is air con nearly 100′ here today made up some moist chick feed for when ready tomorrow should be ok for dry and water ? got a cage in henhouse set with light for tonight 7 muscovy ducklings now in their own yard this set up worked for them but today too hot and needed to keep closer eye on them for first 12 hours

    1. I would definitely keep an eye on them for the first couple days in that heat – but if they are with their mom she will take good care of them!

  4. I wasn’t planning on ducklings this year, but went to my local farm supply store where they were poorly treated and “on clearance.” There were about 60 in a space much too small so I took the 5 largest ones. They had sores on their feet and were incredibly grungy. All that to say, it isn’t ideal to get ducks in Ohio at this time of year as we are still expecting about a week of winter weather. They are likely 5ish weeks (don’t know for sure) and their feathers are beginning to come in. We have them in a crib but they have already outgrown it. We have an outdoor pen we put them on cold days, however, I don’t know that they will be alright in the crib for another week. Thus, I was wondering if you thought it might be possible to move them to our fenced in chicken area with another duck of ours with a heat lamp on during the day so that they could warm up as needed. Then, at night, we could move them in the coop with the adult duck and 20 chickens. It stays quite warm in there as we use the “deep litter” method with straw. Is this a possibility or should we all just stick with the sub-par living situation for them until the next week’s weather is up?

    1. I think putting them outside on warm days until the temps come up and keeping them inside (even if they are cramped) on cold days would be perfect. Just make sure you keep an eye on your other duck & chickens to be sure they aren’t picking on the babies. Good luck with them, I’m so glad you rescued them, sounds like even a cramped crib be a big improvement over living in the store

    2. Did you get them at tractor supply? I got 2 mallord duckling there last week & im trying to guess their age. They definitely aren’t tiny & I was way less than impressed with their set up as well!! ?

      1. Places like Tractor Supply get the ducklings in at one or two days old and don’t really plan on keeping them in store for very long – so they don’t spend a lot of time setting up lots of room for growing ducklings. Unfortunately if they aren’t purchased and start to get bigger that can be a big problem. If they still have most of their downy feathers they are likely under 2 weeks. They grow super fast!

  5. I meant that I put them in the outdoor pen on WARM days, not cold :).

  6. Miranda says:

    Thank you so much for the info! I have a question, so my husband brought home 6 ducklings because the local feed store had them on sale for 25 cents they are older 2 weeks, is it normal that the peck themselves often? It even looks like they have irritated their skin? I’m concerned maybe they were in a big flock for to long and something spread. I may be paranoid but I donhave want our son playing with them if there is something wrong?

    1. Ducks definitely spend a lot of time preening and at 2 weeks they are starting to grow into their gangley “teenage” phase and are probably starting to lose their fluff and grow feathers so that might be itchy. But their skin shouldn’t seem red and irritated. Do you see any mites or lice on them (they are really really tiny, but if you hold the duckling and part the feathers you should see them running about on the skin). My guess is though that they were stressed from being at the feed store for so long, probably in a cramped box and maybe not given the proper care. I would give them some electrolytes in their water and loving care and I bet they will soon be looking good!

  7. Jessica says:

    We have 3 6 week old ducklings, and they have been handled since day 1. Now they don’t like to be handled and run when you try to pick them up… is this normal? They are well taken care of and we spend time with them several times a day every day but they just don’t seem to enjoy it…

    1. My ducks don’t love being picked up either, they are friendly and will come right up to you but prefer to keep their feet on the ground. I think it is just a personality thing. I would keep spending time with them, but if they don’t want to be picked up don’t force it or they will start to fear you. Try tempting them to come closer to you by sitting on the ground and hand feeding them treats and showing them you can be trusted and aren’t something to be scared of

  8. Kim says:

    My duckling crys when we put him back in his tub house. He is alone what can I do? We found him when he was in the egg

    1. Ducks are really social animals – especially when they are young. If you can’t add another duckling for him as a friend, I have seen some people have some luck with adding a stuffed animal or feather duster for them to cuddle against. But if at all possible, I would recommend getting him a real duckling for a friend

  9. Robin E Jackson says:

    I have 8 ducklings (mallard) that hatched in a nest. They are with their mother (Lola) most of the time and they were swimming on day 2 in a baby pool in the backyard. Never been in the house and Lola won’t let me get too close even though they trust me somewhat now at 3 weeks. There is no brewers yeast in this town, really. I wish I could find some and can’t order online. I like your article but feel overwhelmed as the ducklings are fed with 4 adult ducks and eat and poop in the adult pans and ignore their chick starter mixed with a green pea puree..for the niacin. I’ve also opened tons of niacin capsules to add to the starter but I still don’t think they are getting enough. They have learned to forage and drill holes with the best of them. Am I doing enough? They eat like piranhas!

    1. They really do eat an insane amount! They grow super fast so they need all that food! When I have chicks or ducklings in the flock, I switch everyone over to a starter mix. The added calcium in an adult layer mix is not good for babies of either species. Maybe switch everyone over to the starter with the added pea puree (the peas are a great idea!). I haven’t had much luck finding brewer’s yeast locally either and had to order online. I know nursing mothers use it often to build up milk supply, so maybe in the infant section of a health store? It’s great they are free ranging, their mom will definitely help them find what they need. Wild ducks don’t have humans helping them get all they need. I think you are doing a great job, keep it up!

    2. If they are around thier mom they should be fine. Ducklings get thier niacin and other essentials by eating the mamas poop

  10. Katherine says:

    So my male just died .. Don’t know how .. And the female is crying .. She was 7 weeks on Wednesday .. Should I get her some babies?? Or would she kill them?

    1. awww that is so sad! Ducks are fast growers, I would get her some new friends and she will likely be fine with them

  11. Vickie Bozeman Hale says:

    Hi! I have 2ducklings. 1Welsh Harlequin and 1Cayauga. We had three but lost one. ? They are three weeks and a couple of days old. The Welsh sits a lot more than the Cayauga. I feed them both 18% starter/grower feed I mix in brewers yeast and some parakeet grit. I was mixing 1.5 T of BY to 1cup feed based on what I’ve been reading. I upped it to 2T per cup today in case she needed more. She seems fine otherwise, eats well. Runs in the yard but whenever they stop walking, she sits down Immediately unlike the other. Any concerns?

    1. When she is walking does she seem to have a similar gait to the other one? She isn’t wobbling or limping? It sounds like you are feeding them exactly what they need. She is just getting tired easily. I would keep bringing them outside, they grow so fast and I am sure they are starting to outgrow their brooder! Outside will give her a chance to really stretch her legs and run, and outside is such an exciting place to explore. Do you let her swim? That is another excellent way for ducklings to build leg strength. Bathtubs work great or little kiddie pools outside. You could also try offering her some dried meal worms as a treat, they are full of protein which is great for energy and building muscle.

  12. Vickie Bozeman Hale says:

    Thank you so much! Yes the do swim in a kiddie pool. They mostly dunk there heads and float around. I sprinkle pieces of grass and fresh herbs from the garden in the pool for them to eat. I will try that with the mealworms too. They also have been eating rose chafer beetles that are everywhere right now. Yesterday morning I weeded in my garden for a couple of hours and they both followed me around eating bits of this and that. I guess I’m concerned because she sits much more than the Cayauga. Maybe just because they are different breeds? She walks fine and runs fast if I walk across the yard, they follow. Both of them step in their own feet all the time so I’m assuming this is normal. Thanks for your answer. I feel much better about it now. This is our first experience with chicks and ducklings. I love it! ❤️

  13. We just bought ducklings identical to your pictures from TSC – do you know what kind you have? Great post!

    1. They are actually two different breeds, one a female Blue Swedish and the other a male Welsh Harliquin. Identifying ducklings can be tricky because so many look the same. They should start to get their adult feathers around 7-8 weeks and it will be much easier to tell breeds then!

  14. Peter Gray says:

    Thanks for all the ideas and info. Based on our 2 Blue, 2 Black Swedish, now 2.5 weeks old, they don’t need anything like 5 weeks to competently oil their own down. More like 2 days. Ours have been swimming and diving in deep water since Day 4, with no ill effects whatsoever. Your mileage may vary, so supervise them closely at first, but ours are thriving on free access to the kiddie pool, and plenty of human attention. Lovely birds, more fun by the day.
    They’re messier than chickens in some ways, but they’re adaptable, curious, smart, and so far, friendly and affectionate.

  15. Sarah Emery says:

    We have a younger duckling but it has been bullied by the other older ducks and they have taken his feathers out 🙁 we have taken him out and wrapped him up and put him under a heat lamp. Is there anything else i can give him? Should i keep him away from swimming for now?

    1. Awww poor baby! You will want to keep him in and away from the older ducks until he is totally healed. If he is really young, you will want to hold off introductions until he is feathered out (about 6-8 weeks depending on the duckling). He will be bigger and stronger then and hopefully the other ducks will be nicer to him! You can give him some electrolytes and/or vitamins in his water to help his body be at it’s best for healing. If he is bleeding anywhere, keep the area clean with Vetricyn and possibly gauze pads & Vetrap if it’s really bad

  16. Sarah Emery says:

    hi Liz, thanks so much for getting back to me! Yes we have kept him inside and away from the others. What kind of Vitamins and Electrolytes do you suggest? Can i get them from a supermarket? Anything i can do to help him!

  17. Linda Thompson says:

    Ducklings need to go on a reduced protein feed at two weeks or they will develop “Angel Wing.”

  18. Eleni Otto says:

    What a wonderful page, many great tips! I laughed out loud when I saw some of the comments like ‘messy’, etc. I am raising ducklings – 8 this year, will be put in coop with 4 adults in May – here in the high desert, cannot put them out in coop until May – so, many more indoor messes to clean! Thanks for your page, the great tips, am signing up for any updates.

    1. Thanks Eleni! They are so messy but they are so darn cute! 🙂

  19. Samantha Cripe says:

    Hello! Total newbie here lol .. we were given 10 ducklings a few weeks ago and this is a totally new experience for us! Lol .. they were born April 23, and I have no idea what I’m doing lol.. it’s 50° here today and a little drizzle/light rain, are they okay outside in this? We have been keeping them in totes in the garage with the heat lamp and from what Ive read from your posts I have completely done it wrong but we still have all 10! A few of them have lost the ‘fluff’ on the under side of their necks, is that normal? I have no idea what kind they are.. they are getting really big and I don’t know when to switch them outside? It’s supposed to warm up the rest of the week (70s+ daytime and 60s at night, good old northern IN weather!) .. we have a very large dog cage I took the bottom out of and put them in it outside this morning, I would love to talk to you if at all possible about what I need to do and when and how much feed to get, I saw the water and I’ve been doing that somewhat correct! lol .. any insight would be much appreciated!!

    1. They are pretty resilient little critters, I am sure you are doing fine! I usually put mine outside when they are over 4 weeks and it’s over 50 degrees consistently at night, so it sounds like your little guys should be just about ready to go. Ducks really don’t need as much heat as other smaller poultry like chicks, and they grow so fast & huddle together, usually after a couple weeks they only need the heat lamps if it’s really cold outside. Totally normal for them to start losing fluff at this age. They are going to start growing in their big duck feathers. The in between stage can make them look a little gangly lol. If you check out my duck home page i have over 2 dozen articles all about raising ducks including one about feeding them throughout their lives: but if you still have questions you are welcome to email me at 🙂

  20. Amber says:

    I am so excited I found this post! I had a duck when I was very young. My parents did all of the work of course so I know very little about their care. I have been researching all day because my sweet husband told me we were going to get me a duck as soon as we moved to a place with a pond. That happened Friday the 28th!! He took me today and allowed me to purchase two adorable baby ducks. Your post has a lot of great information that I hadn’t read yet. Thank you so much for sharing your cleaning routine!! I was really nervous about allowing them to play in the water because no one could tell me how old they were and I wasn’t sure if it was safe yet. We are going to go play in the tub right now!!!

    1. Yay!! So fun! Enjoy your new babies 🙂

  21. john brown says:

    put the ducks in a dog cage and place the food and water on the outside. they can access it easily and no mess

  22. Charlene K Goodwin says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight. This was a helpful article. We have a pair of 1 wk old mallards. Just yesterday morning, one of the ducklings started limping. I noticed the ‘ankle’ joint may be more stiff and swollen than the good foot. After my initial research, I thought niacin? But I’m new to ducklings and I need some more insight on it. Thoughts? Ideas? Do ducklings recover from these types of setbacks?

    1. They are pretty resilient animals. If it is a niacin deficiency the sooner you can act the better. If you aren’t supplementing your ducklings diet with extra niacin that could be the cause. You can read more about niacin & ducklings here:

      1. Sandra C Dane says:

        Hi Liz, I am a first time duckling owner. I have 3 pekin and 1 khaki Campbell. They are now 3 1/2 weeks old. I spend time with them MULTIPLE times a day, feeding, fresh water, clean shavings. I take them for a swim in the kiddie pool each day. They are VERY traumatized when I pick them up, but very happy with the swim. I wanted them to eventually play in the yard. Once outside in their coop, if I let them out to play, will they eventually warm up to me and should I worry about them running away from our yard? I wanted them for pets and they are so afraid of me:-(

        1. It’s totally normal for them to not enjoy being picked up. Most animals don’t like having their feet off the ground and being restrained. Instead, try interacting with the on the ground. Sit on the ground with them and have some treats they love. Encourage them to eat from your hands, and to climb on your legs. Is there a way they can get in the pool themselves? Maybe a ramp that you only put up when you are there? Then they associate you with the fun of swimming instead of the scariness of being picked up. They will warm up to you – you just have to interact with them at their level! At the very least they shouldn’t be tempted to run away because you provide food and safe shelter

  23. Justin Allen says:

    Hey Liz!! I absolutely love your post as it covers pretty much everything you need to know about raising ducklings!! I’ve been raising ducklings now for over 15 years and I still find them fascinating to watch grow up!
    The only thing that bothers me is the smell! I find the smell only gets bad from around day 5 onwards, I also have a very similar cleaning schedule to you and it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve always used large cardboard boxes with old t-shirt on the floor for the first few weeks, t-shirts can be easily rinsed out then cleaned daily and i can just chuck the box on my compost heap after a few days and and the worms absolutely love it! I have a couple of Aylesbury ducks over 11 year old now and between two of them they still lay over 10 eggs a week! Can’t beat fresh meat and eggs ?????

  24. Emma says:

    Can you link the food you use for the ducklings?

    1. Hi Emma, I use Nutrena Nature Wise chick starter grower feed unmedicated. It is something I can find locally, but it is also a good feed. It’s fine as is with chicks, but with ducklings, you do need to supplement brewer’s yeast to get the proper niacin levels. It has 18% protein which is a good middle of the road amount. It’s not quite high enough for those first couple weeks so occasionally I will toss in some dried meal worms to get the protein up. If you can find duckling starter or grower feed locally that is a great way to go, but it’s not always easy to find

  25. Emma says:

    Also, does the brooder box need to be inside or can it be outside?

    1. That really depends on your temperatures and the time of year. I live in New England so keeping them outside would be way too cold for much of the year. If you are using a heat lamp, it’s always better to have them inside where you can keep an eye on the heat lamp as they can be fire hazards. The radiant heaters are much safer to use (like the Brinsea EcoGlow), but they don’t effectively heat when the ambient air temperature is under 50 degrees. So if it’s over 50 degrees and you have a radiant heater you could brood them somewhere outside like a barn, shed, garage, or coop. I wouldn’t let them have unattended access to the actual outdoors until they are at least a month old though

  26. Kelly says:

    I have 7 Pekin Ducklings – they are 5 weeks old and so big and messy!! I have had them in our garage last week or so. Live in Ohio so nights get a bit chilly – I am ready to put them in their coop (finally complete!) if the nights get to 40 degrees – is it too cold??? It is completely enclosed coop…with lots of straw!

    1. They really are super messy, especially with that many!! Usually my rule of thumb is over 4 weeks and over 50 degrees at night before I’ll move them outside. But by 5 weeks they should be mostly feathered at this point and with lots of straw you could probably push it to 45 at night. Hopefully it will warm up soon!! It has been a super cold spring here as well – I’ve got some chicks I am dying to get outside if the weather would just cooperate!

  27. Jamie Sharp says:

    I found an abandoned duckling. It was half dead. It was so small I could put it in my hand and cup the other hand over and it fit nicely. Thanks to you it has made it now for three weeks! It’s black with a bit of yellow chest, with black feet and Black beak. Your instructions were brilliant! I have some questions.
    How long do I continue with the niacin? I’ve heard ducks shouldn’t be alone, is that true? Should I buy it a friend? Will they get along? How do you tell the sex?
    Thank you so much. You saved this ducks life!!

    1. Awwww that is wonderful news!!! I am so glad I could help 🙂 You will want to continue with the niacin until they are full grown and ready to start laying (somewhere between 18-22 weeks).
      Ducks are very social animals and really should have a friend unless you can devote pretty much all your time to hanging out with them and they are going to live inside your house. They should get along just fine, especially if you introduce a new friend soon when they are still babies.
      It’s too early for you to tell the sex on your little one. When they are about 10 weeks their voice should start to change – girls will get a loud, clear quack and boys will have a lower, raspy “wap wap wap” sort of sound. As they near maturity (15ish weeks), many breeds have different feather patterns between males & females with the males being flashier colored. The males will also develop a curly feather at the base of their tail – known as a drake curl. And then of course around 18-22 weeks the females should start laying eggs 🙂 Just a guess without seeing your little guy, but mostly black with a yellow patch on the chest sounds like a Black Swedish duck. If that is true, the males & females have similar feather patterns when full grown so that will make it a littler harder for you to tell.

  28. Ali McClelland says:

    We just got 4 ducklings today at the store and I’ve been reading your blogs about all their care and helpful advice and honestly you’ve answered so many questions I didn’t even think of.
    We’re brooding inside our house with soft pine wood chips and so far today hasn’t been too bad. We’ll see tomorrow once they have a peaceful sleep since my kids won’t be harassing them. Lol
    Thank you again for the answers to questions I didn’t know I had. Lol

  29. Sarah says:

    5 days ago I found a mallard duckling in my front yard! I knew absolutely nothing about ducks prior and have read probably every article I could find online!! I’m assuming it was only 1-2 days old when I found it because it was SO small. I fed it cut up spinach, hard boiled eggs, broccoli, carrots, and peas for the first 3 days until I was able to get starter chick feed. The feed I got is non-medicated but only 18% protein. Do you recommend I buy a new bag that is higher in protein or do you think it will be okay?? If I were to keep the 18% feed and added mealworms for extra protein, would I need to provide grit? Also, I know they get lonely by themselves and I want to get another one but they would be 1-2 weeks apart in age. Would I need to separate them because of the differing diets? I don’t want one to be off a week in nutrition because it’s eating the same feed as the older one. Or do you think they would be okay since they would be so close in age? Lastly, I just bought brewers years and it is going to be delivered hopefully this weekend and I’m nervous he is going to have a niacin deficiency. When it arrives, should I add extra yeast to it’s feed to make up for lost time or will that be harmful? Omg so many questions lol I hope you can help me!!

    1. Awww sweet! He will be ok with the 18% protein feed, that is a good middle ground protein that could work as starter and grower feed. If you give mealworms or continue with the veggies you will want to provide some grit (sand will work, or you can buy chick grit). The brewers yeast is really important, so definitely start that as soon as it comes. It’s not a nutrient they can store in their body, so any excess will just be excreted out. While waiting you can offer some natural niacin sources likes peas and mealworms. Before you jump in and get a second duckling you need to think about the future of this duck(and any other duckling you buy). Mallard ducks are wild ducks, and unlike domestic ducks they can still fly (most duck breeds you would be able to buy are domestic breeds that have been bred over generations to be too big boned to fly). Wild ducks also will still have their wild instincts to migrate in the winter. Is it your intention to rehab this duckling until it is old enough to fend for itself and then release it? Keep in mind in many states it is illegal to keep wild ducks, including Mallards, unless you have a permit to care for wild animals. Once this duck is released or decides on its own it is time to fly south for the winter, the other duckling you bought will be left behind on his own. Domestic ducks should not be released into the wild, because they can’t fly and they depend on humans for food, they can’t escape predators and will likely not survive long. So while getting a domestic duckling to keep him company is a great idea, it is not really good in the long run for either of them (the domestic duck shouldn’t be released into the wild, and the wild duck shouldn’t be kept as a pet). If you want to get into keeping ducks long term, you could get two ducklings to keep this guy company. Then the domestic ducks will still have each once the Mallard is released. If you don’t want to keep ducks long term, I would reach out to your local wildlife rescue and see if they have another abandoned Mallard to keep him company. They will also have some good information on raising them for eventual release. Thank you for taking this little guy and taking such good care of him, he certainly wouldn’t have made it without you!

      1. Thank you for answering! I actually found a wildlife rehab center and they were able to take it today! Now it can grow up and be released into the wild and have the life it is supposed to (:

  30. Jeannette Martin says:

    How long do the ducklings need the extra niacin for?

    1. I usually give them extra niacin until I switch them to layer feed around 16-18 weeks

  31. reylen says:

    Hello, Can I use A Snuggle Safe Heating pad? And Do ducklings like Playpen’s?

    1. I have never tried using a snuggle safe heating pad with them. I think my biggest concern would be that they will definitely poop all over it, so you will need to be constantly washing it. You will want to have several covers for it. My second concern would just be that the heat would be inconsistent. just after warming it it might be fine, but as it cools they might be chilly. I would give it a try, but If you had a backup heat source that would be a good idea. If they are peeping a lot and huddled together they are too cold. A playpen can make a fine brooder as long as it’s easy for you to keep clean!

      1. We gave our ducklings a teddy bear that they cuddle with. We put them in a tub outdoors the first few weeks since it was 90’s here adn i could put them in the shade. Now they are in a small “pen” i made with baby gates. I can move them around to dry spots during the day and they have straw and wood shavings. They sleep in a dog crate at night in the garage where it’s plenty warm. So far so good. They love their daytime play and I can keep an eye on them too since i work mostly from home. I keep a piece of wood across the top to prevent hawks from getting curious.

        1. sounds like they have a great set up!

  32. reylen says:

    okay thank you!

  33. Lewis Crone says:

    Our home is situated on a 3-acre, spring-fed, manmade lake. A small farm is located across the lake from us, and every spring the farmer buys about ten ducks and releases them into the water. This year he bought Pekins and we became very attached to them, feeding them cracked corn and black oil sunflower. Predators have culled them down to one. How can I help this last Aflac survive winter?

    1. A singular duck is going to be really hard to keep happy. They are flock animals and when they are kept alone they get really depressed and stressed out. Not only are they very social they also rely on having lots of sets of eyes looking out for predators. A single duck is going to be very stressed being constantly on guard. Do you or the other farm keep any other animals – like chickens? Sometimes they can learn to happily live with other poultry, but if he is insisting on swimming everyday in the pond he is going to be alone. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to take him into your home (people do it! they make duck diapers lol) or if the farmer is willing to keep him in a penned enclosure he will have a hard time surviving the winter

      1. Lewis Crone says:

        Thank you for your prompt reply. I am happy to report that a lone, wild male mallard appeared out of nowhere, and the two have become fast friends. It is so sweet to observe. I like your idea about bringing the duck inside, but, despite its relative domesticity, it will only let me get so close to it. The farmer has no other animals, nor any pens. I got some straw and a heated water bowl for the two buddies in case they want to bed down under our deck once the pond freezes over.

  34. Michelle Dort says:

    I have a mother duck with snout 20 eggs under the overhang of my house. I own 3 Shelties. I gound the eggs about a month ago. 2 Shelties ignore the mom 1 of my girls I have to watch like a hawk. She will try to take a peek and sometimes wants to start trouble. It’s been about a month. I am tired of having my Shelties share my fenced in yard woth the duck as it causes me to have to supervise everytime I let them out. Will the mom be able to leave my yard once the ducks hatch? Will the fence be a problem? Although I’d love to see them grow I don’t want harm to come to them from my dogs, and they were here first, plus I love them so much. I don’t live in a rural area It’s a subdivision. Help.

    1. If you found the nest a month ago, they should be getting close to hatching. A day or two after they hatch, mother duck should lead them out to find food/water. If your fence is solid, you might need to leave a gate open or something because the ducklings can’t fly for awhile. If you open a gate to let them out and then keep the gate closed, they will find another place to nest. If they have a path to get back in the yard though they will likely keep coming back.

  35. Jenelle says:

    I appreciate this read!!! I am a newby with my ducklings and this has given me some good information! We wanted 2 ducklings but there was 3 left at the store, so we took them all because there is no way we were leaving one alone. So now we have all 3!! 🙂 I’ve had lots of pets but these guys are by far my favorite!! They are so fun to watch, and boy do they grow fast! I feel like I go to work and come home and they have grown over 9 hours! It’s amazing!!!

    1. awww so fun! They really do make great pets 🙂

  36. Sue Ann Miller says:

    Hi Liz, such great info you are sharing here, thanks so much! I had 2 broody hens so a friend provided several duck and chicken eggs. One of the chicken eggs hatched but the chick only lived a day-very sad. But, one of the duck eggs did hatch on the 4th of July under my Buff Orpington, Belle! The other broody hen seems very interested in the duckling, but I’ve kept the baby and Belle separated during the day in an outside enclosure that is roofed and has hard wire cloth around the walls. At night, I bring them into the chicken coop where I have duckling proofed a medium sized dog crate (I zip tied old window screens around the outside of it because baby duck could slip right through the cage bars). Belle has been an awesome mother to her duckling. However, I can tell that she is anxious to go out to free range in the grassy area with her girl friends now. When do you think it will be safe to allow the duckling to mingle with the other 4 hens? Do you recommend that I rehome the duckling to the farm where the duck eggs came from so he/she will have other duck companions, or will the duckling be ok with only hen friends? Also, I put a small rubber tub out with about an inch of water and a board in it so he/she can easily climb out. But my little duckling seems to have no interest in getting into the water and jumps out immediately. Are there duck breeds that don’t take to water? Mine is either a Swedish Blue or Khaki Campbell. Thanks again!

    1. How cute! When I have a mother hen with babies, I usually follow the mom’s cue with free ranging. After a few days the mom usually leads them out. Buff Orpingtons make excellent moms so she should protect the duckling from her flock mates if they try to attack. I’ve also noticed that when a mom has been allowed to hatch out eggs in with the flock, the flockmates are expecting the babies and tend to just leave the babies alone. As far as rehoming the duckling, you could play it by ear. The chickens could be enough company for her and she will probably just think she is a chicken lol. The one issue could be if the duckling turns out to be a boy. He could try to mate the chickens. Ducks have different anatomy and he could seriously injure or even kill a hen mating with her. I would not let her swim until her feathers come in though. Ducks have a gland by the base of their tail that secretes a waterproofing oil as they preen themselves. Mother ducks take their ducklings for a swim a couple days after hatching, but the mother duck will preen her babies spreading oil from her gland on the duckling’s fluff. The mother chicken doesn’t have the ability to do this. Without the oil, the baby could get overly chilled and is not as buoyant so could tire quickly and drown. When humans are raising ducklings, it is recommended to keep swimming “lessons” under 10 minutes or so, in a shallow bowl, and you should dry them up afterwards. Also domestic breeds like Swedish and Campbells don’t spend most of the time in the water like their wild cousins. Pool time is a fun adventure, but they usually spend most of their days on land. Good luck with your new baby!

  37. Sue Miller says:

    Thanks so much, Liz. You are providing such a valuable service to us ducky newbies out here. I really didn’t know about the oil gland ducks have and how the mother preens the babies with their own oil! Mother nature is just so fascinating.

    1. No problem! I agree, I am constantly fascinated by nature!

  38. Angelique D Judy says:

    I have ducklings that are about a week old and I picked up 2 of a different breed. The older ducklings are chasing, nipping and harassing the newcomers. What can i do

    1. You might need to separate the little ones until they get a little bigger and can stand up for themselves. A week makes a huge difference in fast growing ducklings. You might want to keep them separate for a week, then try reintroducing them

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