Ducks

Supply List for Ducklings

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7 Must Have Supplies for Raising Ducklings

Are you getting ready to welcome some little fluffy ducklings?! Ducklings are easily some of the cutest babies on the farm – those flappy webbed feet, the sweet little bill, chubby cheeks. Super cute!

If you aren’t quite sure yet if ducks are right for you – click here to read my Ducks Pro & Con List. Ducks are mighty cute, but they are also mighty mess, so be ready!

Brooder

The first thing you need is a place for those babies to live. Because ducks like to splash in water and make a mess, many people use a spare bath tub to brood ducklings. Put their water & feed near the drain, and all the spilled water goes right down the drain. If you do this, put down rubber shelf liner in half the tub. Add straw on top of the shelf liner in the back half of the tub. This way the ducks have a place to rest that isn’t slippery. They need to grow strong legs and they can’t do that if their feet are always slipping out from under them!

What if you don’t have a spare bath tub? I use a large Rubbermaid tub. Click here to see how I made it. Get the biggest bin you can find and follow the instructions in the link to add hardware cloth to the top. I put an old baking sheet in the brooder bin and put the feed & water on that, it helps contain some of the water. If you don’t have other animals that might hurt the ducklings (like cats or dogs) you can use a plastic kiddie pool as a brooder.

Must have supplies for raising ducklings

Bedding

Straw is my choice for brooding ducklings. I usually use pine shavings with chicks because they are absorbent. With ducks the shavings just absorb all the liquid they splash about and very quickly become a soggy mess. Straw will stay drier giving them a place to nest. Under the straw I like to put rubber shelf liner. It raises up the bedding a bit to keep it out of the muck and gives them a sturdy, non slip flooring.

Must have supplies for raising ducklings

Heat Lamp

For the first few weeks, ducklings will need to be kept warm. Use a heat bulb with a red filter to ease stress. Start out at 90 degrees Fahrenheit and go down about 1 degree each day. You don’t have to be crazy about getting it just right. By the end of the first week, aim to be around 83 degrees, by the end of the second around 76, and around 69 by the end of the third week. By then, if the ducklings are in your house it should be about room temperature.

Shallow Dishes

Plant saucers or ramekins work great for feed & water in those first few weeks. Traditional poultry feeders can be difficult for ducklings to navigate with their wide bills. Ducks need water to digest their food, and they need to be able to dunk their entire head in the water to clear their nostrils and eyes. So a shallow, wide container is needed for their water bowl. It should not be more than an inch or so deep for the first week or so. Young ducklings can be awkward on their feet and you don’t want them to fall on their back in their water bowl and drowning.

Must have supplies for raising ducklings

Non Medicated Chick Starter Feed

It’s better if you can find waterfowl starter feed, but that can be hard to come by. Chick starter feed will also work. You want to buy non medicated feed. Chick feed is sometimes medicated to prevent coccidiosis, which is common among chickens, but pretty rare in ducks. Ducklings also eat much more than chicks, so they will end up over medicating themselves. Look for a high protein feed – around 20% is good for the first two weeks. From 3 weeks until they start laying you will want a “grower” feed with slightly lower protein (16-18% is good). Too much protein during this later duckling stage can cause a wing deformity called angel wing. Click here to read more about feeding ducks at different life stages

Brewer’s Yeast

The one thing chick feed will not provide your ducklings with is enough niacin. Ducklings require 2-3 more niacin than chicks, and a deficiency during their critical developing months can lead to lifelong bone and joint issues with their legs. To increase their niacin, add 1.5 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast to every 1 cup of feed. The brewer’s yeast has a tendency to settle to the bottom of the feed, so I add it every time I fill up the feed bowl. If you mix a ton of it into the whole feed bag, much of the brewer’s yeast will end up at the bottom of the bag. You should keep adding brewer’s yeast until they are 20 weeks old and full grown. During adulthood, you can still add it now and then as a dietary supplement, but it isn’t as critical as when they are ducklings.

Spray Bottle with Diluted Vinegar

Ducklings are messy. You don’t want to use harsh cleaners or bleach to clean up the brooder space. Mix equal parts white vinegar & water in the bottle and use this to clean the duckling’s space. You will be cleaning the brooder. A lot. I usually clean the duckling brooder three times per day. I keep my cleaning solution, paper towels and small trash bags right next to the brooding space to make it convenient and quick. Vinegar smell not your thing? Click here to see how I make this natural Citrus Lavender Cleaner

Must have supplies for raising ducklings

Optional Fun Additions

Mirror – Ducklings love other ducklings, and they love looking at their reflection. Make sure any mirror you add is plastic and shatterproof. Self adhesive mirror panels can be found in most craft stores and are perfect for this!

Must have supplies for raising ducklings

2 or 3 inch deep baking dish – Once your babies are at least a week old, they would love to have some splashing time! Make sure the dish you use is easy enough for them to get in and out of on their own and they should be able to stand up in the water. If you have space in your brooding area, a paint tray also works great for this with a shallow and deeper end.

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23 Comments

  1. What a great go to list to get started. Thank you so much!! Love the pictures to go along with it too. That helps.

  2. Laurie Lasala-Tuttle says:

    Hi, I’m so happy to have found your website! We’ve had chickens, usually 3, in our backyard for years, and are considering adding 2 ducks. Our neighbor rescued 6 ducklings walking down the street, and I’m wondering if there’s a reason not to bring 2 of them home? We don’t know what breed they are. I’d need to set up a home for them first, but would appreciate your comments.
    Thanks, Laurie in southern California

    1. Hi Laurie, if they were wild ducklings wandering around with no mom in sight, it is likely she got killed and without her the ducklings will likely die so rescuing them was a good idea. But keeping them might not be. Wild ducks differ a bit from domestic breeds. The first thing you will want to do is contact your local animal control or wildlife rescue and find out if there are regulations about rescuing and keeping wild ducks. Many breeds (including the very common Mallard) are regulated requiring a permit, with some breeds being just illegal for conservation reasons. The second issue is that wild duck breeds still have the ability to fly. You could keep their wings clipped or keep them in an enclosed aviary. But just kept in your yard, they will almost definitely fly off when the weather gets cold. Domestic duck breeds have been bred for centuries to be too large to fly (they can usually fly about as far as a chicken but it’s usually just running with their wings flapping lol). So if you just want the fun of raising ducklings for a few months (assuming it’s not illegal where you are) that could be fine. But if you are looking for pets like your chickens you are better off getting some domestic duck from a hatchery, feed store, or breeder

  3. Allyson G Marks says:

    thank you for your article! I’ve got my first ducks as we speak, and I have read to not let them into water- even to stand until 4 weeks old/feathered! I would love to let them get wet and swim but Im afraid they will “get a chill” without their mother’s oils…they are living inside my home/warm BTW. Advice!? Do you towel them off?

    1. I have always let my ducklings have a little swim! I usually wait until they are older than two weeks and limit it to about 15 minutes but they love it!! They are inside your warm house, but do towel them off afterward and then them finish fluffing up under their heat lamp and they will be totally fine! Their mother’s oil helps keep them buoyant so don’t make the water too deep (they should still be able to stand when they get tired)

      1. Ally Marks says:

        ahh I see, that makes sense about the oils! Ok then that’s the plan for some time next week! Thank you for the quick response!

  4. Mikey says:

    Might it be wise to consider that the lamp fixture you recommended is only rated for 150 Watts but the bulb draws 250 Watts? Thank you so much for the information but as a safety engineer I want to make sure everybody is safe and well 🙂

    1. Thank you Mikey – that is definitely something you need to keep in mind!

  5. Carissa says:

    Is there such thing as to much space for the ducklings once outside. We are considering 4 ducklings and have over 8 acres. half of which has trails and is wooded, the other half which our home and where I would think they would tend to stay, is open with trees and bushes scattered through out. We also, do not have a barrier between us and the neighbors. Just high grasses or low brush for the most part. Should we consider placing some sort of fencing up?

    1. To be a good neighbor you definitely want to put up some fencing at least in between your yard and your neighbors. Ducks will not be dissuaded by brush or grass and they don’t care about property lines so they WILL wander off and could possibly not be able to find their way home. I would also suggest you limit their area in the first 2-3 months. You want them to know and get in the habit of returning to their enclosure at dusk every day so you can close them up against predators. If they are out roaming 8 acres they are likely to find their own little bush to hide under. You can put up temporary chicken wire fencing to keep them in a smaller area for a couple months, then take it down when you are ready to let them expand their area. Wire fencing will work well along your property line as well and will be much cheaper than wood fencing for such a large space. They will not be able to get over a 3-4 foot high fence

  6. Jaelyn says:

    Where do i put my duck when it’s older? It is cold where I live.

    1. Adult ducks are very cold hardy thanks to a thick layer of fat and their waterproof feathers. You should provide your ducks somewhere safe they can be locked up into at night. This will keep them safe from predators but also will help keep them warmer. Put a nice, deep layer of straw in their house and they can snuggle into it to keep warm. During the day I let my ducks out into the yard – the snow doesn’t bother them at all. Temperatures get down into the single digits (Fahrenheit) for many weeks where I live in the winter and my ducks do just fine. If you have really, long, cold winters, you might want to provide them with a covered run so they have somewhere they can go that is free from snow. I like to wrap my run in plastic during the winter as a snow/wind break, but I leave the door open during the day so they can go out into the yard if they want. If you are still worried about your ducks during the winter, you could always set up a living space for them in a garage, basement, or three season porch.

  7. T. G.O says:

    Hi I am trying to hatch some ducks and today is day 25 and I was curious if you had any tips to tell if they are alive and doing well besides candling and the water trick or signs that show they will hatch soon. We gone through a few little mistakes a bumps here and there, so I am a little scared that they are not alright. Just wondering………

    1. Other than candling at this late stage you should be able to feel them moving inside the eggs. If you cup the egg firmly between your two hands for several minutes you should feel a slight “swishing” and movements. You really shouldn’t disturb them in the final three days though, you want to keep the humidity & temperature stable in the incubator. On day 26 your eggs should be going into incubator lockdown where you won’t be turning or moving them. Good luck, you are almost there!

      1. T.G.O says:

        Thanks, I guess I will just wait. They are in Lockdown and I guess I will see what happens

  8. Hi Liz! I love what you’re doing and all the knowledge you provide is amazing! I’m originally from Cape Cod myself, so it was awesome when I stumbled across your site, and since I just ordered my first ducklings today it feels like destiny that we should cross paths!
    Just wanted to extend an olive branch and introduce myself – Austin Ray, my parents and sister/family still live in Sandwich – but I’m down in South Florida and it gets to be ~90-100° during the day (even this week), and still pretty hot at night. Will the extreme heat harm them? I was planning on keeping them outside, but would it be better to keep them indoors in a lightly air conditioned room, and regulate their temp using the heat lamp while they’re young? Thanks, you’ve already been a great help with article, it’s easy to find basic things to care for ducks, but your first-hand experience is exactly what I was looking for!

    1. Hi Austin! Sandwich is a lovely town, we are just next door in Falmouth ? if the daytime temps are the same or higher than what the heat lamp would provide you don’t need to have them inside with the lamp, but if nighttime temps dip down, you should be ready to bring them inside. You will want to be sure their outside space is totally secure. They are defenseless and while they are little and bite size for so many critters it’s really important they are kept safe. Temps in the 90s shouldn’t bother them. You can provide them with a shallow dish of water and that will help them cool off if they need it. When they are little and don’t have their feathers yet, they shouldn’t be given water deep enough to swim in unsupervised, but knee deep (an inch or two) water to wade and splash in would be great!

  9. Annette says:

    Loved the shelf liner idea ! Thanks for the info on vinegar and water for cleaning as well 🙂 Picked up a couple new tips I hadn’t read elsewhere.

  10. Me and my family own half an acre and have a pool, a tiki hut, and lots of palm trees, we’re thinking about getting a cute fluffy duckling for my birthday but I also have 2 hunting dogs (vizslas) and I’m a little concerned About the duck’s safety I really don’t want to come home to a dead duck… should I just lock the door wherever the duck is or should I not get a duck at all? Is it also ok if I keep my brooder in my room (the bin brooder)? So many questions!!? thanks.

    1. Hi Emily – that is really sweet 🙂 There are a couple things to consider before you decide on getting a duck. First is ducks are very social creatures. Unless this duck is going to live inside your house (some people do that, they make diapers for them!) and unless you don’t go to school or work, a single duck is going to be very lonely and sad. It’s really best that you have at least two so they have someone to hang out with when you aren’t there. The second point is that you will probably want to keep the ducks out of your swimming pool. They will drink the water which likely has chemicals to treat it, and also ducks poop A LOT and duck poop has been known to clog pool filters and cause damage. So it would probably be best if you sectioned off a little area in your yard for them to live. You could give them their own little kiddie pool to swim in. A wire fence and dog house or chicken coop with a door that can be closed would be a good basic set up. You will need to go out in the morning to let them out/feed them and close them up in their house at night to keep them safe from predators. Giving them their own space in the yard will also keep them safe from your dogs. If the dogs & ducks are in the yard at the same time you will want to make sure the fencing around their area is secure enough to stop your dogs from getting to them. Many dogs can come to accept prey animals as members of the family. I have two dogs (black lab mix & a border collie mix) that are absolutely fine being loose with my chickens, ducks, & rabbits – but if a wild turkey comes in the paddock they know right away it isn’t one of our birds and chases it off. BUT every dog is different and some dogs never get to that point and will never be safe around your ducks. You can certainly keep the brooder box in your room, just keep in mind ducks are VERY messy lol. Good luck! You might want to check out some of my other duck articles here: https://thecapecoop.com/ducks/

      1. Thank you for the info!!! I will definitely think about it!

  11. Hi Liz,
    I am curious if you have an opinion on brooder plates? I have found a few other resources recommending them over heat lamps for fire safety concerns and reduced electricity use. There are quite a few brands and all seem to come in varied sizes and have adjustable legs to change the height as ducklings or chicks grow. I am planning this spring to start with 6 female Pekins (planning from Metzer) this spring in my spare large and deeper than normal tub. I also plan to supplement the bathroom with any needed ambient heat in the bathroom so it will be kept slightly warmer than the rest of the house initially until it is not needed (the house is kept between 60-66F normally). I’m in NE Ohio so with planning a mid April arrival for them it will still be pretty cold outside until the last frost which is projected beginning of May for the coming spring.

    Literally trying to get all my ducks in a row far in advance! Already have a solid plan for a large fenced in area (to avoid wandering into neighbor property and boundary from any potential unwanted guests including our large rambunctious dogs), building a nice size duck house with small covered run inside of the fenced area, baby pool set up with drain stop/hose hook up to use some of the poopy water as a supplemental fertilizer for our garden beds (might as well make use of all that poop!). I plan on building a decent sized duck house because I’m sure in the next years the number I want to keep will increase! Sorry for the info dump! Just excited to get started with expanding my little homestead!

    1. Hi Kellie, we actually switched over to a brooder plate for our chicks this spring and it was awesome! It gave them just the right amount of warmth and had adjustable legs to grow with them, and of course is much safer. We brood them in the house and then move them to a temporary grow out stall in the barn and I felt safe enough with the grow out plate to move that out there with them. The brand we got was Brinsea Eco-Glow.
      Sounds like you are going to have the perfect set up for both the ducklings and for once they get older! Good luck, I am sure you will love having them around. They have such great personalities! 🙂

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