Congratulations on your decision on bringing ducklings to your homestead!
Ducklings are not only cute, fun to watch, they are also and enjoyment to have. But what do you need for these cute little fluff balls before you bring them home?
(Disclaimer: I am not a vet, just a duck Momma wanting to share info with you. So feel free to contact your vet about any questions or concerns you may have. All links are not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected to linked companies, or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.)
Once you have decided where your ducklings will live (inside the home, shed, barn, etc) for the next few weeks you will need a brooder. A brooder is a “house” for your ducklings. It’s an area to keep them safe, warm, contains food and water, and to keep the mess contained (trust me you will want it contained). Just a heads up, if you didn’t know this already….ducklings are messy! They love water and love to get it everywhere in their brooder.
Your brooder can be either homemade or store bought. Keep in mind your ducklings will grow QUICK and will need room to move and roam in their brooder. I recommend if you buy a brooder, tote, trough, kiddie pool, or puppy play pen for your ducklings that you just make sure it’s big enough for them to grow into. You also want one that is large enough that the ducklings can get away from the heat if needed.
*Don’t brood ducklings and chicks together!*
Ducklings are going to need bedding/liner in their brooder. If you are using a tub, tote, or anything that can become or is a slippery surface you need a liner and/or bedding. They can injure themselves from the slipper surface and get spraddle leg. Spraddle leg is when the ducklings legs are splayed in two different directions. To help prevent it provide a rougher surface, such as pine shavings, DO NOT USE CEDAR, towels, paper towels, newspaper.
Your new ducklings will need to be kept warm. A heat lamp is necessary! There are many heat lamps out there. If you have to choose between a red light or a white light, red it better than a white light because it is less stressful. We have a red light for our heat lamp and works great, they have no problem sleeping with it on.
As they grow, the ducklings will start to feather out and naturally generate more body heat and rely less on the heat lamp. Your heat lamp will need to be mounted and able to be pulled father and father away from the ducklings as they age or reducing the wattage is also an option. A good rule of thumb for their brooder temperature is:
- 1st week- 90 degrees F
- 2nd week- 85 degrees F
- 3rd week- 80 degrees F
- 4th week- 75 degrees F
- 5th week-70 degrees F
A thermometer is a good option to have to keep an eye on the temperature inside your brooder. You can also keep an eye on your ducklings and see how they are reacting to the heat. If they remain active then they are comfortable. Panting and spreading out far as possible from the heat lamp means they are hot. Huddling under the heat lamp and quacking/peeping loudly then they are to cold.
*PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR HEAT LAMP IS SAFELY ATTACHED AND IS NOT NEAR ANYTHING THAT CAN CATCH FIRE. SAFETY FIRST!*
Ducklings LOVE water!!!!!! They can quickly make a mess in their brooder especially after you just cleaned it. They can also make an unsanitary mess of their drinking water so it is important to get a good waterer. For the first week or two a circular water that has the container that screws onto the base is ok. BUT as the ducklings grow they need to be able to submerge their heads in water. They have to clean their nostrils of any debris. A bowl or pan is not ideal for drinking water. The ducklings will want to swim and bath themselves in it…and will also put their fecal matter in it. Gross I know but that’s what they do. So, it’s important to have a good waterer and setup in your brooder. There are so many ideas you can find online or Pinterest.
*Ducklings that haven’t been raised with their mother should not have free access to water that is deep enough to swim in. They lack control of when tot get out of the water resulting in them possibly becoming chilled, soaked, and maybe even ill.
We let our ducklings have a supervised swim/bathe/play/exercise while we clean their brooder. The water is warm so they don’t get chilled. Never leave the ducklings unsupervised while swimming. Not that you would want to because they are a hoot to watch. When they are done they go straight back to a clean warm brooder and start preening themselves, which is also fun to watch.
Food & Grit
Your ducklings should have access to food at all times along with water. We free feed and water our ducklings so there is no risk of them going hungry. Ducklings need water to wash down their food with. We keep our waterer and food at seperate ends of the brooder so the water doesn’t become sludge and the feed doesn’t become a watery mess. It’s no big deal to the ducks where it’s placed. They just waddle on over from their feed to their water and then waddle back again for another bite. Clean out your feeders frequently, we do ours everyday or every other day depending on how low the feeder is.
Nutritional needs for ducks differ from age and purpose and level of production. As ducklings grow their protein content changes along with the form of feed. The suggested protein requirements fro your ducks are:
- 0-2 weeks is 18-20%, Starter, Crumble
- 3-8+ weeks is 15-18%, Grower, Crumble, for ducks being raised for meat.
- 9-20 weeks is 13-14% Developer, Crumble, for layers/breeders and those who are not.
- 20+ weeks is for 16-20% for a breeder/layer, Pellet
- 20+ weeks is 14% for maintenance, Pellet
*Feed for the first 8-10 weeks should be non medicated!
Ducklings also need Niacin! Niacin is essential for growing ducklings bones as they develop. Ducklings grow very quickly and without strong legs to support their weight, they can suffer from the deficiency pretty quickly. We use this for our ducklings up to 8 to 10 weeks of age. We put ours in our ducklings water.
Grit acts as the ducks teeth to grind up food so it can be digested. Ducks who forage pick up grit naturally. Insoluble grit should be available at all times to ensure they get enough for proper digestion. I heard others put in in a separate bowl for their ducks or mix it in with their food. We chose to mix it with our ducklings food. Here is the grit we use.
Quick list for shopping
- Brooder-the home for the ducklings
- Bedding-NO CEDAR
- Heat Lamp & Thermometer
- Waterer & Niacin
- Feeder& Starter Crumbles, 18-20% protein, non medicated.
- Insoluble Grit
Check everything off the list? Now your ready to bring home your adorable ducklings! Feel free to comment any questions and I will do my best to answer, Also, be sure to comment a picture of your new additions here or on Facebook.