Basic Duckling Care
Ducklings are so cute. But it is kind of like bringing home your first baby. Now what do I do? That’s where I was a couple of years ago. A friend of my daughters called her up one Saturday morning frantic. A mother duck had been hit by a car in front of her house, and huddled in front of her garage were 8 brand new ducklings. So my daughter brought them home to raise. When you bring home a baby like that, you have to learn a lot really fast. And so the adventure began. So, in case this happens to you, (or you do it on purpose) you will know what to do…..
The most important factor in ducking care is water. They have to keep their nasal cavities moist. It also needs to be near their food, as they can choke on the food and need to have water to wash it down. Ducks also need a lot to drink each day. Quite a bit more than chickens. And that is before they play in it. Ducks love to play in their water. They make messes with water. They bathe in their drinking water. Yes, it should come as no surprise that ducks like water. The water for ducklings should be deep enough that they can submerge their whole bill in it. If you give ducklings water to swim in, make sure they can get back out. When my momma duck had a batch of young ones I had their own dish for baths but I made sure the large duck water trough had bricks in it, so if a duckling got in, it could get back out. Please be aware. For the first few weeks, ducklings have not yet begun to produce the oil that makes them “waterproof” and helps them float. So even though they love the water, when they are very young they can still drown. Drowning is a major cause of duckling deaths.
Food is pretty easy. They can eat when first hatched. They should be provided starter waterfowl feed or, if your feed store doesn’t carry it, (and most of them don’t) you can feed them starter chick feed,* with a couple of caveats.
First – Make sure it is NOT MEDICATED. Chickens get a respiratory disease that ducks do not get. So ducks don’t need the medication they put in chick feed. Ducklings also eat more than chicks do so they can get too much medicine and overdose.
Second – Ducklings need more niacine than chickens. So you will need to supplement the chick feed with it, so they grow strong bones. You can buy Brewer’s Yeast* to add to their food and that will do the trick. It’s also good to introduce them to vegetables right away. Small amounts of chopped up greens and herbs floating in a saucer of water is both nutritious and fun for the ducklings. They are more likely to eat a varied diet later in life if introduced to it when they are younger.
You can put a heat lamp* over the brooder at one end. That way if they are cold they can get under the light, and if they get too warm they can move to the other end and get away from it. Ducklings need to be started at 90° for the first week and the temperature should be decreased by about 1 degree a day after that, until they are acclimated to the outside night time air temperature. Now, if you have a momma duck, you don’t have to worry about this. She will take care of their temperature. (Like this family I saw down at the lake)
1) Make sure what they are standing on is not slippery. If it is it will hurt their delicate growing bodies. They can get a condition called splay leg and will need to be treated for this. Just avoid that all together by making sure they have a non skid surface.
2) Ducks, like all fowl, are messy and dirty (hence the name fowl/foul). Their bedding will need at least daily cleaning. They poop every where. (even in their water dish) and they spread the water, from any source, all over! Don’t expect a nice neat duckling. They may be clean birds (bathe themselves) but they are messy!
3) If you don’t have a momma duck, put a washable stuffed animal in with the ducklings so they have something to cuddle up with. They will be so much more secure.
Ducks are social creatures. They don’t like to be alone. If you buy ducks, make sure you get at least 3. They will be so much happier.
If you have anymore questions about raising ducks or duckling care, please don’t hesitate to ask. You also might want to read a little more about your new ducklings. So here are some tried and true books on the subject. I’ve learned a lot from some of them. I also included links to some of the products I mentioned. (*affiliates – thank you for your support) Another source on raising both chickens and ducks is Lisa at fresh eggs daily she is a wealth of knowledge, check out her blog. Leave her a note and tell her I sent you. 🙂
Now go and have a ducky day!
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