Keeping ducklings warm
Keep ducklings in a warm and safe environment. Use a heat lamp with a 40 to 100 watt bulb. Make sure heat lamps are secured and the area is large enough for the ducklings to get closer if they are cold and further away if too warm. Adjust the height and wattage according to your ducklings behavior. If they seem warm and settled, not huddling under the lamp, they are probably warm enough. If they are scattered out, away from the lamp, and panting, they are too warm. During the first week the lamp is hung on the inside of the cage. We use a 75 watt bulb in a reflector. During the second week, if the weather is nice, we put the lamp on top of the cage. We also cover the cage with an old wool blanket to keep in the heat and keep out the drafts.
Bedding and housing
Hay can be used if available for bedding. Never use newspaper or a smooth surface, as it could cause leg problems or a condition called "splay leg.” We put our ducklings in an old rabbit cage. Make sure the ducklings feet can't go through the wire at the bottom of the cage. The bottom of the cage is covered with old grass hay. We change the bedding every day. The rabbit cage allows most of the water to drip through onto the dirt so we don't have as much clean up. You can also put your ducklings in a large plastic tote or an old fish tank with pine shavings for bedding. This needs to be cleaned more often and tends to smell. We raise our ducklings in the barn, if you are raising yours in the house or in the garage, we recommend you use a large plastic tote or an old fish tank depending on how many ducklings you are raising.
Feed game bird starter, un-medicated chick starter, or a commercially prepared waterfowl starter for the first 4-6 weeks. Never feed medicated chick starter or poultry feed, as this is fatal to your ducklings. Also anything moldy is fatal to your ducks of all ages! Bread, although thought of as the ideal "duck food," is also dangerous to ducklings, because it expands in their crop and chokes them. For the first few weeks they will need a constant supply of food and water. If they have food, water must be present or they can choke to death. Ducklings will take a mouthful of food and then take a drink in order to swallow. Never use any moldy bedding. Ducklings need starter feed with 20-22% protein for 3 weeks. Too much protein can cause a condition called "Angel Wing" where the feathers on the wings protrude upwards. Too little can cause nutritional deficiencies and serious health problems. Cracked corn is a popular and inexpensive food for ducks. It contains half of the protein a duck needs to stay healthy.
A growing duckling will eat 1-2 ounces of commercial ration per day gradually increasing to about 8 ounces a day when it reaches full size. We free feed our ducklings, they have access to food at all times. The protein content of their feed can be reduced at 3 weeks (to 17.5%) and at 9 weeks (to 14.5%).
We use an old tuna can for a feeder when the ducklings are very young. We switch to a half-moon rabbit feeder when they get to be about 3 weeks because it fits on the edge of the rabbit cage. We use a purchased poultry waterer to water the ducklings although you can drill a ¼” hole in the lip of an old plastic can or container (about ½” from the lip) and sit it in a pan or lid that is about ¾” tall. Fill the jar or can with water, set the lid on top and flip the ‘contraption’ over. The water should fill the pan, but stop when the water reaches the hole.
Spring 2009 we raised our ducklings on turkey starter. A 50 lb. bag of turkey 27% starter mash costs $16.99 at IFA. Although most information says this is too much protein for ducklings, we have found they do fine in our area.
Ducklings love to play in water however they are not old enough and will soil their water. We use a poultry waterer. You can also use a cake pan with a piece of fencing made into a cylinder and placed in the center of the pan. The cylinder should be about one inch in diameter smaller then the pan. Never let the ducklings go without water, without it they will choke on their food and die.
Ducklings and swimming
Without the protective oils produced by the Mother, or feathers with barbicels that provide a waterproof barrier, a duckling's down soaks up water like a sponge. They will tire quickly and drown. Once they are fully feathered, about 30-45 days after birth, they are safe to be in water without their mother. Always be sure they can get in and out of the water safely on their own. Never leave ducklings unattended near water sources they can't stand up in. Be sure their drinking water supply is the shallow reservoir type (found in pet stores) otherwise they will try to swim and poop in it and if it's too deep they can drown.
How much space do ducklings need?
Age in Weeks
1-3 4-8 9-17 17+
1 sq foot 3 sq feet 3.5 sq feet 4 sq feet
Although ducklings are messier to raise than chickens, they are much easier for us to take care of as adults.
Here are some websites that we found helpful as we were learning how to raise ducklings.
How to Take Care of Ducklings
How To Do Things. com