Ducklings are the definition of cuteness. These little quaking fluff balls can be a delightful addition to your backyard.
Ducklings are an adorable combination of delicate and messy. They require a lot of vigilance, especially while raising them without a mother duck, but they make gentle and lively pets.
Raising ducklings differs from chicks. If you are ready to raise ducklings but have no experience with them, then this list of instructions is surely going to help you prepare for your first ever duckling batch.
The ducklings you get from the feed store are vulnerable and unable to control their body temperature. You will need a heat-controlled enclosure for at least 6-7 weeks until they are fully feathered.
You can buy a brooder with a built-in heating system or you can DIY a makeshift brooder. A spare Rubbermaid tub can often be the best choice for brooding ducklings.
You will need to increase the size of the brooder every week as the ducklings grow. Proper space is important for ducks to have powerful leg muscles.
Always keep the surface dry, as it is important for building foot grip in ducklings. If you don’t have a spare Rubbermaid tub, you can use a kiddie pool or a plastic tub.
2. Heat bulb
During the first few weeks, ducklings need warmth. You can use a heating lamp or red heat bulb in their brooder space. Start with the temperature around 90°F and lower the temperature daily.
For example, you can lower the temperature by one degree every day. Once you reach 75°F, you can keep it there until your ducklings are ready to go outdoors permanently.
Feed your ducklings chick starter containing around 20% protein for the first two weeks. By the third week, extending to their laying age (18 to 20 weeks), use a slightly lower protein feed, around 15% to 17%.
Ducklings eat more than chicks, and consuming too much protein can cause fast growth, leg issues, and angel wing, a type of wing deformity.
You need to keep a vigilant eye on the temperatures in the brooder during the first few weeks. You will need a thermometer to monitor the temperature and conduct adjustments.
5. Shallow bowls or dishes
Ducklings need to dip their food in water to swallow it so they need to have water available with their food constantly.
Make sure the dishes or bowls you use for their food and water aren’t deeper than 1-2 inches to make it easy for them to dip their heads in, and get in and out of them on their own, avoiding the chances of drowning.
The ideal bedding for ducklings is one that does not get wet easily because ducklings constantly run back and forth in their brooding space and drip water everywhere.
Several ideas can provide nice bedding for your ducklings. You can use straw or hay. These are friendly materials for duck nests and insulate well.
You can also use pine shavings; these materials are comfy and absorbing. You can even use layers of material such as newspaper to absorb moisture and then layer it with an old t-shirt and then straw.
You will need to change the bedding every 2-3 days because of how messy the ducklings are.
Ducks grow faster than chicks so they will be ready to move out of their brooder space into the open air in 6-8 weeks. At this time, they need a permanent shelter to protect them from rain, wind, or sun and a clean, dry space to sleep.
Make sure to have a decent shelter for your ducklings in your backyard when they start to grow bigger. A duck house that is dry, has good ventilation, and protects them from the summer heat and harsh cold would be great.
8. Brewer’s yeast
Adding brewer’s yeast supplement to the feed for ducklings is recommended to increase their niacin intake. Ducklings require more vitamin B3 than chicks do, and a deficiency can cause joint or bone issues to their legs.
You can add 1.5 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast in one cup of feed until the time they are grown up. The supplement is not necessary for their adulthood but you can still add it to their feed if you wish.
To provide your ducklings with more nutritious food, you can grow a variety of vegetable plants in your garden for your use and your ducklings as well. Lettuce, chickweed, and small tomatoes are popular choices. You can also add some chopped veggies to their water trays.
10. Diluted vinegar
Ducklings make a lot of mess, A LOT! Especially when they are eating. You will often need to tidy the brooder space more than once a day. It is not ideal to use cleaners with harsh chemicals, so use a spray bottle and mix equal parts of water and white vinegar in it for a safe clean of the brooder space.
11. Secure fencing
Domestic ducklings are vulnerable. They cannot fly or protect themselves from predators on their own.
So if you have pets like cats and dogs that can prey on your ducklings, make sure to have a fenced area for when the ducklings are outside or build their brooding space away from any predators’ reach.
Also, if you have the threat of hawks or snakes, then make sure you have made all the necessary measures to protect your ducklings from a potential threat.
12. Toys and Bells
Ducklings love to have fun, and they love nibbling. You can give them some rubber chew toys for entertainment. Even dog chew toys can be used for the ducks but make sure it is not something they will swallow.
You can get them some rubber balls that they can roll around as a source of entertainment for them. You can hang bells on their necks or on their paths around the garden. The noise from the bells helps you track your ducklings, and it looks adorable on these fluff balls.
Ducks are highly social and should not be kept alone. If you have a smaller number of ducklings or by any chance, you are raising a single duckling, then put a secure mirror in the brooding space. They love to see other ducks, and seeing their reflection in the mirror will keep them distracted.
14. Water source
Ducklings love to play in the water. Though baby ducklings do not require water to swim in, they do need some water to dip their heads in and clear out their nostrils.
The water feature requires great supervision, as ducklings should not immerse in water until they learn to balance their body temperature.
They should be restrained from a deeper water source such as pools until they are a month old at least. Make sure the water is at average room temperature. Ducklings shouldn’t be given more than necessary access to water as they can catch a cold if they get too wet.
15. Supplements for gritting
Like adult ducks and other birds, ducklings also need to grind food in their gizzard for better digestion. It is recommended to provide your duckling brooder with some coarse sand or to bring your ducklings outside for some time (if the temperature outside is close to the average temperature in their brooding space) so they can get forage for some grit.