Ducks are a popular animal to raise on a homestead. Many people like ducks even more than they like their chickens! My husband being one of those people. He says all the time that he wishes we started with ducks. Since we’ve been raising ducks for a few years now, I thought I would write about raising baby ducks for beginners.
Ducks are so much fun and have great personalities. One of the best things is to hear their cheep cheeps turn into full-blown QUACKS! Duck eggs are delicious and can be eaten just like chicken eggs.
Ducks in some sense are easier to keep than chickens. Duck are easier to house. They don’t need nesting boxes and roosts, since they sleep on the floor and lay eggs where they sleep. They are much cleaner in the fact that they do not like to poop where they sleep. My duck will run out of the coop in the morning to go to the bathroom. She tries really hard not to do it in her coop!
However, ducks can be messy with their water source. Especially, when they are young. Baby ducks who are experimenting with water, love to splash, kick, swim, and run around knocking said water sources over!
After a few weeks of constantly spilling and splashing water, you may get pretty fed up with the cleaning! It’s a daily duty when you are raising baby ducks. Just remember duck mama, that this stage doesn’t last long, maybe 4 weeks at most.
Raising Baby Ducks For Beginners
To begin, I believe the most important place to start is making sure you have everything that ducklings will need. Baby ducks don’t need much, but there are a few important facts you’ll want to know.
Niacin – A Vital Nutrient For Ducks
This is one of the most important things you need to know about raising baby ducks, so please pay attention. I’ve seen hundreds of people commenting in forums and other places, they didn’t have any idea that they should be giving their ducklings a vitamin supplement of niacin. So, let me explain what it is and why they need it.
Niacin, this vitamin also is known as Vitamin B3. It helps with the development of baby ducks. Without enough niacin ducklings may end up with something called splayed legs, bowed legs, or wry neck.
The only feed that typically supplies enough niacin for ducks in subsequently duckling starter or grower. However, duckling feed is difficult to find. It’s not typically sold in stores.
So, make sure you have a good source of niacin for your baby chicks. Here’s a couple of options to give your ducks an extra boost of niacin. I’m including the product I typically bought when my ducks were little. It’s called Brewer’s Yeast. It contains a good source of niacin.
Niacin is easy to give to ducklings. According to Duck DVM, ducklings need 70mg of niacin per kg of feed. I typically mix in the appropriate amount in their crumble feed. That worked out great for me in the past. It was quick and easy, and no one had a niacin deficiency!
What To Feed Ducklings or Baby Ducks?
Ducklings grow so rapidly, it’s very important that you not only choose the correct food but make sure they have food and water all the times. Ducklings don’t need extra calcium, like laying ducks do. Calcium is important for the production of eggs. However, it’s not added to duckling feed or baby chick feed since they aren’t laying eggs yet.
0-17 Weeks Old
So, duckling feed can be expensive and hard to come by. I’ll link to a couple of sources on Amazon. Duckling feed is often referred to as duckling starter/grower.
However, if you can’t afford it or if you are raising a mixed flock with other poultry such as chickens, you may just want to use chick feed called chick starter/grower or even flock raiser which is one of my favorites. Just remember with these options ducklings will need a supplement of niacin or brewer’s yeast.
Additionally, it’s important to note that ducklings should NOT eat medicated feed.
18 weeks and on
Ducks typically start laying anywhere from 18 to 22 weeks old. Ducks that are laying eggs need extra calcium. Adult duck feed, contain extra calcium and it’s important for egg production.
Want to learn more about a duck’s diet? Hop on over to my other blog post What Do Ducks Eat. Over there you can learn all about treats for ducks, stuff they may forage for, and more!
Grit – Sand Or Pebbles
Ducks and chickens alike whether big or small, need some type of grit. Since ducks don’t have teeth, grit helps crush food.
For babies, they will need smaller grit sizes. You can buy baby chick grit, just for them. It will help them crush up their food. This is especially helpful if you tend to give them food other than crumbles.
Fun Fact Time: We live in Florida, and instead of having a grassy yard, we have sand. Literally, we live in a sandpit. I never have to give my chickens or ducks grit because of this fact.
Ducks need water. Not only drinking water but they’ll need a pool too.
Ducks like to dunk their head in the water. It helps them keep their noses clean. If you’re raising chicks and ducks together, you might give them a small bowl of water with supervision, for a few minutes a day or even a couple times of a day.
Ducks tend to make a mess! Ducks are quite mischievous when they are young, knocking over the water source and playing in it. Quack!
Be sure to clean up any spills and remove any wet litter materials and replace them with dry material. Wet conditions for birds can cause all kinds of sickness.
Can Baby Ducks Swim?
It’s important to note that ducklings don’t grow waterproof feathers until they are about 4 weeks old. Ducklings will often swim with mom, however, if you’re raising baby ducks yourself, you need to know a couple of things…
Ducklings need to dry out in a reasonable amount of time. If it’s cold, it’s not a good idea to let them swim. This could lead to them getting too cold and possibly death.
Make sure that you provide a heat source to help them dry their feathers. We live in Florida so, it’s really hot here. The baby ducks didn’t have any issues air drying in the middle of summer here.
Another thing to keep in mind is that they need supervision around water. Fatigue can kill!
Secondly, in order to avoid fatigue, keep the water level fairly low. This means they can swim or practice swimming, but still stand up when they get tired of swimming.
If they look tired, pull them out of the water and remove the water source.
Lastly, I wouldn’t recommend giving them a swimming water source all day. Just a few minutes a day.
We provided a small pan of water for the ducks to swim in. This is an old pan that I’ve had for years. I didn’t plan on using any longer. You could also use a bathtub, but limit the amount of time and don’t leave them unattended! Especially, since they can’t escape a bathtub and they may end up drowning due to fatigue.
You might have noticed the video of one of the baby ducks playing in a pan of water, somewhere on the page. Notice she can still stand up, and she has plenty of supervision. If you missed the video and want to see it, you can wait on the video to cycle back through. I will try to put it up on Youtube when I get a chance.
Ducklings may need a source of heat. During the first week or so we typically keep the babies in a smaller brooder. We use a small desk lamp with a reptile bulb to give them heat whenever it’s needed.
Your brooder should be big enough to provide some of the space that is not lit up by the heat lamp. This gives chicks and ducklings space to remove themselves from the heat when they get too hot.
I noticed when my ducks were babies that they need less heat than the chicks did. They would sleep much farther away from the light and they didn’t huddle as much as the chicks either. So keep that in mind.
Each week you want to decrease the heat. Read more about heat lamps. This article is about baby chicks, but it will give you a ton of information that you can apply to ducks too.
Warning Signs Of Too Much Heat
Some things to note if ducks are panting, drinking lots of water, not playing, and not eating, they are too hot. You may look into getting a smaller bulb wattage, decreasing the temperature by moving the lamp further away, or increasing the size of the brooder. Especially, if you’re raising 5+ ducks at a time!
Raising more baby ducks means more heat in the brooder. Their body heat alone may be pretty intense. So make sure for ducks they have an extra-large brooding space, and plenty of room to escape that heating element!
Safer Heating Methods
You don’t have to use a heating lamp. They actually make safer heaters for baby chicks, ducks, and even chicken coops now. Many people are using these now instead of the dangerous flammable heat lamps.
I haven’t bought one yet. I couldn’t afford it when my last batch of ducks and chicks were little, but I have heard from many friends who did buy this product that it’s absolutely worth it! Here’s the one my chicken friends suggest, it’s the Brinsea Ecoglow brooder heater. (Pictured Below)
Update: 2021 – We’ve adopted 5 new ducklings and this year, I really wanted to try out an alternative heating source. So I bought this chick warmer mat. It’s kinda like a thick heating pad…My husband tried it out, but he didn’t think it was warm enough. I think it’s probably fine, especially for ducks. They are such warm little bodies…They don’t seem to need much heat! The only time they are directly under the heat lamp is after a bath!
There are more and more brooders on the market these days. Below I’m going to show a few I’ve found on Amazon! Pick something that will work for you. Just so you know we use the black plastic tub (cheaper at Lowes!…like $19) when we were raising several chicks and a couple of ducks…
Update: However, this year (2021) we just purchased 5 ducklings. My husband couldn’t help himself and has been begging to get more ducks, because he loves them soooo much!
We started by using the black plastic tub, but 5 ducklings are soooooo messy! He decided to move them to a pool. It’s a big kiddie pool, not the biggest one, but big enough…I’m going to be sharing some pictures soon. I have to edit them and upload them to the website…Which is a whole bunch of work! Coming soon though…
I did warn my husband that the ducklings would soon be too big and would escape this pool idea of his…However, he disagrees. Stating that Howie our grown duck can’t seem to jump out of the same size pool unless it’s full of water…
It’s not like the pool is empty, it is at least half full of wood chips! So we will see who wins this battle of knowledge…Tell me in the comments who you think will win!
Eventually, your ducks will be big enough to live outside in their own coop. You can also choose to house them with chickens or other birds. Just make sure they don’t get pooped on or sleep in poop. This can be bad for thier health.
A duck coop must have good ventilation and be big enough for them to spread their wings a bit for grooming…
Ducks sleep on the ground so they don’t need roosts like chickens do.
I prefer to have a duck house that’s close to the ground. My heavier duck has more trouble getting up and down onto things. A suitable ramp is wide enough for a duck to navigate it easily and not too steep.
We prefer to build our coops because the store-bought ones don’t seem to last the test of time. Here’s a couple of designs for some inspiration, or you could just click on the images and buy one. I won’t judge! Sometimes you just need an easy option!
Will Your Ducks Fly?
Most domestics ducks don’t fly. Common ducks like Pekins don’t fly. They are too heavy.
For some other breeds, they are lighter and DO have the ability of flight. For more information on this read more at Do Ducks Fly?
Ducks should start laying around 18 to 22 weeks old. When they start laying make sure to switch their food to adult duck food, chicken layers, or flock raiser. These adult foods contain calcium which is necessary for the production of eggs.
Duck eggs are delicious. Some people say they are creamier and tastier than chicken eggs. I never noticed it to be honest. However, they are typically bigger than the average chicken egg.
Duck eggs also contain more protein than chicken eggs. Which makes them great for baking!
Daily Tasks Of Taking Care Of Baby Ducks
In the morning, you’ll want to check and make sure the food and water are filled up.
Clean up any mess that was made overnight. Remove any wet material, and scoop up some poop. Replace with fresh litter.
If you want friendly ducks, be sure to spend time with them throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to check on them now and then and make sure everyone looks normal.
If you hear a lot of chirping, it may indicate something is wrong. Too little heat, too much heat, no food, or no water…
Periodically, you’ll want to make sure they still have food and water.
At night before bed, I like to make sure everything is in tip-top shape. The food and water are full and everyone looks happy and healthy.
Things You’ll Need To Raise Baby Ducks or Ducklings
As always thank you for joining me, and if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments section. I truly hope you learned a little bit about taking care of and raising baby ducks.
I’d love To Know what you think!… Leave me a comment!
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