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Duckling Care

Congratulations on receiving your ducklings in the mail! It is a fun and exciting time, however proper care must be given for your ducklings to grow into healthy ducks. There are differences between domestic and non-domestic ducklings and those that are raised artificially than raised with a broody duck.

What is the difference between a domesticated and non-domesticated duck?

There are many ducks offered by Purely Poultry, and most of them are domesticated. Domesticated ducks were specifically bred by man to create strains, whether for meat or eggs or both. These ducks were all derived from the Mallard, which is a non-domesticated duck. The domesticated ducks lack instincts of the wild and do not do well if released. The wild, or non-domesticated duck species, such as the Muscovy and the Mallard, can thrive in the wild and can be a nuisance in some areas. They do have the wild instinct to care for their young and survive in the wild. Although there are two categories, both types of ducks can make wonderful pets or breeders. Some species do require a permit, therefore check with your state and make sure you have met all the requirements.

What is the difference between a duckling that was raised artificially than one that is raised by a broody duck?

Many ducklings are hatched artificially, meaning that an incubator incubates and hatches out the duckling rather than a duck hen. People choose to incubate duck eggs for a variety of reasons, such as many duck species do not sit on their nest long enough to hatch out their clutch, get interrupted, or the producer wants to hatch out ducklings for profit. Once a duck goes broody, egg production declines as she is tending her eggs. If you have a small flock and want to hatch naturally, that is not an issue, however commercial or backyard breeders prefer to hatch their own eggs artificially so the duck will continue laying. The non domesticated ducks brood and tend their young fine, and in some cases, it is better to have them raise their young than artificially incubating due to their fragility.

If you look into a pond and creek, at times you will see a duck and her ducklings. These ducklings appear to be day olds and swimming! How is that possible? The mother duck produces an oil gland that allows buoyancy in the water. The ducklings she hatches and tends get the mother’s oil on them. This allows the ducklings to be able to swim in the water and not drown. When ducklings are artificially hatched, which is what you receive in the mail, they do not have this benefit, and have to wait until their oil glands produce on their own. These ducks must wait 5-6 weeks to swim, otherwise they can become waterlogged and drown.

Receiving Ducklings in the Mail

Your ducklings have been shipped, you are anxious for their arrival, now what? Make sure you have a brooder ready for them. A brooder is a container that is warm, dry, and draft-free for your birds to stay in as they grow. A brooder can be anything from a cardboard box to a fish tank. The bedding should be non slippery. Paper towels work great for the first few days After that, straw or hay works great. Sawdust and wood shavings are not advisable as the ducks may eat it and are unable to digest or pass the wood particles. Provide a heat lamp for the birds. This can be a commercial red or white bulb, or a 100 watt incandescent bulb. If the 100 watt bulb is producing too much heat for the ducklings, you can go down in wattage.

Make sure you watch the behavior of your ducklings. If they are too cold, they will huddle under the light and if too hot, they will pant and go away from the heat source. When the temperature is just right, you will see your ducklings scattered, healthy, and happy. For ducklings, the starting temperature should be 90 degrees. This temperature is reduced by 5-10 degrees each week for about 3 weeks. A thermometer is very important, however, it is important to watch your ducklings’ body language as well. Raise or lower the height of your heat lamp to raise or lower your temperature in your brooder. Different areas have different heating requirements as well. For example, in Florida, you may not need supplemental heat in the summertime.

Diet is very important to get your ducklings off to a good start. Ducklings should receive a waterfowl feed, which can be purchased from your local feed store or ordered online. This diet contains of no more than 18% protein for the first two weeks of life, reduced to 15-16% protein through 10 weeks. If a waterfowl feed cannot be obtained, adding brewer’s yeast to chick starter can help. With feed, make sure you do not get medicated chick starter. The added coccidiostats are not good for your ducklings. Always provide fresh water in a shallow dish throughout the day. Chicken waterers work great, however add some marbles to the dish so the duckling does not over drink or find themselves getting wet. When your ducklings arrive, dip their bills in water so they can re-hydrate and do this every couple of hours. The ducklings should quickly learn where their water source is this way. The ideal temperature for their water is 90 degrees.

An important note about Muscovy’s

If Muscovy ducklings over drink, they can have brain seizures and die. To prevent this, upon arrival, let them drink water for about 10-15 minutes and then remove the water for about 15 minutes. Then allow them to drink again for 10-15 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times.

Angel Wing

A common problem with ducklings is angel wings. Angel wings is where the wing tips stick out from the size of their body when the wings are folded. This is caused by the ducklings receiving too much protein. Another common cause is feeding ducklings bread. While this is okay as an occasional treat, it is not appropriate to feed to them any more than that.

Grow out

Once your ducklings overgrow their brooder, they can be moved to a grow out pen outside. Watch their behavior with the environment and add a heat lamp if you are witnessing huddling. Make sure your pen is safe and predator proof as ducklings are a delicacy to unwanted critters.

Ducklings are a fun addition to any flock.  With these helpful tips, you should have a fun, yet exciting adventure with your new ducks.



3 responses to “Duckling Care”

  1. Bobbi Bennett says:

    How long do ducklings need to stay inside in s brooder. Our ducklings will be 3 weeks on Monday.

  2. Anna Pattermann says:

    Hi Bobbi,
    We typically suggest 6-8 weeks in the brooder or until they get their full juvenile feathering. I hope this helps! Have a great day!

  3. Bobbi Bennett says:

    We have a pond in our yard. At what age can I release them?

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