Whether you’re a first-time bird parent or a seasoned pro, getting ready for the arrival of ducklings can seem daunting.
Will your homestead be safe and comfortable for them?
Do you have all the necessary supplies?
Will you be able to meet their specific needs?
Preparing for ducklings can be a fun and rewarding experience, and with these “quack-tastic” tips, you’ll be ready to welcome your new feathered friends in no time.
Preparing for Ducklings: Are They Hard to Take Care Of?
So, you’ve decided to bring some baby ducks into your life?
Congratulations on adding new members to the flock!
Owning ducks is a wonderful experience that can bring endless joy and entertainment to you and your family.
Whether you’re planning to keep them as a hobby or hoping to make a small business out of them, raising these adorable creatures requires a lot of care and attention.
But are baby ducks hard to take care of?
If you’ve raised chickens, then you’ll likely find that bringing home ducklings isn’t all that different.
That said, there are a few things to pay attention to.
Food and Water
Just like any other creature, baby ducks need the right nourishment to grow and thrive.
They will eat a lot, so be prepared to provide them with a good quality duck feed that’s rich in nutrients and vitamins.
You can also give them fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables as occasional treats.
You also need to make sure they have fresh and clean water to drink, as ducks can get sick easily if they drink contaminated water.
Ducks are social creatures and thrive in the company of other ducks.
If you plan to keep them as pets, it’s best to get at least two to keep each other company.
Raising baby ducks can be a lot of work, but it’s also a fun and rewarding experience.
Take the time to observe and enjoy their antics, from their cute waddles to their splashing in the water.
As they grow and mature, they’ll develop their own unique personalities and quirks that will bring a smile to your face every day.
Incubate Ducklings Vs. Buy Hatched Ones
The decision to incubate or not can be a tough one.
If you opt to incubate your own eggs, it allows you to be a part of the process from start to finish and can be a great project for kids and families.
Cost and Supplies
Incubating duck eggs requires an incubator, which can range from $50 to $500, depending on the size and features.
You’ll also need a brooder box, heat lamp, and other supplies, though, of course, you’ll need these for already-hatched ducks, too.
If you plan on incubating multiple batches of eggs, the cost per duckling may be cheaper.
Buying hatched ducklings can cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per duckling, depending on the breed and location.
Time and Effort
Another consideration is the amount of time and effort required.
Incubating duck eggs requires daily monitoring of the temperature and humidity levels, as well as regular egg turning.
Once the ducklings hatch, they require constant care, including feeding, cleaning, and monitoring.
Buying hatched ducklings requires less time and effort, as they are already hatched and need minimal care.
Health and Genetics
Remember that incubating your own eggs gives you more control over the genetics and health of the ducklings.
You can choose the best eggs with the healthiest and strongest genetics, resulting in healthier and stronger ducklings.
However, not all eggs will hatch, and some ducklings may have health issues or genetic problems.
Buying hatched ducklings means you have less control over their genetics and health, but they are more likely to be healthy and free from genetic defects.
And if you’re looking for a specific breed of duckling, you may have a hard time finding them for sale.
Incubating your own eggs allows you to choose the breed and order eggs online or from a breeder.
Buying hatched ducklings may limit your options depending on where you live and what breeds are available.
Choosing the Right Duck Breed for Your Farm
Once you’ve figured out whether you’ll incubate your ducks or buy already-hatched ones, it’s time to pick out a breed.
There are countless options to choose from, but some are more common and, therefore, easier to find than others.
Khaki Campbell Duck
First up, we have the Khaki Campbell duck.
These guys are egg-laying machines, producing around 300 creamy white eggs per year.
They are also incredibly hardy and adaptable, making them perfect for those just starting out with ducks.
They have delicious meat, too, if you plan on using them for more than just egg production.
On the other hand, Khakis tend to be more aloof and aren’t the friendliest breed out there, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a duck to snuggle with.
There’s also the Pekin duck, probably one of the most well-known breeds of ducks.
They’re the classic white ducks you see on farms and in parks.
These guys are great for meat production, with tender, flavorful meat that’s perfect for roasting.
They’re also quite friendly and love attention, making them perfect for those wanting a more personal relationship with their ducks.
However, they’re not the best at laying eggs, with a production rate of around 200 eggs per year.
For those wanting a bit of variety in their flock, Muscovy ducks are a great option.
They’re easily recognized by their red face and striking feathers.
Unlike other breeds, Muscovies are actually quite quiet and don’t quack as often.
They’re also great at controlling pests like flies and mosquitoes around your property.
They’re not as prolific with egg production, with a rate of around 100 eggs per year, but their unique characteristics and meat make up for it.
Other Duck Breed Options
Do some research to find the duck breed that will best meet your needs!
How to Prepare for Ducklings: What You Need
You’ve picked out your breed. You’ve bought your ducklings. Now it’s time to bring them home!
So what kind of gear do you need to make them comfortable? Here’s a list.
A Brooder and Future Housing
For the first few weeks of their lives, baby ducklings need a safe and warm place to grow.
This is where a brooder comes in.
A brooder is a box or an enclosure where a heat lamp can be placed to keep the ducklings warm.
Set this up a few days before you bring your ducklings home so you can make sure everything is working as it should be.
You should also have a future housing plan in place once the ducklings are ready to move out of the brooder.
You’ll need to have a space that will keep them safe from predators and various weather conditions.
Feeders and Waterers
Baby ducklings, like all other animals, require access to clean food and water at all times.
Chick feed can be used to feed them and should be sprinkled on clean litter to encourage them to eat.
You should avoid feeding them bread or any other processed food, especially when they’re young.
Clean water should also be available at all times.
You may want to use a waterer with a narrow top so they don’t fall in the water and get wet (or purposefully splash around in it).
ALSO READ: The Ultimate Duck Feeding Guide
Best Bedding for Baby Ducks
You’ll need to find and use a suitable bedding material that is safe for baby ducks and also easy to clean.
Pine shavings or straws can be used as a bedding material to help keep the brooder clean.
A layer of paper towels can also be used for the first few days.
A Pool or Other Water Source
Ducks love water—we all know that!
You’ll need to provide a source of water for them to swim in or at least get wet.
You can use a small plastic pool or any other container that is shallow and easy for them to climb in and out.
Grit and Supplements
Baby ducks need access to grit, which helps them digest their food correctly.
You can put some grit in a small dish or mix it in with their food.
Supplements like brewer’s yeast can also be used to boost their immune system and promote healthy growth.
Other supplies that you may need include a thermometer to monitor the temperature in the brooder, nesting boxes for future housing, and a heat lamp that can be adjusted for warmth control.
Setting Up the Brooder
Before you bring your ducklings home, you need to set up the brooder.
This is the place where your baby ducks will live for the first few weeks of their lives.
What Kind of Temperatures Do Baby Ducklings Need?
The first few weeks of a duckling’s life are critical, and temperature plays a huge role in their development.
If you want your little ones to stay healthy and happy, you must keep their environment warm and cozy.
Ideally, you should provide a temperature of around 90-95°F for the first week, gradually decreasing by 5°F each week until they feather out.
You can use a variety of heat sources to keep your brooder warm, including heat lamps, infrared bulbs, or heated pads.
Just make sure that the temperature is consistent and that your ducklings have plenty of room to move around.
What Do Baby Ducklings Eat?
Now that you know how to keep your ducklings at the right temperature, let’s talk about their diet.
In the first few days of life, you can feed them chick starter or game bird starter crumbles.
After a week, you can start introducing non-medicated, unmedicated, or medicated feed specifically formulated for ducks.
However, don’t forget to provide your ducklings with fresh water as well.
You can use a shallow dish or waterer, but make sure the water is no deeper than the bird’s beak to avoid drowning.
Ducks also love nibbling on fresh fruits and vegetables, such as spinach leaves, corn, and blueberries, so don’t forget to offer some treats to keep them happy.
Keeping Ducklings Safe from Predators
From raccoons to hawks, there are many animals that are eager to make a meal out of your precious pets.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your ducklings safe from harm.
The best tip for preventing predator attacks is to make sure your ducks have access to a safe and secure coop.
This is where your ducklings will sleep at night, and it needs to be impenetrable to predators.
Make sure the coop is locked at night, and that windows and ventilation are covered with sturdy wire mesh.
Also, make sure the flooring of the coop is sturdy and predator-proof.
A raccoon is strong enough to pry up floorboards, so make sure that your coop flooring is solid. It shouldn’t be something an animal could dig into.
Once your ducklings are big enough to venture outside, you will need a secure fence around their play area.
A fence should be at least six feet tall to keep out predators such as raccoons and foxes.
For extra security, bury the bottom of the fence a few inches into the ground to discourage digging.
Also, make sure there are no holes in the fence that predators can slip through.
And to keep your ducklings safe from flying predators, provide them with overhead protection.
This can be achieved by placing netting or wire mesh over their play area or by placing a cover over their outdoor pen.
How to Keep Your Ducklings Healthy
Being a duckling parent comes with a set of challenges—especially when it comes to their health.
From common respiratory problems to sour crops and even injuries, ducklings are prone to various health issues that need your attention.
Some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for include sneezing, wheezing, loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, or lameness.
These can be indicators of respiratory, intestinal, or other infectious diseases.
If you notice any of these, it’s best to consult with a vet who has experience treating birds.
Ducklings are curious and active creatures and may get into accidents or injuries.
Some common causes of injuries in ducklings include getting stuck in wire, being pecked or attacked by other birds, or falling from a height.
To prevent injuries, you should supervise their playtime, avoid keeping them with aggressive birds (some breeds are more aggressive than others), and provide a safe and secure enclosure.
If you notice any injuries, act quickly and seek medical attention if necessary.
What NOT to Do With Baby Ducks
Now that you know everything you NEED to do with your baby ducks, what should you NOT be doing?
The good news is that baby ducks are fairly hardy, tough little creatures.
But like any other living thing, there are a few things you need to avoid.
For one, make sure you’re giving them enough room. They can’t be confined to a small space all the time.
This isn’t just cruel. It can also lead to physical issues, bullying in the flock, and even stunted growth.
Make sure that your baby ducks have ample room to move about and play.
Also, avoid overfeeding them.
Understandably, you want your baby ducks to grow big and strong, but overfeeding them is not the way to do it.
Baby ducks should be fed a balanced diet that caters to their needs.
Overfeeding and giving them too many treats can lead to obesity and health problems.
Finally, don’t neglect their hygiene.
Humidity, dampness, and dirty living quarters can lead to diseases and infections.
Make sure your baby ducks have a clean, dry, and well-ventilated place to live.
Regular cleaning of their living quarters and food and water containers is an absolute must.
How to Prepare for Ducklings: Final Thoughts
Preparing for ducklings may seem like a big task, but with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to being a great duck parent.
Remember to set up a cozy brooder, duck-proof your home, invest in the right supplies, prepare for their long-term needs, and most importantly, enjoy the experience.
Before you know it, you’ll have a flock of happy and healthy ducks quacking away in your own backyard!