21 Tips On How To Raise Baby Ducks On Your Backyard Farm

Oh, those cute little fluff balls that you see when walking into the farm store. It can be so tempting to get a batch of cute little baby ducklings every year. 

But you want to make sure that you know what you are doing with your baby ducks and how to raise them. Because they make way more mess than chickens and have their own set of quarks that can cause issues later on if you don’t feed them the right way.

how to raise baby ducklings intro image

Let me first go over the important things you need to know about ducklings so you can decide ahead of time if they are right for you. Then I will get into the basic care of how to raise baby ducks.

Should You Put Baby Ducks With Other Chicks

When caring for baby ducklings, one important thing to remember is not to brood them together with chicks.

While it technically is possible, I don’t recommend it for several reasons.

  1. Ducklings love water and will splash around in it all day if they could. This can result in a wet mess that can be harmful to chicks, causing illness due to the moist environment.
  2. In addition, ducklings require a different diet from chicks, which can affect their growth and development when mixed together.
  3. Young ducklings are often much bigger than chicken chicks from the beginning. And they grow at a much faster rate. When you have birds that are such different sizes there can be accidental damage done to the smaller birds and you could lose some. Which I have experienced a few times. Once the larger birds were separated the losses stopped. EVEN THOUGH it wasn’t obvious that the bigger birds were hurting the smaller ones.]
  4. One of the main advantages of not brooding chicks and ducklings together is that ducklings require a different temperature than chicks. Chicks typically need their brooder temperature to decrease by 5 degrees every week, ducklings can tolerate a more rapid drop in temperature of about 10 degrees. Ducklings will also overheat much quicker than chicken chicks. 
three baby ducklings walking in the yard

If you plan on raising both chicks and ducklings together, it’s important to ensure that the area where they’re housed is dry and free from any moisture.

Keeping them separate is also a good idea because it also allows you to monitor your new ducklings and chicks’ individual progress more easily and cater better to their specific needs.

By avoiding brooding your chicks and ducklings together, you’ll be able to provide a safer environment for both groups of babies as they grow and develop into healthy adult birds.

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Once They Are Full Grown You Can Keep Ducks And Chickens Together

I don’t think you need a separate duck house for your adult ducks. If you keep ducks and chickens they can be together in the chicken coop. HOWEVER, adult ducks are still just as messy so you have to keep that in mind and be aware that you will still have to control the water in the coop.

Or not have a waterer in there at all and make sure the drinking water stays out in the coop run. Because if you don’t the wood shavings will be covered in water and not keep the layer of warmth in the coop. You will also have a huge amount of stench start to develop.

Don’t Get Them Fully Submerged Until They Are Fully Feathered

Although domestic ducks may look similar to their wild counterparts, they are not the same when it comes to their physical attributes.

In the wild, a mother duck adds oil from her own body to the baby ducks down during grooming sessions which makes them waterproof.

It is important for the wild ducks because this is how the parents keep their ducklings safe by getting them to water. They need to be able to swim freely in water bodies without getting weighed down.

three baby ducks in the sun

Domestic ducks are hatched from an incubator and lack this natural oiling process that wild ducks have.

If you have domestic ducklings in your yard, it’s important to remember not to put them in the pool or bathtub just yet. Due to their lack of waterproofing domestic ducklings get a lot of water absorbed into their down within just a few minutes. They can suffer from hypothermia or even drown. 

It’s important that you take extra care around water sources with your baby ducks. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t allow them some play time in the water! They will love any opportunity for splashing around regardless of what you would prefer – just don’t give them access to large bowls or containers of water so they don’t drown.

How Long Do Ducks Stay Cute

What you might not know is that baby ducklings stay cute little yellow fluff balls for about two weeks. Then they start to get their feathers and are quite ugly after that.  

Those cute ducklings will be full grow ducks in 6-8 weeks. 

Ducks Are Messy

Ducks poop every 7-9 minuts. Yep, it’s a fact. They make big messes and cause any area they are penned up in to get muddy really fast. So if you have a small back yard you like to keep looking nice. Do not get ducks. 

Two ducks need about 1/3 of an acre to roam in if you want them to not make any particular area muddy. The one upside to them over chickens is they don’t dig in the dirt so they don’t tear up grass as they graze. BUT their big webbed feet and heavy weight will damage a space that they frequent often.

baby ducks in a tub

How To Set Up Your Duck Brooder

Raising baby ducklings is a fun experience buuuuut if you don’t know what you are getting into you are defiantly going to fun into a few hiccups. Knowing how to properly prepare the brooder for your little flock will give them the best start in life.

A brooder should be set up out of something plastic like a storage toat because ducks will spread a lot of water all over the place no matter how much you try not to get them make a mess. 

It should also be filled about 2-3 inches deep with pine shavings.

Ducklings do need a heat lamp, which is important to keep the ducklings warm for about the first 2-3 weeks of life but after that, they should be fine without one if the daily temperatures are around 70 degrees.

The temperature of the tub area should stay between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week then you can reduce it to 80-85 degrees. Or you can decrease the temperature by 5 degrees every week until it reaches around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Important Note: Heat Lamp Bulbs

There are two different watts that you will find in the chick areas at the farm stores. You will need the 250-watt bulb NOT the 175-watt bulb for your brooder lamp. I got one of them on accident one time and the lower-watt bulbs barely do anything to heat the area up.

Additionally, provide enough feeders and waterers so that all ducks can access them easily at all times. But more on the specifics later.

Pro Tip: Sit the waterer up on a block of some kind so it is about mid-way up their neck so they can just get a drink but are not tempted to climb into the waterer. Even if you use a waterer like the one below they will try to sit in it or find some way of making a mess out of it. This will also keep pine shavings out of the waterer.

How To Know If The Brooder Is Warm Enough

Ducklings are able to communicate their physical needs similar to how chicks do. They will huddle together if they are cold or try to move away from a heat source if they are too hot, and may even start panting.

These signs should be closely monitored to ensure that the temperatures in their environment are appropriate for their growth and development. Typically, at around 6 weeks of age and are mostly feathered, ducklings can begin transitioning outside as long as night temperatures do not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Ducks Need Their Bedding In The Brooder Changed Way More Often

I have already mentioned that ducks are very messy! Ducklings love any amount of water, no matter how small it is, and they will find it and get into it as soon as possible.

Their eating habits also contribute to their messiness; they dip their food in water before eating it which adds to the wet and mucky environment. With them being under a heat lamp the tub will also start smelling much faster than chicks because of the water causing fermentation.

But don’t let this discourage you – raising ducks can still be a wonderful addition to your backyard farm. Just be prepared for the extra work that comes with keeping them clean and dry.

Three baby ducks sitting in the tub

You’ll need to provide lots of bedding in their brooder and change it at as much as 2-3 times a day to keep them comfortable and reduce the risk of illness. With some dedication and effort put into maintaining clean bedding, your ducklings will grow up healthy and happy. Once they are moved outside it won’t be as difficult.

Use a Plastic Tote For A Brooder Not Wood

When it comes to raising ducklings, it’s important to provide them with a suitable brooder to keep them dry.

I see people using these wood boxes they build for chickens with wire on top which is GREAT for chicks. BUT they aren’t the best option for these rapidly growing, water-loving, balls of fluff. Ducks splash around enough water even if you use a trough waterer to soak the bottom and swell the wood underneath and ruin your brooder box.

That’s where a plastic duckling brooder comes in – they are going to keep the water contained as ducklings tend to make quite a mess.

Plastic tubs from the storage department make great brooders and you can store all the supplies inside once your chicks are grown. 

What To Feed Your Ducks

Knowing what to feed your ducklings is a crucial part of keeping them healthy. While they are a little easier than chicks they still have some requirements that they need to be met so they don’t have health issues later.

Here are some tips on what to feed baby ducklings if you’re just getting started!

Duck Starter

When it comes to raising healthy ducklings, nutrition is one of the most important factors to consider. While finding starter for ducks or waterfowl can be difficult in many areas, using a regular chicken starter can work just as well.

BUT the key is to get the non-medicated feed. Medicated feeds contain additives such as antibiotics that are meant to help prevent diseases and illnesses in chickens. Which is fine. However, but ducks eat way more than the chicks do and it can cause them to get a higher dosage because they are eating larger quantities.

crumble chicken feed

Ducks Need Niacin 

Niacin is an essential vitamin that is crucial for the proper development of baby ducks. Waterfowl need higher amounts of niacin than chicks, and if they do not get enough, it can result in leg or wing problems and other deformities.

It is necessary to provide ducklings with a diet that contains sufficient niacin for their healthy growth. All commercial duckling feed includes niacin as one of the staple ingredients, but if you were not able to get a duck feed then you can add it separately.

If you feed your baby ducks unmedicated chick starter feed, you will need to supplement them with niacin as chick food does not contain enough of this critical vitamin.

Add Brewer’s Yeast If You Cant Get Duck Starter

When it comes to raising ducklings, finding the right feed can be a bit difficult. Like I said there are duck-specific starter and grower feeds available, but they may not always be easy to find.

This is where chick feed comes in as a suitable alternative. However, it’s important to note that ducklings require more niacin for optimal health than baby chicks do.

Fresh Eggs Daily Brewer’s Yeast 

This is a great poultry supplement brand that you can find on amazon and have them sent right to your door.

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Fortunately, brewer’s yeast if a great niacin supplement provides an affordable and easily accessible source of niacin that can be added to their feed.

Adding a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast to each cup of chick starter can help ensure that your ducklings are getting the necessary amount of niacin for their growth and development. Don’t worry about adding too much because the ducks will poop out what they don’t need.

As such, adding this supplement can go a long way in ensuring your ducks thrive during their formative months. Plus, because it’s fairly inexpensive and widely available online or at pet stores, it makes for an easy addition to any feeding regimen. Overall, adding brewer’s yeast is a simple but effective way you can enhance the nutritional value of your duckling’s feed regimen while supporting optimal growth without breaking the bank.

three baby ducklings

Grit Helps Them Digest Food

Both ducks and chickens need grit that stays in their gizzard to help grind up their food. Once ducks are outside they can forage small stones and grit from their surrounding environment. But until your ducks are outside they can’t get the grit they need unless you provide it for them.

Ducklings that do not have access to natural grit may struggle to digest their food properly, and this can lead to digestive issues such as impacted crops or even sudden death. As a result, it’s imperative to provide your ducks with a reliable source of grit by placing it in a small container where they can pick at will.

Fortunately, providing grit for your ducks is easy. You can purchase chick grit from any livestock supplier. It’s super cheap and lasts forever. You could even split it with other people you know who raise chicks. Chick grit is specially designed small stones that are safe for birds and acts as an excellent alternative if

You can either sprinkle it on top of their feed about once a week while they are in the brooder or offer the chick grit freely in a container where the ducks can help themselves when needed.

Chick Grit

This is really important to give to your chicks while they are living in a brooder. If your chicks are getting pasty butt try giving grit to see if that helps.

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Make The Ducks Are Getting Enough Protein

Little ducklings have specific needs when it comes to their protein intake. During the first couple of weeks of their life, they require a high amount of protein, which should be around 20% – 22% in their feed.

This high-protein diet helps them with their growth and development during this critical period. However, after those initial weeks, it is essential to reduce the amount of protein in their starter feed to prevent them from developing angel wing.

Angel Wing is an ailment that ducks can succumb to if they consume too much protein during their growth period.

To avoid this condition, it is crucial to provide them with a lower percentage of protein, between 16% – 18%, as they continue to mature.

feed tag

Unfortunately, finding starter/grower feed that has low protein percentages can be quite challenging in some areas. You can get regular unmedicated adult duck food or crumbled layer feed and make sure to add the important nutrients like brewers yeast.

Keeping their dietary intake of proteins at a reasonable level will help ensure healthy and happy ducks without suffering from angel wing or other related health problems associated with high levels of protein consumption during growth periods.

Water Oh Water

Water is an essential part of a duck’s life but it can also be a real challenge while the ducklings are living inside.

Ducks need large amounts of water every day to stay hydrated, and an adult duck can drink up to half a gallon daily! Notice I said drink. That doesn’t count the amount that they splatter everywhere while halving fun fooling around in the water dishes. 

This amount seems high compared to human standards, but it’s just a fraction of what some ducks can consume daily. Due to the high levels of energy required by their active lifestyle, ducks need more water than most animals. During hot weather, they may bathe in cool bodies of water like ponds but I you don’t have one you can provide a kiddie pool with clean water for them to play in. Just keep in mind that you will need to dump it and refresh about 3 times a week to avoid getting stagnant water that will create a breeding ground for mosquitos and other pests.

Ducks Are Great Foragers

Ducklings have a natural instinct to forage and explore their environment. They are inquisitive creatures that love to free range and search for bugs and other interesting things they can find around them. Foraging is an essential part of their daily routine, as it helps them to exercise and develop their muscles.

I love to have ducks in our backyards for this very reason. We can have a pretty damp yard for a large part of the summer. Causing a lot of mosquitos to be in our backyard. They stick their beaks in the grass and shake it causing them to eat all the bugs in the yard. They are way more efficient than chickens at keeping bugs under control.

You can take your ducklings out in the yard on sunny days BUT make sure they are penned in and do not get loose. Ducklings can be quite fast and hard to catch. Cats or ducks would love to get a hold of your chicks. Also, make sure they don’t get stuck in the rain just yet. Remember how I talked about not letting them in a pool while they are young? Well for the same reason, the rain will get into their down and can cause respiratory problems because they got wet and cold.

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How Many Ducks Should You Have

Ducks are social animals just like chickens and they need a flock to be around. While some ducks do fine living with chickens and take them on as their “flock” some ducks don’t. So it is a good idea to get at least two ducks to keep together.

Where Should You Get Ducklings

I am a big proponent of getting quality birds from a hatchery. BUT if you are not taking them as 4-H projects or are not concerned with the quality of the ducks then it’s not as important. Another bonus for ordering from a hatchery is they have a far bigger selection of breeds of ducks.

You could hatch duck eggs but hatching your own is always a bigger gamble. Not all the eggs you buy are going to be viable and you have to hope that the person kept the eggs in the right conditions for hatching.

Here are my issues when getting ducks from a local feed store.

Multiple times we have done this and both times we ended up with male ducks that would go after our hens for BREEDING! We NEVER had that issue with our hatchery ducks. To me they had a screw loose. On top of that, there would be some ducklings that had splashes of different colors in their feathers that were not color options for that breed. So that told me they were mixed. Call me a snob but if I pay the same price I want the pure breed of what I paid for.

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