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How to Care for a Newborn Duckling

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Large cardboard box

  • Shallow water pan

  • Hay

  • Duck or chick starter

  • Heat lamp

  • Infrared bulbs

Baby ducks can be fun to raise and play with whether you buy them at a feed and supply store or hatch them yourself from an incubator. Caring for a newborn duckling is not the same as raising baby chickens although there are a few similarities in caring for both types of birds. Whether or not you have one duckling or a multitude, knowing how to care for them is important and requires a few basic things including a brooding area with proper bedding, heat, food and water.

Select a brooding area for your baby ducks that is clean, dry, well-ventilated, well-lit and free of drafts. The brooding ares is the place where the baby ducks will live. This could be a small building, or the corner of a barn, shed or garage. If you only have one or two baby ducks the brooding area could even be a large cardboard box. The brooding area should be securely enclosed so that no other animals, such as rodents, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, dogs or cats, can get into it. Any of these animals will eat a baby duck. Choose absorbent bedding for the floor of your brooding area, such as hay. Wood shavings are not a good idea as your baby ducks may try to eat them. Baby ducks will play in their water dish which will result in wet bedding. Make sure to remove the wet hay each day and replace it with new hay so your baby ducks will not be exposed to mold.

Provide a heat source for your baby duckling, such as a heat lamp with an infrared bulb. Regular light bulbs will not supply enough heat. On average, a four-bulb, 250 watt lamp can warm up to 150 ducklings whereas a one-bulb, 250 watt heat lamp can warm up to 30 ducklings. Select your lamp based on the number of baby ducks you have. You can measure the temperature under the center of the light at the level of the ducklings. The best way to do this is to hold a thermometer directly under the light at the level of the duckling's heads. You can also place a small, stand-alone outdoor thermometer on the floor of the brooding area, directly under the lamp. The temperature should measure approximately 98 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 10 days and can then be reduced over a period of six weeks by 5 degrees each week until the temperature reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You will reduce the termpeature by raising the level of the heat lamp. To begin with, your lamp should be hung approximately 12 to 15 inches above the ducklings. Make sure your lamp does not come into contact with the ducklings as this could cause burns. You will also have to raise the lamp as your ducklings grow taller. To provide a constant heat source, be sure to keep the lamp on 24 hours a day.

Feed your baby ducklings the proper food to ensure good health. You can find duck starter at your local feed supply stores. Chicken starter will also work for baby ducklings. These types of feed resemble a fine, dry powder and contain the essential nutrients your ducklings will need. The food should be placed in a shallow pan, similar to a pie pan, so that all of the ducklings can gather around it. Each baby duck needs approximately 2 tablespoons of food per day so be sure to fill your pan according to the number of baby ducklings you have. Adding a little bit of water to the food to make it into a mash will make it more appealing to the ducklings. As they grow in size you can gradually increase the amount of food by a tablespoon every few weeks until you reach approximately 1/2 a cup. At this point you can switch from duck or chick starter to regular duck food, which can also be purchased at farm supply stores. You can also provide baby ducklings with fresh fruits and vegetables but these must be minced into tiny pieces as ducklings do not have teeth. The only vegetable you should avoid is onions. Make sure to supply your ducklings with a shallow pan of fresh water and refill the pan daily. You will find they like to bathe and play in the water as well as drink it, so make sure the water level is kept below 1/4 inch so they can't drown. If the weather is warm you can take your baby ducklings outside for a few hours each day while the sun shines so that they can get some exercise. You can allow them to run around an enclosed area such as a chicken or duck pen or you can also use a portable wire pen without a bottom so the ducklings can be directly on the grass.