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Brooding Ducklings

baby duck in man's hands


Brooding Ducklings

Our very first batch of chicks from the local feed store several years ago included two ducklings. We hadn’t planned on raising ducklings, but they were just so cute, we couldn’t resist bringing two home along with the baby chicks. While it is possible to successfully brood chicks and ducklings together, and we did that first time, it really is preferable to brood them separately for several reasons:

  • Ducklings don’t need as much heat. Unlike chicks that you start off at 95 degrees and then lower the temperature five degrees per week, ducklings you start off at 90 degrees and then lower the temperature by one degree a day, or seven degrees per week. 
  • Ducklings grow extremely fast. You risk having your baby chicks trampled by the much larger and heavier ducklings, even if they all are the same age.
  • Ducklings need a deeper water source. Ducklings need to be able to submerge their entire bill to keep their mucous membranes moist, so mason jar or chick waterers aren’t deep enough for them. Instead a sturdy stoneware dish that won’t tip over, with several stones in it so the ducklings won’t drown, works better.
  • Ducklings make a mess in their water. Your brooder will always be soaking wet, which baby chicks don’t enjoy. Much as ducklings love to play in their water, they can get chilled, so you want to keep their brooder as dry as possible. Using a spare bathtub with rubber shelf liner on the bottom and their water at the drain end works wonderfully, as does setting their water up on an upturned plastic seedling tray over paper towels so the spilled water gets absorbed.
  • Ducklings need niacin. Ducklings can eat chick starter feed but they need niacin to help them grow strong bones. Adding brewer’s yeast to their feed is extremely beneficial to growing ducklings. Additionally, ducklings should always only be fed UNmedicated starter feed since they rarely contract coccidiosis and eat more by weight than chicks do and there is a risk of them over-medicating themselves.

If you decide to raise some ducklings, consider setting up a separate brooding area for them. It will be far easier, and more enjoyable, for all.

Our contributing author, Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily, gives advice on raising backyard chickens and ducks on and as well as her blog