Whether you have just spent 28 days hatching eggs in an incubator, bought ducklings from a store or received them as a gift, knowing how to care for them properly is important. Despite what you might think, it's not the same as raising and breeding chickens - although there are some similarities.
Baby ducks require only a few basic elements to remain healthy and grow into beautiful, mature ducks. These elements are a brooding area, proper bedding, a heat source, the correct feed, and water.
- The first element is the brooding area.
- The brooding area is the area where the ducklings will live. Choose a viable area before they arrive.
- It can be located in a small building or in the corner of the garage or barn.
- If you have only a few baby ducks, even a cardboard box will work.
- It should be enclosed for protection against animals such as rodents, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and even dogs or cats. Remember that these animals prey on defenseless creatures and can do so in exceedingly clever ways.
- Keep the area clean, draft-free, dry and well ventilated with lots of light.
- The second element is bedding.
- The floor of the brooding area should be covered with an absorbent bedding such as straw or hay. Wood shavings or chips can cause serious health complications when birds try to eat them.
- Any wet spots should be removed daily and fresh bedding added.
- Never use any moldy bedding -- it can be detrimental to their health.
- The third element is the heat source.
- The best heat source is a heat lamp with an infrared bulb. Regular light bulbs will not work as well because they do not put out enough heat. Choosing the best set up will depend on the number of ducklings you have.
- A 4 bulb, 250 watt brooder lamp will warm 100 to 150 ducklings.
- A 1 bulb, 250 watt brooder lamp will warm 30 ducklings.
- A 1 bulb, 50 watt reflector lamp will warm a few ducklings.
- Temperature is measured from under the center of the light, at duckling level.
- For the first 10 days the ducklings are in the brooding area, the temperature should remain at 98F. The temperature is then decreased 5F each week by raising the lamp. This decrease continues until the temperature reaches 70F, usually at 6 weeks.
- Be sure to place the lamp beyond possible contact with the ducklings, and you may want to place it in such a way that they can escape the heat if desired.
- Monitor their behavior as a guide for your heat usage. If they find the temperature to be good, they will move around, eat and drink. If they are too hot, they will travel away from the heat and if they are too cold, they will bunch up together and are noisy.
- The fourth element needed to raise ducklings is the proper feed.
- When feeding your ducklings, use unmedicated chick starter or duck starter.
- They can also be given fruits and vegetables, but these must be chopped very fine as they do not have teeth.
- They also enjoy small insects and worms.
- DO NOT feed them whole grains, onions, dry bread, wild birdseed or caged birdseed.
- The fifth and final element needed is water.
- When watering, make sure the level of the water is kept at ¼" deep so the baby ducks will not drown in it.
- The best type of waterer is the one that has a jar that sits in the middle of it, automatically dispensing water into the surrounding circular moat as needed.
Raising ducklings can be an enjoyable experience and is not very hard if these few elements are supplied. Each one of them is very important and should never be left out.