Bringing ducklings to the farm is exciting, but it’s not without its preparations. Just like you’d need to prepare for newly arrived chicks, it’s important to have a few supplies ready before the ducklings make an appearance to ensure they have a happy life with you.
1. Prep The Brooder
It is important to make sure you’ve got an area set up for your ducklings to live in. When ducklings are younger than 6 weeks old, they need a brooder that is warm and has everything that they need to survive.
Brooders should be kept at 90 to 95 degrees F for the first week of life, and decrease by 10 degrees per week as the ducklings grow. You can keep the brooder warm by setting up heat lamps or regular light bulbs overtop of it. You can raise or lower the lights to adjust the temperature.
You’ll also need to prep the brooder with clean bedding. I recommend pine shavings, but you can also use straw, hay or even paper towels. Clean the brooder regularly, as ducklings have messy droppings and often spill their water.
A brooder can be set up in your barn, house entryway or a spare bedroom. It won’t take up much space, though it can be dusty. Young ducklings only need about 1 square foot per bird, but those space requirements will quickly increase as they get bigger.
2. Provide Water
Ducks go through a lot of water. They need plenty to drink, to douse their beaks in and to clean off with.
Young ducklings shouldn’t be given swimming water because their downy feathers don’t have the water-proofing abilities of their adult feathers, so they can catch a chill. You also don’t want them swimming in their brooder because the water will end up everywhere. It is best to limit swimming time and not allow them to swim until they are a few weeks old.
Ducks do need to be able to submerge their bills so that they can clean out their airways after eating. A regular chicken waterer, available at most feed stores, will allow them to submerge their bills and break up their food in the water, which they prefer to do.
3. Decide If Ducks Should Imprint
Ducklings can imprint with their owners. They are some of the few barnyard fowl that make excellent pets. If you spend plenty of time with your ducklings when they’re young, you’ll end up with a bonded and imprinted grown duck.
To have ducklings imprint, you simply need to spend plenty of time with them and feed them regularly. They’ll grow to think of you as their mother and follow you around, even into adulthood.
While imprinting is not ideal if you are raising ducks for meat, it does make them entertaining and fun pets. Nothing is quite as charming as an imprinting duck, and it’s very easy to form this bond with your peeping friends.
4. Select The Right Feed
When selecting feed for your ducklings, it is important to read the label. Ducks need niacin, a form of vitamin B, in their diet. If your feed doesn’t contain niacin, supplement it by adding brewer’s yeast to the feed.
Ducks generally prefer a crumble, and soaking their food allows them to chew it more easily. Like chickens and other birds, you should provide your ducks with a tray of grit to help ease their digestion.
5. Introduce To Other Fowl
When it’s time to move your ducks out of their brooder and into permanent housing, you can consider keeping them with other birds. Ducks can be bullies, but with a larger flock of chickens they can fit right in. They can also be kept with geese and other fowl. Because they are messy and don’t need roosts or nesting boxes, ducks are generally kept in small coops separate from other birds or with only other waterbirds.
It’s important to keep the ratios of male and female ducks in mind. Male ducks are notoriously aggressive, and if you do not have at least three to four females for every male, they will over-mate them and fight among themselves.
Ducks are fun and easy birds to add to the farm, and they are perfect for the small farm or backyard flock. If you are considering some new spring poultry, consider the duck as an entertaining option.