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Raising Baby Ducks For Beginners

Updated: Mar 16

You have seen all the baby duck pictures on social media, and you are probably here asking yourself, "Could I raise baby ducks?" I'm here to tell you it's not hard, but it's different if you have raised chickens. It can be more challenging to raise baby ducks. But when your expectation is in the right place, and you know some facts before you get into it, I know you will enjoy having baby ducks and, in the future, loving your full-grown ducks.

I always wanted chickens. To me, they were predictable. I knew I needed to feed them, give them water and scraps from my kitchen, and provide shelter, roosts, and nesting boxes for the yummy eggs they would produce. Ducks, on the other hand, I had no clue about. I wanted ducks for their excellent foraging ability since our chickens got restrained to their run because they were messing up our flower beds. You can read why we got our ducks in my blog, Six Real Reasons to Get Ducks.

If you have raised chickens, you already have the basic supplies for raising ducks. You will need to get some new things; otherwise, you are set. I was once a beginner in raising ducks but have discovered it's not that hard.

When you get your baby ducks, get at least two. Ducks need a friend, or they get lonely. We once had all our ducks die except one. He would sit by the chicken coop run where all the chickens were hanging out. We soon got new friends for him, but he was depressed and lonely; it was apparent.

three ducklings laying the grass

Baby ducks are DIFFICULT to brood. They are fine for about a week- two weeks, then it gets STINKY and MESSY. You can check out my How to Make a No Mess Duck Brooder post to help with some of that stink. But it's inevitable: ducks are messy, especially when kept in a small space. When we brood ducks, we ensure we can put them outside at 5-6 weeks, weather permitting. Ensure they have shelter and are enclosed. If the nights are still chilly add a heater for supplement heat. We use THIS radiate heater. I would rather brood baby chicks (easier and cleaner), but if you want your ducks to know you, get them as babies and hold them a lot.

A note on heaters: We don't use lamps because of the fire risk. We like the radiate heater I linked above because it is more natural to a mother's heat. Pay attention to your ducks... if they are always far away from the heater, it's too hot. If they are up against it and lying next to each other, that's perfect. I never had an issue with our ducks or chicks being cold with this radiate heater.

Two baby ducks in a backyard, ducklings in the grass

Baby ducks need niacin. When deficient in niacin, it can lead to bowed legs and fattened hocks. You cannot simply feed your ducklings a chick starter crumble; they also need a niacin supplement. Providing a chick starter crumble for the first 2-3 weeks (unmedicated) would be best. Then, switch to a duck grower or duck feed with less protein. You also do not need a medicated food. Only feed your ducks non-medicated food. Ducks do not get coccidiosis, so if they are eating medicated food, they can overdose because of how much feed they eat. I feed mine a chick starter crumble and mix in Brewer's Yeast to the specifications on the bottle. It's easy and works great. After those 2-3 weeks, I switch to a duck feed.

Another significant difference between raising chickens and ducks is that ducks need a deep enough water dish to dip their entire bill in. They blow out water through their nose holes to get out any leftover food that might be in there. We use something similar to THIS waterer for our ducklings. We fill it at least once a day, if not twice. Ducks are messy, and their water gets dirty from blowing out their noses. We have found that this waterer makes it easier to keep the brooder clean and dry.

The cutest and most fun part of having ducklings is letting them swim. To get our ducks used to being held and used to us, we allow them to swim in our sink at least once a day. There will be poop, so make sure to bleach the sink when you have drained it. When the spring weather allows, we also bring them outside to run around in the yard and get some exercise and sun.

yellow duck swimming in sink, ducklings swimming in kitchen sink, duckling bath

Have fun with your ducklings and enjoy them while they are tiny. They grow REALLY fast. They grow faster than chickens. So remember that when you set up their brooder.


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