Spring is just around the corner which means chicks and ducklings are starting to appear in the local farm supply and feed stores. I am of the opinion that there is not much in this world that is cuter than a baby duck. This also means I cannot be trusted to enter one of these establishments unattended this time of year. I did just that last week and brought home seven ducklings labeled “mixed ducklings”. I was able to avoid the bin of fluffy, yellow, pekins ducks; but this group of ducklings that I knew to be four khaki campbells and three mallards was calling my name. I heard them. Clearly.
Now, I don’t recommend giving into the cuteness of a duckling unless you are well prepared for the long term commitment of caring for them. And be aware that they are MESSY, MESSY, MESSY. I knew we had all the needed supplies for a good set up at home so justifying my poor decision making skills that day was easy. Now I am back into the routine of raising ducklings just like this time last year. Let me share that routine with you now, but first look how cute they are when they fall asleep in a heap!
Since the outside temperatures at night are still quiet chilly and we have two outdoor farm cats, I elected to set up the brooder for these guys inside our utility room. I use a shallow rolling storage tub which they will outgrown quickly, but hopefully not before the cool nights are past us. I also use a heat lamp both clamped and tied to a shelf next to the brooder. I absolutely do not trust a clamped heat lamp to not fall and risk injury to the birds or fire to the house. Heat lamps are always either tied directly to a secure structure or placed directly on top of wire brooder tops where falling is not a concern. I also double check they they are not too close to anything plastic (including the tub itself) to cause melting or fire.
I use a towel for bedding in lieu of shavings as it is easier to clean. Twice a day I shake the towel out in the yard and toss it in the wash putting a fresh towel down in the brooder. In the morning I do this along with refilling the feeder and water while the ducklings enjoy a shallow bath in the tub. Pine shavings were what I first used for bedding, but I found these more cumbersome to clean up after plus they are ONE MORE THING we have to buy from the feed store when we go that route.
Water is very important for ducks. While they do not have to have a pool or pond to live happily, they do need access to water deep enough to bath and keep their nostrils cleaned out. They clean their nostrils by dunking their head under the water and blowing outward. It is extremely entertaining to watch along with all their other swimming antics. Ducklings should never have access to swimming water unattended. They tire easily and so should be placed in water shallow enough to stand in. Indoor bath tubs are great because of the slight slant they have towards the drain. This allows for one end to be shallow enough to sit/stand in while the other end is deep enough for them to float and swim. They have yet to grow those waterproof feathers the adults have so if they are in water too long they can become soaked and catch a chill which can be dangerous for a duckling. This also means you’ll have to dry them off completely with a towel before returning them to the brooder.
All in all it probably only takes me fifteen minutes twice a day to care for the ducklings. Not much at all, but absolutely necessary if they are to survive and thrive. I love having a flock of ducks in the yard. They are beautiful and so much fun to watch. Not to mention the benefit of duck eggs when the hens reach laying age. They are also delicious as a meat source, but I enjoy them too much in the yard to ever consider them as anything other than a beloved pet. They also help tremendously with yard bugs including fleas and ticks. I highly recommend them for a homestead farm.
Happy Homesteading and God Bless!