Preparing for, raising, and releasing mail order baby ducks

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Good for you! You bought some adorable little ducklings and you (and your family) can’t wait to coddle them and watch them grow. There are some things you should do as you wait for your ducklings to arrive in the mail so you can help them grow to be healthy and well managed flock.

Preparation for ducklings:Rouen Duckling Sleeping - CUTE!

You’ll likely raise your ducklings in a barn, garage, or some outbuilding. Make sure to clean and disinfect the area before the ducks arrive. Find partitions or walls that are solid and won’t let any drafts through since this could be deadly to your ducklings (it’s important that they stay the proper temperature). As you set up their pen and are deciding how big to make it, a good rule of thumb is about 1/3 square foot per duckling.

After you have the properly sized and walled pen, fill it with about 2″ of wood shavings or straw (don’t use cedar shavings!). This will help them stay warm and dry. It’s important that the floor of your pen is not smooth! If it’s too smooth, your ducklings will struggle with leg deformities since their hips and legs aren’t fully developed yet. This means you should NOT use cardboard or newspaper. Use wood shavings, straw, or 1/4 hardware cloth for at least the first week. Duck feet don’t have great circulation and are tender so make sure you don’t have anything that can cut them since they don’t heal well.

Then, get some water for them to drink and set this in the pen awhile so it has a chance to warm up to room temperature. You don’t want the water to be cold when your mail order baby ducks arrive since they need to drink water right away. Add sugar to the water to help them gain energy faster. Figure 2 cups of sugar per gallon of water.

You need a heat lamp. Figure 1 heat lamp per 35 ducklings. Put the heat lamp 18″ from the bedding. You want the temperature to be 90 – 95 degrees for the first week. Typically you set the temperature at about 90 degrees the first day and drop it one degree every day after that, or 7 degrees per week.

Build your pen like a fortress! You want to keep dogs, cats, rats, snakes, and any other critter out that might consider your ducklings a tasty snack!

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Your pen is now ready! All you have to do is wait for the ducklings to arrive!

Yea! The ducks have arrived!

saveachick electrolyteThe post office will typically call you when your ducklings arrive. However, you may call them and let them know to expect them (Click here to get your local post office phone number). This may help everything flow a little better. You don’t want them sitting at the post office any longer than necessary!

You picked up your ducks and you have them in their new home. Now is the critical stage of the journey! Dip their beaks into the water so they learn there is a water source. They should dip their heads back as they drink the sugar water you prepared the day before.

We recommend giving your mail order ducklings electrolyte supplements dissolved in their water as soon as they arrive and for five days after. Sav-A-Chick is a common electrolyte sold at Tractor Supply or buy it online here.

If some are weak from their journey in the mail, you may want to keep them separate from the stronger, more active ones so they don’t get trampled or pushed back from the water. Baby them and keep them hydrated.

Keep an eye on your fine feathered flock to make sure they aren’t too cold or too hot. You can tell by their behavior which is the case. If your baby ducks are huddled directly underneath the lamp, it is too cold in their pen. If they are are huddled in the corners as far away from the lamp as they can get, it’s too hot. Simply adjust the height of the lamp accordingly but be careful not to be too drastic. Move it up or down 2-3 inches or so fifteen minutes at a time.

As your fine flock grows…

They will need more space as they get bigger, obviously. Expand the pen as needed. Instead of replacing dirty bedding, simply put clean bedding on top. You can clean the pen thoroughly once they have moved out into a bigger one.

Don’t forget to keep them warm. You can drop the temperature in the pen 5 degrees every week. By the time they are 2-3 weeks old, you can turn off the lamp during the day. You can turn off the heat source completely at 3-5 weeks of age. If the climate is warm, you may turn off the heat source sooner. This requires a bit of judgement on your part so stay observant! You can start to leave them outdoors for brief periods of time.

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Ducks do need shelter from the sun and heavy rains so be sure to provide your awesome flock of fine fowl with a sweet shack of some kind. Fresh and clean drinking water is very important to ducks so make sure they have water to drink! They don’t actually need water to swim in although it may be beneficial if the weather is hot.

Can my ducklings swim?

You can introduce your ducklings to swimming water as early as 1 week but be extra observant. The oil glands in ducklings has not been developed yet so their feathers can become waterlogged which makes them too cold. This is not good! Be sure to provide them with proper babysitting and a heat source to dry off and stay warm under. Give them an easy entrance and exit from their swimming water. It is good to introduce them to water early because it helps their oil glands develop faster.

The following is an excerpt from the Duck Research Laboratory via Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine:

…Except for the early brooding stage, when ducklings require a higher temperature and special attention by the caretaker, the basic requirements of ducks are as follows.

  1. Protection from extremes in weather conditions and predators.
  2. A clean, dry sheltered area. Although ducks can spend most of their time outdoors, on ponds or in wet areas, they require a clean dry sheltered area where they can retreat, rest, clean and preen their feathers. This allows them to waterproof their plumage, which protects their skin from injury and helps keep their body warm.
  3. Clean water for drinking, i.e., water that is free of germs and toxins harmful to ducks. Water for swimming is not essential, but can be beneficial in areas where temperatures are high.
  4. A diet that provides all of the duck’s daily nutritional needs.
  5. Adequate light stimulation, especially for layers.
  6. Protection from disease

The Duck Research Laboratory is an incredible & trustworthy resource for beginner and advanced duck enthusiasts! See more by clicking here.

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