Taking Care Of Ducklings

If you’ve ever watched the show Friends, you probably remember that Chandler and Joey kept a chicken and a duck as pets in their New York apartment. Now, the city is NOT the place for a duck – ducks prefer to be waddling around inside, sleeping in the sunshine and paddling on a crystal-blue lake with their duck friends. But if you ever find yourself having to take care of a duckling like Chandler and Joey did, we’ve got some tips for you.


  • Keep ducklings in a warm and safe environment. A plastic tote works great for the first few weeks.
  • Use a heat lamp with a 100 to 200 watt bulb. Adjust the height and wattage according to your ducklings behavior. If they seem warm and settled, not huddling under the lamp, they are probably warm enough. If they are scattered out, away from the lamp, take care of ducklings panting, etc., they are too warm. Common sense will tell you to lower the heat.
  • Hay can be used if available for bedding. Never use newspaper or a smooth surface, as it could cause leg problems or a condition called "splay leg."

  • Make sure heat lamps are secured and the area is large enough for the ducklings to get closer if they are cold and further away if too warm.

    Ducklings that sleep together in a clump are too cold or if they have their mouths open (panting like a dog) they are too hot.

    Feed game bird starter, chick starter , or a commercially prepared waterfowl starter for the first 4-6 weeks. Never feed medicated chick starter or poultry feed, as this is fatal to your ducklings. Also anything moldy is fatal to your ducks of all ages! Bread, although thought of as the ideal "duck food," is also dangerous to ducklings, because it expands in their crop and chokes them.

    Bread should never be fed to ducks of any age, especially those in parks and ponds. Use a plastic or galvanized feeder. Always provide clean, fresh drinking water. Use a shallow bowl to which you have added a few clean, small pebbles. This will prevent the ducklings from drowning.

    You can also put clean pebbles in a store bought waterer if it is too deep ducks need to be able to submerge their heads to clear their sinuses. Do not let them swim unattended. They must be able to get out of the water quickly. Ducklings can and will drown if they get too wet or too cold.

    Ducklings will eat on their own immediately. You can add a small amount of sugar in their water for the first couple of days to help them get off to a good start.

    Learn that ducklings should be fully feathered before allowing them to swim. Depending on the type of duck, full feathers should be in place by 9-12 weeks of age.

    Know that if you have other adult ducks in your pond/water source, be advised the older adult ducks can be fatal to your younger ducks. Older ducks may drown the younger ducks.


  • After ducks are in the pond or water source, you may feed floating fish food or dog food in very small amounts. Switch their basic diet to a good quality unmedicated waterfowl or poultry ration, usually available at most feed stores.
  • Generally, ducks will eat more during autumn and winter months, than in spring and summer months.
  • As ducklings will eventually grow into full sized ducks, a large dog kennel should make a splendid pen for your waterfowl, but a shed with a latchable door is best in terms of room and space.
  • Always put your ducklings in a safe cage at night, because they are very vulnarable to predators.

  • Warnings

  • NEVER let your ducklings swim unattended, as they may drown!
  • NEVER feed your ducklings medicated poultry feed!
  • Bread is bad for them, and anything moldy can be FATAL.
  • Always have clean water near food source, as ducks cannot swallow food properly without water.
  • Ducklings IMPRINT on people immediately. They look to you as their Mom. Be prepared to teach and train them, and to care for them properly.
  • Ducklings are very social animals, so never get just one. They need at least one companion, but preferably three or four.

  • Things You'll Need

  • Feeder
  • Heavy and shallow water dish
  • Hay or bedding, clean towels, etc. (Do not use cedar or plain newspaper.) Use caution as they may ingest certain substances.
  • Heat lamp

  • Related Stories

  • Did Donald Duck Inhale Helium?
  • Anaheim Ducks
  • How To Do A Duck Dive
  • Aquatic Biome


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