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How to raise a baby duckling

Updated on June 6, 2011
We took out the bottom plastic part so peep could run around outside with little supervision.
We took out the bottom plastic part so peep could run around outside with little supervision.

How to raise baby ducklings

The reason why you’re probably looking at this article is either because you just found a wild baby duckling or just bought some and are frantically looking for information. Trust me, I know the feeling. About a month ago, I found a baby duckling all alone and abandoned. We named her peep and even though she was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen, she was a lot of work. I was researching for hours a day on just how to save her. I did not take the found duckling to wild life rehabilitation because all of my local ones would actually euthanize the duck because of the large population of mallards. They wanted nature to take its course. Check your local places though because the situation may be different for you. Only very few ducklings out of the entire pack make it and that is with a mother. However, in the safe indoors they have a pretty good chance of making it as long as you listen to the following.

1.Temperature. Ducklings NEED to stay warm. They will not eat or sleep if they are too cold. They also can get overheated. To avoid this, have an area where they can get away from the warmth. I would recommend a heat light covering a section of its box.

2.Food. If buying food for the duckling be sure the feed does not contain any drugs. The feed should be starter feed. The reason for this is because ducklings overeat when young and will end up overdosing themselves if the feed does contain drugs. You can also make a homemade dish, but it is a lot of work. Blend some dog or cat food with little fruit some and vegetables, romanian lettuce, spinach, brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, carrots, broccoli and more. If you do include fruit, do not put to much because it has a lot of sugar and they poop a lot more.

3.Water. Ducklings need water with their food in order to swallow it. I would put a dish that was just filled with water and also have one with a mixture of food and water. I put a solid rock at the bottom so it would not keep spilling its food and water. They also need the water for them to clear their sinuses. DO NOT have the ducks swim in the first 3 weeks in any cold water or for long periods of time. Five minutes at max with supervision and be sure it is warm water. If chilled, they can drown. Their mothers secrete waterproof oil that is rubbed off onto the ducklings during their weeks without their own feathers, which helps keep them warm. Be sure your duck is completely dried off with a towel before putting it back in its box/ cage.

4.Shelter. Their first 3 weeks they should be indoors and kept warm. I kept mine in a large cardboard box with the heat lamp. Put a towel in the box as the bottom layer to keep the water from mildewing the box and then line the top with newspaper. Also put a mirror and stuffed animal in its cage because ducks get lonely. When they feel alone they will become suicidal and will not eat because they are too busy looking for another duck. The stuffed animal just lets them feel more at home and cuddle into it like its mother. Its area needs to be cleaned at least every other day to prevent mold and bacteria from building. The same for the food and water dish. Once 3 weeks old your duck can start to keep itself warm with its tiny little feathers. At this point, you can let your duck run around outside, but with supervision. For me, I could leave it outside all day with a few checkups only because we used on old dog kennel that we could put in the grass and it has a top so other birds could not come harass her. We would bring her in at night and she absolutely adored being outside at that age.

5.Do not carry the duckling while standing. Duckling’s organs are still developing and if they are to be dropped it can cause a seizure and can be fatal. To be on the safe side, always be sitting while holding your duck.

6.If you have other pets, keep your duckling away from them at all times. Believe it or not, ducklings can have heart attacks. Unfortunately, that is how peep died because she was scared to death by my dogs barking at her from behind a cage. The barking lasted for about 10 seconds and those 10 seconds were deadly.

7.Have a toothbrush handy near your duckling. The duck can sometimes get something stuck in its sinuses and can have troubled breathing to the point of death. Most of the time, the duck can clear it with the water. If not simply take the toothbrush and try to flick it out as gently as you can.

8.Do not be careless and bring your duck everywhere to show it off. Ducks are fragile at this age. Just put in a safe area and keep it their till 3-4 weeks of age.

9.Releasing. Ducks are extremely adaptable and can release very easily. Caring for your duck will not harm this outcome in anyway. Ducks are generally ready to be released at around 50-55 days old which is when they can start flying. At the age of flying that is for sure of when you can release your duckling.

If your duck was abandoned, there was probably something wrong with it. It could be sick or its parents might have been killed. Either way just follow the above, but watch it with a keen eye. Peep had avian cholera and was why she was abandoned. Avian cholera normally is deadly to wild ducks, but indoors it has a chance on fighting the disease. The disease weakens the heart and your duck becomes more tired. It will also have a mucous discharge from the mouth that may be seen as throwing up. Its poop also turns into a loose, light green color. If this is the case for you, just keep your duckling warm and be sure it has water and food so it can figth the disease. For other possible sicknesses, check out this website.

http://www.duckhealth.com/duckhlth.html

The best of luck with your duck!!! If you have additional information, please let me know so I can keep my article up to date!

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    • profile image

      Emily 

      2 years ago

      Whats so unexpectable about caring for a orphaned duck if you just let him go he would die I have no rehabilitator is near me so where do you want me to go to drive all the way to New Orleans just to save the duckling

    • profile image

      Maryjane 

      2 years ago

      Caring for wildlife without permits is illegal in most states, and wild ducks are protected federally. Teaching people online how to break the law us just as unacceptable. Keep looking for a rehab that will take it instead of raising and habituating a single bird.

    • profile image

      seven buccat w 

      3 years ago

      My child won'ts a Ducklings tomorrow morning 10.00 clock.

    • RockyMountainMom profile image

      RockyMountainMom 

      4 years ago from Montana

      From what I've read, not very deep and if it is really small, 5 minutes or less then let it get dry under the heat lamp. You could also do a sink or small plastic tub or basin.

      Is this a wild duck or a domestic duck? How old is it?

    • profile image

      shellypooh 

      4 years ago

      Can I fell my tub up with just a little warm water to where the water still on the bottom tub so it can clean itself

    • RockyMountainMom profile image

      RockyMountainMom 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Our domestic ducklings scratched quite a bit, especially once they were a couple of weeks old and constantly making their crate messy. Enough so that I fretted about mites. The baby I am fostering now through rehabilitators is very young and he is scratching now and then. He's grooming every now and then in other ways, too, though at about the same rate (preening his back with his beek, etc.).

      If it is interupting rest and feeding or seems constant, you might look at each of the tips in this article and make sure you aren't significantly deviating from the main ones (proper food type, clean enclosure, not too hot, etc.).

    • profile image

      shellypooh 

      4 years ago

      Is my baby duck suppose to scratch a lot ?

    • RockyMountainMom profile image

      RockyMountainMom 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Very useful and timely article, thank you. A neighbor brought a duckling to us today wondering if it was ours. We have domestic ducks, but our youngest are 3 months old. This was a wild hatchling. Usually people bring me animals they know are wild, because I'm a biologist. But not a rehabilitator, so my kids always wish they could keep the animals longer.

      This time, they finally get to. Since we don't have rehabbers set up for ducks locally, he'd go to the rehabilitation center's pond and his odds wouldn't be good, being so tiny. Since we have ducks already, we're fostering him. Luckily, we'll have certified babysitters when we need them. When he's bigger, he'll be with our ducks, and when he's old enough he'll go to their pond and hopefully eventually fly away.

      But it's a huge mystery how a lone duckling ended up in the middle of our particular neighborhood. And there are so many factors influencing his chances, so this first night is a biggie.

      Your article really helped me double check my steps and stop over-thinking my heat lamp set up. Before I set it up at bedtime, he needed to take all of his naps in my hands....so now I'm attached. But don't tell anyone....I'm a biologist so I'm supposed to be objective.

    • profile image

      pegi 

      4 years ago

      Thank you so much. A baby duck appeared in my fenced backyard. No other ducks around. Our best guess was it must have come under the fence. I have been raising it for a week now. I really appreciate your advice.

    • profile image

      Jacque 

      5 years ago

      I have had good success with raising orphaned ducklings a couple of times now. Unfortunately for the duckling I now have another one, found beside mum who was run over in the middle of the road.

      I do not have the ideal heat light etc but I use a hot water bottle and put towels over it so it isn't too hot. Put a soft toy on it so the duckling can get underneath it and it sleeps through the night happily. I admit I usually get up once to check that the water bottle is still warm enough but it generally is fine. This is the first time I have had one on it's own which isn't ideal but it seems quite bright and it is it's third day. I also was told by a vet that soaking cat biscuits in water until they are mussy give the duckling all the nutrients it needs and that is what I have always used and they seem to love it.

    • profile image

      Danielle dyer 

      5 years ago

      If i raise the ducking can i keep them as pets

      I have others ducks and a large garden

    • profile image

      werdyaj 

      5 years ago

      thacks for the tips I just caut 3 baby ducks

    • profile image

      taylor 

      5 years ago

      I have four ducklings and they are almost 4 weeks old, when they get wet they turn red, in the wings and neck. is something wrong?

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      dwmoore 

      7 years ago from VIRGINIAAAA

      how i raised the duck or the webpage?

    • profile image

      hurleyfacw 

      7 years ago

      wow how did u do this

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      dwmoore 

      7 years ago from VIRGINIAAAA

      If you have additional information let me know and ill be glad to update it

    • profile image

      trace jones 

      7 years ago

      best info other u should update

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      7 years ago

      They are so cute! I wish I had a baby duck to take care of... this hub would have been really helpful in raising it. :)

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      thankyou for this enlightening article on ducks

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