Since your ornamental ducks still retain many of their natural instincts, incubating the eggs is something they are capable of doing on their own. Brooding your ducklings correctly after they hatch is key in getting them to develop and grow properly. A brooder can be anything from a large battery brooder to a bathtub or container that has the necessary fixtures and amenities.
Having a reliable heat source in your brooder is crucial in keeping your ducklings in the perfect environment for their young bodies to develop. Always provide them protection from predators, drafts, and moisture. Give the baby birds enough space and ventilation so they’re not stepping on each other and they can breathe. Inadequate heat or drafting winds will cause the ducklings to catch a chill or over crowd each other around the heat source, causing significant stress. This is a very important time in their biological life, and keeping their stress levels low is critical to healthy development.
While ducks are usually more tolerant of varying temperatures than other fowl, day old ducklings should be kept in a 95°F environment and the temperature should be lowered by about 5°F every week following until they are old enough for their outdoor pen.
Ducklings that have started to develop feathers in their belly and breast will stand up well to the elements with less protection. That is unless you live in an environment susceptible to severely cold temperatures and/or heavy rainfall. These feathers will usually take 4-6 weeks to develop. If your ducklings still have down on their belly and breast, they should remain in a warm and stable environment until their feathers begin to show.
Feeding and Watering your Ducklings
Be sure to have fresh drinking water available to your ducklings at all times. However, providing a safe water source is just as important as any water at all as very young ducks can start to freeze when they get wet. This drop in body temperature can be fatal! Using stones and marbles in the pan of your waterer can prevent your ducks from submerging themselves into the water. This keeps them from getting wet and chilled or even possibly drowning.
Mazuri Waterfowl Starter is some of the most trusted and high-quality 20% protein feed for young ducks. However, this feed is the most expensive on the market and can be hard to find. Any Duck or Waterfowl Starter feed will be sufficient, but make sure it is in crumble form, and we do not recommend medicated starter feed for ornamental ducklings like wood ducks and mandarins. Ornamental ducklings (mainly wood ducks) often need help when it comes to learning how to eat and eat consistently. There are a few different things you can do to help kick start a healthy diet and eating habits:
- If newly hatched ducklings are reluctant to eat, sprinkle some crushed hard boiled egg over the top of their food dish.
- You can also smear the feed onto the sides of the brooder to help them get acclimated to the food, but don’t do this for too long and be sure to clean uneaten food off for sanitary reasons.
- Having another duckling of a different species can help teach them to eat and make them more comfortable eating.
- DO NOT give baby waterfowl mealworms to help them start eating. This can cause them to never actually begin eating their nutritional feed, and they may just wait and hope for more meal worms which do not have the necessary nutrients for growth. It’s like giving candy to a baby of course they’re going to love it, but it won’t help them grow.
If you are unsuccessful in raising your own Wood Ducklings or if you lose more than you expected your first time, don’t be too discouraged. There is no sure thing when it comes to this breed, and they can be difficult to raise out of the duckling stage. Just keep at it and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Everyone will have a different experience. Mandarins are much easier to raise as ducklings, so try this breed if you aren’t having luck with your woodies.
When it comes to comforting your new juvenile ducks or new baby ducklings and getting them to eat, it’s better to maintain your distance as opposed to trying to handle them yourself. Ornamental ducks like the wood and mandarin are different from domestic birds in that they retain some of their wild instincts. It’s not that they don’t like humans, but these birds are expecting you to be a predator. They are not going to hop into your lap and sit like a domestic call duck might.
When to let your Baby Ducks Swim
Ducks are obviously natural swimmers. Though they are fine to be introduced to water at any age, be cautious and extra careful during their first time swimming because in most cases (even if the eggs were incubated by the hen and not an incubator,) your ducklings’ feathers will not be properly oiled and could become waterlogged. Once your birds start swimming, their feathers will automatically start to oil themselves to the point of being fully waterproof. It is still important to monitor them until this point and dry them off with a towel if need be to keep their body temperature in control.
Using the Right Size Aviary makes all the Difference!
In theory, you could never have an aviary that’s too big, but obviously we all don’t have unlimited space. Depending on whether or not your ducks are pinioned or full flying, you might need a bigger or smaller pen. That being said, ornamental ducks like that of the wood and mandarin species can live in smaller enclosures. You should be able to look into your aviary and get a general sense of how your ducks and ducklings are feeling. Do they look calm and docile? Are they stepping on each other and looking crowded? Are they pacing the walls of your aviary out of stress? The potential birds per square foot of your aviary will always depend on the type of birds you have and the type of environment your aviary is in. Other factors include the type of water source and type of floor inside your enclosure. Using at least a 10′ x 10′ pen for a duck pair can usually be a good guideline pending other circumstances, but there are many options that will work. Just pay attention to your bird’s behavior and use it as guidance in creating the optimal living environment for them.
If you’re interested in raising adult pairs of wood ducks or mandarin ducks, be sure to check out our eFowl online store during the fall and winter for shipping availability.