How to Set Up a Duckling Brooder
Are you getting ready to bring ducklings home for the first time and confused about how to set up their brooder?
You are not alone… we were there not too long ago ourselves. Several articles, videos, and prototypes later, we figured out our ideal duckling brooder set up.
There really is no “right” way to go about it, but there are some essentials that every duckling brooder MUST have in order to raise happy and healthy ducks.
The most obvious requirement is some sort of structure that will serve as the brooder itself.
There is no end to the different creative solutions I’ve seen to making or buying a brooder.
The most common options are typically a large rubbermaid storage container or a large metal tub. You can also find brooder panels that allow you to customize your space, and I often see people make their own out of kiddie pools and chicken wire.
We decided to make ours out of wood that we already had on hand to keep the initial cost down. It also allowed us to customize our brooder for easy cleaning…which is something you’ll be doing often!
While the best option for you will depend on your situation, here are a few things to consider about brooders.
The size will depend on how many ducklings you’re planning on getting. As a general rule, they should get somewhere around 1 sq ft per duckling to start. They grow quickly though and after about 4-6 weeks, their space requirements increase to around 3 sq ft per duckling.
Many people, ourselves included, start out with a small brooder and move the ducklings to a larger one until they are fully feathered at around 7-9 weeks and ready to move to their permanent home.
The brooder walls should be high enough to prevent ducklings from escaping and provide a draft-free environment.
Pine shavings work great. They are fairly absorbent and make for easy cleaning.
Pelletized pine bedding also makes a great option because it’s very absorbent. Ducklings LOVE to splash around in their water.
You’ll want to avoid cedar shavings because they emit fumes that can be harmful to ducklings.
Ducklings need a source of heat since they’re unable to regulate their body temperature on their own for the first few weeks of life.
It’s important to use a thermometer at duckling height to get an accurate read of the temperature.
We used heat lamps for our ducklings. For the first week, start off with the heat directly under the lamp at 90-95 degrees F.
Then, reduce the temperature by 5 degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees, at which point you can remove the heat lamp.
You can also gauge if the heat lamp is too hot or cold by the ducklings behavior. If they are all huddled together directly under the lamp, if might be too far away. If they are staying far away from the lamp, it may be too close. They should be pretty evenly distributed under and around the heat lamp.
As an alternative to heat lamps, you can use heated brooder plates to provide warmth. These have adjustable legs that allow you to regulate temperature.
Feeder and food
Ducklings can be given waterfowl starter feed or non medicated chick starter feed with 20-22% protein.
The feeder should be placed near the waterer since ducklings require water to safely eat their food without choking.
The waterfowl starter feed that we purchased floats in water so our ducklings had a blast eating it from their water too.
Waterer and Water
Ducklings need 24/7 access to clean, fresh water. They will make a mess on their waterer because they love to splash around in it. We quickly noticed soaked wood shavings happening far too frequently so we elevated the waterer slightly off the ground so they are able to drink out of it, but not get in it…that’s what swim time is for.
I’ve also seen many people place the waterer on top of a cooling rack over baking sheet so that the splashed water drains into the pan.
The waterer should be deep enough so that the ducklings can submerge their beaks since it’s important for them to be able to clear out their nasal passages.
Resources: Here are our favorite purchases we made for our brooders.
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