Hatching duck eggs and brooding baby ducks, called ducklings, is a great way to start your own duck-raising adventure. When raising baby ducks, you can choose various ways of starting your own duck operation. Backyard duck hobbyists can buy adult ducks, adolescent ducks, ducklings or fertile ducks eggs. Hatching your own fertile ducks eggs and brooding the ducklings can be a very rewarding introduction to the hobby of raising ducks at home. In this duck care article, we’ll teach you the basics of brooding ducklings and hatching duck eggs.
Before you begin, we recommend that you read Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks: Breeds, Care, Health. If there is one book on raising ducks that you should read, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks is it! You may also be interested in Ducks and Geese: A Guide to Management and Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry: Breeds, Care, Health. Both of these books are considerably helpful for beginning duck hobbyists.
Hatching Duck Eggs and Brooding Hatched Ducks
Want to raise ducks by hatching your own fertile duck eggs and brooding some little ducklings? We’ll show you how!
Hatching Fertile Duck Eggs:
You will need both fertile duck eggs and an incubator for the duck eggs. A chicken egg incubator is sufficient for hatching ducks. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to fit as many duck eggs into the egg incubator as you would fertile chicken eggs.
Most duck eggs take 28 days to hatch (7 days longer than hatching chicken eggs). However, some duck breeds’ eggs take longer. For example, the Muscovy duck breed’s eggs take 35 days to hatch.
Set the egg incubator to 99.5 degrees fahrenheit. Check the level of humidity in the egg incubator: It should be at 55% humidity for proper hatching of duck eggs. Place the fertile duck eggs in your egg incubator and follow the manufacturer’s directions for hatching eggs. In 28-35 days, you’ll be the proud parent of some hatched ducklings!
How you decide to brood your newly-hatched ducklings is up to you, but is the most important step in raising baby ducks. Some people choose to brood ducklings using a broody chicken hen. Other backyard duck hobbyists like to use a chick brooder to brood their ducklings. Both of these brooding option have their pros and cons.
If you choose to use a chick brooder to keep your ducklings warm, you’ll be glad to know that ducklings don’t need to be in a brooder as long as chicks do! Also, you don’t need a fancy setup to brood your baby ducks. You can use a large cardboard box or a sectioned off piece of a room. It’s important to have three to four inches of dry, absorbent litter for your ducklings—DuckHobby.com recommends peat moss or dry wood shavings as brooder litter.
To keep your ducklings warm in the duck brooder, you can use a commercial brooder heater or a 250-watt brooder lamp. Such a setup should be sufficient to brood up to 25 ducklings. You can also use a commercial hover brooder used for brooding chicks. It should be noted that, because ducklings are larger than baby chickens, such a brooder setup can only fit around half of the amount of chicks.
Your new ducklings need about six square inches of brooder space, which should be increased to 12 square inches of space as they get older. Adjust accordingly as the ducklings mature into adolescent and adult ducks.
Ducklings need to be bred for about six weeks after the duck eggs have hatched. The amount of time needed in a brooder is shorter during warmer months, such as June and July.
How do you feed ducklings? Baby ducks eat a lot as they grow! While brooding your ducklings, feed them unmedicated chick started for the three week. After that, move your baby ducks to a poultry grower feed. The chicken feed you feed your ducklings should be unmedicated and formulated for ducks. Water should be available for your ducklings at all times after hatching—they are, after all, waterfowl!
As your ducklings get bigger, they won’t need a brooder and they can start to eat duck feed and pasture grass like adult ducks. For more information on feeding ducks, see our Feeding Ducks article.