There are some risks that ducklings must avoid if you are raising ducklings from duck eggs yourself. Once ducklings hatched, baby ducks lack feathers, are not waterproof, cannot swim, and have difficulty controlling their body temperature like older ducks.
If you have a predator-proof enclosure, you might wonder, how old do ducks have to be to go outside? You can start exposing your ducklings to the outside when they are around two to three weeks old on warm days when the temperature reaches about 65° F, where they don’t require warm protection as much.
Ducklings can venture outside for the first time between 3 and 5 weeks, but it isn’t entirely safe for them to do so until they are 7 to 9 weeks old and have fully developed their feathers. In our guide, you can learn more about when can baby ducks go outside. (Read Can Sugar Gliders Eat Strawberries)
From Duck Eggs To Ducklings Living Outside?
In most cases, unless it’s extremely warm, letting 4-week-old ducks outside is too early, and they should be completely confined in a spacious shelter.
Ducklings can move to living outside permanently at any time after reaching the age of four weeks or after losing their baby fluff (about six to eight weeks) and becoming fully feathered, provided that the nighttime temperature is continuously above fifty degrees Fahrenheit.
Before deciding when can ducklings go outside, it’s critical to assess each duckling’s growth and cute phase and ensure their developmental needs are met.
Factors to Consider Before Moving Ducklings Outside
Here are some things to consider before moving ducklings outside.
For the first few weeks, ducklings should be housed in a brooder with controlled temperatures unless you have a mama duck. Those gorgeous fluffy ducklings need 90° F temperatures in the first week.
Over the next few weeks, lower the temperature by 1-2 degrees daily until they’re comfortable at room temperature. By 7-8 weeks, they should be completely feathered and ready for colder weather.
Fluff or Feathered?
- Ducklings with more fluff than feathers are not ready to go outside. Before feathering, ducklings cannot regulate their body temperature.
- Unfeathered ducklings become cold faster. Thus, a limited space like a brooder is necessary to sustain warmer temperatures.
- Ducklings grow faster than chicks; therefore, they don’t need heat as long.
- Ducks use their feathers to keep warm and regulate body temperature. Thus, they must grow feathers before venturing outside.
Where you live is one of the biggest determinants when your ducklings can transition outside. For those of you in warmer climates where temps are regularly in the 70s year-round, you may be able to get your ducklings outdoors into their permanent habitat earlier than those of us in cooler climates.
In northern climates, ducklings should be fully feathered by 7-8 weeks to survive the harsh temperatures. Once they get all their feathers, ducks can withstand cold weather better than chickens because of their body fat and soft down under their waterproof feathers.
The key decision when raising ducklings is when to move them outside. Ducks can go outside when you have the ideal temperature of over 20°F (-6° C). Ducks want 60–70°F (21–21° C).
Ducklings differ. Only supervise baby ducks without feathers on sunny and warm days at the proper temperature. (Read Can Roosters Eat Layer Feed)
When your ducklings are old enough to venture outside, ensure the shelter is ready enough to accommodate the number of ducks you intend to house, is protected from predators and inclement weather, and has appropriate ventilation. The shelter should also have windows so natural light and fresh air can enter.
Since a duck’s exhalation contains a lot of moisture, it is essential to give your ducklings good ventilation. If the shelter is not aired correctly, the excess moisture could lead to health issues.
Before the ducklings permanently transition outside, the outdoor shelter must satisfy all the ducklings needs.
Can Ducks Drink Water and Swim Safely
Mama ducks exchange the oils from her oil glands with their ducklings, which waterproof their downy fluff and feathers and prevent them from drowning. Incubated ducklings do not benefit from this and must groom themselves and use their beaks to coat and waterproof their fluff and feathers with oil.
Thus, ducklings should only swim for periods until they are four weeks old. Use a shallow bowl so they can immerse their head and bill to clear and keep their mucous membranes moist in fresh water without drowning.
Add stones or marbles to a slightly deeper water dish as the ducklings grow to avoid drowning.
To get ducklings acclimated to the water, fill a plastic tub with warm water and let them splash for a few minutes with carefully supervised swims. After swimming, rinse them off and return them to the brooder to keep them warm.
They can move outside when you’re sure they can swim and drink water without potentially drowning.
- Ducklings may have a hard time drinking at birth. Because they don’t have much control, they may not be able to reach adult ducks’ water.
- Ducklings drink from shallow ponds or rain puddles that they can reach without drowning.
- Ducklings old 0-3 weeks should be brooded. At 4-6 weeks old, babies can sip water independently.
- When they’re 7-8 weeks old, they can live outside the brooder with supervision. They can live outside and be autonomous for 9-12 weeks.
Plenty of Floor Space
Ducklings can live in a smaller space for a week or two and huddle to stay warm. Ducklings up to 3 weeks old need 1 square foot per duckling and a minimum of 5 square feet for a small group.
- Thus, four ducklings require at least five square feet.
- Ten ducklings require 10 square feet.
- One hundred ducklings require at least 100 square feet of space.
- Full-grown ducks need at least 4 square feet of shelter for each bird.
Care for Ducklings To Adult Ducks
Here are some guides on how to care for ducklings
Plastic-line a cardboard box and make one in a container or spare bathtub. Tubs such as those from “Rubbermaid” are easy clean and can be placed almost anywhere suitable as your chick starter home. (Read Can Chickens Eat Wolf Spiders)
Ducklings need a 90° F temperature inside the brooder during the first week. After the first week, drop the brooder’s temperature by one or two degrees daily until it matches the ambient temperature.
A heat lamp above your ducklings can maintain your brooder’s temperature by gently raising it each day. By week 1, the brooder should be 85-83° F. By week two, 78–76° F. If your climate has 50° F or above daytime and nighttime temperatures, you can move the ducklings to a predator-proof shelter outside once the brooder and outside temperatures are the same.
If your healthy ducks are older than four weeks, have all their feathers, and live in a warm climate (50° F or higher), they can move outside, yet when the temperature drops below that, they need shelter.
When Can Ducklings Stay Outside?
- Ducklings that stay warm and dry can stay outside. It’s their feathers. After feathers grow, they can stay outside.
- Ducks have waterproof-insulated feathers. This keeps them warm, whether swimming or outdoors.
- Ducklings grow feathers around 7–9 weeks old.
Can Ducks Sleep Outside?
When temperatures are warm, wild ducks do so. They move in winter. Ducks sleep outside in the wild and coops or pens in captivity. If temperatures are right, wild ducks will stay put.
They fly south to warmer regions and can fly 800 miles. Ducks resting outside must also worry about predators. Coyotes, raccoons, and snakes can attack ducks sleeping outside.
Can Four Weeks Old Ducks Be Outside?
Ducks that are four weeks old are still far too little to get outside by themselves. They must be housed in a brooder with heat lamps or other heating sources until they are about six weeks old. Wait for a sunny, pleasant day and go with them if you wish to let them outside.
Handle ducklings gently as you would any other poultry at a young age.
What are ducks fed? Ducklings eat regular chick starter feed but are sure it isn’t medicated. Ducklings consume significantly more food than chicks, and they may overindulge. Adding commercial chick grit is also vital to help your ducklings digest foods.
Niacin requirements are increased for ducks as well. To help them grow strong bones, sprinkle brewer’s yeast on their feed. One cup of chick starting should receive 1.5 tablespoons of the mixture. Don’t mix the niacin into the large bag of feed; doing so will cause it to sink to the bottom. Its best chance of being consumed is when it is sprinkled on top.
Ducklings must have the proper amounts of protein if they are to grow properly. The suggested amounts are:
- First 10 Weeks: 20% protein chick starter
- 10–18 weeks: 15% growth
- 18 Weeks Later: 16% Layer
If the ducklings consume too much protein, what might happen? Their wings may develop abnormalities, failing to lie flat against their bodies. The term “angel wings” is used when this occurs, and it can affect the ducklings ability to swim or fly, etc. (Read Why Do Donkeys Hee Haw)
While affecting your duckling’s behavior, some owners may not be worried if they raise ducks for fresh meat rather than as pets or eggs, as they are harder to hatch than chicken eggs.