5 simple steps to give new ducklings the best possible start in life.
So you ordered ducklings from a hatchery, and if you are anything like me spent the 2 days the babies were in the USPS shipping system obsessively tracking your newest addition to your backyard flock. But how do you take care of day old ducklings that have been shipped to you from as far away as across the country once you get the call from the Post Office that they have made it, and you can pick them up?
Why Order Ducklings from a Hatchery?
I love ordering hard to find duck and chicken breeds from larger out of state hatcheries. Ordering from a hatchery allows me to get the exact breeds I want, when I want them.
Right before hatching, chicks and other baby poultry absorb the last of the yolk — their food source while they are in their egg. This last bit of yolk provides enough nutrition to sustain the chick for about three days without eating or drinking, which makes shipping chicks through the mail possible, if they arrive quickly. My post office has always gone above and beyond getting my chicks to me quickly.
Preparing for a Hatchery Order
About a week before you are expected to get your ducklings delivered, contact your post office, and let them know you are expecting a shipment of live ducklings. My post office took my name and cell phone number, so they could contact me to arrange a super quick pick-up. It’s also a good idea to ask the post office what time the delivery truck comes. My post office gets their delivery early-morning, around 6:30 am. I like to know roughly when the post office might contact me so I can make final preparations before I head out to pick up the ducklings the day of delivery.
A week before delivery is also a good time to pick up Non-medicated flock raiser feed , Electrolyte and Vitamin Supplement for Poultry, soft wood shaving bedding, an artificial heat source, and any feeders you may need.
Bringing Home Ducklings
You’re ducklings will generally arrive about 2 days after they hatch, maybe sooner depending on how close you are to the hatchery!
The morning of the expected delivery I mix up Electrolyte and Vitamin Supplement for Poultry in a waterer for the ducks, to get the newly hatched birds hydrated and off to a healthy start.
As soon as the post office calls, I jump right in the car and head over to pick up my newest flock additions. My small town post office is happy to arrange a pick up outside of their regular open hours, so the ducklings can get home as soon as possible.
I personally prefer to open up my shipping box when I get home, but I know other people who like to open the box and check on their babies immediately.
Check The Ducklings Bottoms
As soon as we arrive home, I check each duckling for pasty butt, which is when the vent of the ducklings is blocked with dried poop. Pasty butt usually affects chicks more than ducks, but it’s always a good idea to give the babies a good once over as soon as they arrive to spot any potential issues right off the bat.
Warm Them Up!
Your ducklings might be chilly regardless what the temperature is out! Make sure you have an artificial heat source warmed up and ready to go for them.
Ducklings like a temperature of 90-92 degrees for the first 3 days, then 85-90 degrees for days 4 to 7. After the ducklings are a week old, drop the temperature in their brooder by approximately 5 degrees per week.
If you are using an infra-red heat lamp use a hood over it to direct heat toward the floor of one side of the brooder. It is important to have a cool side, and warm side within the brooder to allow ducklings to move from warmer to cooler as needed. To decrease the temperature simply raise the height of the infrared heat lamp moving it further away from the floor of the brooder.
Show Them Where the Water Is
Dip their bills in the water I prepared with the vitamin & electrolyte mixture, and put them in the brooder to start warming up, and exploring their new home.
I’ve always offered all of my backyard flock babies Electrolyte and Vitamin Supplement for Poultry, and I keep it on hand for very long stretches of hot weather for my adult birds. But adding a little sugar to your ducklings first drink also offers similar benefits. If you go with sugar, the recommended sugar to water ratio is 1/3 cup of sugar per gallon of water, and can be given for the first few days.
My most recent order of 3 female buff ducklings shipped all the way from California, and definitely seemed a little lethargic by the time they arrived to Upstate New York, despite having a small cup of grow gel in their shipping box. After about 4 hours of resting, drinking and eating in the brooder they perked right up, I do believe the electrolytes in the water helped them bounce back after their long journey.
Make It Easy For the Ducklings To Eat
I like to put out feed for them as soon as I get the ducklings settled in their brooder, but don’t be alarmed if they don’t eat right away, the yolk provides the ducklings nutrition for about 3 days after hatching. They’ll eat when they’re hungry. I find very young ducklings sometimes have problems with commercial crumble feed. They really seem to like feed that has been wet with water, and has a soupy consistency, this is easy for them to eat, and appeals to their natural instinct to forage in water. If you do mix the flock raiser crumbles with water, keep and eye on it, it will solidify and sour quickly. You can also grind up feed in a food processor for the babies, it is easier for them to eat, and they don’t waste as much. Offer wetted or ground up feed for the first couple of days, to encourage the ducklings to eat up!
If you Notice Any Problems Contact the Hatchery Within 48 Hours
If you experience a loss or injured chick, any reputable hatchery will issue a refund, store credit or offer a replacement for properly cared for losses, but the window to request a refund or replacement is small! Within the first 48 hour period of receiving your ducklings reach out to the hatchery as soon as you notice any issues.