Raising Mallard Ducklings Redux

Last month Lola, our one-year old Mallard hen, started laying eggs at an tremendous rate! We first counted seven, then twelve, then a whopping 17! About four weeks ago she built a nest out of straw, rolled them all into it, and started sitting on them like she was on a mission.

Every day when I got home from work, I let Lola and Hank (the father) out of the duck coup so they could fly down to our pond and dabble around in the water. As the weeks passed, Lola was less and less inclined to get off her nest, but when she did decide to fly down to the pond she would stay for quite some time.

In my reading about hatching duck eggs, I learned that the hen should really not stay away from the nest for more than about thirty minuets. Since Lola has made repeated sorties lasting longer than a few hours, Courtney and I had all but given up on the prospect of this nest full of eggs hatching. As the book suggested, we would let her sit on the nest for the entire 28 day incubation period, but we were really starting to dread the task of removing the eggs and taking down her nest. Loosing a nest in this way is devastating for a brooding hen, but once you are sure the eggs are not viable, it must be done so that her health will not suffer.

Last Thursday, however, as I was bringing them fresh food and water I decided to check up on the nest. I gently nudged Lola’s wing out of the way to view the eggs, and much to my surprise I saw cracking shells and heard little “peeps” coming from the eggs. I put a small drinker full of fresh water near the nest, along with a little dish of starter crumble in case they hatched while we were away at work.

Friday, I came home from to a very confused looking Lola and a nest full of eggs that were in the process of hatching. Some ducklings were totally free from their shells, while others were just climbing out. All in all, we had 13 ducklings hatch and only four eggs that were not viable. Much to Lola’s dismay, I gently removed the broken egg shells from the nest, but left those that had not hatched in place. By Saturday afternoon she had pushed the four unhatched eggs out of her nest to make room for her sizable brood.

Most of her time is currently spent hovering over the baby ducks to keep them warm, but every hour or so she takes them to the drinker for some water and food.

312 thoughts on “Raising Mallard Ducklings Redux

  1. we have an abandend 1 mo. old mallard,in our pond,the other ducks will not accept her,will she be o k without a mothers preen oil?

  2. Hi Bernie,

    At one month, they will most likely be OK. They seem to start producing oil sometime around the 2 to 3 week mark. The real problem is that the duckling won’t be able to fly and could be easy pickings for animals. Hopefully there are enough other ducks around that she will be able to follow their lead to get away from danger. In about one more week she should start being able to fly, so good luck. Let us know how it goes.

    • We own a commercial property with mini golf and 2 ponds. Last year began our love affair with the baby mallard ducks. At this time we have at least 3 mated couples, maybe 4. 1 approx 11 mo old mom had 15 babies last week. We are already down to 5. These are completely wild ducks, and we expect casualties from turtles and snakes. Do we need to worry about the many single males that keep coming to attack mate our hens possibly hurting the babies? We found 1 dead with broken neck and no signs of being eaten at all, and are bummed.

  3. I had a baby mallard that was found outside my door w/ out a mom in sight. I gave her plenty of food (unmedicated chick starter mix) and water and then today she wasn’t acting right. Then tonight I went to get her out of the cage and I could tell something wasn’t right. All of a sudden her head starting coming down and it looked like she was choking. Her legs were twiching and it looked as if she couldn’t get air. She then layed motionless and died in my hands. ANY IDEAS..PLESE LET ME KNOW, Thank you.

  4. Hi Matt,

    First, I should say that a lone duckling is not always abandoned. Often people who are just trying to help end up taking a baby duck from its parent who may not be in sight… Still, some are lost or abandoned and it’s very hard to just leave them without helping. Clearly your heart was in the right place, and I’m very sorry your little duckling died.

    In response to your question about choking. Indeed, it does sound as if this was the case. Even adult ducks will get food caught in their throat regularly, but are usually able to easily dislodge it by moving their necks back and fourth and drinking.

    Ducklings on the other hand may not know to drink and simply choke. I had a very similar thing happen to me last year when a duckling choked right in front of me. By the time I made the decision to clear the airway it was too late and the duckling died.

    As a rule, the best thing you can do is observe the choking duck up to a point. Usually it will be able to dislodge the obstruction on its own and grabbing the bird may cause it to panic and use up the valuable oxygen in its bloodstream faster.

    If, on the other hand, the bird is clearly not going to be able to free the airway, you have no choice but to clear the passageway for it. The process is dangerous for the duckling and not for the light of heart. Never do this unless you are sure the duckling is is not going to be able to clear its airway. The situation you described above is an example of when you would want to do this, but not before.

    Get a wet Q-tip for a duckling or a new pencil eraser for an adult duck. With one hand pinch the sides of the bill until it opens. With the other, get the duck’s neck as straight at you can and push the Q-tip or eraser down the throat until the obstruction is cleared. Work quickly but gently. When you are finished put the duck in a safe, quiet place with plenty of water and let it recover.

  5. Hi,
    I have a question that sure has me baffled. We have an above ground swimming pool with decorative plants around the one side of it. Beginning 3 years ago a pair of Mallard Ducks showed up and made the water that had gathered on top of our winter cover of the pool from snow and rain their private little swimming hole. This pool is behind a tall solid wooden fence so makes for a very safe place to nest. She built a nest behind one of the plants that grew enough it completely covered the top of the nest. When they hatched out 10 Ducklings though I had to dig a hole under the fence for her to get her young out and head for the lake which is about 1/4 mile north of us across a pasture. Last year she came back and built a nest behind the same plant and then took them off to water. This Spring a substantially smaller hen came back and built a nest behind the same plant, hatched her young out and away they went. She had been gone about a week and I was getting ready to take the cover off of the pool, add water and chemicals to it and a much larger hen and a drake show up and were using the top of the pool. I went ahead, drained the pool cover off, added water to the pool and chemicals and began to clean up the area. I looked at the nest where the hen had hatched out her young and avoided it because it was beginning to be covered up by the growing plant. Over the weekend we had a swimming party and in putting my thermal cover back on I was walking along the edge of the pool spreading it out and there was a nest where the other one was with 6 eggs in it. In watching very closely I have noticed that the larger hen has been coming back, stays for awhile and then leaves. I have peeked at the nest and when she leaves she covers the eggs up so I can not see how many are there now. This morning I did see her return and go in behind the plant and it is the larger hen. My question is do young ducks remember where they are hatched out and return to nest themselves (as per the smaller hen), and did the larger hen give her time to nest and get her young out before she began to lay eggs? It is the 20th of June and I would think it is pretty late for a duck to be nesting. Also do ducks raise more than one hatch per year? It is just too much of a coincidence that they both picked the same plant to build their nest behind. Thank You for your help. We live in a rural suburb with several lakes in the area so have an abundance of wild life around.

  6. Hi Ed,

    I have to admit that I am a little out of my element when it comes to the behavior of wild ducks, but I do know they tend to nest in the same place year after year. I also know that the offspring will return to the general area where they were born, so it does seem plausible that the smaller hen was born right under that same plant.

    As far as the larger hen (presumably the mother) nesting so late in the year goes, it is possible that this could be her second clutch of eggs. If she tried to come back and found someone else in her favorite nesting spot, she would have most likely found another place to nest, but her eggs or ducklings may have been eaten, causing her to come back to your house and lay another clutch. Usually they will only lay one clutch, but if something happens to it, they will generally lay another one in a different place. Sometimes, however, they just lay two successful nests full of eggs.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. I have a baby duck that I have been raising for 4 weeks now. He was found alone on a busy street, and I have taken all necessary steps to raise him properly. I thought he was a Mallard, since he did look like the Mallards ducklings in my lake. But his feathers have started to grow in the tail and right over the wings, and they are black. Do you think it is possible for this duck to be a Muscovy and not a Mallard?

  8. Please help me. About 2 wks ago we found a Mallard on our back porch. (No big news, we live on a pond) However he/she is much much much smaller than the rest. Not quite a baby not quite a teenager type thing. All of its feathers are missing from about midway all the way to its tail. The other mallards in the pond are picking on it. We feed him/her and it seems ok but I feel heartbroken to leave it outside with the ‘bullies’. Does anyone know what’s wrong or how I can help? Do I need to try and catch him/her? If so, how? Please please help.

  9. @Shannon,

    It sounds like you have a tough decision to make. I’m sorry to say that there may really be no correct answer. The first thing I would suggest doing is to ask yourself how much of a commitment you would be willing to make to this duckling. Sometimes, once they are under the care of a human, they do not want to leave us. Should you take on raising this duckling, there is a chance that it could become your pet, and you may be stuck with it. Are you ready to build a safe coup for it to live in, and take care of it all winter?

    If so, the next step would be to investigate the laws in your state surrounding helping injured wild animals. Sometimes they are forgiving, but other times large fines can be imposed if you do this.

    Another thing to think about is the fact that most places have groups that help injured animals. Perhaps calling one of these may be a way to help the duckling without having to worry about the long-term commitment or leagal snags.

    Sorry I can’t offer an easy answer. Good luck, and keep us posted on how it all comes out.

  10. Okay HELP. LOL. We live across the street from a lake and one of the mallard ducks laid her eggs in the alley directly behind my house, we watched her all month and yesterday three of her babies hatched and about 5 pm yesterday she left w/ them to the lake and NEVER came BACK! I can clearly see she has three eggs left, we waited til this morning and she has not come back at all. One of the eggs is really foul smelling, I am assume dead, I candled the other two one looks like nothing is in it except fluid, I am assuming non-fertilized, and one was pipping out. I look up online and it says should only take them 2-4 hrs to pip out well this egg has been pipping since yesterday. So we finally helped it finish it’s way out this morning but it has a little bump on it’s head and a bloody spot on it’s stomache. Do they have ambilical cords? Or is something wrong w/ it’s stomache? It sorta LOOKS like what I’d imagine an embilical (sorry don’t know spelling of that) cord to look like but what should I do for it? Should I clean it off w/ a rag or something or is it just supposed to get up and start cleaning itself? HELP!

  11. This morning my husband rescued an abandoned duck from a drain pipe near a busy shopping plaza. He looked all around for the mother, but was unable to find her. She does not look any older than about one week old. I took her to a really nice park with many ducks and it ran with great enthusiasm to them. They, however, were not as thrilled and none seemed to want to care for her. I sat and watched her for quite awhile as I fed the ducks duck/geese food from the local pet store hoping that one of the females would take to her. I am very worried about her. I would have raised her at home, but I can’t imagine her being happy couped up. I hope we made the right decision by setting her free. She is close enough that I can check on her daily. Is there some special food I could be taking to her? Do you think the other ducks will hurt her? Every now and then one would push her away like they did not want to be bothered, but it did not seem that they were interested in harming her either. Please let me know if there is something I can do to increase her chances of survival. Thanks!

  12. We too are raising mallard ducks. My daughter bought a pair of ducklings from the pet store this past spring with the intention of letting them lose when they where old enough. We have now become to attached to them and are keeping them as pets. We have built them a hut outside and I have a acre of land,but no pond. We have supplied them with a kiddie pool. We also have a small area fence in. Every morning I let them out of their hut and they go to the fence area where we are keeping the kiddie pool. My problem is the fence is picket and they are now sneeking out of the fence or sometimes fly to the rest of the yard. I don’t mine if they do as long as they stay in our yard. My question is can you teach a duck to stay within certain areas or am I asking the impossible. I also would like to know what we have to do to winterize the hut we live in the snowbelt of Ohio and we do get a lots of snow. Any information I would glady appreciate

  13. @Ann,

    So long as you have a kiddie pool, there is really no need for a pond. They will happily splash about in the pool, so there is no need to worry on that front. There is definitely no way to “train” ducks to stay in one place, but they usually know where home is and will generally return when they get hungry. Some ducks seem to like to stick close, while others like to fly away for extended periods. I have one duck that will fly away for the entire day but come home at night. I have absolutely no idea where she goes.

    You really have to decide how you want to keep them. Most people who keep ducks have some form of duck yard that is fenced in with chicken wire on the sides and top. Mine is about 20 feet X 30 feet. The wire is dug into the ground so animals can’t dig under it, and it is entirely closed in on the top. Inside that, I have a duckhouse which is a 4X8 plywood box lined with hay and secured with a door that is closed at night. Even if an animal could get into the duckyard, there is absolutely no way it could invade the duckhouse. I prefer to keep my ducks close to home, so I only let them out of the duckyard when I am going to be home for extended periods. Other people simply let them run free and try to get them in at night.

    Winter care can be tricky, but it is more than doable. Here is a good article that will help. I live in Vermont where we get a lot of snow and bitter (sub 0’F) cold, and I have found that the most critical thing is to make sure their water does not freeze and that they have LOTS of food. I use a galvanized drinker with a heater base. This works down to about -10 F if it is protected from the wind.

    I highly suggest Dave Holderread’s “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks”. He has a lot of information of getting them through cold winters and keeping them healthy in general. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

  14. hi! its me again. I have another question for you.Our female duck has laid 7 eggs this past week. My question is she hasn’t been sitting on them durning the day, is this normal? Help!!! She isn’t even a year old. Don’t want her to have them now over winter. Thanks

  15. Hi Ann,

    Usually ducks will lay a nest full of eggs before they start sitting on them. They do this so that they all develop at the same rate and will hatch the same day. If you don’t want here to have ducklings, you are best to rob the nest before she starts sitting on them. Once she starts sitting, she will become “broody” and will be very temperamental. As a rule, she will continue laying eggs if you rob her nest. Most people like this because duck eggs taste good :)

  16. ok I guess we are better off and letting her hatch the eggs before winter comes. Now we will have to build a bigger hut and run for them. Want any duckings!! Probably won’t beable to fine them a good home till spring. But thanks anyway.

  17. My son noticed a family of Mallard ducks with five very young ducklings out swimming in our local pond in July, which seemed late for a family of ducks. Before he went off to school in August, one of the ducklings had disappeared, so the family was down to four ducklings & the mother. They then moved to a larger pond nearby.
    I’ve been checking on them for him and discovered about ten days ago that one of the ducklings, now much larger, is lame in one leg. I’ve been feeding it with cracked corn & have called around, but the best any wildlife group would say was that I could bring it in, but they might put it to sleep or release it elsewhere if it healed. No one has held out much hope for the duck. After talking to one discouraging person, who said it might be missing a foot, I watched the duck from a place that I could see that it has both its feet and does paddle with the injured left leg/foot. I’ve even watched it run off another duck. Most of the time, however, this duck now seems on his own. The mother and siblings stayed near it until recently, but now it’s mostly alone. I’m afraid if I take the duck in for help, it will just be put to sleep. But it’s swimming–just having trouble on land. It doesn’t seem to want to put weight on its injured leg. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I’m just trying to keep it fed. Other than the injured leg, the duck seems fine. I’m just worried about what will happen if/when the other ducks migrate. I don’t know if it can fly. Our winters can get quite cold–down to twenty or more below zero–this is the Midwest–so I don’t know how the duck can survive. I’m trying not to interfere too much, other than feed it cracked corn. Any suggestions as to how to save this duck? It’s got spirit.

  18. Hi Kate,

    In many cases, ducks that have leg injuries will recover completely if they are allowed enough water to swim. My spending most of their time in the water, the weight is taken off the leg, and it is allowed to heal.

    It really all depends on what is wrong with this duck’s leg. If it is broken, the best thing for it to do is spend as much time in the water as it can… Other than having it treated by a vet, of course.

    If the duck has gone lame for some other reason, it may not recover, but the bad leg should not keep the duck from migrating.

    The best thing you could to would be to take the duck to an avian vet to have the leg looked at. Aside from that, encouraging it to spend as much time as possible in the water would also be a good move. Remember that cracked corn does not have everything the duck needs to remain healthy. You might think about giving him some wilted produce as well. Simply toss it into the water and he should eat it happily without having to walk on the land.

    I agree, however, that he should not be put down. Many ducks live happy, healthy lives with the use of only one leg. Best of luck, and please let me know how it goes.

  19. Hi,
    I was out walking yesterday and came across a mallard duck and nine of her chicks in a stream that runs into the sea (not fast flowing), anyway as the mother duck was going along with her chicks one got adventurous and the mother duck carried on with all but one of her chicks, not realising that it hadn’t followed, by the time the chick realised its mother had gone the mum was along way down the stream, and calling frantically the mum just carried on going. It was getting dark by now and I managed to catch the chick and walk down to where I thought the mother was and put the chick in the water, but the chick ended up going straight back to where it last saw its mum, i couldn’t attempt to catch it again because it was getting dark, my concern is would the mother go back up stream, and would she hear her chick calling. 300yrds ahead the stream widens into the sea, surely the mother duck wouldn’t go out any further, i’m just hoping that later on she headed back. Icouldn’t sleep last night thinking of this poor little chick on its own.

  20. Michelle,
    You did the right thing by leaving the duckling alone. The mother almost certainly will come back for it. Ducks tend to let their little ones have a lot of freedom, so this kind of thing is not uncommon. All too often people make the mistake of adopting a duckling they think has been left behind by its mother. While the intention is good, it is always suggested that ducklings (and all baby animals) be left alone by wildlife experts.

  21. Thanks Cliff for replying,
    my sister-in-law went to the same place today to put my mind at rest, but unfortunatly the mother duck had only eight chicks with her. I was hoping for a happy ending. I don’t suppose there’s any chance now of chick being alive. Although sis-in-law did say that the mother was near where chick was lost. I feel sooooo sad.

  22. hi,
    i have recently aquired a pair of mallard ducks.
    The hen has made a nest and begun laying eggs. i have just been told that the pair of ducks, and their parents, are siblings (i know gross). i would love to have some ducklings, but would the ducklings have anything wrong with them because they were inbred?

  23. I had 4 ducks, one being a male Mallard. I have 4 dogs, chickens and a cat. I raised the ducks in a 10×10 pen at night & free to roam & swim all day with our chickens. Recently after 6 months of keeping everyone seperate until I trusted all my pets to play together, I started to leave my ducks to roam free night & day . They always stay by the house & still never went to far from the house. Then it got cold this week, and this morning when I went to feed eveyone, my Mallard was gone. No sign of a possible predator, eveything was very normal and it was a cold night and beautiful morning. Could he have flown away alone? Migrated? Am I being naive to think a coyote didn’t grab him. They sleep right outside my bedroom window.

  24. @Sarah
    When you are a duck, it’s pretty much the one you’re with… I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but if you are going to start breeding ducks more than just here and there, you might think about introducing some new (unrelated) genetics because the ducklings might start to be weak and unhealthy.

    Interestingly, mallards tend to get larger when they are domesticates, so they are sometimes inbred to keep the size down.

  25. @Kelly,
    As much as we would like to believe that our missing ducks flew away, it is seldom the case. Ducks roost on the ground, making them very very susceptible to predators. Ducks that are not locked away at night will almost always fall victim to a predator sooner or later. I guess it’s always possible that he flew South, but it’s pretty unlikely.

  26. hi, I have anoher quesion for you. I hope you can help. Mama duck laid 15 eaggs,sat on them for 28 days. We found a hatch duckling dead in the nest. Another one was breaking through yesterday. I found the unhatch egg outside the hut this morning. She is not sitting on the eggs any more. We remove the dead duckling and the other egg. What should we do now?

  27. hi, I have anoher quesion for you. I hope you can help. Mama duck laid 15 eaggs,sat on them for 28 days. We found a hatch duckling dead in the nest. Another one was breaking through yesterday. I found the unhatch egg outside the hut this morning. She is not sitting on the eggs any more. We remove the dead duckling and the egg. What should we do now.

  28. Hi Ann,

    Your hen knows best. Ours rolled out what seemed like perfectly good eggs from her nest, only to discover that for some reason they weren’t viable. Also if she is not sitting on her nest now, she may just be taking a break. If she hasn’t rolled all of the eggs out of the nest, or abandoned the nest all together, I wouldn’t worry about it yet. Right now, all you can do is to wait and see what happens. Remove the eggs as she removes them.

    I hope this helps. Good luck.

  29. Thanks for the advice,but in a way she did abandoned the eggs. She covered the eggs and wouldn’t sleep in the hut at night. We removed the nest and she is fine about it. Hopefully she will wait till spring next time.

  30. Hi, some three months ago I was given four baby mallards whose mother had been killed, three died within the first two days but the fourth has been doing well ever since. I have noticed however on every website I come across that mallard ducklings should be full grown at around two months, is this true as the duckling I have raised still has a lot of down although the tail feathers have come through quite well and it has grown a lot since early september. It has also developed a slight limp and while its legs appear fairly strong it walks a little on the strange side. Any info would be greatly appreciated.


  31. Hi Bob,
    It does seem that your duckling is developing rather slowly. When questions like this come up we usually look at the diet first. Especially when we are talking about leg issues. What are you feeding the little guy? Niacin deficiencies can be suspected when a bird starts to limp around for no reason. If you could give me the nutrient breakdown information from you bag of food, it might help us start to figure out what is going on. In the meantime, it is never a bad idea to give ducks spinach and other soft greens to help supplement. They love to eat them right out of the water.

  32. Thanks for the info, up until very recently I have been feeding him/her ground maize mixed with finely chopped grass, dandelion and clover greens, finely chopped hard boiled egg yolk and the odd fly/small beetle. This was described as the best feed for mallard ducklings on most websites I’ve come across and since he’s a fair bit bigger now I’ve started him/her on the same feed (along with greens) I give to my chickens and other ducks (not mallards) who all seem to thrive on it. He/she has been kept indoors since I got him/her as I have three cats who would no doubt make short work of him/her, is it important to go out and introduce the duckling to the other ducks/chickens or should I wait until he/she is fully grown?


  33. Well, it certainly seems like the little duck has a good diet. Better I dare say than my ducks. The one thing you want to watch out for when feeding chicken feed is any medication that might have been added. Chickens tend to get sick a lot, so feed companies have taken to adding preventative medication to feed. Since ducks eat a lot more than chickens, this becomes a problem because they over does on it. Other than that, it sounds like food can be ruled out.

    These days, I just let my hens raise their ducklings, but when I used to hatch them myself, I would take them outside at 5 weeks old after slowly acclimating them to the cooler air. At this point, I would say you are safe to introduce the new duck, but be sure to keep a close eye our for pecking and chasing. Once a duck becomes demoralized, it is usually doomed to die. I have had to seperate off parts of my duckyard to prevent aggression.

    One other question: Have you checked the bottom of the duck’s feet? Sometimes they can develop sores that will cause them to limp around. This can be caused by walking on hard or very dry surfaces. I live in the frigid North East, so my ducks spend all winter walking around on straw which drys out their feet. In the past, they developed cracks which might have gotten infected had I not treated them. These days, I prevent this by applying a small amount of hand moisturizer to their feet every week. It’s a miserable job catching all those ducks and rubbing hand cream into their feet, but it works wonders.

  34. Thanks for that Cliff, I checked the ducks feet and they seem fine, on closer inspection he/she seems to be holding the right leg slightly higher than the left and the leg joint looks a little swollen. Could this be down to lack of exercise as he/she only has the space of my spare room to walk about at the moment, would it be a good idea to let the duck out each day or would the limp hamper it too much to be safe?


  35. i live in a small farming town and we buy chicks every spring at the feed store one year we bought a duckling with the chicks the duckling is all grownup now but we didnt do anything special for her she thinks shes a chicken!she is scared of water and dosent try to fly she is very cute and likes to be held she is two or three years old and has a clump of baby feathers on her head that looks like an afro she hasent laind any eggs yet is she still to young or is somthing wrong?do ducks lay infurtile eggs like chickens do?

  36. What a great site! Thanks for all the info. I recently lost all 5 of my mallards to a pack of coyotes that jumped over a 6 foot gate. 3 of my girls (Quacker, Dolly & Breeze were on nests, Sugar had a tough time laying eggs, so she just kept Luck my very cool boy duck company. Talk about feeling devastated, I purchased the ducks when they were 4 months old and had them for 8 months. I looked for them in all their favorite spots, the irrigation ditch, the kiddy pool and on mom’s porch and they weren’t there. We looked around and found 4 feather piles; they had been snatched during the early morning hours.

    I was going to give up on ducks, but I just can’t. I have decided to order some baby mallards, but have a couple of questions – concerns.

    I want to put them in an area of the garage but my husband works in there and loud equipment noises will be off and on in the area during the day. Will this be a problem (scare them to death)?

    Also, I plan on getting 2 baby geese & raising them with my ducklings is this ok or will they not get along?

    Last question – I was told by someone who raised ducks years ago that you constantly have to wipe their backsides. Is that accurate?

    I am having a 30 X 30 chain link pen installed and my husband and I are going to put wire over the top. I will never again assume a coyote can not get in and kill my kids.

    Thanks for your patience, I am nervous about having little chicks around, I work all day, but my husband will be around to check on them for me.

    Thanks in advance for your reply; you will never know how much I appreciate the duck tales on this site. It gives me courage to try again, to raise the sweetest pets I have ever had.

  37. @Bob

    I would let the duck outside… So long as you bring it in during the night, it should be fine. Most things that threaten ducks hunt at night.

  38. @Bob

    Ducks usually start laying at about 1 yea old. You might try getting layer pellets that have a higher percentage of calcium to encourage laying if you want eggs. My ducks start laying in the Spring and don’t really stop until early Summer.

  39. @Suzan

    You can, and should build them nighttime housing. How many ducks you have will dictate how large their house is. I made mine out of plywood with a screened in front door. It’s 4X8X4 and houses three Mallards during the night. Please make sure that if you screen in their enclosure you use wire screening that has no holes larger than 1 inch.

  40. @Sno

    Thank you very much for your kind words. I’m glad you like my site. I’m actually in the middle of setting up an “all-duck all the time” website that I hope to have launched in the Spring. It’s a discussion group about ducks that should be much easier to read than this one. The site is http://duckster.org if you want to check back for updates. I’m hoping to make it a community around pet ducks where everyone can share their knowledge and experience.

    Let me see if I can answer your questions.

    1) The ducklings should be just fine in your garage. I have found that they seem to like having people around them, and the noise should not bother them at all. If there is welding or other activities going on that could create a lot of smoke, that could present a problem, but aside from that, they should be fine. Just make sure you have a heat lamp in their brooder so they can warm themselves up if they start to get cold.

    2) Ducks and geese tend to get along fine. If there is some hostility, it will usually present itself when the birds are babies. Should this happen, you can simply separate them for a few weeks in such a way that they can see each other but can’t peck. This usually solves any problems with aggression.

    3) There is absolutely no need at all to wipe their backsides. They will keep themselves clean all by themselves. It’s funny. I’ve never heard that one.

    Since you are planning to get ducks, I thought I would make the offer. I will be hatching some Mallards this Spring, and you are welcome to some of them if you would like. The ducklings would be free, but I would ask that you cover the cost of mailing them to you. Let me know if you are interested.

  41. Cliff,
    Thank you for the information and offer, I would love to give your ducklings a new home, and would be more than happy to pay shipping for them. Let me know a time frame when you think you will be hatching them.

    Also back to the garage, another question, you mentioned smoke, there is no smoke but there would be a strong paint fumes/odor from time to time.

    I was thinking I may have to keep them in my spare bedroom, if the garage is not suitable. I look forward to the new site!

  42. @Sno

    It sounds like the spare bedroom might be the best bet. All my new ducklings are hatched and cared for by their mother, but when I have had new ducklings I have always kept them in our spare bedroom. Sometimes they peep at night and have kept me up, but that’s about as bad as it has ever gotten. I keep them in a kiddie pool with straw on the bottom and walls that are made higher with cardboard. The kiddie pool is easy to clean and is large enough if you only have a few. Ducks are sensitive to fumes, so again, I would suggest the spare room if you have any worries at all about the air quality in the garage.

    I will send you an e-mail so you have my contact information. My hens usually start laying in mid to late march, and it’s about another month after that when they hatch. I really don’t need anymore ducks, but it’s fun to let the proud mothers hatch a nest full of eggs and there always seem to be more loving homes than ducklings. The other nice thing is that my ducks are true, flying Mallards, which you often don’t get from production hatcheries… Those have often been bred to be larger, and don’t have the “racy” teardrop shape that you seen in wild Mallards.

    I will keep you updated as Spring draws closer.

  43. I have more Duck / Goose guestions:

    I have been trying to research what type of geese would be best to get and have really not found that much helpful information.

    I am thinking a couple of females or a couple of male’s, I don’t particularly want more to hatch later. I want geese that will be friendly, and not hurt the ducks, but do want them to sound the alarm for dogs, coyotes or people coming onto the property.

    I have narrowed it down to “Brown Chinese”, “Buff”, or “Canadian”. If anyone has any input I would appreciate the assistance.

    Thanks again for all the great information!

  44. Cliff,

    Its been awhile since I’ve had a question but here goes……I have 4 mallard drakes and 5 hens. They have been getting along fantastically until now. Today I found one of the drakes had been tortured by another. I separated him for the day so he could recouperate. My probelm is….I have only 1 enclosure. They are left out most of the day and put in at night. Although they are out…..the 2 getting picked on get chased until they are caught. 2 of the drakes seem to be getting along with each other however the other 2 are getting pretty beat up (shivering listless, missing breast feathers) I realize it is spring and they are pairing off but will they cause serious injury to each other? How long will their behavior last?

    Thanks again for any advise,

  45. Hi Stacy,

    This is a tough one, and it is not uncommon in the Spring when the testosterone levels start to rise. The thing you want to be most worried about is the drakes that are being picked on becoming demoralized. When this happens, they often just give up and die.

    Some people have had success by separating the aggressive drakes from the rest of the flock in such a way that they can see the other ducks… Chicken wire through the duckyard or something similar. This way the less aggressive drakes will pair off with the hens and defend themselves when the aggressive drakes are re-introduced. When a drake runs from the others, it tends to encourage this type of behavior, so the real trick is to get the weaker drake to defend himself. Sometimes this works, sometimes it does not, but they will need to be separated for some time in order to see… Perhaps as much as a month.

    Either way, the aggression should die down once the hens start to sit on their eggs. The trick will just be to keep the weaker drakes from giving up on life.

  46. Cliff,

    Well…..before I got your reply they were all fighting! 2 were in the give-up stage you mentioned. I now have them all separated. 3 in dog crates adjoining the duck enclosure and 1 with the hens. I then let them out in shifts during the day and rotate the drakes in the enclose and in the dog crates. They have turned out to be more work than kids but we love them! I hope this ends soon, I like letting them all out to enjoy their freedom but from what I saw, they would kill each other if left together. FYI: I spoke with the hatchery I received the ducklings from and they were also very helpful. They said unless the drake-hen ratio is
    1 to 5 you will have some pretty serious fighting.


  47. @Stacy,
    Thanks for letting us know how it’s going. Having faced the problem of fighting myself, I can attest that is is quite difficult indeed. The suggestion of seperating the aggresive males and letting the weaker drakes bond with the hens with the hopes that they will defend themselves once the more aggresive drakes are reintroduced came from my favorite waterfowl farm, but it didn’t work for and I had to resort to finding another home for my nasty drake as a final solution. I have a 32X26 duckyard, so the method I used was to simply poultry wire off a section , but using a dog crate certainly seems sensable.

    As far as ratios are concerned, I’ve read a number of different oppnions. Some asy as little as 1:2, while others suggest keeping as many as 1:8. My flock is rather small, but the pros seem to indicate that the larger the flock, the lower the drake to hen ratio needs to be. Everyone seems to agree, however, that keeping more hens than drakes is a good idea. I’m sorry I don’t have more experience and successful solutions to offer in this area.

    Please keep us posted on how it goes. I would love to know about any solutions to aggression you are able to find.

  48. Hey Cliff,
    We have 10 acre and three ponds….We bought 11 Mallards ducklings at a day old. They are now three to four weeks. Our ducks just freak out when you come near them so we want to take them out of the Duck box and build something for them.
    But What and Where? We have wild ducks all the time Wood, Mandarins, Gadwall and Green teal just to name a few. How is the best way to handle this? Meaning do I build a coupe near the pond or away? Also when people say they “put them up at night” do they go get them or do they know there home? Or Do I just release them…if so when? If we do build a coupe can you have chickens with them…that’s my husbands question?

    Thanks Carrie

  49. I wanted to let you know that we have only a few wild ducks right now but by spring I’ll have as many as 30 at a time.

  50. Our ducks laid eggs about two weeks ago. Some of them were smashed (we think by the ducks). Some she is sitting on occasionally. Will these hatch and if so how long does it take? Then how long before they can leave their mother?

  51. Cliff,

    Well the ducks are laying eggs at a breakneck pace. I have one enclosure that has 2 hens and one drake. It appears both hens are laying their eggs in the same nest. Can I split them up and force the hens to lay on separate clutches? They already have summed up 16 eggs in the nest and it seems like there’s no end in sight! When do they usually start brooding?


  52. hello my name is tyler and i got two baby mallard ducks i dont know if they will fly away and when should i put it in the water?


  53. hello my name is tyler and i got two prety mallard ducks about three days ago and i want too know if they will fly away and when should i put them in the water?


  54. I had two baby pekin ducks that me and my boyfriend were raising. Yesterday it was warm so we put their crate outside for a little but while it was out there someone we know who was going to be partial owners of them as soon as she paid us her part, stole them and set them free at a nearby lake. We were very angered by this and went to go find them but by the time we got there we couldn’t find them anywhere. I don’t know how old they are but I just want to know if they have any chance of surviving.

  55. About two weeks ago while home for spring break, we noticed that some malard ducks had begun visiting our small backyard swimming pool during the day. They would always fly off whenever we went outside, so we didn’t think much of it. But today we were doing our spring trimming and discovered a a female duck and her nest of about 10 eggs under a bush right next to the pool. I imagine she laid the eggs about 2-3 weeks ago. Our neighborhood has pond located about two blocks from here and I imagine that once the ducklings hatch the mom will try to get them to the pond??? My concern is that our yard is fenced and I’m not sure how she will accomplish this. We also are schedule to keep my parents dog (a schnauzer) in about 3 weeks and I’m wondering if the ducks will be gone by then???
    We’re just city folks & need some help deciding what to do about this surprise of nature!

  56. Our male and female mallard ducks where out in our yard when a pair of wild mallard ducks landed in our yard. The problem is our male duck flew away with the other two. My question is will he come back. I know its mating season and I believe he was chasing the other male.

  57. @Carrie

    Well, assuming you want to raise a LOT of ducks, the “best” way to handle it would be to have a barn hear the pond and always feed them inside the barn at night to get them in. With so many ducks, any small area would get messy and be difficult to manage, so most people who have that many ducks simply leave them outside. The pond will provide them with some safety, but if you leave them out at night, you WILL have losses. It is up to you if this is acceptable or not.

    If you put them up at night, you will find that they will become less and less inclined to go in at night as the summer draws on. To this end, bribing them with food helps a lot. If you do build a nighttime coup for them, try to plan your flock and coup in such a way that each duck has ten or more square feet of space inside the coupe each.

  58. @Gavin

    Usually when you see smashed eggs it means weasels, snakes or raccoons. Ducks usually won’t smash their own eggs.

    Duck eggs have about a 28 day incubation period.

  59. @Stacy,

    Usually they are just about to get broody when they roll their eggs into their nests. You should be able to take eggs from one nest and put them in the other to balance things out. Sometimes slight variations in color or size will give you a clue as to which hen owns which egg. Brooding is a process that takes some time. They will start by not sitting at all, and finally, you won’t be able to get them off the nest until the eggs hatch.

  60. @Tyler

    In most cases, your ducks will not fly away when they grow up. Provided you have plenty of warm light for them, you can start letting them play in water now. Just make sure they can stand up in it, and always watch them closely so you can rescue them if they get too wet. Some people suggest a paint roller tray filled with a little luke warm water is best.

  61. @hailey

    I’m sorry to say that the ducklings that were released do not stand much chance of survival. It is truly sad that this happened.

  62. @Jill

    You are exactly right that the mother will need to take her ducklings to the nearest body of water. Amazingly, hens that set up shop next to swimming pools are fairly common. The good news is that they usually only hang around the nest for a day or so after the ducklings have hatched. So, simply keep an eye on things and once they hatch you can just leave a gate open so they can get out and make their way to the lake.

  63. @Ann

    You are probably right about your drake trying to chase the other drake away. It’s amazing who aggressive these otherwise docile birds get this time of year. Most likely your drake will come home when he gets hungry. There is a chance, however, that he will decide to be a wild duck. It really depends on the duck. We had one that seemed VERY wild and would fly away often. I always thought she would join up with a flock somewhere and that we would never see her again… Amazingly, she always came home. Her offspring, on the other hand simply refused to become domesticated… Nearly every single one of them flew away never to be seen again.

  64. Well he didn’t come home last night or today yet.The pair of wild ducks are across the street no sign of ours. What I want to know will he know his way back. He has never been out side our yard. Our female has been calling for him since tis morning. If he doesn’t come back will she surviive? She also has laid eggs again but has not sat on them as of yet.Thanks

  65. @Ann

    He should know his way home. Ducks have a very very good sense of direction. This is how they manage to find their way back to the same lake or pond year after year.

    Should he not come home, the female will be OK, but depressed for some time. Hopefully she will start sitting on her eggs, which will take her mind off it. For the long term, it is better to have at least two ducks. They are social and can get lonely.

  66. Cliff, I bought my 4 year old son a baby mallard duck for easter. He lives in our garage in a rubber tub with a heat lamp. We have done everything (as far as care) for him as instructed by the man at the feed store. We origionally had 2 but one died ??? dont know why. Anyway, he is getting bigger, and he should be approx 6-7 weeks old. Can we turn him loose on the pond at this point. Unfortunately he is very wild and will not let me catch him too easily. I want him to survive, but I am almost certain that he would have better chances on the pond than in the garage at this point. I wont do this again. I feel almost cruel by keeping him penned up. BTW, when the other duck was dying, and afterward, until removed, this duck layed with him nonstop. He never left his side.

  67. @Jody

    Buying ducklings for easter is a common mistake made by a lot of people. They are very cute when they are small and it’s hard to imagine what a handful they will become in such a short time.

    I’m very sorry to hear about the one that you lost. It’s always very hard when that happens.

    Let me see if I can answer your question. At 6 to 7 weeks, the duck should be ready for your pond. The things you really want to make sure of is that he has feathers all over his body and is oiling his feathers. Their oil gland is near their tail. They pick up some oil with their bill and spread it over their feathers to keep them from getting soaked.

    You are right that your pond is going to be a good place for him, but you should still understand that predators are going to be an issue if you live in a rural area. Personally I never let my ducklings out to our pond until I know they can fly away from danger.

    My recommendation would be to bring him out to the pond and see how he takes to it. After all, you can’t keep him in the garage forever. You may have trouble getting him in at night. Usually bribing them with food does the trick to get them out of the water, but I have had to heard them with the canoe once or twice. Once they are on dry land, they can usually be herded pretty easily. Please do put him away at night though if you live in a rural area. Leaving ducks out at night will ALWAYS result in losses sooner or later. I learned this the hard way.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  68. Thank you so much for this information. There is a flock of canadian geese on the pond… I hope that will not be a problem. Are they unfriendly to ducklings? Also, if I did keep him safe in his pen til he is able to fly, how long am I looking at? I dont see any adult feathers yet, but the man at the feed store informed me when i bought them on the friday before easter that they were beginning to get their “flight feathers”. I do know that a week ago he was able to get out of his pen which is several feet high. I am assuming that he had alittle bit of flight ability to pull that stunt.
    This has been such an eye opening experience. I really appreciate your help… Next easter, we’ll just stick to the marshmallow peeps.

  69. hi cliff,
    we have two call ducks and this spring has seen our duck lay up to 14 eggs. they live in our garden in a very safe enviroment with everything they need. barbara is sitting on her eggs for up to 24 hours without coming off. she appears to know exactly what she is doing and has built a wonderful nest. my wife and i have read many books and articles on the subject, but i just want to know – do we need to help her? they have great shelter, good food and water supplies and a pond. is there a need for us to intervene? incubators and cleaning etc? im inclined to let the ducks do the work. am i right?
    may thanks.

  70. hey,

    I just recently purchased a mallard duckling and a little yellow farm duckling…and once they are older I plan on bringing the mallard to this huge water habitat at this city park and give the farm duckling to my friend who has a farm…well anyway to get to the subject,…How would you tell the sex of the mallard duckling( I know how to tell what they are when they are older)? Is there any way to tell what it is while it is young or do you just have to wait until they fully mature to see their feathers? How long does it take the duckling to reach full grown size? And also with the farm ducking, when they are fully grown, how would you know if it is male or female..? because I know that one is supposed to turn out solid white like the aflac insurance duck from the tv commercial…


  71. Cliff,

    I will be thinning out my ducks nests when they start sitting but in any event I will have some ducklings at some point. Do you know of anyone who would be interested in some mallard ducklings? They will be free to a good home. I live near Lincoln Nebraska but would be willing to ship them if someone would pay for the postage which is minimal. (I’m NOT interested in giving them to the guy on your other site who wants to kill them, eat them or use them for dog training!)
    I’m not opposed to hunting either but these are pets.


  72. I have bought two ducklings from a local farm store and this is my first time raising “wildlife”. Ive only had them for two days and for now they live in our extra large shower with a babygate. Eventually they will move out to my boyfriends parents country home. There is a large storage shed with fencing attached bc they plan to get chicks. I want to set my ducks up with the best possible living enviroment I can. I plan to set them up with a large pool and a shed but do I need heat lamps? Just looking for advice for a beginner!

  73. Hi Simon,

    When the hens finally start laying on their eggs, it’s amazing just how dedicated they are. You’ll find that she’ll get off every now and then to stretch and to get food and water and to bathe. You may want to move the food and water closer to her nest to make it easier for her to help herself. When she does get up, you may discover that she will have lots of smelly, colored, thick poo, and that’s completely normal, as she’s working to keep her eggs clean and healthy. If you find any eggs that are no longer in the nest, she has removed them because they are not viable, so you can dispose of them (don’t compost near the nest, as that may attract predators). But otherwise, your hen knows just what is needed and will provide all that is necessary for her eggs and ducklings.

  74. @Jody,

    From the sounds of things your duckling is still quite young. They actually don’t get their flight feathers until after they are mostly covered with feathers to begin with. If the duckling is still fuzzy, I am inclined to believe that he is less than four weeks old. They are able to hop quite high, and you can be sure that he is not flying if he still has any fuzz on him at all. When they start to feather out, they look really mangy and ugly indeed.

    Geese should not be a problem so long as everyone has plenty of room.

    Ducks are usually able to fly at around week 6 or 7. Without knowing just how old he is now, it’s hard to say when he will really be able to fly. Just keep an eye on the wings and feathering our process. It should be fairly clear to you when he is ready. I’m so glad to see what good care you are taking of this little guy. So often people who buy them for Easter just give up and release them into a park or the wild. Sadly, they don’t realize that they are almost certainly dooming the duck to death. Thank you for doing the right thing.

  75. @Marissa,

    Please do bring both ducks to your friend’s home rather than releasing the mallard into the park. Ducks that are released into parks usually have very short life spans because people feed then bread which is very unhealthy for them… They will be much better off on a farm where they are fed a proper diet.

    Sexing ducks is tricky when they are young. Vent sexing is the only sure way, but it’s risky if you don’t know what you are doing. The best way is to wait until about week 5 when they get their voices. Males have a raspy “whrack” voice while females have a loud “quack”.

  76. @Stacy,

    This page gets about 100 reads a day this time of year, so there will certainly be someone who is interested. I do NOT share e-mail addresses unless explicitly asked to do so, but with your permission, I can ask that people leave a comment here if they are interested, and I will provide them with your e-mail address. Let me know.

  77. @Amanda,

    It sounds like they have a pretty good spot right now. Just make sure they have something to walk on that is not slippery. They will develop leg problems if they slip around a lot when they walk. Hopefully you have a light on them now. They will need supplemental heat for the first few weeks. After that, you can start slowly taking it away for a few hours at first, and then longer as they become used to not having it. The same is true with respect to moving them outside. Start with a few hours, and then longer until you pick a nice warm night to leave them out for good.

  78. Cliff,

    That would be great…..I’m not sure what luck I will have at hatching. It got very cold here this week and they have not yet started sitting. I will try to candle them a couple weeks after they start to sit and weed out any that don’t look viable. These are also all 1st time clutches…one of the hens has laid 32 eggs so far in her nest and there seems to be no end in sight. I’ve heard that can happen the first year as they aren’t always sure of exactly what they are supposed to be doing.


  79. @Stacy

    That is a truly amazing amount of eggs. Sadly, there is no way she could hope to ever hatch that many, but she certainly seems to be on a mission.

    The only reason to ever candle an egg is when you are hatching them yourself. The mother duck will simply roll the eggs that are not viable out of her nest once she is certain of it. I have no idea how the hens know when an egg is not viable, but they certainly seem to. It might be a good idea to collect the ones she rolls out of her nest though so that animals don’t get used to finding food around the duck nest.

    Hens don’t start to sit on their nests until they are satisfied that they have laid enough eggs. Certainly 32 seems like enough, so I would suspect that she will start sitting on them soon. They do this so that they will all hatch on the same day. Once they start sitting, it is advisable to leave the eggs alone as much as possible because the hen has a system of rotating them to ensure that they are warmed evenly. If you do decide to candle one of her eggs, try to make sure you put it back into the nest pretty much as you found it.

    Please keep us update on the progress… I’m amazed at how many eggs she has laid!

  80. Hi, I was wondering if I could get some advice. A mallard hen recently hatched 12 little ducklings in my backyard. She built a nest in one of our bushes. I see them running around the backyard all during the day, but one of poor ducklings has died already. I have been leaving them some chick starter and a water pan.

    I’m often not there during the day to observe them, but when I leave for work in the morning the mother is often gone. She will usually come back after awhile though I think. My question is should I be leaving them food and water? Maybe a small kiddie pool so the mother can take them swimming? Or should I just let them be? I really don’t know much at all about raising ducklings so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  81. Hi,

    How old should ducklings be before introducing them to an existing flock of older ducks? I currently have a drake with five ducks in a pen, but I bought 7 more female ducklings that I would like to add to the flock. My concern is less about fighting, more about mating behavior with my drake. I’m just worried that the drake will hurt them trying to mate with them.

    Thanks in advance!

  82. Hi Jeff,

    Both Cliff and I are of the same mind on handling wild ducks and ducklings. The hens know what they are doing and they are best left alone. Just as you wouldn’t try to raise a fawn that may be resting in your yard, you shouldn’t interfere with the ducks. (In some states there are laws that forbid doing so.)

    But that said, I imagine that the pan of food and tray of water have been very helpful. Please just be sure to feed non-medicated chick starter, as the medicated food can poison the ducklings. I would caution against putting out a kiddie pool, because if the hen isn’t around to assist, the ducklings may drown or catch a chill if not dried off quickly enough.

    I think you’re on the right track, and I’m sure that they are a delight to watch.

  83. Hello,
    I work at the hard rock hotel and casino in las vegas & some mallards hatched at the pool i guess this week sometime. Well we are kicking off our pool party series & they could not stay at the casino so a friend of mine took all 12 of them home. I have a couple of them myself. I have to admit i dont know a lot about ducks, but i am reading a lot the last few days. You guys have a lot of information here with this chat site, good stuff. Here is my question, do i need to keep them out of the water completely since they do not have a mother to put on the oil to waterproof them. They seem to be so happy in the water. i have been feeding them finely chopped veggies(dark leafy greens) & some fruits, along with some dried worms & whatever else my 5 year old catches in our yard or garden. I have them in a very large kiddie pool, the blowup kind, its large enough for me to sit in, i have it slanted a bit so the water goes to one side so they can swim & up in one corner i have it raised with some straw & grass clippings for bedding that stays dry. I also take them out of the pool a few times a day to rest in a large bin with a towel & a heatlamp so they can stay warm. Am i doing it right, any help would be appreciated. Also how well do the do in the heat…i do live in vegas. Am i going to need to bring them in for the summer? Thanks again & im looking forward to any response…Bob

  84. Hi Bob,

    Cliff is away on a diving trip right now, but I will do my best to answer you now and hope that Cliff will fill any gaps when he returns.

    It sounds like you are doing everything right: great diet, water to play in, dry area in which to warm up. You didn’t specify, is the pool inside or outside? If it is inside, you may consider coming up with some method to shine the heat lamp onto part of the hay in the pool. Without a hen around to oil them, it is important that they can dry off easily when they do get out of the water. The heat lamp can assist with this, when you aren’t around to dry them off. Just make sure that if they do want to be on dry land, that they can get away from the heat if they become too hot.

    Are they easily able to get out of the water when they wish? Please be certain that they can get out, as to prevent exhaustion and the risk drowning.

    As far as keeping them outside in the heat of summer, I’m not sure about that. Cliff is originally from Reno, and when we were visiting last winter, I was amazed to see all the mallards and Canadian geese, but I don’t know if they stick around year-round. I would imagine that if outside during the summer months, your ducks would need cover from the sun and plenty of water to drink and swim in that wouldn’t evaporate. (But I’ll let Cliff answer this one more fully.)

    Hope that helps. Have fun with your ducklings!

  85. Hi Jen.

    I’m not sure the answer to your question, and will leave it to Cliff to answer when he returns from his vacation. Please check back in another week.

  86. Well i have bad news, for some reason, one of the babies died this morning, very fast. It was fine last night, acting normal & this morning when i went to check on them, one was normal & one was laying there. He was just lieng there. He was breathing but no life. I know they went through something horrible by being caught, taken away from the mom. But why would would one flourish & one just die?? He was great for 3 days, not one hint of a problem….here is what i think happened. One..maybey just the experience & the trauma of being taken & all of that was too much for him & it caught up with him…or two…he got cold while he was in the pool swimming around & caught a cold or something. He was fine last night & then bam…but mother nature has her own way of doing things…so here is what im doing to prevent another death….less time in the pool, more time under heatlamp…see if that works…

    heres the answers to your questions courtney.
    The pool is outside, its 90 degrees outside so honestly i didnt think they could get very cold out in that. The bin i have the heatlamp on has enough room for them to move out of the heat. Yes the pool is very easy to get out of. I have it slanted a bit and i layed a bandana on the slope so its not slippery, they get out with no problem. thanks for all of your help. I called my friend & she is giving me more ducklings as i do not want the one to be by itself as i know they do not do well alone, so i will have a few more today for company, sorry for the bad news. I tried to do everything i could.

  87. We have a mama duck who has laid eggs in a shrub in our front yard. We don’t know how long she has been sitting on them, but once we discovered she was there, we keep our dachshunds in the backyard.

    Now, for the problem…we have cats in the neighborhood. We’ve managed to chase them away when we see them, the duck squawks like crazy, but we both work during the day and don’t know what will happen when the eggs hatch.

    I really don’t want to come home and find that the cats have gotten some of the babies.

    Do you have any suggestions at all. We live just down the street from a lake too.

    Can we move the nest after the babies are born? Like put it up on our deck? It is about 15 ft off the ground, but they would be safe from the cats.

  88. Courtney,

    Thanks for all the past advise and her’s another question for you. I have 4 mallard pairs each separated in thier own enclosures due to the fighting males. I am going to be out of town when the first clutch hatches. Are the males aggressive towards the ducklings? Will the hatching of the ducklings cause the males to be less aggressive towards each other. They were all so happy when they were together (So were we!)

    Thanks Again,

  89. Hi Cliff thought I’d let you know our drake never came home but our mama had her ducklings this morning. Going to keep one of the siblings and hope to fine a good home for the rest. Thanks

  90. @Bob crome

    I’m sorry to hear that the one duckling died… Hopefully the other(s) are doing well. I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply.

    My first inclination is that, while the ducklings have a very good diet of natural foods, it may be incomplete. Worms, greens, etc are very important, but you might think about supplementing a chick starter with no medication to ensure the ducklings are getting all the vitamins, etc they need.

    There are also a few pathogens that aggressively kill ducklings, so perhaps stress weakened this little guy’s immune system and one of these took hold. If this was the case, nothing other than medication (either antibiotics or anti-protozoans) could have saved him. Chances are, we will never know.

    I would say that in the Las Vegas daytime, you run more of a risk of them getting too hot than too cold, but the desert nights tend to get cool, so a heat lamp would still be a good idea. Try to set it up in such a way that they can get under it if they are cold, but can easily get away from it if they are hot. They should be walking around, acting normally. If they are huddled under the head lamp, they are too cold. If they are panting and trying to stay away from it, they are too hot.

    Swimming is certainly OK, but like Courtney said, it is very important that the water is not deeper than their legs will allow them to stand up in and that they are easily able to get out when they want. Since there is no mother to oil them, they will be wet, but that’s not a big problem so long as they are able to get warm… Again, just try to watch their behavior and you should know if they are too cold or hot.

    My biggest suggestion would be to use a high quality, unmedicated chick starter in addition to the treats you bring to them from the garden. This will ensure that they get absolutely everything they need to grow up strong and healthy.

  91. @Jen,

    It sounds like you have a very good Drake to Duck ratio, so everything should be fine. I would still wait until the new ones are fully feathered out before introducing them to your existing flock. Still, you may try it and simply watch the behavior. Everything might just work out fine. The general rule is that older ducks will pick on younger ducks until they are large and strong enough to defend themselves. After that, the younger ones may start picking on the older ones. Still, with that many ducks to drakes, you should not see any aggression. As far as mating trauma goes, I would not worry. There are more than enough ducks to keep your drake busy.

  92. @Julie,

    Once the ducklings hatch, the mother will take them to the lake within the first few days. The cats will most certainly be a problem though, so we will have to find a way to address that. Many times, people will take chicken wire and build an enclosure around the nesting mother. If you do this, you will have to make sure that she has food and water, along with enough space to stretch her legs from time to time. Moving the nest is not really a good option, since you run a pretty good chance of her abandoning it.

    You can get as fancy as you like, but it does seem like some protection might be in order. Would it be possible to build a simple protective chicken wire fence?

  93. @Julie,

    If you do fence them in, please make sure to remove the protection the day after the ducklings hatch. The mothers don’t waste much time getting them to the water once they hatch.

  94. @Stacy,

    Many times the males will be aggressive towards the ducklings, but sometimes they are not. It really depends on the male himself.

    Once the hens start sitting on their nests, the males usually all get together to start “loafing”. You might leave each hen in her own enclosure and put all the males together to see how they do. Chances are they won’t fight if they don’t have access to hens. This way there would be no chance of the drakes hurting the ducklings.

  95. @Ann,

    I’m sorry to hear that your drake never came home. He must have found a nice, big lake somewhere and decided to set up shop. Hopefully he is OK.

    Good luck with raising your new little one.

  96. What a great find. This is a great resource for information for novices like me. I found a duckling in the gutter of the median of a busy street. After a near miss with my car, I went back to rescue it. There are a few ponds in the area so I took him back there to see if I could find a parent. None was there and there were other animals I figured would harm the little guy so I took him home. He is currently pretty happy. We moved him into our old turtle tank with a lamp, newspaper, feed and water. He’s probably about three weeks now (he still had his cord attached when I found him three weeks ago so he had to be pretty young then). I take him swimming every night in the wheelbarrel. He follows me around like I’m the mom. It’s really cute but I am pretty sure he is as hooked on me as I am on him. We live in a small yard where I am not ever sure if zoning allows pet ducks. Soon I feel he will need to be moved outside. I’ve learned about the set up well from the site. He is about to get too big for the tank so I will start construction… A few questions: How do you keep the duck from pooping in the drinking water. I use a small dish and put a mug inside to limit the space available but he/she manages to do it at least every other day. Don’t want disentary. Second: Will the duck (mallard we think) be happy as a single child? He likes interacting with us more than I ever thought he would (I pick him up and rub his neck and he will just sit in my hand- although getting a bit more fisty lately). Will he be okay by himself? Do I need to get another duckling? Does it have to be the same age? Do I just wait until he/she decides to go out in the world and hope it returns with a mate?
    Thanks for your all your great info!

  97. Cliff,

    One of my hens eggs were to hatch on mother’s day…..I had heard them inside the eggs making noise and tapping on the shells from the inside. Several had actually cracked the shells. None of the ducklings hatched and the hen started laying new eggs. I removed all the old eggs. Any idea why the ducklings did not hatch? I have 4 more hens sitting on nests so hopefully they will have better success. I had attempted to incubate some eggs last year and had the same result. Out of 8 eggs 1 hatched and several others were trying to peck thier way out but never made it.

    The second problem…..As mentioned in an earlier post, I have 2 hens in one enclosure with plenty of room for more than one nest. They laid over 40 eggs between them in the same nest. I removed some of the oldest eggs and separated the rest into 2 separate corners of their house which is approximately 4′ by 4′. 1 of the hens started sitting on one of the nests 2 weeks ago. The second hen started sitting on her nest a couple days ago. The problem is….they have rolled all the eggs into one nest and they are both sitting on the eggs, partially laying on top of each other. I candled the eggs and easily determined which eggs were which. I moved them again but they rolled them all back together. They get along and they don’t seem bothered by each other but now I have some eggs in the nest which will hatch well before others. After the first set of eggs hatch will the second hen continue to sit on the remaining eggs? Will the hens want to fight over the first ducklings? Any suggestions would be great!!


  98. Cliff,
    Those darn ducks. They hatched on Monday night (5/12) around 6:00 pm, all eleven eggs. The cats turned out to not be a problem after all because our neighbors, bless their hearts, kept them in the house until the ducks were gone.
    I skipped work the next day just so I could be home when they decided to take that walk to the lake. Every hour I faithfully checked to make sure they were okay and I gave her food and water. My husband got home at 2:30, I showed him the babies and then at 3:15 we were leaving the house. When I went to make a final check, they were gone! Just like that! No goodbye, no picture, no thank you. There is one lake close by and one very small pond. I don’t know which one they went to, but sure hope they all made it. How soon will they be out on the water with the parent ducks?
    By the way, love your website. I learned so much from it. Thank you.
    Hope you enjoyed your vacation.!! Julie

  99. @Amy,

    I’m glad you were able to rescue the little guy… It’s generally not a good idea to take ducklings from the wild, but it sounds like rescuing him was the only thing you could do to save him since he was on the busy road.

    There is absolutely no way to prevent ducks from pooping in their drinking water. They poop where they poop, and that’s that. The good news is that they usually don’t get sick from it. Simply change the water daily or when it looks dirty and the little guy will be fine. When our ducks can’t go down to our large pond in the winter, they have a kiddie pool to swim in. It never fails… They get into it, poop, and then drink the water. Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, but they don’t seem to mind, and they have always been healthy. Just try to keep it as clean as you can within reason.

    Generally ducks like to be around other ducks, but in some cases they are OK by themselves provided they get enough interaction with people. The general rule is that they are social and like to interact with other living things. This can be a friendly dog, goat, rabbit, person, etc. They just like company. If you think you can give him enough attention, I think he should be fine. I would not suggest adding another duck of a vastly different age since aggression can be a real problem with ducks. Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

  100. @Stacy,

    It’s very hard to say why so many eggs didn’t hatch. There are a million variables that go into a hatching egg (genetics, temperature, humidity, etc). Sometimes new mothers don’t get it quite right the first year.

    It is very odd that the hens rolled all the eggs into one nest. With so many eggs in one nest, many will fail to hatch, and there is, of course, the problem of them hatching at different times. Most likely is that you have one very very broody hen that wants all the eggs for herself. If you could separate the eggs and then hens in such a way that they would have to sit on their own eggs, it would be best, but you could always just let them hatch as they will and see what happens. Worst case, you have eggs that don’t hatch.

  101. @Julie,

    I’m sorry you didn’t get the see all the ducklings as they made their way off. It’s always so funny to watch all those little ducklings follow their mother. I’m very glad that they had you to watch over them and keep them safe. Even though they didn’t say goodbye, I’m sure the mother appreciated your kindness very much.

  102. A few days ago, we awoke to find a mother duck and nine ducklings in our swimming pool! They all seem relatively healthy, and we’ve been leaving chick starter for them, but ultimately they can’t stay here, and we don’t live especially close to a pond or a lake.

    What would be the best thing to do?

  103. Hi,
    A few weeks ago a Mallard Hen laid a clutch of eggs by a pond near to our home (Wales in the UK) and sadly a week later we found her dead nearby. We brought the eggs home and put them under our broody hen (we don’t have any cockerels so no fertilised eggs. Quite a few of the eggs have disappeared (probably rats)and we didn’t really expect any eggs to hatch as we thought the mother had been dead too long but on Monday one of the last 2 eggs hatched and much to our surprise and to the mother hen’s surprise a duckling emerged. She is drinking water and happily riding on the hen’s back (who is very happy to be a surrogate mother) but she doesn’t seem to be eating much. We have tried dampened chick starter and also egg yolk. She scratches around in the straw probably copying the hens. I would like to know how much she needs to eat – she is about 3 days old. Thank you.

    • Hi,

      My kids found a mallard ducklng 3 days ago and we think he is now around 5 days old.He has been healthy and vibrant. We are feeding him duck starter and nothing else. This morning however he is lethargic . Do you have any idea what is going on?

      Thank you for your time

  104. To our surprise our hen has built another nest and she has laid one egg so far. She looks like she has more in her. Could they possibly be fertile since you know we have no drake since April. She is still taking care of the ducklings that hatch last month. Thanks

  105. We have a hen that made a nest next to our house and about a foot from our driveway, she is hidden behind some flowers, the only pond near our house is over a half mile away. How long after the eggs hatch do they leave. We are wondering if we need to put a fence up along driveway to direct them to a safer place to cross our driveway on their way to the pond? Do they need any food or water after they are hatched, I don’t want to keep them around any longer then nessesary, but want to give them a fighting chance to get to the pond. Also we have a skunk and a opposum cut up the driveway at night, will this cause any problems to the ducks?

  106. I found a baby duck about 2 days ago and i don’t exactly know how to raise it. Please help me.

  107. Need help – our 4th grade science class has hatched mallard ducklings – the majority of them are fine. There is one that needed help out of the egg – the teacher helped it – it was doing fine but is significantly smaller than the others. Now the duckling appears to have labored breathing – not breathing through the beak but through his mouth – he will move around a bit on the ground and in the water – he eats a bit and will drink some water. I can hear him peeping. He only has 1 eye as the other never seemed to have formed – I’m mostly concerned about his breathing – any suggestions on what could be going with this little guy. I’m willing to keep him until he is strong enough to move out to the farm with his siblings. Any ideas would be more than welcomed.

  108. @Angela,

    They should leave on their own. If they don’t, just cover up the pool as a way to encourage them.

  109. @Sally,

    Ducklings don’t really eat much for the first few days… Give it a little time, and the duckling should start gobbling down chick starter pretty fast. Just make sure it’s not medicated because it’s been known to poison ducklings.

  110. @Ann,

    Provided there has not been a drake around her I really doubt that they could be fertile. Once hens get broody, they tend to stay that way… If you remove the eggs and take down the nest, she will eventually give up.

  111. @Don,

    How much you want to help is really up to you. Some people build elaborate structures around nesting hens to keep them safe, but by and large, the mothers usually know what they are doing and will make every effort to get their ducklings safely to water. That said, nature is cruel and skunks, etc can and do cause problems. If you do decide to build a fence or protection, please make sure it won’t trap everyone inside. The hen needs to get away from her nest every now and then to remain healthy.

  112. @Sean,

    The most important thing to do is keep them warm. After that, they need water and special unmediated chick starter food. Everything you need should be available at your local farm supply store. Most common questions have been answered in this series of comments. Give them a read through and let me know if you have any other questions.

  113. @Penny,

    What you have is called a helpout. These are birds that are not strong enough to get out of their egg for one reason or another. Most people agree that helping ducklings out of their eggs is a bad idea because they are often deformed or otherwise limited in such a way that makes them easily prone to predators. Nearly everyone agrees that helpouts should be marked and NOT allowed to breed because their chicks will be decidedly weaker than those coming from stronger breeding stock.

    Still, it’s very hard not to help the little guys out when they are in an incubator. It’s a lot easier when you let the mothers hatch the eggs because you can’t see the struggle and you don’t know until the duckling has failed to hatch and died. Because of this, helpouts are fairly common. Assuming the others don’t pick on it too much and it is kept on a farm and given food and protection from predators, it should be fine. From the sounds of things he is behaving normally by eating and drinking. Just keep him warm and dry so that he can build up his strength. If the others start picking on him, you may have to separate them. The eye deformity should make identification fairly easy, but you may think about notching the webbing on its feet as an added way of identification to prevent breeding. Simply cut a little “V” into the webbing using sharp scissors. Others prefer to use a little hole punch. Just try to avoid any veins if you choose to do this, and don’t do it until the duckling is nice and strong.

  114. @ Cliff
    I have a mother Muscovey in my backyard as I’m typing this smashing her own eggs and carrying them to my pool and dropping them in! It’s so sad because there are babies in them (not yolk). The whole nest is smashed, thre is blood and some of the poor things are peeping. What would make a mother duck do this to her own eggs??

  115. @Cliff (cont’d)
    and now she is eating them, while floating around my pool. Not just the shells but the remains of the ducklings. I’ve never seen this ever before and we’ve had muscoveys laying in our yard yard for years. She’s canabalizing her own young!

  116. Cliff, great site! We live at the beach and we recently found 5 ducklings swimming around in our pool. We haven’t seen any sign of the mother and it’s been about 3 days. I made them a little ramp to get out of the pool and they seem to be doing alright. I think they must be at lest a few weeks old. They’ve been eating things around the yard and I gave them some grahm cracker crumbs. What do you suggest I do with them?

  117. Hello
    what a fantastic site, thank you!!!
    We are currently raising 6 orphans – mother mallard sadly no more after crossing main road and meeting cars, 2 babies were stuck in road drain, 4 very scared in middle of road, at just a few days old. We have so far been successful and they are starting to change their feathers, are swimming on the large pond at day, diving and feeding well. We guess they are about 3 weeks old now. They’ve had all the correct feed, heat lamp, in at night etc, and when old enough if they stay wild they will hopefully go to the lake at the bottom of the hill, or to a friends farm with her ducks where dinner is provided! Id love them to stay here but realistically we dont have pond space for 6 (some will argue we have pleanty but we like them to have LOTS of room) We live in england, they have a covered over pen for when we are out,with box of hay etc in and small pond but when we are home they go out into a huge open pen and pond (has wire edges to keep cats out etc) I was wondering, how old are they before you can safely know which are males and females other than by quack? am I right in thinking its a minimum of 2 months before they are near fledging? (have done this in past but cant remember!) Thank you, fantastic site

  118. hello again, sorry, also wanted to check, how old they should be before moving to sleeping in coup outdoors at night? (currently sleep in spare room but we have a proper professionally made coup ready for them outside by their pen,but there is a ‘difference of opinion’ as to when they should go outside!!!

  119. HI! I am so very impressed with your knowledge and helpful advice! On June 11th we found a baby mallard in our garage. The mother was no where to be found. We have been using all your suggestions the heat lamp, chick starter, a kiddie swimming pool etc. Every morning I take it out for a breakfast of pill bugs (which seem to be his/her favorite) The duckling is beginning to get feathers. I am not sure if it is oiling itself yet- Does that happen only after all the feathers have come in? I am hoping that the duck will fly off as soon as it is able. However,I am afraid that it has been imprinted and thinks that we are its family. He sits on the deck and looks in the door wall when we are not outside with it! How long does the duckling eat the chicken starter and when should I provide cracked corn for the duckling? We are committed to help this little creature grow up- thanks for all advice!

  120. we befriended 2 baby ducks this spring, kept them for a couple of months fed them the best food available from the local feed supply store, all of the slick feathers had come in and they were starting to “test” thier wings, we were careful NOT to handle or “pet” them as we wanted them to return as close to the river where they were found, unfortuneatly last night one was attacked by a raccoon, the survivor was very spooked most of the day, I kept her pen covered to keep her calm, we drove all over the bird preserve near our home and saw a couple of other females nearby and made the decision to free her, since everything I have read says they don’t do well alone, now I am trying to comfort my children and not worry about her. Do you think she has a chance??? we watched her for quite a while she hid at the waters edge for a while, then checked her wings, skidding along the top of the pond and began feeding all along the pond edge, weaving in and out of the tall grass… I am really crossing my fingers, we all loooove ducks here, but I told my kids “she’s a wild duck” not meant to be with us… we are just helping her since her mommy is gone…I hope I was right…

    LOVE your story photos and feedback.. excellent

  121. Hi, great site, learning a lot.

    I have a question–we have had a mallard hen nesting in the greenery around our pond for about 4 weeks. Typical cycle that I’ve read about, I assume she has been sitting on a nest after having watched her with a drake for several weeks prior to this last four. I usually have seen her about twice a day to get up, swim, eat, preen–and then she flys back into the greenery, into the same spot.

    Change last night: at 3 am, I heard her quacking incessantly. This continued until about 5 am–then she went back on the nest. She has been on and off the nest all day for short periods, quacking toward her nesting spot and seeming very irritated. She eventually stops and flies back onto her nest.

    Does it sound like she lost her nest? Is she irritated because something took her babies?

    I’m not going to look and disturb her, I just wondered what typical behavior is if a hen loses her nest.

    Thanks. I’m really worried!

  122. My kids are in 4-H and decided to raise a mallard pair since last spring for one of their projuects. We are experiencing our 1st hatching. 11 out of 12 eggs hatched just 3 days ago. Today I found one dead and about 6 of them were swimming in their water dish, but soaked! The mom appeared frantic because the 6 couldn’t get out of the water. (I’m wondering if she sat on the one in her frenzy?) I helped to dry the soaked 6 and watched them dry themselves while in the sun until they were dry again. I have since placed a shallow water dish in the cage. Today I have also noticed that the drake (father) is plucking at the ducklings. Does he need to be separated from the rest of the family? (He is for now!) When can the ducklings go to a new home? Do they need to be separated from their parents, and when? Does the runt need any special attention? Thanks so much! I am new to your site & already have learned alot from reading everyone’s concerns, especially since I am “duckling sitting” while my kids are out of town on a 4-H trip!!! Great timimg!

  123. I’m looking for 5 ducklings or ducks for my small pond. I’ve had 6 Cayuooga ducks that have one by one been taken by a night predator, and have only one left and he seems so lonely. I’d like to try mallards or something that could fly out of harm’s way, (or learn of a trick to get them off of the pond and into their coop at night.). I live in Northern Vermont and would be happy to travel about an hour to pick some ducklings up.

  124. @Marta

    I’m very sorry, but I don’t think I can be of much use with this problem. I’ve never heard of a hen behaving that way, but I agree that it is very sad. I also don’t have any experience with Muscovey ducks.

  125. @Brendan,

    Well, it’s pretty much up to you. If you have not seen the mother in three days, it would seem that you are the proud new father of these ducklings. Building them a ramp was the right thing to do. Other than that, you will want to feed them game bird starter crumble, keeping things like crackers, etc to a minimum. Make sure they have plenty of water.

    The most important thing, assuming you plan to release them is this: DO NOT LET THEM IMPRINT. This means spending absolutely as little time with them as you can. Once they are about 5 weeks old, you can gather them up and take them to a place that has ducks. Usually a park or wild marsh. Ducks are flocking birds, and yearlings require other ducks to show them how to migrate.

    Best of luck.

  126. @spikey,

    Sounds like you are doing everything correctly. When they start to get their voice can vary somewhat, but it will usually be before they reach 8 weeks. Mine tend to get their voice around the 5 to 6 week period. It’s often funny to watch them scare themselves with their first quack.

  127. @Suzie,

    I’m sorry to say that if the duck is standing around, looking in your windows, you have indeed imprinted on him. This is not a bad thing, but you will either be stuck with him as a pet, or have a heartbreaking situation when trying to part with him.

    Ducklings can go off starter and onto pellets at about the three week mark. I have gone as long as 5 weeks, just to be safe, but it’s surprising how soon they can start eating pellets.

    Best of luck.

  128. @Ginny,

    I think your duck may well have a chance if it is nearly able to fly. Ducks are fairly safe provided they have a large body of water, and it should have all the food it needed. It’s a good sign that it did not try to follow you away, so I will be crossing my fingers for you and your duck.

  129. @maryann,

    It is almost certain that something disturbed her nest, and most likely ate some, if not all of her eggs. Broody hens are very temperamental and get irritated easily, but will usually remain quiet provided nothing is upsetting their nests. Hopefully some of the eggs are still intact… You are right, however, not to interfere. It’s hard to leave these things be, but it really is the best thing to do.

  130. @Sharon,

    Most likely the duckling that died was chilled from becoming too wet. This has happened to me before and it is very sad. Strangely, the mother does not seem to know to warm them sometimes. Most likely, she was busy trying to get her other ducklings out of the water. This is why it is always important to provide ducklings with a ramp out of the water. Letting them dry themselves in the sun was the right thing to do.

    Drakes that pick on ducklings is fairly common in captivity. They are competing for the attention of the hen, which he will have no chance of getting while she is broody. Generally it is a good idea to remove him from the newly born family. I seem to have the only drake in the world who does not pick on ducklings… It really is quite common.

    When the ducklings can go to a new home depends on the type of home they are going to. If they are going to a farm or somewhere where they will have care, they can go as soon as they are dry from hatching. They will, of course need brooding, etc. If they are going to a place where they will be expected to fend for themselves, 5 weeks is really the minimum, with 8 weeks being preferable.

    Your runt should not require any special attention, so long is he is getting plenty of food and water.

  131. @Joe,

    I would love to give you some ducklings… I had some this Spring, but they have already been given away. Sadly, I will no longer be a source for VT ducklings because I am moving to CA next month.

    I HIGHLY recommend Dave Holderead’s waterfowl farm as a source for healthy ducks, both adult and chick. Otherwise, Guy’s Farm and Yard can order ducklings in the Spring.


    I am in the process of moving from Vermont to California. I will do my best to answer questions as they come up, but it may be several weeks before I am able to sit down and type up answers.

    There are many questions and answers here already, and the the information that is already up should be able to cover most questions. I know it’s a lot to go through, but please read the existing content before asking new questions.

    I’m more than happy to help, but it’s a very busy time for me right now and it will be hard to give your questions the attention they deserve.

    Furthermore, if anyone out there is an experienced duck keeper, please feel free to jump in and help folks out.

  133. Cliff,
    Thank you so much for your insight! We have already separated the drake from the babies. He had started to pick on yet another baby when the whole family was in the yard, and then the mother picked on this same baby. Any other suggestions other than moving that baby away from them both? Will she continue to pick on another baby? Should we keep all of them separated from both adults? Is this normal for the mother to be aggressive with her own baby too?
    Good luck with your cross country move!

  134. Hey i have a question, i have pekin ducks as pets and was wondering if you could email me back with an answer to my question. Can you tell when your duck is going to lay eggs? and How long do they carry the eggs before they lay them?

    if you could get back to me about this matter i would greatly appricate it
    thank you

  135. Question
    We have Mallard Duck that is a year old and has been thriving.
    This morning went our and he was limping. He was missing a digit and the area is swollen.
    What do we need to do???

  136. just an FYI on waterfowl facts, anyone can contact their local audabon(sp) sociaty and they can provide resue information or basic tips, also here in the NW they actually have a bird hospital, resue, rehab for birds open 7 days a week. but they will help you on the phone as well. They do have a wesite, just FYI

    since the “duck man” is relocating

  137. We have acquired 4 ducks 2 males and 2 females and one of the females has laid about fourteen eggs roughly 3 weeks ago but we started to notice that each day they were less and less eggs finally last night my husband counted only 5 left. We live on a ranch and suspect either snakes or racoons. So he brought the last 5 inside and put them under a heat lamp, did he do the right thing? What do we do now? He turns them every 4 hours and sprinkles them with water. One appears to be black is this viable? Should we wash these eggs because something smells bad! Please help my husband is attached to the idea of ducklings.

  138. Hi, I have a male mallard, I’ve had him since he was a baby, and he is about 8 months old now. I realize they are very social ducks and need other ducks to interact with. I was wondering if it’s too late to get another one? I understand the males are pretty aggressive and I don’t want to start an endless fight between 2 males. Would it be better to get a female? Or just a duckling? I hope it isn’t too late to get a friend for him, I’m afraid it is though. Would releasing him to a pond with other mallards be a bad idea?

    Thank you sir.

  139. @Sharon,

    I wish I had all the answers to duck aggression… I really do, they these crazy birds are really strange sometimes. I have to say, however, that a mother picking on her babies is very strange indeed. I wish I could provide advice, but I have honestly never heard of a way to control aggression other than separation. Many people with large flocks, suffer losses because birds are so badly picked on that they just die. Perhaps this is a survival of the fittest thing in the duck world.

    Please to let me (and everyone who reads this site) know if you are able to find anything that works. I would be greatly interested.

  140. @ Mary

    I do not email answers to questions because then, it would be only you who benefits from the information. If I post it here, everyone can read the answers, and join in on the discussion. I would like this thread to evolve from a site where I give advice to readers, to one where everyone feels that they can share their experiences and all learn from each other. As much as I would like to have all the answers, I do not. Together, however, we can share, learn, and hopefully find the answers we seek.

    So, to answer your question. Ducks (hens) lay eggs every Spring. They do not so much carry around a bunch of eggs, but rather make them one by one. It’s a process. Completed eggs pop out at the end while new eggs start being made at the front. You can think of this as an assembly line inside the hen’s body. During this time, the duck needs extra calcium to sustain the egg production process.

  141. @ Martha,

    Most likely this duck has developed bumblefoot, which is basically an infection. The only way to treat this is with antibiotics which you can get from your vet. You will need to be very dedicated and keep everything as clean as possible while the bird heals.

    Causes of this condition include:
    Dirty pens
    Hard dirt floors
    Waling on wire
    Walking on sharp stones
    Very dry skin on the feet
    And pretty much anything that could cause a primary cut in the duck’s feet.

  142. @Ginny,

    Thanks for pointing readers to this resource. Life has been crazy, and it’s been hard to keep up with these questions.

  143. @Andrew,

    Ducks like to have others around, but it does not always have to be another duck. If you spend enough time with him, it will have the same effect. Sometimes ducks even buddy up with goats or horses. They just like interaction. I would not get another duck at this point. See how it goes and if he seems really lonely or unhappy, you may want to order an adult hen as a buddy. I suggest Holderread Waterfowl Farm as a great source for healthy adult birds.

  144. I have about 30 mallard ducks and love them? Question is….I had several clutches this spring and one of the hens “stole” most of the ducklings from the other mothers (They didn’t seem to mind). 1 of the hens continued trying to hatch a clutch well into Oct. and here in Nebraska that is just unaceptable. When I found her nest I destroyed it promplty. She and her mate have remained together and she only recently stopped laying eggs. (About 1 week ago) her feathers are dull colored and she gets wet in the water and with the cold weather, she shivers and appears miserable. I have her back in the duck pen with her mate (he’s also the only drake who has not yet molted and gotten his bright green head) with a heat lamp. Will she eventually begin to oil up since she is not laying any longer? I am concerned she will get wet and freeze this winter. Has her internal clock gotten messed up and will it right itself? I hope it will. My ducks love the pond and they seem so sad when I keep them penned up. Especially since the others are permitted to fly back and forth as they please.


  145. Cliff: Great blog. I hope you have auggestions. We have been raising Mallards for about 3 years now. One set lasted over 2 years we loved them, and baby ducks, however many did not survive. But over the past year our luck has been bad. We raised 4 last spring, set them out to our pond after about 6 weeks of raising them indoors. One by one they disappeared. We finally got them to go in at night(enclosed area with food), but if we did not get home right at dusk one would be missing. Sometimes they will go in on their own but often not. We took in a few more ducks to keep the sole duck company, but they slowly disappear too. We are now down to one lonely female. We have no idea what is killing them. They literally disappear without a trace. We put a fake man by our pond to hopefully scare off predators, but no avail. I hate to quit raising ducks they are my love but I cannot stand this loss. I don’t know if you have any ideas or what the predator is so we could better protect them. Someone told us hawks or eagles.
    Thanks, Joan

  146. Joan,

    This is my second year raising ducks and right now I have 25 mallards. This has also happened to me and the likely culprit is an owl. Once they find an easy target they will be back night after night until you put them in at dark or until they’ve eaten them all! The owl will eat the entire duck. We rarely see the evidence until we find owl “poop” containing duck feathers around the house.
    I have found most other predators will leave behind some indication that they have killled your ducks.

    Good Luck and try to keep them coming in at night. Mine like to stay out too but it’s at their own risk!!


  147. Thanks Stacy. OMG! That makes so much sense. In fact, one of the things we did too was put a fake owl out in the yard thinking it would scare other predators away! HA! Well, since I wrote this last blog, one of our drakes returned(must have freaked and flew off seeing its siblings attacked). So we have one drake and one female. We have decided much to their chagrin that on days when we know we will not be home before dark they have to stay locked up in their secure pen. ( I think we will take our owl down too). Joan

  148. We have two mallard ducks – one female and one male. Our duck started laying eggs – it is winter in CT :(. So far she has laid 6 eggs but now we can only find 4. What could have happened to them? No other animal could have gotten inside. She is in a hut and has built two nests – two eggs are in each nest. She keeps rolling her eggs out and hiding them in the hay – is this normal? When will she start sitting on the eggs? How long should we give her before we removing the unhatched eggs? She has been laying one every night for the last 6 nights. What are the eggs chances of hatching?

  149. Michelle,  I hope I can answer some of your questions. After your hen is done laying her egss, she will sit on them for 28 days. Our hen did this last year in late fall. I am sorry to say but the ducklings didn’t make it. I think it was to cold. We waited till she abandon the nest and remove the eggs. I think you will have to wait and see which nest she sits on. Ducks seem to know when there is something wrong with their eggs

    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for jumping in, and great job on your answer to Michelle’s question! I’ve been working on getting this site setup with threaded comments which will make answering people questions a lot easier to read. It’s been keeping me busy, so thanks again for your help.

    • Kind of… We are renting a place right in the middle of town, so there was no real way we could keep them here. My parents, however, have a few acres near Reno, so they are fostering them until we can sell our house in Vermont and buy something out this way. I built them a nice duck coup that is 10X16, with a 6X4 enclosure for the night time. It has buried wire, and has already stood up to a coyote attack… He tried to dig under it in several places, but stopped each time he hit barrier.Courtney sent them out via Express Mail in a Horizons MicroClimate certified box, and they made the overnight flight just fine. My Mom loves animals and is spoiling them rotten. We went to visit over the holidays and now they follow her around instead of me. She actually buys them fresh blueberries every week!

  150. Hello!

    About 4 years ago, I picked up 3 mallard ducklings and brought them home from the feed store with my normal box of spring chicks.

    Two of the ducklings grew into beautiful, full sized mallard ladies and were amazing layers. The third, however, grew to only about half their size. But she too was an amazing layer and laid tiny eggs that could not have been cuter. I fell madly in love with her.

    I mentioned her size to the bird person at the feed store all the birds were from about a year later. The woman told me I must have picked up two regular mallards and one from the mini-mallard tub. Since then I’ve searched high and low for these so-called “mini-mallards” to no avail.

    I’m starting to think the woman was pulling my chain.

    Anyone know anything about mini-mallards?

    • Hi Lydia,

      Without seeing them, it’s hard to say, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you got two domestic type Mallard ducks and one “true flying” Mallard.

      It turns out that there are actually a lot of Mallard type ducks. In fact, I’ve read that all domestic ducks, except the Muscovy are derived from the Mallard. The Rouen, for example, has feathers just like a Mallard, but is nearly the size of a goose!

      Since, as you have noticed, Mallards are such excellent layers, people have domesticated them over the years. Those people wishing to raise birds for meat have tended to pair larger birds with each other in an attempt to get more food out of one bird. This tendency has resulted in a domestic Mallard that is a great deal larger than its wild counterpart.

      I’m going to guess that the two larger ducks do not fly, while the smaller one does. I have never heard of a mini Mallard as such, but the “true flying” Mallard is a fair amount smaller than most of the domestic Mallards I have seen.

      Since most feed stores will sell you domestic Mallards, you generally need to go to a specialist breeder to get the true flying Mallard. I get all of my birds from Dave Holderread, and have found him to be an excellent source for healthy birds that are true to breed.

  151. hello Cliff ,I have two baby mallards and 150 by 100 foot pond how would be the best way to keep them save with out having to pen then up every night , a friend told me to build a floting platform in the water with a little house stuffed with hay in it .waht do you think Thanks Brett Roberson

    • Your friend is exactly right. A floating pond with a house is your best bet. Just make sure it has an entrance on both sides. If something does get in there, the ducks can run out the other side to the safety of the water.

  152. Cliff,
    First of all i wanted to thank you for taking so much of your time to answer every question that is posted here! Reading this site has been so helpful for my research about getting a duckling. So far I have taken care of 4 one week old ducks for a week or two each just to get a taste of what it will be like, and I honestly think that a duck will be a great companion for me during college and for coming years. The only question that I have not been able to get answered is where to get my duckling. I would like one baby mallard and do not care if it is male or female. I do realize that ducks are very social animals and am also curious as to whether or not it is okay to expect it to just be social we me and other humans or if I need to get two so it has a duck friend. I am looking for ducks in the metro area of MN and have called a few specialty pet shops and feed and farm supply stores with no luck. Thanks for your help – Bailey

  153. Hi Cliff,
    Well its that time of the year! Our hen is setting on her eggs, looks like around Easter tihs year. Last year we waited till the ducklings could fly before we gave them a good home. This year we would like to fine them a home earlier. My question is how old should the ducklings be for someone else to raise them?

    • Hi Ann,

      The answer really depends on how prepared the adopting family is to take care of the ducklings. If they understand brooding and realize that they need to supply a heat lamp, brooder, game bird starter crumble, etc, they can be adopted within a few days of hatching. In fact, hatcheries usually ship their birds out one or two days after they hatch, and before they start eating and drinking.

      I tend to like to get the ducklings eating and drinking before adopting them out, but if I feel their new family is capable, I have let them go as early as one week old. If, on the other hand, the adopting family does not have any experience with raising chicks or ducklings, I would not let them go any earlier than 5 weeks.

      I hope this helps. I’m glad to hear things are going well :)

  154. dear Cliff,Thank you so much for your time. I have raised two baby mallards for four weeks now in a pin out by my pond but when i let them out they play in the watwer untill they notice me gone the run back up to my house do you any way to keep them out by the pond.I took you advice and built a floating island for then with a shed on it , thank you so much for your time,Brett

    • Hi Brett,

      So the first thing a duckling does when it leaves the nest is follow its mother to the nearest body of water. It is in this act of following that the mother “imprints” on the duckling and it comes to recognize her as its mother. When we allow ducklings to follow us, we imprint on them as well, and they seek safety with us as if we were their mother.

      As the duckling grows older, the instinct to follow you wherever you go will fade somewhat, but it will always see you as a care giver and a safe refuge. At four weeks old, it is certainly understandable that the ducklings will still want to remain close to you. I would expect to see this behavior remain strong until about 6 weeks, when they should start to become a little more independent.

      The best thing you can do to get them comfortable being away from you is to hang out with them at the pond until they get so distracted that they don’t notice you leave. They will still run up to the house, but again, this should fade with time.

      Good luck,

  155. Ok, my mom and I are looking into raising ducks and letting them free into our river. We need to know how to take care of them, and when we should let them go. any ideas?

    • Hi Maggie,

      A lot of people get ducklings with the intent to raise them and set them free when they are old enough. What they don’t realize is that ducks raised by people become tame and won’t leave on their own. What’s worse, when these birds are taken to a body of water and dropped off, they don’t know how to stay away from predators, and are usually killed fairly quickly.

      I am not trying to discourage you from raising ducks. They make great pets if they are cared for properly, but if you get ducklings, you should expect to care for them for at least 8 years. That said, farm and garden stores usually order chickens in the Spring. They can usually add a few ducklings for you with their order.

  156. Hi! We have nest of 14 eggs in the front yard of our suburban neighborhood. There is no pond or water with in 1/2 mile of our location. I am quite worried that after the chick hatch they won’t survive. Any tips or guideline for us to follow? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Jane,

      Just give the hen some space so it will be quiet and peaceful for her. Too much commotion and you risk her abandoning her nest. If you are in a suburban area, you biggest worry is cats and dogs. They generally won’t hurt the mother, but the ducklings are another matter, so you may want to warn you neighbors to keep their animals in for the next 28 days. It’s always tempting, but the worst thing you can do is interfere with her. She knows what she is doing, and provided there is no busy roads, etc, she should have no trouble marching the ducklings 1/2 mile to the nearest water a day or so after they hatch. A lot of people seem to enjoy following the ducks to the water, which seems like fun to me. It also gives you the change to ensure that they make it safely.

      Basically, just keep an eye on them, and try to keep predators away as best you can. Try to keep your distance and don’t get too close to the hen as they are temperamental when they are sitting on a nets.

      There is never any guarantee. Nature can be cruel, but with your watchful eye and the hen’s care, those ducklings stand a pretty goo chance of making it.

    • HI Cliff~ Thanks for the response…on a sad note Mother Nature did come into play…a red fox was seen in the neighborhood and the news isnt good.. all 14 eggs and Mama duck are gone. We were all devestated but understand how the food chain works. We are hoping thta Mama duck was able to escape the attack and maybe will come back next year to nest in our yard.

      • I’m sorry to hear that. Ducks have a lot of babies so they can sustain their population despite their being pretty low on the food chain. Usually a mother will fly away when it becomes clear that she can’t save her babies, so hopefully this is what she did, and you will see her again next year.

  157. how do you know what a female or male mallard or farm yellow duck with a orange beak looks like at 5 or 6 weeks and what colors are their feathers when molting and getting their adult feathers with both ducks and how can you tell a male and female chickens apart at 5 or 6 weeks what will the chicks look like when older do tractor supply’s carry baby boy and female chicks if so please call me at 5360010 it is april 10th 2008 on friday call me at 12:00am on a saturday this weekend or the next coming weekend on friday – saturday waiting for you bye please tell me.

  158. Hi Cliff,
    We have been having wild drakes landing across the street, which is a large field with puddles. Our drake keeps going over there with them. He has also flown away with them. We have been lucky this time, this drake has come home. My question is this normal for drakes to band together while hens are sitting on eggs

    • Hi Ann,

      Yes, it is actually called loafing believe it or not. Drakes band together to “loaf” in groups while the hens sit on the eggs. Most likely your ducks won’t fly away with the other drakes, but you never know. The only way to be sure is to pen them up.

  159. A mother duck laid 8 eggs next to our pool, we have been keeping an eye on her and everything was going well. I was gone yesterday and when I went and looked this morning there was a broken egg on the cement, a glanced at the nest and mom was gone! I waited a while and she did not come so I peeked in the nest and there were ants everywhere. One egg had a little beak poking out and was swarmed with ants. I removed it from the nest so that maybe the unshelled eggs would have a change when I noticed that just barely the beak was moving! So the duck was alive, but being it seemed to be being eaten by the ants. I made a makeshift nest out of leaves away from the ant filled nest and put the chick in it. The chick i now more than 1/2 out of the shell but still no sign of mom.
    What should I do??

    • ALex,

      This is a tough situation, and I regret to say that the duckling does not stand much of a chance without its mother. If you want to save it, you will have to warm it up quickly. A clean box with a 100 watt lightbulb shining on the duckling can help. The trick is to warm him up, but not to overheat him. Use your best judgment. A duck’s body temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so its body should feel warm to your touch.

  160. Hello,
    I got 6 mallard ducklings for my son to raise two weeks ago. They are approx. 2.5 weeks old. We have a farm but don’t live on it. It has 3 large ponds. We also have a small farm pond where we live. I am wandering when the ducklings are old enough to go out and get some sunshine and fresh air. We are keeping them in our basement at the present time. Also, will they fly away when they get older? What do you suggest for housing for them, I am so worried something will happen to them. We would be devastated. We love them so much. Coyotes are a big problem around here. Should we let them go free at the farm, or try to keep them around here at our home and put them up in the evening? I’m not sure if they would even go to a pen in the evening. We are just dreading turning them loose. We want them to have freedom, but don’t want them to get hurt. Sorry for all the questions!! Thanks so much!

    • It’s really a balancing act. There is no doubt they will be happiest at the farm with multiple ponds to choose from. There is also no doubt that they would be safest at your house where you would lock them up at night. The reality is that wild ducks get killed by predators. Domestic ducks that are asked to live like wild ducks are even more likely to be killed by predators because they have not learned how to be safe from their mothers. That said, many people have had good luck letting their ducks run free at their farms. There is no magic bullet for duck safety, but if you want them to be absolutely safe, you will have to lock them up at night.

      If you read through these comments I have described the construction and design of a duckyard. These are usually your best bet.

  161. I recently purchased 6 mallard ducklings and all seemed to be going well until one day i noticed that one of them stopped using his feet. they’re curled under and he can’t stand on them. they don’t feel broken but i’m not sure what to do. advice would be much appreciated!

    • Leah,

      This is most likely a dietary problem. What have you been feeding them? Are they standing on a surface that is slippery? If so this could be the problem? Does the duckling have trouble moving its head around? If this is the case, botulism may be the cause. I would need more information about diet and living conditions to really help formulate an idea about what is going on here.

  162. How can I tell if the ducklings hatched and mother took them away quickly or something ate them?

    • If the ducklings had hatched, you would see pieces of egg around. If an animal killed them, it’s hard to say. Sometimes there are a lot of feathers, other times there is no trace at all.

  163. We recently discovered a mallard on her nest under a tree in our yard. We are unsure how long it’s been there. She’s been seen across our court with her mate in the mornings for a bit. There are ten eggs. This morning I saw her with her mate across the court again and took the opportunity to peek in the nest….all eggs are broken, maybe half are outside the nest, but there are no ducklings in site. I watched the mother and as she was about to cross the street to come back a third duck arrived and they all flew off togther rather quickly. I hope the ducklings hatched and were moved but i fear something ate them before they hatched. How soon would she move them? She was in the nest at 9PM and I noticed all this at 6AM.

    • Most likely, something did raid the nest. This is not that uncommon sadly. The mother will keep her ducklings in the nest for a little more than 24 hours after they hatch. During this time, they dry off and get strong enough to make the journey to the nearest body of water. Had she taken them away, you can be sure that she would be with them and not hanging around with other ducks. Sorry. I know it’s very sad when this kind of thing happens.

  164. Cliff,

    I’m glad to see you are back up and running. My flock of 20 mallards is doing great! they are finally enjoying their large pond yet have remained very tame and friendly. Problem: One of my drakes was obviously accosted by some type of predator. He is missing the webbing between 2 of his toes and his leg appears swollen. He is not walking on it at all and it seem to be very painfull. He is still eating and drinking just fine and otherwise healthy. I would like to give him an antibiotic because I fear he will get an infection which may be his demise. Do you know of any I can pick up that are safe for ducks? Most I find are for chickens, etc. and I an unsure if they will work. I called a local vet but they needed an apointment to see him first and the antibiotic they would provide was in excess of $50. I want him to have the best chance but don’t want to invest quite so much in him. They are pretty much free range and I occassionaly loose one to a predator and would hate to invest a large amount of money only to loose him shortly after. He is isolated with his own food and water in a comfortable pen at the moment. Any advise?

    • Without seeing the foot, it is hard to say, but I would start by making sure his housing is spotless. Clean it twice a day if you can, and give him something soft to walk on. Secondly, soak his foot in Epsom salts twice daily. After you take his foot out of the Epsom salt bath, dry it and treat it with a generic hand lotion. Generally, antibiotics are best, but you are right; they are expensive. If the chicken antibiotic is topical, it is probably OK to use. If it is in the food, you have to be very careful. It is not that chicken antibiotics are incompatible with ducks, but rather that ducks eat quite a lot more than chickens and end up overdosing. Since I am not a vet, I can’t officially advise you. That said, if it were my duck, I would start by checking to see if the leg is broken. If so, he really does need to see a vet, or at least have it splinted. Beyond that, I would start with the clean housing, Epsom salts and hand lotion, and keep a VERY close eye out for infection. If I saw red inflammation, or other signs of infection, he would get a course of 5 .5cc Baytril injections. Once every day for 3 days, then Once every other day for 2 days. This is, of course, pretty much vet territory unless you have experience with intramuscular injections.

  165. I saw a mother mallard get killed and I caught 4 of the ducklings to save them from the busy road. If I take them over to this nice park with a large number of different kind of ducks and geese will they survive. I don’t have any place to keep them

    • The short answer is no, they will not survive. I would either take them to the humane society or try to find a wild bird rehabilitation center in your area. The humane society is most likely the best place to start. Fish and Wildlife might also be able to help you find someone who could take them in.

  166. Thanks for the advise. I had put him in a cage by himself and am trying to keep it as clean as possible…….You have ducks, not an easy task!! I washed his foot last evening with warm soapy water which he seemed to appreciate, treated it with some hydrogen peroxide and then put triple antibiotic ointment on it. I grabbed some inexpensive antibiotic powder for his water. I will pick up some epsom salts today and try that as well. I don’t think anything is broken because he didn’t seem to mind me manipulating it at all he just doesn’t want to put any weight on it. I’ll let you know how he comes out. On a side note, in the midst of this problem, I noticed one of my drakes has a prolapsed penis….Yuck!! Have you delt with this before? I’ve read what I can about it and it seems it will probably be fatal. Any suggestions for this problem? I’ve had my ducks for 2 years now and no problem…..Guess when it rains it does pour.

    • Sounds like you are doing a great job doctoring this duck’s foot. Hopefully everything will work out for the best.

      I have never had to deal with a prolapsed penis, but until you can observe it more than once or twice, don’t get too worried. It’s mating season, and you may have just caught him with his pants down, so to speak. :) Hopefully this is all that is going on. If, in fact it is a prolapsed penis, you will just want to try to keep him as clean and well hydrated as possible to prevent infection. I have read that they can sometimes get it back in on their own.

      Good luck

  167. I got 2 baby mallards for my son. I was told they were 1 day old on April 1st. They are almost a month old now. They both are getting molted colored feathers in and was wondering if this means they are females? If not how can I tell/ sex them? We bought a kiddie pool for them to swim in and are going to build a yard for them. I have them in a tote at night in the house and in a octangular dog fence during the day outside. At what age can they have something other than start and grow. I noticed today that one ate a cricket. Is this ok and should I buy them some? Thanks.

    • The only practical way to sex a duckling is to wait until its voice changes. They all get mottled colored at this age, so it’s really not an indication. Vent sexing is difficult and traumatic for the bird, so I don’t recommend it unless you have had someone show you how to do it before.

      It sounds like you are keeping them very safe. I’m sure they appreciate this. They can actually go on a maintainer diet any time now. Just check with your feed store to make sure it’s safe for ducks. You will find that they eat all kinds of things during the course of the day. Crickets, beetles, slugs, etc. I would not bother buying any for them. They get everything they need from you grower / maintainer diet that you feed them, so go ahead and let them hunt around for food on their own, but don’t go broke trying to buy them their favorite snacks… They will find enough on their own.

      Good luck

  168. I have horses and am thinking about putting them in a stall at night. At what age should they start flying??

  169. Ducks and horses tend to get along fine. I think putting them in the stall at night is a great idea! They should start flying at five or six weeks.

  170. ok soo my foods technology class is incubating 3 mallard duck eggs .. i wil be the one taking them home after they are born my question is when do i start feeding them when do i let them have water … and how do i set up an enclosure for them inside my house perferably cheap and what should be inside the enclosure and what do i use as far as a fake pond for them to swim in .. also i have a man made lake in my back yard theres tons of mallards out there what age shoulld i let them go

    • Hi Brittany,

      What you will want to setup for them is called a brooder. It is basically a box with a heat lamp, drinker, bedding and feeder. Your local farm supply store can set you up with the bedding, heater, drinker and feeder, but you will need to supply the box. I have used a kiddie pool, but you will need to build up the walls with cardboard so they can’t jump out. Shavings or straw works pretty well for bedding.

      Pretty much anything works for a fake pond. At first you will want to start small, then move up to larger containers of water. Just make sure they can always get out if they want. You may find that your bathtub us perfect for occasional swimming practice.

      If you plan to let them go, spend absolutely as little time with them as possible. You want to make sure you don’t imprint on them and make them too tame. I would not let them go before they can fly (6 or 7 weeks old). Please read some of the other comments on releasing. Sometimes there are better options like giving them to a person who has a farm, and will be willing to take care of them.

  171. Thank you for getting back to me. I’m going to move them out of my kitchen this weekend and into the barn. The weather here in Ga. is getting warmer at night. We are also going to build some kind of coup for them also.

  172. Cliff,

    Wow…….what a week! The duck with the injured foot is slowly getting better. Doesn’t look infected and is now trying to use it a bit. The other duck was a much bigger problem. His prolapse did not retract and for 6 days it was washed, neosporined and pushed back in twice daily only to come back out. The tissue started looking very red ans swollen and after much reading I found he would likely die, unless…….It was cut off. Yes, cut off. It was very distressing for all but we did cut it. He seemed to feel better almost immediately. Walking around quacking and eating. I read he needs to be segregated from the other ducks for the rest of the season so he doesn’t get “excited” buy the hens and add to his problem. The things you do for ducks!!!!! You gotta love um.


    • Stacy,

      WOW! Thank you so much for sharing! I had never heard of cutting off a prolapsed penis, but I’m really happy to hear that it was successful and that he is doing better. Thanks again for sharing your story. This is exactly what I have been hoping would happen with these threads. We can all share our stories and learn from them. Today, you taught me something, and hopefully everyone will be able to benefit from it.

      Also, I’m happy to hear the drake with the injured foot is doing better. Those little guys are pretty resistant to infection, and a little care really does seem to go a long way. Please keep us updated. I have only had to deal with minor foot injuries, and never a prolapse. I’m very interested in hearing how they do!

      Also, would you mind writing up some details of your procedures? The brand of antibiotic powder, the frequency of application, etc. Also, I know it’s a little graphic, but some information about how you performed the castration might be helpful to others as well. Whatever you feel like sharing, but you seem to be doing a wonderful job nursing two very sick ducks back to health, and the more details you can provide, the more it will help others.

      Thanks again!

  173. Cliff,

    The castrated duck is doing great (sounds odd to say huh?) He is back to normal and really wants out with the other ducks but apparently you are supposed to keep them segragated until after breeding season so it heals. I also read that he may well be able to breed again next year. I won’t be using him because it can be a genetic problem.

    As for the procedure it was pretty simple. We just washed the area well with warm soapy water and then swabed it with some alcohol. The tissue is pretty tough and a sharp pair of kitchen shears seemed the best tool. It was cut quickly as close to the body as possible because of the amount of damage. The recomendation was to cut it where the tissue looked normal and healthy.

    I picked up some Duramyacin 10 powder at a local feed store and followed the directions. I basically placed 1 teasoon of the powder in a 1/2 gallon jug of water which is the only water I provide to him at this juncture.
    I am amazed at how well this worked as he seems completely fine now. Now I just keep the area as clean as possible. I will give him the antibiotic powder for about another week and keep him separated. It was not easy to find the information about this procedure. Most all information simply said the duck will die or take it to the vet. There is a surgery that can be performed however it is expensive and is not always successful. From the looks of my result this can easily be done at home if you are comfortable with it.

    The duck with the injured foot is not doing as well as I had hoped. He does not seem quite himself. His outside toe is turning black and it appears the tissue is dead. It does not look infected however and the rest of the foot and leg looks healthy. It is not swollen or hot. I guess I’ll just have to baby him along and hope for the best. Thanks for your help. This website has been very helpful to me the past couple years and hopefully this information will help someone else.


  174. A duck has nested behind one of our bushes near our garage door (where there is a lot of human traffic) I’ve been peering at the eggs every day to check their progress at the times when the mother briefly leaves the nest. Yesterday it didn’t seem she left at all. This morning I saw in in the yard, well away from the nest, so I went to have a peek. Nothing was there!! There were 3 eggs that appeared broken and shriveled up ( I could see sort of a yellow lining) and no evidence of any of the other eggs or any hatchlings. There were none in sight of the mother either. What happened?

    • It sounds like they hatched and she took them to the nearest body of water. The way you described the egg remains is exactly like they are after a hatch.

  175. We recently got 3 mallard ducks and 10 chickens. My ducks seem to actually be afraid of the water and will not go in the pool I have set up for them (they are approximately 6 weeks old) Any advice on how I can get them swimming?

    • Just be patient with them. They will start by dabbling around, and before you know it they will be swimming like camps. You can also use a smaller kiddie pool to get them started.

      • Hi,
        My duck eggs hatched last night and there are five ducklings but we noticed that one was having trouble getting out of his shell so we helped him out but i went back over there a couple hours later and that same duckling was laying there freezing and barely moving… so we brought him home and put him in a shoe box and he’s doing so much better but he seem like he cant lift his own head and its been over 24 hours and hes still not walking please help me…

        • Just keep him warm. Try to make sure he is near or under a light. Your biggest risk is that he will catch pneumonia. He should learn to walk within the next several hours, but keep a close ear out for clicking as he breaths. This is an indication of pneumonia, and he would then need veterinary help. He should be kept under a heat lamp. The body temperature of ducks is slightly higher than our own, so keep that in mind. You want him warm, but not too hot. A 100W light bulb might be better than a full blow heat lamp. Good luck.

  176. I recently got 2 mallards from our local farm store. They told me the mallards would lea ve in the winter and come back in the spring. Since I do not live on the farm in the winter I thought this would be the perfect bird, However in reading the many entries on this site i see they may not necessarily leave in the winter! What can i do to help them be more independant without risking them to predators. What should I build for them to nest in at night after they have their feathers. For now they are in the rabbit hutch and get into he chicken pen to roam. I have a large pond. Please share your thoughts. alexanderfamilyfarms@live.com

    • Making them wild and keeping them safe from predators is somewhat of a contradiction. The more time you spend with them, the more tame they will become and the less likely they will be to leave. The first thing you want to do is make sure you actually have flying mallards. Many mallards have been developed to be large, and thus, can’t fly. You will just need to wait to see if they can fly. Obviously, if they can’t they are not going to leave.

      In the event that they are flying mallards, they will usually leave when there is no longer food or water, though if they are tame, they may wait around too long, and not have the energy to make such a long flight. Basically, you will want to let them be and treat them as wild birds.

      • We have one mallard that we have had since before easter, their were two, one left and now what do we do about winter coming. Do we try to keep this on, or take it to a lake where there are other ducks? We have a small pond and a pool that he likes. He likes people, at least our family of 8.

  177. Thaks so much Cliff! 2 of them actually started using the pool ALOT this weekend! It’s one of the 5 ft diameter ones, they were diving and cleaning themselves like crazy! The one still won’t go in but I am going to just give him some more time!

    They actually went out in their duck/chicken coop that was built for them for the first time this weekend (until then they were in a brooder in the basement but they outgrew it) and seem very happy there. We still have the heat lamp in there, at what age do they not need it anymore?

  178. two weeks ago, we watched a mallard hen attempt to cross a 4 lane highway with 9 chicks following her. she was run over and killed, but the chicks managed to get into the brush on the side of the road. We stopped and I managed to grab 5 of them before they got into a drainage ditch. They looked to be less than a week old. I brought them home and fixed them a pen in one of my bathtubs, with a little water at the drain end and chick starter food and a heatlamp at the other end. They’re doing great. Once a day, I fill the tub with about 6 inches of water and sprinkle freshly cut grass into the water and they go crazy, diving and dipping and eating the grass.
    Having them in the tub makes it easy to keep clean, at least for now. I’m wondering how old they need to be, before i can release them at our local pond. We don’t handle them very much at all, and because there’s 5 of them, they tend to cluster together. I want them to have a good chance in the wild, rather than being domesticated. We live in military housing, so we can not keep them. Thanks for your help, in advance!

    • I think you should be safe to let them go when they are about 5 or 6 weeks old. You really just want to make sure that their wing are developed enough for them to fly. What a wonderful thing for you to rescue them! You must be a very kind person :)

  179. I have raised Call Ducks for many years. My Drake is 13 and has out lived two other mates. He has been with his new hen for 8 months and just hatched their first brood. My drake has taken the only two that hatched by the neck and given them a fling. As not to hurt the little ones I decided to raise them inside. Have you heard of such behavior before..I’m lost!

    • Yes. Drakes can get pretty territorial, and they will actually see the ducklings as a threat to their relationship with their mate. You are really best to separate the hen and ducklings from the drake. After a little while, he will forget about them.

  180. Hello,
    We have 5 (now 4) mallard ducks that are 8-9 weeks old. They were fine this morning at 9:00 but at 1:00 this afternoon, one was no longer alive, and one is very sick. The sick duck is staggering around, and does not have good balance. It also seems to be “chilling”. I have a light in their duck box, and it is pretty warm here too. We have kept them up the entire time except to let them play in a baby pool and “graze” everyday. We have taken excellent care of them, change their bedding and water twice a day. Do you have any idea on what could be wrong with them and how to treat them? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • It sounds as if you are taking great care of them. When people mention staggering and other motor control issues, I always suspect botulism. Sadly, if this is the case, the outlook is not good. I would suggest separating the sick duck from the others and giving him a safe, comfortable place. We may never know exactly what is wrong with him, but we may be able to nurse him back to health. Ideally, you would take him to see a vet, but this is a big expense, and it’s up to you if you want to incur it. Can you tell me a little more? How do the sick duck’s eyes look? Are they cloudy? Is there any discharge from its bill?

  181. Hi there, I am stumbling around online trying to find an answer in time – though I know it would be sheer luck to get help here so fast. Here’s my question:

    We have a baby mallard that has fallen into our recessed basement window outside. He’s trying to get out but can’t jump high enough and it’s been 4-5 hours. It’s getting dark now and the mother is nowhere to be seen. I know usually to leave the babies alone, but it will get to 32 degrees tonight. I don’t know how old the baby is, nor do I know if I should leave him alone in this situation. Help? Thanks!

    • At this poing I would say that the mother is not likely to come back. If it is going to get cold tonight, you will need to bring him inside and into a warm space. I would suggest giving him a save, warm box to spend the night in, and calling a wild bird rehabilitation center in the morning.

  182. I would have taken all of them to the vet today, but with it being Saturday, they were closed at noon. I will glady take them on Monday. I am praying for them to be okay. I took the sick duck out of the box from the other ducks and warmed a towel in the dryer, and wrapped her up and held her for most of the day. She seemed to do a little better. She is not 100% though by any means. She still eats well, and drinks well. Her eyes are clear and there is nothing coming from her bill. Do you think she could have a cold? Someone at our local farm supply store suggested we give them duramycin 10 for a few days. Do you think this is appropriate? If so, what is your recommended dosage? i hate that this has happened so bad. I have an 8 year old little boy who has been their main caregiver since we got them. They love him and he loves them. I will do what it takes if I can make her better. Thanks again for all your help. I really appreciate it!

    • I’m glad to hear the little duck is doing a little better. I’m sorry to say that i don’t have any experience with giving ducks any other antibiotics other than Baytril injections. I do know, however, that other folks have had good luck using these types of antibiotics though. Since Duramycin 10 (and others like it) are a soluble powder in the drinking water, the risk with ducklings is always that they will overdose. Most of the dosing information is for chickens, and ducks drink much, MUCH more water than these other types of poultry. They also eat more, which is why we avoid medicated food with ducks. These antibiotics can be used, but you have to go off-label for dosing.

      Let’s take a look at what we do know. Her eyes are clear. This is a very good thing, since with many bad bacterial infections the eyes will become cloudy. There is also no discharge from the bill. Because of this, I’m leaning away from respiratory infection. She does seem to have muscle and motor control issues. If we were dealing with botulism, it is likely that she would not still be with us, so I think we can lean away from that as well.

      Other things that can cause these symptoms:

      Vitamin A deficiency: Ducklings can develop staggering very quickly, so I would suspect this pretty strongly at this point. You can give her fish liver oil or fresh greens to try to bring up the vitamin A levels. Since there is no risk to trying this, it would be a good place to start.

      Niacin deficiency: Usually does not result in stumbling, but can be a cause of leg development issues. Again, greens are a good source of this. I suggest spinach.

      Vitamin D deficiency: Again, no real stumbling, but it can be tied to leg problems. A crushed multivitamin in the water can help.

      At this point, I would suggest cod liver oil mixed with food and lots of greens. If you want to try antibiotics, be very careful! If it is mixed with drinking water, I would not exceed half the recommended dosage for chickens.*

      * I am totally guessing here. I have no scientific basis for suggesting a half dosage other than gut instinct.

  183. Thank you! We got it to a facility this morning and it’s already on it’s way to a rehabilitator in Northern MN with 5 other babies this morning. :)

  184. Hello! I was looking for some information about ducks and flying. When will they begin to start to fly?? I have four ducks. So far we have identified one as a female (?) Pekin and one as a female mallard, the other two–not sure??? They are kept outside in our pond. We did have a pen for them, but they did not use it, so now they roam free. They come when called for dinner or snack time. Needless to say they are well fed and huge!! My question is when will they begin to try and fly? They were hatched March 16th. thanks for any help! Also how do I identify my other two ducks?? Any ideas??

  185. Thank you Cliff for the answer! I will update you in a few weeks, when we attempt to release them! I think it’s wonderful that you have this website and keep answering all the ‘duck’ questions!

  186. heya – thanks cliff for a very informative website!!..i am grieving bec i think i know the answer – i just fight acceptance. i live on a tiny pond. was blessed to watch the whole mating ritual w/2pair of mallards. in the end, one female made a nest on the only tiny island. i watched her for the whole 28days.the ducklings arrived may 12. then? the next day there they all were = a gorgeous sight – 7 beautiful babies. i worried 2 death bec i know of 2 snappers in that pond -1 very large indeed. i also know we have fisher in the woods as i have heard them in the night…i enjoyed the blessing of them. the last time i saw the family was last fri the 15th..horrible sounds of fighting and/or killing went on both friday&saturday in the late night hours…no sign of the family and my heart is broke. my dear 98 yr old grandmother back in new england tells me “maybe they flew off”. they cannot do so at such a young age can they? i feel a sinking feeling in my gut and my heart – they prob met their fate in the sometimes cruel world of the circle of life..i keep going out, searching for maybe a survivor or signs at least of something so i may have closure and accept they are gone..in reading many of your answers – i may never find any remnants, proof of my fears. am i right? thank you so much – you clearly are educated, witty & love nature. God bless you and yours…oh i had already decided for next yr? i need remove and relocate the turtles if i am able (but then there are snakes as well – have seen one) then i thought i ought get a duck hse for the mid. of the pond…but with a fisher et al predators in these mountainous woods – maybe i ought forget all that. what do you think? thanks for your time and for this site. tc and ciao for now.

    • Dusty,

      It is a sad but true fact of life that many baby animals that are born don’t survive. It is for this reason that two adult ducks will often have as many as 18 babies. If all of them survived, the world would soon be overrun by ducks. In nature, it’s a simple numbers game. They hatch more than they need, knowing that many of them will not make it. You are right that such young ducks are not able to fly, but that does not mean they did not leave for another body of water somewhere. We can take comfort in this possibility, but the most likely outcome is that they attacked and at least some of them were killed.

      Snappers can kill babies, but usually not the parents. Snakes are not much of a threat to anything but duck eggs. Your most likely predator is either a raccoon, fisher, weasel or fox. All the other predators together don’t kill as many ducks as these four super-predators. Good luck next year, but take heart that many many ducklings survived this year and will go on to have many more. The circle of life goes on.

  187. Hi: I have read all your advise as zi will be receiving 6 baby ( one day old ) ducks in the mail next week. I have a pond in my backyard and hope to raise them through the summer with hopes of them flying away come August/September. I hope to persuade them back to the pen I have build for their safe keeping at night ( once they are grown) but will they then not want to fly away come Fall? I also have a very sweet boarder collie that i hope will help me with their care and coralling, do you have any ideas how i can train my collie ? She will be very willing ro have a job as caretaker I thibnk!

  188. Hello Mr. Cliff,

    I have a question for you. My husband found 9 baby Mallard ducklings. I would say they are a few weeks old. I’m guessing based on my google searches. I was wondering at what age are they ok to be on their own. My parents live on a nice secluded lake and they would have a great home there. We would supplement their feeding with the type of feed suggested on top of what they would find naturally. What chance of survival would they have? What would you recommend. I would like for them to stay as wild as possible. Thanks so much!

  189. My brother has a 10 week old mallard. It recently has stopped using it’s right leg. It is warm so I imagine there is blood circulating. When I apply pressure or move it around the duck doesn’t seem to be in any kind of pain. There is no evidence of trauma to the leg. We are really at a loss right now, if you have any ideas it would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

    • Does he just stand on one leg, or does he hop around, deliberating trying to avoid using it? For reasons only they know, it’s pretty common for ducks to stand around on one leg. If he’s hopping around, you have a bigger problem though. Do some research on diet. A lack of niacin can be a big problem for a developing duck’s legs.

  190. Hi.
    I live across the street from a river, and today i was walking my dogs down through the river and one of my dogs found a family of mallards (the ducklings having to be only a few days old) and my dog chased the mother away far down the river for a good 5 minutes and that’s when i seen the babies. and my three other dogs were still running around and I was afraid without the mother around to protect them, one of my dogs might grab one of them and hurt it, so i scooped one of them up… but couldn’t catch the other one, but i wanted to get my dogs as far away from them as i could. so i went back to my house and a locked the dogs up, and i went back to the same spot where i found the babies and i put the baby in still water where they were when my dog chased them and i hid away in a bush and waited for about 2 hours to see if the mother would come or at least fly over head. but there was no sign of her. so i walked along the river, and at this point the baby was following me where ever i went. and i seen the other baby floating down the river and still crying desperately for his mom,and the mother had not come back for either of her babies, i couldnt catch the other baby, but the one that was following me, i brought back home with me and then i took her back a second time again too look for her mother, but no sign of her still… i am so afraid to bring the baby back and just leave it as the river is fairly rapid and once they leave the still water they are swept away… how long will the mother be looking for the baby? and is it possible that she isn’t looking for them? there were only two babies that i seen.. could she have just abandoned them after my dog chased her? what should i do with the baby? i will gladly give it a good home with proper care if i must(as i already have baby chicks and i also have duck feed, and a heat lamp) but i would prefer to see the poor baby back with it’s mother.

    • This is the type of question I get more than any other. I actually wrote a FAQ to address it: http://spiralbound.net/2008/05/24/mallard-duck-faq#Q6

      With ducklings, it’s a numbers game. The mother most likely reunited with her other ducklings and wrote the others off as a loss. That said, she may be searching. Walk along the river and spend some time trying to find them. Since the ducklings can’t fly, the mother will likely not have taken them far. Obviously, if you can find them and reunite them, it would be best.

      If you can’t find the family, the next thing I would do is look into your local laws. Many states have laws against raising wild birds, so if that is the case you will need to take the duckling to a licensed wild bird rehabilitator.

      If, by chance, your state does not prohibit you raising this duckling, you will need to remember that if you raise it, you own it. Releasing ducklings that were raised by humans is usually not an option because they have not had the chance to learn to defend themselves from predators.

      The good news is that it sounds like you have the tools to keep the duckling safe and warm while you investigate your options. I’m sorry that I can’t advise you on exactly what to do. Since there may be legal implications, I don’t want to put anyone at risk. Look into your local laws do what you feel is right. If you have questions about brooding, diet or health, I’ll be here to help.

  191. I recently found two baby ducks in my plant. I think they came in a shipment of used corrugated sheets as there is no sign of a mother anywhere.
    I have brought them home and they are in a large lidless box in my garage.
    I have the right feed, water and they swim in a beer cooler daily.
    I love them but I have a friend with a farm that they are going too.
    I think they are only about a week old.
    I want to know how soon is too soon and how late is too late to take them to his farm.
    He does not have other ducks but chickens, lamas, goats.
    Please help me do best by Shellie and Freddie.

    • There is really no such thing as too late, but you want to wait until they have started to feather out so they will be able to stay warm outside.

  192. Thank you for your help but two weeks ago Shellie died and two weeks later, today Freddie died.
    I think they were sick to begin with but Freddie had become very close with me and I am hugely saddened today.
    He looked at me with the “I was his mother look” and then he crawled up to my hair with his last breaths.(to go under like he did every night when watching tv). I was devastated because he appeared to know me even when he died.
    Could they have been ill from birth?
    Shellie was dead when we returned from a night out and showed no signs of illness prior. Freddie was great last night and this morning but appeared to have a cold for about a week. He was not himself early this morning at 8:00 am and then he died around 9:30 am?
    If anyone has any abandoned baby ducks I would like to still care for one and may be of assistance if you feel perhaps nuisanced by finding them.
    Is it normal to love a duck so much and to be so saddened?

      • cliff i live in southwest harbor, maine and work property manager in a development. as part of my beautificatlon process i have added a pond and would like to raise ducks in a coop nearby. I have read most of your responses on this page and learned alot but was curious as to what i could plant along this newly created pond that would be an excellent part of these ducklings future diet?

      • cliff i live in southwest harbor main and am property manager in a development. as part of my beutificatlon process i have added a pond and would like to raise ducks in a coop nearby. Ii have read most of your responses on this page but was curious as to what i could plant along this newly created pond that would be an excellent part of these ducklings future diet?

  193. Hi Cliff,
    This past spring our hen had 4 ducklings,minus one to a very aggressive drake. We were able to fine them a good home.. Our hen then had 6 more duckllings, minus one to a hawk. We were able to fine a home for 3. We have kept the drake separated from the ducklings. They are now 3 weeks old and he still is aggressive towards them. I am hoping to fine these ducklings a home soon,but might have to wait till they can fly. My question is when will this drake stope being so aggressive to these ducklings? Thanks

  194. Once the ducklings have hatched, what does the mother do with the egg shells? I just recently found a nest with 7 eggs in it and then when I returned from being gone for a couple of days, the nest was empty with no remains at all of the eggs or ducklings. Thanks

  195. Hi Cliff – This may be more of a wildlife behavioral question, but I hope you can help me better understand what happened today. Outside my home, I saw a mom and her 5 older ducklings (5-6 weeks old) attack a mom and her 2 young ducklings (about 1 week old). When the larger group was able to separate the mom from one of her young ducklings, a number of the larger ducklings and mom attacked the young duckling, biting the back of her neck and pushing her under water. The other mom left with her one duckling, perhaps because she was outnumbered and didn’t want to lose them both. I went out and was able to separate the older ducklings and mom from the young duckling, but they didn’t want to give up, they kept coming back for her. The young duckling made it to land, but had difficulty walking and its head was tilted to one side. I took her to the SPCA, but I think that she had died shortly after reaching land.

    I’ve seen both groups in the same area before, without incident. What might have set this off today? Was it a territorial thing – protecting a feeding spot? A Drake sometimes swims with the mom with the older ducklings and he was there today – was there perhaps some issue with the moms over him?

    • Believe it or not, this is mating behavior. Drakes can be very aggressive and will result to all kinds of things in order to mate with a hen (including attacking the ducklings). They probably didn’t look like drakes because they had molted and not yet grown in their fall plumage.

      • Thanks. I am a little surprised, especially that a mom would assist her drakes in this way to find a mate. I wasn’t sure why the attack happened, but it was clear that this hen and her older ducklings intended to kill this one week old duckling. They did not appear at all happy that this duckling had made it to land and that I happened to be there. The attacking hen and one of her ducklings swam up to where I was sitting, stared at me for a few moments and then finally left.

        These 2 broods swim about the same circular route to feed and yesterday I saw the other hen and her one surviving duckling swim way out of their way to avoid this brood that attacked her. The duckling was glued to her mom’s side.

        If these 2 broods cross paths again, is it likely that this brood will try to kill this last surviving duckling?

  196. Our female malard duck just hached four of her eggs, the male has taken two of the ducklings out of the nest and tried to harm them. Why is this? Also why won’t the mother take them bach to the nest. I am afraid to put them back in the nest. They are getting cold and are huddled together. What should I do?

  197. How ironic that it was only 2 nights ago that I stumbled across your website and was amazed at the amount of information? Unfortunately last night one of our ducks became the victim of a raccoon attack. We live in the city and our blessed with a larger than usual yard and our pair of ducks have become quite a spectacle to our neighbors, children and friends. I would have never imagined that we would be awakened in the wee hours of the morning to such a horrific sounding attack. We didn’t lose her but she has a cut or bite on the left side of her head and another on the absolute center of her back between her two wings she has a large wound where the flesh is exposed. She is now walking with a limp and has lost her luster. Not surprising since her traumatic experience happened less than 16 hours ago. She is drinking water and eating a little, but she passed up the dozen crickets that we dropped into her pool. Guilt has set in and foolishness as well for thinking that our ducks were immune to predators just because we are within the city limits. Obviously they will both be pinned up in the evenings from now on, but my question to you is there any vitamins that I should consider due to her loss of appetite? We have placed Bacitracin Zinc on her open wounds, but I am afraid that the “human” ointment may harm her. Is there anything else that you could recommend to heal her a little quicker lessening her chances of infection? Honestly, I am afraid she may not pull through and I am not sure how my daughter, who is vacationing, will take this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jamie,

      I’m sorry to hear about your duck. Raccoons are known as the super predator for a reason. They have opposable thumbs and they are not afraid of people. Between them and weasels, it’s amazing we are able to keep ducks at all.

      I’ll be pulling for your wounded hen. Ducks are pretty hardy, so a clean, quiet place to recover is probably the best medicine. A pool where she can take the weight off her wounded leg might also be a good idea. Bacitracin Zinc should be fine, but if you notice the wounds looking red and inflamed it’s time for an injectable antibiotic like Baytril. You vet should be able to provide you with this medication and instructions on administrating it should it become necessary. Generally, ducks seem pretty resistant to infection, so clean housing is really the key.

      As far as vitamins go, I would not really worry about it unless she ends up going many weeks with a diminished apatite. Your major concern here is getting food and water into her so that she does not loose her energy or become dehydrated. Some fresh greens or berries may also help improve her apatite.

      Good luck… Please let me know how it goes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  198. Cliff, I have been raising 5 wild mallards hatched from a nest. They are now 9 weeks old. My goal was to care for them unitl they could fly and migrate in fall…although I am prepared to care for them forever. We bulilt them a beautiful secure home and I thought I would open the door during the day soon and “herd” them back in at night. But, they don’t much like me and I am afraid once I open the door I won’t ever get them back in. We have tons of raccoons……….Do you have any suggestions as to how to get them back in at night? When would be a good time to let them go? Migration doesn’t start in Wisconsin until the middle of September.

    I would love to see if they come back to this area assuming anyone actually gets the chance to migrate. Can you recommend any leg bands? Thanx.

    • Getting ducks in at night can be tricky, especially if they have not gotten into the habit from a young age. Most of the time you can get them in by feeding them in there. Start putting their food closer and closer to the enclosure until it is finally inside.

      As far as migration goes, you will just have to wait and see. Usually ducks won’t migrate unless they have wild ducks to show them the way on their first year.

  199. I have had to baby ducklings that were “trapped” in my in ground pool in early June. That is when we discovered them. I say “trapped” because at the time the pool had this “contraption” over it (a bunch of two by fours stretched across it lengthwise and widthwise covered with utility fence). There was no way for the mother duck to get them. I’m not sure how they got there since I never seen a mother duck anywhere. My husband and I took spent an entire Saturday taking this contraption off the pool so that the mother could rescue them. However, they remain in the pool to this day (August 9th, 2009). No mother to rescue them. They were eating the insects in the pool (we never intended on using the pool anyway since the liner is falling off). The ducks are clearly mallard ducks and seem to be males. Their heads have not yet turned green but definitely can see the green coming through. They stay together at all times. My dog is curious, however he’s afraid of the water and the ducks know this so when he jumps in the pool they go to the deep end and rest in the water. We, at first, were feeding them bread because we didn’t believe there was enough stuff in the pool to keep them fed. Then we decided that bread might not be the best diet for them so we went out and bought some corn meal. The ducks will eat from my teenage daughters hand but take off as soon as they grab the food from her. She also leaves piles of corn meal daily for them. We want to tear out the pool before the cold weather sets in, however, the ducks will not leave the pool! When, if ever, will they learn to fly from the pool? Today we discovered, that they are even eating the toads that have found their way into the pool! This evening we noticed a mouse in the pool and are hoping they will catch that and eat it as well! Wil these ducks ever learn to fly on their own? Is it possible that they are too far down the side of the pool to fly out? The water sits about 3 to 4 feet below the edge of the pool.

    • If they are all feathered out and green is starting to com in, they certainly don’t interact with a mother any more. By all accounts they should be able to fly out, but for a variety of reasons they don’t seem to be able to. In any case, a diet of corn meal, bread, etc is terrible for them, and you really want to get them out of the pool. I suggest building a ramp so that they can swim up to it ans walk out. If you can determine that they are able to leave and just sticking around, please stop feeding them. Ducks are like me… They eat junk food first and it’s terrible for them. They really need to be foraging for their own food.

  200. Thank you for you words of wisdom. I am getting closie to trying to let them go. I think you are right …I thought If I only left food in their enclosure, if they are hungrey they would have to come back for it. My husband’s corn will be done in several weeks so maybe I will wait until then. I’ve enjoyed every moment of caring for them…I hate to have it end.

  201. Dusty…………you should buld that duck nest and try agian. Ducks are wonderful creatures and watching them is such a joy. If you have a pond and an island I think you can do this. I know eveyone will not survive but those hat do…and there will be some…will thrill your heart!

  202. HI Cliff,

    The cornmeal is from the farm animal feed store. They said it would be good for them. At least I think it is cornmeal, I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time. There has been a ramp for them to leave the pool, however, they will not use the ramp to get out of the pool. They seem to be quite content in the pool. I, however, would like them out of the pool so I can tear down the liner, fill in the hole and get rid of the pool all together. At least for a year or two when I can afford to put another smaller pool in. They do eat and fend for themselves for the most part, we just leave whatever the feed store told us to buy for them once per day and it is a small amount considering how big the ducks are getting. They eat bugs, weeds that are growing from the bottom of the pool and toads and mice that are also in the bottom of the pool. Also, upon closer look and research I think they may be female as opposed to male. I don’t see the green, however, my daughter thinks she sees green and my husband says he sees green. I just see black with black bill not yellow. And since I live in the suburbs of a large city (Detroit) I can’t seem to locate anybody that can or will come and fetch them out. So, do you know what the best way would be to get them out of the pool?

  203. Hello again Cliff! My mallard hen has been laying eggs at the rate of one egg per day. She is up to eight eggs now. My question is, is it okay if I move her nest to another location? The site she has chosen is very close to my neighbor’s fence, and they have dogs that would like nothing more than to have a duck lunch. The ducklings would be small enough to wander over through the fence.

    I would like to move the nest, but am concerned that the hen would abandon the eggs. Do you have any experience with this?

  204. Cliff, I opened the gate to the duck yard on Sunday and all six mallards flew off. I was heartbroken….but 5 returned by that evening. Number 6 never came back. All 5 flew off on Monday and then returned. On Tuesday all 5 flew off and 4 returned. On Wednesday the 4 flew off and only 1 returned. He was back almost immediately. He flew off this morning but he is already back. I feel sorry for him being all alone. It is a rainy nasty day in Wisconsin today. Each day that they were free thy roamed the yard for awhile. Following me if I was outside but eventually they walked back into their yard into their kiddie pool and settled back in! I loved seeing them in the yard and it would be nice if sevcral stayed. Although I don’t know who I could get to watch them when I am gone. So, this is very bittersweet.

    • I’ve heard of this happening, but honestly, it’s never happened to me. It seems that the hens are the most likely to leave, and then, those that are wild are even more likely. Hopefully they will join up with some other ducks and migrate. Who knows you may see them again next summer.

  205. Hi,um okay so I’ve had a duckling since he was about 4 days old,I thinks hes like two1/2 months now. I use to keep him in a cage but my parents made me put him outside. I made this area for him and at first he seemed pretty okay,but my brother he has a dog. Who also stays outside. There’s been two times the dogs gone in the ducks area,luckly he’s okay. The second one happened this morning when I went to go check on him, since then my duck doesn’t really seem happy some of his feathers are missing and when I try to play with him like right now he just kinda stands there with his head down. I’m worried.

    • Sounds like he may be sick. Give him a safe, quiet place and hopefully he will recover. I trust you are feeding him a proper diet and giving him plenty of water?

    • Bella, stay away from chicken scratch for now. He is too young to handle the chemicals they put on it for chickens. Feed him meat bird feed with some cracked corn.

  206. I have a set of mallards and they just started mateing this weekend and they are 6 months old,is she going to lay eggs now?

  207. I have a mallard cross drake that came up lame this past week (appears bilaterally). I have seperated him from the rest of the group (but let him have a buddy with him to keep him from getting epressed). He does not seem to be getting better though. He can stand up for a few seconds and then falls forward. Upon trying to get back up his legs tremble and he cannot get them under him. Any ideas?

    • Have you examined the lbad leg to see if it is broken or not? How much energy does the drake seem to have. Generally, bad legs can be fixed by letting them sit in the water, but if he is low on energy and can’t stand up, he may have an internal infection or a virus. Good luck, and let me know how it’s going.

  208. He has a lot of energy and responds positively to my husband and the other ducks that are with him. When he gets his legs under him he can stand up on them and walk slow; but if he tries to run he falls over and cannot seem to get the legs under him. he does somewhat crawl all over though and uses his wings to help balance himself. He legs do not appear to be broken and to the touch the look and feel normal. I am wondering if he spranged or tore something?

    • Have you looked at the bottom of his bad foot? Does it look like it has a sore on it? Staph infections can happen and can cause damage to their feet. If there is an infected sore, antibiotics will be required. If the bottom of his feet look OK, let’s start by giving him a nice deep kiddie pool to swim in. By taking the weight off of it, it may recover faster. If there is an infected sore, let me know and I will help you find a vet that can prescribe an antibiotic cream.

  209. what about possible back problems? I went into his enclosure this morning and found his buddies moving around; but he was on his back looking up at me. Today, watching him swim, his tail is off-centered. Could it be that the others tweeked his back running over him or something?

  210. would that have come on suddenly? He had never tried to fly before. Our 4 older mallards had tried; but he was one of the 5 later hachlings and never tried so I would not be able to use that as a judge of this situation. The only thing that applies is the use of wings to propel him and his legs not moving well. We do not have an avian vet out here. Any other ideas?

    • Yes, botulism would have come on suddenly. I really do think that this is what your duck has. If you can’t get a vet to look at him, give him clean water constantly and a clean place to rest. I must say though, without antitoxin, the outlook for his survival is not good.

  211. We have him seperated from the rest of the flock with access to a pool that he does not have to step up into. I change the water in it multiple times daily and he has access to a lot of foot. I will keep you posted on how things go. I hope it is not this poison.

    • Best of luck… I will be pulling for this little guy. I’ve never had a duck with botulism personally, but I understand that it is fairly common. How heartbreaking… Let’s hope that clean quiet conditions will be enough. Thanks for the updates.

  212. I am beginning to think that botulism is not the case here thankfully. After he was moved to be able to be out in the sun during the day and locked up in a smaller enclosure at night he is doing better. On of our hens has decided to fly across the enclosure to be with him and keep him company. He is up moving around slowely; but is able to walk up and down the ramp to where we keep him at night. He is still eating less than the others; but there are bugs around outside for him to munch on. He was standing up when I got home this evening and so long as he doesn’t feel the need to move quick he can keep himself fairly upright. We are just hoping that he continues to get better.

    • That’s great news! If it is botulism, it sounds like he’s past the worst of it. If not, hopefully he will continue to improve. In any case, it sounds like he’s improving and that’s wonderful! There are a lot of vital and bacterial illness that can affect ducks, but generally they will not manifest themselves in ways that so obviously affect the central nervous system. That is why wen we hear about a duck that can’t control its body parts we suspect botulism. It’s not the bacteria that affects the bird, but the toxic byproducts of it. If this was botulism perhaps he got a very small dose and will be able to make a full recovery.

  213. I have a baby mallard duck that imprinted my family and I. He is about 4 days old and I dont use a heat lamp. I pack him around with me instead. Im pretty sure this keeps him warm enough but what do you think? It is also apparent that he has a bum leg, will this hinder his survival as a family pet? Being that he will have a kiddie pool and not an actual pond to sit in all day. He also chases me all over my house, and only eats when I stand by him and the food dish. How often should he eat and drink?

    • “I dont use a heat lamp. I pack him around with me instead. Im pretty sure this keeps him warm enough but what do you think?”

      Well, a duck’s body temperature is about 104* where ours is 98.6*. Generally, I would say that he’s probably warm enough with you if you have him inside and are holding him a lot, but he should probably have a heat lamp when you are not with him. It’s amazing how much they seem to enjoy the extra heat even when they are in a warm house.

      “It is also apparent that he has a bum leg, will this hinder his survival as a family pet?”

      I worry about this since he’s so young. These problems are usually due to diet or walking on a slippery floor. What are you feeding him? He should be on an unmedicated poultry starter crumble. Is he constantly walking on slippery surfaces? If so, are his legs spreading apart? You will want to address leg development problems NOW. The most common problems ducks have are with their feet, and a leg problem can make these much more common. Make sure the little guy is getting plenty of niacin.

      “He also chases me all over my house, and only eats when I stand by him and the food dish. How often should he eat and drink?”

      This sounds fine since you want him to imprint, but he should be eating and drinking almost constantly through the day. This is not to say he should have his bill in the food all day, but he should be grazing… Going to get some food, then a drink, then run around for a while, take a nap, get up, go back for some food, then a drink. Generally, I would say he should be eating at least every hour.

  214. i have mallard ducks my female laid eggs and 6 hatched . is it ok to have the daddy duck in the cage with her when the babies hatch? he seems to throw them away from him if they go near him? is that common? or should i keep them seperated

  215. We lost our daddy duck in january and our female laid her first egg this week ,only one , she has never laid any other eggs until now. Is there any chance that tthe egg is fertile?

  216. Hi,

    I wondered if you are able to help. We have 11 ducks in total. 2 Mallard hens, 4 Mallard drakes and 4 newly introduced khaki Campbell hens. One Mallard drake has taken the Khaki Campbells under his wing and will not let any other ducks near and he is also very agressive towards a hen who is currently sitting on 15 eggs with a protective Mallard Drake protecting her. When this hen goes to eat and drink the aggresive drake attacks and pins her down and they all end up fighting. We have tried to seperate the aggresive Drake but as soon as we reintroduce him he trys to protect his Campbell Hens. I am really worried as the aggresive Drake will not let the others into the hen house at night. Any help would be great.

    • The best solution for aggression is to maintain a higher ratio of hens to drakes. I’ve read a number of different ratios 4:1. 3:1, etc, but most seem to agree than 1:1 is too few. You’ve got 1.5:1, so it may be a good idea to see if you can get your hands on a few more hens. It’s a difficult problem to solve. I had to give away a really nice drake because he was simply too aggressive. A lot of people ask this kind of question, and I never really feel like I’m able to give them a good answer, so I would be interested in hearing about anything that you may try which results in success.

  217. Thank you for your quick response.
    We are looking to get some more Mallard hens
    but as two are already sitting I think we could become overrun. It is our first year of keeping ducks and up until now have not had any problems. When we first got the ducks we didnt know the sex and had hoped we would have more Hens than Drakes but have been reluctant to take any Drakes away. We don’t clip their wings and they have always stayed together as a close group and often choose to stay near to our house. We are just building a new Duck house so if necessary we can seperate.
    Do you think the aggresive Drake could attack the new ducklngs when they hatch? I am slightly nervous as I want to help the hens (Dolly and Rosie) with their Ducklings but dont want to interfere with nature.

    • It really depends on the drake. I’ve heard of people having problems with their drakes attacking ducklings, but I’ve never experienced it myself . Typically drakes have gone through their loafing period by the time the ducklings have hatched, and their hormones have changes such that they are not longer as aggressive.

  218. Hi Cliff,

    Thanks for the quick reponse.
    We have now got two paddling pools in seperate parts of our garden and the mallard Hens and Mallard Drakes wander to one pond while the kakhi chambells and the aggressive Mallard Drake swim in the other. This seems to work but I worry in the evening as we only have one large Duck house. We have just arranged to build another one so we can seperate at night if we need to. We are looking for more Mallard Hens but as two hens are sitting we hope to soon have Ducklings.
    I was wondering if you are able to help me with another query. Dolly and Rosie are Mallard Hens are currently sitting on eggs which should hatch in about 3 weeks times but do you think the aggresive Drake could attack the ducklings and if so any ideas of how to avoid conflict.


    • Is there a way you can section off your duckhouse? Aggression really only occurs in the spring, so if you can get through their mating period, you probably won’t really need another duckhouse for the rest of the year.

      Regarding aggression towards ducklings — As I noted in your other comment it really depends on the drake. I’ve heard of people having problems with their drakes attacking ducklings, but I’ve never experienced it myself . Typically drakes have gone through their loafing period by the time the ducklings have hatched, and their hormones have changes such that they are not longer as aggressive.

  219. Hi Cliff,
    Thank you for your advice. We still have problems with the aggresive Drake but the other Mallards seem to be stickng together and are refusing to go into the Duck House at night. I am worried as we dont want the foxes to get them at night as they all huddled together in the garden but will not go to the Duck House to be safe. One Hen who is sitting is in the bushes and comes out for food and water. The new house should be ready for when her Ducklings hatch and hopefully they will all retreat to the new house. I hope we are doing the best for them all. The only predators we have are foxes and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they dont attack our Ducks. We all love the ducks and are looking forward to the new additons. I will let you know the outcome. Its great being able to ask for advice as I wouldnt know who to turn to.



  220. Hi, We just rescued a baby duck that seems to be about a week old. The reason we rescued it was because it was all alone and when it tried to join a family of ducks, the mom picked it up and was thrashing it around and was trying to drown it. We figured the baby would not last a night in the pond. What should we do? Did we make the right decision?

  221. hi, a few weeks ago i was in the garden and i spotted a ducks nest with15 eggs in it, the next day i found another nest, which hatched 4 days later with 3 chicks, yesterday i found another nest, these hatched last night and mum has 15 ducklings, i was wondering if there was anything i could do to stop anything happening to the chicks, the eggs or either mum, as the 3 chicks that hatched first,were killed by a stray cat, and i dont want this to happen to the other ducklings! any ideas?

  222. (continued) i forgot to say, there is a fast flowing stream at the end of my garden, and i have alreay had to save one of the ducklings that was drowning, but its fine now!

  223. We have had 3 free roaming mallards for about a year. Three nights ago something got the drake and at 5:30 am we heard a rucus and something had got a few of the eggs out of the nest “Little Quack” had been sitting on. My husband stayed out until daylight to make sure she went back on the nest and to keep away whatever had been after them. We aren’t sure what we should do now. We have a little pen from when they were babies, should we move her and her nest into the pen or will disturbing the nest cause more harm than good? Would it be better to just set out a box animal trap to try to catch whatever is after the eggs? Thanks for any help you can give us.

  224. Hi Cliff,
    I thought you would be interested. Our hen Rosie has just hatched 12 Ducklings and we have just moved her to the safety of her own Duck house with a small run which has a covered top and fully fox proofed. She was sitting in the bushes and we had been worried that a predator make attack. Rosie has access to water to drink and a small paint tray not to deep for the Ducklings to go in. We have also put in a small tray with non medicated chick crumb. Do you think we need to let Rosie out to the pond to bathe herself or should we wait until the ducklings are slightly older as we still have the agressive Drake who can not get near the Ducklings. Amazingly the Dad of the Ducklings sits outside the Duck House looking in.

  225. Hi,
    We have two ducks who are a little over a year old and now we have 14 baby ducklings. They just hatched today and the drake is being very aggressive with them when they get near the food. We have raised these ducks from ducklings, but this is our first experience with somthing like this. Should we move the drake away from the mother duck and ducklings? I really don’t want him to kill any of them. Thanks in advance, and this website is great!

  226. Hi,

    I am directing a play at a local school that is all about ducks and other poultry. I would love to buy a couple ducklings for the cast and then keep them as pets once i have shown the kids the real baby ducks. Is this a good idea? What is a good age duckling to look for? Thank you!

  227. I “adopted” an orphan mallard duckling about 5 days ago…I have been feeding him vegetables and ground corn feed…His cage has everything he needs including warmth

    Everything has been normal until today…This evening he has seemed sluggish….Normally he has followed me around but today he runs from me. In his cage all he does is lay down, where normally he runs around, swims, eats ect….

    Is this common?

  228. I live close to a pond in a rural area where there are Mallard Ducks, turtles and cat fish. Several weeks ago I noticed 3 or 4 female Mallards with 12-15 young ducklings. Recently, I have gone back and all the female ducks are gone but there are still three ducklings on the pond, and 3-4 males are constantly in attendance. Today while visiting, I was trying to feed the males and they weren’t coming toward me, so I walked toward them. It was then I noticed a much smaller duckling on the edge of the pond. It appeared the males were protecting the duckling, yet again, no females present. Is this normal, and will the ducklings survive without the mother present? Thank you!

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