Mallard Duck FAQ

I get quite a few questions about ducks every year. Since I answer these questions if the form of comments, many times people don’t read all the other questions and answers and end up asking about things that have been addressed elsewhere. The recent comment threading has helped a little, but it can still be tough to wade through the hundreds of questions and answers that have accumulated over the years. In the interest of not typing answers over and over again, I have created this FAQ.

Answer: How old do ducks have to be before they will fly

If you have true flying mallards, they should start flying between five and six weeks of age. In most cases, however, you will have domestic Mallards which have been selectively bred over the years to be larger. These birds will never fly as you expect from a duck, but will instead stay close to the ground, avoiding any dramatic flight. They can fly a little, but generally just in a straight line and close to the ground.

How can I keep my ducks safe from predators?

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 8 feet X 20 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.

You need to defend against the predators in your area. If you have mink or weasels, you need to keep things very tight since they can get through holes as small as one inch. If your biggest worry is coyotes, chicken wire protected by heavy gating is preferable. 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, while still others allow them to roam free all night as well.

The decision of how to house your ducks is your, and there is no right answer. If they are going to be beloved pets and you can’t stand the thought of loosing a single one, it’s best to keep them in an enclosure. If you want them to live a more wild life and understand that nature is cruel and you will loose some of them to predators, you can leave them out. Below is a picture of my duckyard. Multiple coyotes and raccoons have tried without success to get in. This is because of the heavy gating combined with chicken wire.

Duck Coup

Duck Coop

What should I feed my ducklings / ducks?

When your ducklings first hatch or arrive, the first thing you should do is get them drinking. Make sure they all know where the water is, and where to find it. This will help prevent choking once they start eating. Once you are certain that everyone knows how to drink, start them off on a high quality, unmedicated game bird starter crumble. Mash will also work, but is less desierable because it tends to clog up their bills. The most important thing is that the food is unmedicated. Ducks eat a lot more than chickens, and will overdose on medicated food. Supplementing their food with fresh greens and vegetables is always appreciated, especially if given to them directly in their water.

Once your ducks are three to four weeks old, you will want get them started on an unmedicated game bird pellet. Game bird maintainer feed is best, but regular poultry feed will also work provided it is not medicated. This will be their staple for life, with the exception of Spring. When hens start laying eggs, you will want to feed them layer pellets so provide them with the calcium they need to produce eggs. This will not harm the drakes, but you don’t want it to be a permanent feed. Get them back on the maintainer pellets once the laying season is over.

You will find your local farm and garden store to be an excellent source of high quality feeds. Feel free to take their advice as well, but do NOT let them talk you into medicated food for ducks.

Will my ducks fly away for the winter?

Generally, no. In the same way that your domestic dog does not behave like a coyote of wolf, your ducks are domesticated, and will not behave like a wild duck. The look to you for food and safety, and will not know how to migrate unless they have been able to join in with a flock of wild ducks during the summer months. They can tolerate very cold temperatures provided they are given shelter from the wind, liquid water to drink and plenty of high quality food. Even though Mallard ducks are typically a wild bird, those raised by humans are tame, and generally not able to migrate or care for themselves in the wild.

It’s also important to realize that most mallards sold by feed and pet stores are not “True Flying Mallards”. They are hybrids that have been raised for meat production and are too heavy to migrate even if they wanted to.

I want to raise baby ducks and release them when they are adults. Is this possible?

See Q4. Ducklings are cute, but they grow into large, messy birds. I can’t stress this enough… Do not raise ducklings and expect them to fly away or live in the wild when they are adults. If you raise ducklings be prepared to care for them for their five to eight year lifespan. Even though Mallard ducks are typically a wild bird, those raised by humans are tame, and not able to care for themselves in the wild. If you abandon them and expect them to fend for themselves, they are likely to die a very slow and horrible death. There are methods of getting ducks to integrate into the wild, but this requires the special skills and training of a wild bird rehabilitator.

I rescued a baby duck that was all by itself. What do I do now?

You probably heard the duckling cheeping. This noies was the duckling calling its mother. Most likely she was hidden, but close by. For future reference, you have to be very careful about rescuing baby ducks in this way. Most states have laws against taking animals from the wild, so you could get yourself into a lot of trouble. The only time “rescuing” them is appropriate is if they are very obviously not going to survive unless you do. An example of this might be a situation in which you saw the mother get hit by a car and all her ducklings are wondering around in the middle of the road.

That said, your heart was most certainly in the right place. You now have a baby duck, and need help with it. Let me see what I can do. The first thing I would do is search all the local bodies of water to find the mother and other ducklings. If you can, try to reunite them. If not, the absolute best thing to do would be to call a wild bird rehabilitator. They have the skills and training to raise ducklings in such a way that they can be integrated into the wild when they are adults.

Answer: How can I tell if my duckling is a male or a female?

Everyone wants to know the gender of their ducklings before they get their voice. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is through a procedure called “vent sexing” whereby you stretch open the vent and look inside to find the duckling’s sex organs. This procedure is not only very traumatic for the duckling, but potentially dangerous as well. Without having someone who is experienced to train you, you can very easily hurt or even kill the duckling.

The best way for you to tell the gender of your ducklings is to wait until they are four or five weeks old when they get their voice. Drakes will develop a soft “whrack” sound, while hens will produce a loud “QWACK”. Check out the recordings below:

Mallard Hen
Mallard Drake

Many people make the mistake of thinking they have only hens because they all look like hens. It is important to remember that Mallard drakes don’t get their nuptial plumage (green heads, red chest, etc) until they are one year old. All juvenile Mallards look more or less like hens for their entire first year.

102 thoughts on “Mallard Duck FAQ

  1. Thanks for the info. Looks like I have a friend for life. She/he does not make any noises except the chirp and cheep that she has made from the beginning. My guess is that she is 10 or 11 weeks old. Unfortunately, the feed store here carries only chicken food and it is medicated. I will try to find something else in atlanta. She shows no negative signs now but I will get her into the other ASAP.

    • Depending on what kind of Mallard duck it is, there is a chance it will never be able to truly fly. No matter what, it sounds like that duck has imprinted, and you do have a friend for life. Most feed stores carry a suitable duck food. Just make sure it’s not medicated and you should be fine. If you have trouble, leave another comment and I will see if I can help you find something on the internet.
      http://spiralbound.net/2008/05/24/mallard-duck-faq#Q3

  2. About two weeks ago I bought two mallard baby ducklings. I have been feeding them start grow, or something like that. But I called the place where I got them an the guy told me to keep feeding them the start grow until they are six monthes old. But is this food medicicated? And if it is what can I feed them?

  3. I have a question –I have “Rouens” and some Cayuyga ducks and have been doing very well raing the I have some that are 6 yrs old — unfortunately I can’t get any of the females to be brooders– so I bought 3 more — only they are mallards and fortunately the ae 2 females and 1 male — my quwstion is since I have benn keeping everyone separate (babies vs elders) I’d like to let them come togeter and I’m afraid to let the big boys get to my babies :-( I’m scared to do it too soon but my husband says they’re wild bird soooo>>>>> Advise please Thanks so muck!!

    • Once the ducklings are all feathered out, you can introduce them. Usually there is some limited aggression that quickly dies down. I’m not really familiar with Cayuygas though, so take this as a guess.

  4. Thanks for the info! I’ve been scouring the internet lately – trying to figure out how to take care of not ducklings – especially lonely ones.

    I rescued a pair of ducklings from the middle of a pretty harsh rainstorm the other night, apparently one had broken it’s leg and the two were huddled tightly for warmth.

    The one with the broken leg didn’t survive the morning, so now I have one duckling, who is quite the chatterbox, and always wants to be around my neck in my hoodies.

    What should I do? I plan to contact the nearby animal shelters/stores (but most of them seem to handle dogs, cats, lizards, etc) and there is no nearby location to buy ducklings or chicks – I’d have to order them. I’ve been feeding it finely cut lettuce, tomato, and cabbage and cut or crushed corn kernels, apple, and a hard-boiled egg yolk so far. He eats the yolk profusely, but otherwise seems to try the other stuff, swing it around/spit it out, and then just drink some water.

    I have proper feed and environment materials on the way, because after this run in I’ve decided I’d like one as a pet, but I want to ensure this one gets taken care of correctly if I can get a hold of the authorities – especially since I’m so new. I’ve got a lot of internet sites on hand about how to take care of him, but I don’t know what his chirping means, or his running around screaming sometimes. Is it because he is lonely? Please help.

    • Chris, It sounds like you are doing everything correctly. This duckling should make a nice pet if you decide to keep it. The main thing is that you make a good faith effort to find a licensed person, but if there are none around, there are none around. Here is pretty much what you need to do. In order of priority.

      1) Keep him warm. He needs a heat lamp or a warm room with a 100 watt light bulb that he can get under if he is cold. In nature, ducklings huddle under their mothers for warmth. In this case, you are his mother, and you need to give him a heat source. A good setup is a large cardboard box with straw on the bottom, a shallow dish to drink from, another dish with food and a heat lamp of some kind on one side. It’s important that he can get away from the heat if he gets too cold.

      2) Get some duckling starter crumble for him. You are feeding him great things already, and in truth, he could most likely grow up just fine on them, but to be sure, a good feed is important. You mentioned you already have this on the way. Way to go!

      3) Don’t worry about the crying and running. This is pretty normal duckling behavior. You have noticed that he is very attached to you. This is because he has recognized you as his mother (father in this case), and has bonded with you. This is called imprinting, and the connection will remain strong for life. This is why this duckling could make a good pet. I had a duckling that cried all night long and would not stop until I came out to see him.

      4) Spend time with him. Since he has already imprinted, he will be tame pretty much for life. Since ducklings are social creatures, they like to be around other living things. In the absence of humans, some ducklings have bonded with horses, goats or even dogs. The more time you spend with him the happier he will be.

      So, to recap:

      Keep him warm in a safe place
      Get him eating and drinking
      Hang out with him

      Ducklings are pretty easy to raise so long as you stick to these guidelines. I’ll be here to help with anymore questions.

      • Cliff I have spent MANY hours today reading all your info about ducks! First what a God send YOU are! Second I am so mad at the place where I bought my little ducks. We have a lake or pond whichever term you use not sure what the difference is exactly. Last year I told this lady at this feed/pet place that I would like some mallard ducks. She gave my name to one of her other customers, he called me and I told him I wanted mallards and he told me he had 14 teenagers he wanted to get rid of. When we got there they were in a large box. I loaded them in the back of my suv and home we came. When I got home to set them free in our lake they were NOT mallards. I had 14 muscovy ducks. That was okay but NOT what I really wanted. We are now down to 4 that pretty much stay around ALL the time, one that comes in about every two weeks or so. Two of them got hit in the road we live on. Our house and the lake are about a 1/4 mile off the road but they love eating/playing in the ditches along the road and our neighbors yards. Anyway this year I told the lady to order me mallards. So we got the call this past Wednesday that my ducks were at the post office being picked up. I took Thursday (yesterday) off to pick them up and make them a home and generally just to watch them for the day. The lady at the feed/pet store sold us medicated chick feed, along with a heat lamp, waterers, feeders as she said she “hooked us up”. She gave me a 3″ x 3″ sheet of paper front and bck on how to care for the duckliings. I told her I wanted to set the free to the wild after they get big enough. We have a female (real wild) mallard already in our lake from this past spring. The male took up here last summer. The female showed up som etime during the fall. We live 30 miles from Atlanta GA so I guess this could have been their migration point from somewhere up north (???). Anyway we just realize about three weeks ago (after ordering the mallards) that she has two babies. We NEVER saw them until they were almost as big as she is. They came out of the lake one day to eat the water fowl food I feed to the muscovies. Must be pretty good stuff it’s about $35 for a 50 lb bag. BUT it is way too big for these babies I have they were born this past Monday so they are only 5 days old today. Anyway before I found your website, I put them in a huge watering trough like you use for cattle in pastures with no natural source of water. It’s a 100 gallon tank size. I put hay in the bottom and put their waters and feeder in there. They kept trying to “swim” in the little tray around the water bottle so I came inside and got a very shallow dish about 8″ x 12″ and put about an inch of water in it along with some rocks to get in and out. They NEVER used the rocks. They RAN to the pan of water and jumped in and began to swim. Then I read on some website that they are not supposed to be allowed to swim for 3 weeks!!! This morning I was going to take the water out and they just kept raising cane so I put clean water back in the dish (it was very dirty with poop) and they calmed down very quickly as soon as they got their morning swim in. It has been getting up to 100 degrees here in Atlanta during the day and in the upper 70′s at night. I clipped the heat lamp on the side of the water tank yesterday for about an hour and I decided it was TOO hot so I called the place back where I bought everything and THEN they tell me they do not need the light if I am not keeping them in an air conditioned house. They are in our garage. I bought them a kiddie pool but I am going to use it for their “pond” once they get a little bigger until I set them “free” which after reading all your stuff I realize that I will just be relocating them to the lake. The muscovies stay in the yard running around eating and they swim when they want in the lake. They come to the house when we come home at night for some food and we feed them in our yard. The real wild mallards NEVER came into our yard until we got the baby ducklings yesterday. Before then we would take the water fowl food to the edge of the lke and when we left they would come up and eat at the edge of the lake. Now they are coimng up to our porch just like the muscovies, only the wait until we go inside, the muscovies just come right up to us because the man that raised them raised them like pets. So here is what I want to know, do I need to let the 6 new ducks live in the lake like the muscovies and the other mallards or do I need to make them a home like yours. We have about 7 acres and we also have two pigmy goats for pets, along with 3 bunnies in the house, my cat (did have 6 cats, but lost 2 last year and three this year) they all were between 12 and 17 years old. And I have a cocker spaniel. So 6 more “pets” is not a problem, we just were expecting the mallards to be “wild” the woman that sold them to us said as long as we do not handle them, they will revert to being wild. Also when we “ordered” them she called some place and placed the order. Is some moma duck out there going crazy over loosing her 6 little chicks??? I got to thinking about that last night and I could not hardly sleep. We also have Canadian Geese that nest and raise here year after year. One year someone kept stomping her eggs and she would just get so upset. We have turtles in our lake and coyotes on the ground and when one of them gets one of her babies she just sits out there swimming round and round for several days squawking. It is VERY heartbreaking to watch. And I justr wandered if these mallard breeders do that as well. If so I will NEVER “buy” another duck!!!!!
        I love all your stuff and thank you soooooo much for your time, your sharing spirit and your knowledge. Sometimes we humans are just plain stupid parents when it comes to trying to raise those things that should clearly be left up to God only. I will go first thing in the morning and get un-medicated food. again THANK YOU!!!!

        • The decision of how to house your ducks is yours, and there is no right answer. If they are going to be beloved pets and if you just can’t stand the thought of loosing a single one, you will most likely want to build them an enclosure like the one depicted above. If you want them to live a more wild life and accept that sometimes nature is cruel and you will loose some of them to predators, you can let them live at the pond.

          It’s also important to note that SOMETIMES, ducks raised by humans will migrate, but for this to happen, two things have to be true. First, they must be TRUE FLYING MALLARDS, and secondly they must have an actual flock of wild mallards to join up with. As mentioned in the FAQ, most mallards sold by farm and yard stores are not true flying mallards and will be too heavy to migrate. Even if both of these conditions are true, there remains a very good chance that they will stick around all year. For there to be any chance at all that they will migrate, you should interact with them as little as possible. This is also probably a good idea if you intend to let them live outside of an enclosure. Good luck and have fun… It sounds like you have a nice property for ducks.

          • They just MIGHT team up with the wild mallards we have. In just two short days the “wild mallards” have gone fromstaying in the lake and on the edge to actually coming into the garage area where the baby mallards are staying. We have a wire mesh screen over the top of the water tank just to keep and stray cats etc out during the day. At night we close the garage doors. I do not know if a coyote would come into my garage or not. Anyway earlier this morning, the larger wild mallard was sitting on my husband’s show car looking down into the water tank a the new ducklings. Of course she flew out of the garage as soon as I opened the door but as long as I was looking at her through the glass she did not seem to mind. I do not know if she is intersted in being their mother or if she is threatened by them being in her “territory”. So she may take them in, I just do not know. Nor do I know if these ducks are true flying mallards or not. Time will tell. Thank you for you help and for keeping this forum up and running. A similair forum is how I became a fqairly good goat “moma”. Again thank you!

  5. Can anyone help? It may be too late by the time I get a response. Mama mallard and 4 babies (that hatched today) left the nest and went to the nearby lake. She left 5 eggs behind (which she was still sitting on today, and had not pushed out of the nest). Is there still a chance that the 5 remaining eggs will hatch? Is there something I should do to give them a better chance? I’m assuming they will not, but I don’t want to dispose of them b/f I know FOR SURE that they don’t have a chance. I’m checking on them periodically and will get up early to check again. Will leave a shallow dish of water with chopped fresh spinach, just in case something happens while I’m at work.

    • Sometimes first year hens will start sitting on their eggs before they have laid an entire clutch. When this happens, the ones she laid first will develop at a faster rate than those she laid later. Once of two things is going on here. Either she laid 4 eggs and started sitting before she laid the remaining 5 or the five she left in the nest were not viable. Either way, there is really nothing you can do for them. They will not hatch unless she is sitting on them, and if she has been away for more than a few hours, they will have gotten too cold.

      Once they start hatching, the clock is ticking. The mother needs to get them to the nearest body of water within the first two days. Sorry. I wish I had better news.

  6. I can’t figure out if it is legal to own a pet duck (mallard) in North Carolina. i don’t want to break the law or anything like that, but i really want a pet duck. After reading from a bunch of websites, I know what to do and how to take care of my duck. I still have a few question. Do you think that it is a good idea to buy more than one duck? i would like to get two male mallerds. Would you recommend letting the ducks swim in my pool for a few minutes every once in a while? If so, should i do anything special before or after they swim? thanks a lot.

    • In most cases it’s perfectly legal to own a duck. You just have to make sure it’s a domestic mallard. Ducks that can swim are always happier than ducks that can’t, but there is no physical requirement for them to swim. There is nothing you have to do before letting them swim. Just make sure they can get out if they are too young to fly.

  7. Hi, My son purchased 2 duckling (Mallards) 1 female &a male and has since left for the Navy. They are now the care of my husband and myself (lol) we love them and they have been immensely enjoyable. My question is how do I care for them this coming winter as we live in NH and the weather is unpredictable. What is required, as far as heat lamp and adequate shelter?
    We do have a duck house, but for the most part they are free to roam our property, Although they don’t stray far and stick close to the house. Should we also be putting them away at night in their house? Thank you, Linda

    • I actually used to work at Plymouth State University until I moved to CA last year. Keeping ducks in New England is totally doable provided you are willing to put a little work into it. Take a look at the picture of my duckhouse. That should be pretty much all you need for shelter. You will want to get a metal drinker and electric heater base for water. I have used these down to -25 F with great success. Just keep your water out of the wind. LOTS AND LOTS of food is needed so that the ducks can keep themselves warm. You do not need a heat lamp.

      Ducks can take VERY VERY cold temperatures, but you have to give them deep bedding and shelter from the wind and snow. If their feet spend too much time on the snow, they could get frostbite. Put down straw in their outside area, and very deep bedding in their house.

  8. Thank you, I really appreciate the feedback. I do have heated water dish that I had used for the winter for birds, actually I can just move it for my ducks.
    Once again thank you.
    Cheers Linda

  9. hi cliff i wonderd if you can point me in the rite direction me and my partner have got a duckling for our 3 children the duckling has settled realy well and has become appart ov the family even my 2 staffordshire bull terriers has welcomed our feathered friend but the only thing is that bothers us is should we but anouther duckling to pair them up as i want it to have a natural life as possible our duckling [quackers] forgive the name lol is nearly 4 weeks old by goin on wat the people sed who we aquired it from so were just in the prosses ov finding out how to give it the best life possible all infomation you can supply to us will be kindly accepted thanks for your time and shal look forward to ur responce kind reguards glen

    • I would say that you will be fine with one duck so long as your dogs get along with it. Ducks don’t so much need other ducks as they need companionship of some kind. Ducks don’t have the largest brains, so they tend to buddy up with anything / anyone who will buddy up with them.

  10. Ok,so here is another one for you, I may be jumping the gun but here goes. Having a male and female, is there any chance that the female may lay eggs next spring? They as I believe are not nest mates.
    Cheers Linda

  11. we purchased 5 Peking and 10 mallard ducklings to raise and release on a large lake we live on. They are now beginning to get pin feathers. what is the best way to transition them? the lake currently has one mallard and one peking, and 5 geese. they swim in the tub daily while i change their bedding. the peking are trying to get out of the large pool, as they are more than twice the size of the mallards. these were purchased at a feed store and they have been eating the feed they suggested. thanks

  12. This morning I was walking around my pond and I saw what looked like a small duck head (with feathers) swimming very low in the water – I didn’t really see the back end of it. The it dove under the water. Do baby mallard ducks swim under water? I never saw it come up for air. Did I scare the duck to death???

    BTW – I do have other ducks in my pond. No babies though – or at least I didn’t think so

  13. We have 2 call ducks, they are 5 weeks now and love swimming under the water-supervised of course.
    we have had them since they were 1 day old. I wanted to know when we will first have to clip their wings?
    the largest of the 2-which we think is a boy- has just started to develop flight feathers. The smallest hasnt yet but she appears to be a day or so behind him.
    the largest one loves being handled but the smallest not, any suggestions?

  14. Hi, I’m finding myself with yet another question.
    Our Mallards are about 3 mos old and seem to be still growing, especially the male. So what would be the growth period.
    Cheers, Linda

  15. I have a question. My male mallard was perfectly healthy yesterday, they refused to go into their kennel last night. I woke up this morning, he had dropped dead. Nothing had attacked him, he looked like he had just laid down and died. What could have caused that? My other 5 ducks seem just fine.

  16. Hey folks,

    I had a set of mallards several years ago. They laid every day of the year – even throughout the winter.

    Last year, I got some ducklings. As per usual, the started laying at about 6 months. Then, about a week ago, they all stopped laying.

    Any thoughts on what’s going on?

  17. hey i have2 baby ducks i need help is it to cold outside? its about 70 degrees out but they make a mess inside???? i let them swim in the tub is that good? or not please reply

  18. I HAVE 11 DUCKS 6 FEMALES 4 DRAKES MALLARDS. MY HUSBAND AND I BOUGHT THEM FROM A HATCHERY THIS YEAR IN JULY, I KEPT THEM IN OUR GARAGE UNTIL THEY GOT OLD ENOUGH TO GO OUTSIDE AND THEN I GOT A PLASTIC SWIMMING POOL TO LET THEM LEARN HOW TO SWIM LATER WE BUILT A LARGE PEN OUTSIDE AND PUT THEIR SWIMMING POOL IN IT AND THEY LOVED THAT UNTIL ONE DAY WE DECIDED TO INTRODUCE THEM TO OUR POND . THEY LOVE THE POND BUT NOW WE CANT GATHER THEM BACK UP TO GO INTO THEIR PEN AND WITH THE WEATHER CHANGING THE POND WILL BE FREEZING UP SOON FOR A WHILE. THEY DO HAVE A LARGE HOUSE DOWN BY THE POND BUT WILL NOT GO IN IT , BUT THEY LIKE TO GET UNDER IT I GUESS FOR PROTECTION FROM THE WIND AND EVERYTHING ELSE. SO NOW I WONDER WHAT WE NEED TO DO IF THEY CAN’T GET WATER. WE DO TAKE THEIR FOOD TO THEM TWICE A DAY.

    • Becky,

      This is actually the same exact thing that happened to me my first year keeping ducks. I mistakenly assumed they would fly away for the winter and had to quickly build a pen for them once it became clear they were not leaving.

      Ducks will not leave their pond unless they have no way of getting food and water. Even in the wild, they will stick around places that are very cold so long as there is open water.

      The first thing I was is to stop bringing food down to them, leaving it inside their enclosure instead. This did not work for me, but you may have better luck. In the end, I had to chase them down and pick them up by hand. This was difficult for both me and the ducks, but I did end up getting them inside their enclosure for the winter. You may find that once you have a few of them in the coup, the others will follow.

      Your other option is to simply leave them where they are. Make sure you get a metal drinker with a heater so that they will have water all winter. I’m sure they ducks would prefer this, but you are probably going to lose some of them to hungry animals over the cold months if you do this.

      Ducks are not like chickens in that they do not reliably roost inside a building unless great care is taken to ensure that they will. Basically, this means getting them in EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. If you get them into the habit of going in for the night they will usually head on in at dark by themselves. If you slip and allow them to spend the night at the pond, they will quickly decide that they like that option better and it will be a huge production to get them to come in.

      My suggestions:

      1) First, try putting food and water in their coup to see if you can draw them in. If not, do your best to gather them up by hand.
      1) In the future, only feed them in their coup.
      3) Make sure they come in every night… Even in the summer. Bribing them with food is a good way to do this once they get in the habit.

      I’m sorry I don’t have a simple method for this… Please let me know if you find something that works well. I would like to add it to the FAQ.

  19. Hi, I had 6 Ruens, they were loose in the yard until last week, one of them was killed by a afox, I penned up the rest, and they seem to be not eating like they were, they used to attack their food, now it lokos like they are not eating much at all. They seem to be afraid of me, they weren’t tame, but they would get close to me as I was there protector. Why aren’t they eating? I ‘ve tried lettuce, it looke like they ate some, I feed them game food pellets, they are about 6 months old. Thanks.

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  21. Hey ! Be careful putting ducks in your swimming pool. They need to have oil on their plumage which momma puts there. Domesticated birds will DIE if you put them in water before they are old enough to produce their own oils. Usually 5-6 weeks.

  22. Cliff – we live in an apartment and every day
    three ducks visit us to eat our bird food.
    They look exactly like Mallards, but two have dark blue or black heads and the other is like a female or a young duck.
    Are they Mallards or ????
    Also lately they have hung around until after
    dark – then they all of a sudden disappear.
    Can ducks fly at night?
    They are very tame because when we see them we go out and throw some more bird seed on the ground.
    I enjoyed reading your ansers.
    Sue

  23. This afternoon I discovered about 8 or 9 eggs in an elevated flower bed by my pool. The Mom & Pop Ducks have been around my pool constantly for the past days. Do I need to do anything to protect them once they hatch? Or, should I leave them alone? The flower bed they are in is somewhat under a tree, but I am concerned about other flying predators and them being able to get water once they hatch. Any suggestions?

    • I would just leave them be for the most part. Once the ducklings hatch, they will probably try to get to the nearest body of water within the first few days. There is a good chance that this will be your pool, so keep a close eye out because they can get trapped in there and drown. Is there a lake or pond around your home? If so, you would probably do well to usher them out of your yard once they start walking around.

  24. Cliff, my father and I were working on one of our tractors and found a duckling hiding under one of the tires. We backed off and got some lunch and when we returned she was still there peeping away just as before. We waited longer within binocular range for another hour and a half and still she sat there alone. I decided to bring her home and give her some starter crumbles(unmedicated), a little fine sand, and some clean water. She was lonely and noisy so I tried a mirror until I could get her some companions. She’s got five friends now and she has been doing well for the past 4 weeks, except for her wobbly legs. The others are mallards and I’m sure she’s a black duck because of the frequency with which we see blacks in the field next to our barn. I’ve begun mixing chopped corn and gamebird crumbles with their starter. I took the black out of the box when I noticed her wobbly gait,(2 wks old) and isolated her for a few days to see if she got better or worse. She didn’t change one way or another, so I put her back with the other babies. Do you think this condition could’ve developed due to some sort of vitamin deficiency? I also though it could be that the other birds, which are 3-4 days older, are not giving her chance to learn to walk properly? They do stay kind of bunched under the heat lamp. While the others became more surefooted with age, the black duck remained wobbly. She seems to be fine when she runs around the yard. She’s prone to fall over if she stops though. Have you ever seen this kind of thing before? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Bryan,
      Leg development is the biggest problem people have with ducklings, and they are almost always caused by either a deficiency of niacin or walking on a slippery surface. From the sounds of things, you’ve done everything exactly right with respect to food, so as long as he has been eating starter crumble I would not suspect a vitamin deficiency. What has the duckling’s walking surface been like? If it is smooth and slippery, it can cause problems like this. Are the bird’s legs splaying outwards? If so, you can sometimes reverse this by using hobbles (we can discuss how to do this if indeed this is the problem you are experiencing). Anyhow, please let me know exactly what the duckling’s legs are doing and some information about the surface, and we can go from there. In the meantime, I’ll take a look at the literature to see if I can come up with anything else.

  25. Yes, they do splay outwards. She’s been on pine straw in the brooder and on either grass or bare dirt. Thanks Cliff.

  26. Sam has her hobble on and a supplemental dish of water with niacin at a concentration of 100mg/gal in it in case she needs it. I’ll keep you all updated on her progress.

  27. I have a mother mallard and 9 ducklings that have been living in our yard and like to use the pond and pool. They have been here about 6 weeks and are getting big and I would like them to fly away. They are very messy at this time because of their size and we have koi fish in the pond and I am concerned for the water quality for the fish. I have been told that they should be ready to fly and would fly away as soon as they can fly but no sign of this yet. What should I do. I do not want to cause them harm or force them out too soon as they would have to deal with crossing a fairly busy street to get to a nearby lake where there are other ducks. Please help.

    • I also have koi and you’re absolutely right! Ducks will destroy your water quality. Also, most protozoa are introduced into closed koi systems from birds, and ducks are no exception. Your best bet it so herd them out of your yard and over to the lake nearby. Perhaps have another person stop traffic while you do this. Once they are in the lake, they won’t want to come back to your pool.

  28. Hello,

    We raised mallards last year and put them on our pond. They migrated for winter. They also cared for themselves and there was no intervention from us once they were on the pond. We just put 6 more ducks that we raised on the pond and they are doing well. We expect them to migrate as well.

  29. Hi,

    We have a courtyard in the middle of our office. Every year a hen hatches her eggs here. Last year none survived, this year I took pity on them and fed them. Layer pellets: sorry didn’t read your information until now. 6 have survived and I did make the mistake of thinking they are all hens.

    The mother continually leaves and returns to look after them. They have a healthy fear of me and hide whenever I feed them.

    My question is, are they tame or wild? Will they be able to clear the walls of the courtyard and fly away or do we need to round them up and evict them? Are they now pets?

    Thanks

    Geoff

  30. We found two ducks that had no mom or other siblings. (They still had their duck tooth.) We took them home about three weeks ago. We have been caring for all their needs. They have been eating duckling fed (unmedicated), crickets, minnows and other bugs. They have been growing very fast. They are getting there new features on their wings and they love to swim in the pool. They love to come in and out of the house too. This is my problem. They make huge poop messes which we don’t want in the house. We want to introduce them into this park where other ducks live year round. What we want to know is, is this a good idea or should we make a pen for them like the one you have shown and just keep them? We don’t know how to intigrate them back into the wild and we don’t know anyone who does this. We want what’s best for the ducklings. They are about 4-6 weeks old. They still seem a little wild. They don’t like us to touch them. Is it to soon to let them go, if we let them go at all? Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

  31. Hello! We live in Steamboat Springs, CO where we have an annual average snowfall of 343″. We are getting 5 Welsh Harlequin ducks from a breeder in Golden, CO which does not have the snowfall we do so is not able to answer my question. We will build their house ourselves & can make it up to 12′ long, adjacent to a greenhouse which can vent warm air into it. We’d like something which will allow them to roam around inside if they aren’t wanting to go out in the snow, something easy enough to clean & perhaps off the ground so the door is easier to access with our deep snow levels. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • I used to live in Vermont where we got -30F temps and quite a lot of snow. Your ducks will be fine with the kinds of temperatures you will get in CO. I would not suggest venting warm air into them at all. It tends to be changes in temperature that cause them illness. If it’s cold and stays cold, they are better off than having a warm place to go. As long as they have liquid water, lots of food, shelter from the wind and a place to get their feet off the snow, they will be fine.

      I used to have a covered outside area where I put straw down for them. This kept their feet off the snow and still allowed them to be outside. As for water, I suggest a metal drinker with an electric heater base. Shelter it from the wind and they are good down to -20F or so.

  32. Pingback: wild mallard ? ~ wwyd - AmityMama.com

  33. I am happy to have found this site! I have two Mallards,Minnie and her drake Moses, that come to my swimming pool each year. This year Minnie brought her 11 ducklings back to the pool. They are so much fun to watch. However, today I saw one of the ducklings die. Also, there are only eight duckilings left, apparently there have been 3 deaths. My question is what can I do to keep this from happening again. Also, will I be able to clean my pool and use it again???!!!

  34. My dog just attacted a baby mallard duck that was all by itself. Luckily i saved it, but i think its injured. iIdont have a heat lamp or food. What do i do? I contaced the wildlife experts in my area and all i got was answering machines.

    • As a stopgap, you can use a standard lamp with a 100W light bulb. Make sure to bring him inside where it won’t get cold at night. Give him plenty of water in a standard dish or bowl. You’ll need to buy food if you are going to raise him. Your farm and yard store should be able to help with that.

  35. This is good information. My mom just called me saying that her boss bought a dozen baby mallard ducklings as accessories to her granddaughters birthday party. They are all expecting the ducklings to grow up and fly away.
    I said it sounded stupid, so I came to research. Gosh I hope she returns them. A nursing home is no place for a flock of ducks.

  36. We are seasonal campers and have a famly of ducks at the campgrounds. 11 babies and mommy. We have been feedng them seeds. Mommy seems to be injured. Her blll had a hole in it and her tongue hangs out the side. Her left flight feathers seems to have been cut off. Can anyone help as to what we can do to help mommy.

    • paula,
      i know that mallards learn how to fly by watching their mommy fly, she teaches them so that may be a problem. The best thing you can do is to express your concern to the camp ranger and see if they can catch mommy and the babies to care for mommy and her injuries. doing it yourself could injure her more and yourself, because mommy ducks are FIESTY when they have babies.

  37. ok so i have 2 mallard ducklings tht r 1 week old. i got them at a place tht sells pet food and some pet stuff. I read on the internet tht u r suppose to give the ducklings bath but who many times do i give them a bath once a week evry other day PLZS HELPit also said to diaper them is this true? Also Wh will they start to fly and when will the hen start to lay eggs? PLZ ANSWER Thanks Rona

  38. Hey,
    I have been raising and relseasing ducklings for years. I have raised mallards and released them and each year they fly away for the winter and they are back in the summer. I recently began raising domestic ducks, my white with black spots duck i got 3 easters ago. she has lived in my back yard fending for herself for those years and she mated last year with a mallard, and again this year she just laid her eggs. she doesnt let me come near her because she is wild, but she still stays around my house and eats the food i lay out for her.

    • many domestic breeds are too big to fly away. Even though ducks are often sold as Mallards, they are actually domestic hybrids, and can’t fly very well. This is why I always suggest planning to keep any birds you may have over the winter unless you are certain that the parents can fly and will show their young how to migrate.

  39. I have a question. I have a wild female? Mallard Duck that hangs around my pool most of the day. I finally figured out that she can’t fly at all. Her one female buddy always flies away when I come out but the smaller one runs and hides in the bushes. She definitely looks more than old enough to fly . like a teenager!..she is not a baby by any means. I don’t mind if she hangs out BUT she leaves her calling card all around my patio and IN MY POOL which is a big no-no- I found one duck person that said if I can catch her that this duck lady would take her and visit the vet. I don’t think I could ever catch this duck. I feel so bad that she can’t fly. She is so sweet. Any suggestion?

    • I think your only option is to try to catch her / him (yearlings all look like females). You may try to tame the duck slowly by offering food. It’s great that the bird rehabilitator is willing to help you out. I would definitely take advantage of that.

  40. Thanks for the reply Cliff. I am also wondering…am I misjudging this duck’s age.> Maybe it is younger than I think? ANd just can’t fly yet? But he/she looks so healthy but is about 1/3 the size of the buddy it hangs out with. The buddy is definitely a female. The only thing is…this whole situation is strange because I have lived here 12 years and have had duck babies in my pool (the wild 0nes) and the older ones but they always leave after about 15 or 20 minutes at the most. Could this just be a Mother and her “slow Learner” son/or daughter?

    • I think it is quite likely that we are dealing with a juvenile who is not yet able to fly. Give it another week or so and if the duck has not yet flown, there is probably something else going on. Is it fully feathered out, or is there some fuzz remaining? If you can get a look at the duck’s wings as it flaps them, it would be a good indication as well. I’d say give it some time and if it doesn’t fly, call the bird rehabilitator.

  41. Please help! The country club I work at has a group of three mallards (1 female, 2 male) that have mated here for the past 6 or so years. There is a nice large pond on the golf course but the hen prefers to have her babies near the pool, an thus take them in the pool after they hatch. We shoo the ducks out when we see them because they make a mess and every year the babies drown in the pool skimmer :(. I had my first experience fishing them out of the skimmer this morning and I saved one of the 5 and he is healthy and with his mom. Despite her babies dying for 6 years she keeps doing it! Is there any way I can get her to leave so her babies don’t die? We can only help when we are here to get them out of the pool. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks

    • Sadly, ducks are not very smart and they rely almost entirely on instinct when dealing with their babies. Since their instinct is to take their ducklings to the nearest water, she is likely to keep taking them to the pool. There are a couple of things you could do, but I’m not sure if either of them is practical. First, you could put some form of barricade around the bottom of the pool’s fence (I’m assuming it is fenced). If you can keep them out of the pool area, she will take them elsewhere. Secondly, you could configure some form of ramp into the pool water while you are not there.

      Hopefully this helps.

    • Some people have also had luck with using fake hawk or owl models as well. She will see it and want to bring her young elsewhere for fear they will be eaten by the owl or hawk.

  42. Hello!
    We released our Mallards into our pond yesterday, We had built them a safe place for them to go to and away from all predators. I went and checked on them today and ALL of them are gone except one and I don’t know what to do or what happened

  43. 1 We bought two mallard ducks last year for our kids. One was killed by a neighborhood cat and the person at the market said they needed to have a companion or they would get depressed and slowly die away. So when she started flying we decided to take her to a park with a huge lake full of mallard ducks and geese.

    Well this year two mallard ducks showed up at our house. A female like ours and a mate. She comes up to us like she knows us and we aren’t too sure if the markings are the same according to some pictures we took of her. I was wondering if it is possible that she found her way back here after we took her 45 minutes away from our house to the park?

  44. We have 12 mallard eggs in an incubator. They are on day 28 today. They started chirping about 36 hours ago. Seven of the eggs have small cracks in them and of these seven, two have small chips out of them. All of the eggs have been rocking for the past 2 days. None have hatched yet. It seems that they are overdue. Should I help to open them up or leave them alone. I don’t want them to suffocate in the eggs and it seems to be taking too long…being day 28. Thanks for any advice.

    • You will definitely want to leave them alone, and leave them in the incubator until they are dry. If a few are unable to make it out of their shells and die, it is probably because they are poorly developed or deformed in some way. Getting out of the shell is nature’s way of selecting out the weak or deformed, and if you do help them out, you should notch the webbing on their feet to mark them and not let them mate. Once everyone has hatched and is dry, you can put them into a box with starter crumble, water and a heat lamp. Make sure to keep them warm… Especially for the first week or so.

  45. Of the 12 eggs we have had 11 hatch. The span between the first and last egg was 72 hours. Must have some temperature variation in the incubator The ducks are doing well and growing quickly.

  46. Thank you for all of your helpful info!
    I have a question… I have eight 1-week old healthy, growing Mallard ducklings :) They are so cute, and I have 1 woodduck egg hatching currently in the incubator. I came across it after I already had the mallards incubating and figured I’d throw it in there with them just to see if it would hatch… it finally is hatching and I’m wondering now if I can put it in with the mallards. If I let it build up its strength for a few days will the mallards accept it into their group?

    • Hayley,

      I honestly don’t know if it would be safe to integrate the hatchling with the older brood. At 8 weeks, they’re pretty big so I would do so with caution if you decide to try it. They are also probably not eating starter crumble anymore, so I would worry about pellets being a choking hazard for the little one. I think you’re safest to keep them separated (but within sight of each other) for a few weeks, but if you decide to try integrating them, watch them for an hour so so to make sure nobody demonstrates aggression. Let me know how this goes. Nobody has had a question like this yet, so it will be a good learning experience for everyone :)

  47. Cliff,
    Sorry, I meant that there are 8 of the mallards, and they are 1 week old! They hatched….last Sunday. So I guess 9 days to be exact! They are still pretty small. Thank you for the quick reply :)

    • Oh… My mistake. I didn’t read carefully enough. Well, at 1 week, I would think they can be safely integrated. Just make sure the little one is getting enough food.

      • Just in case you were wondering… The mallards that are 1 week older than the woodduck absolutely hate the woodduck! It is so sad to watch – my woodduck runs over to the mallards and wants to swim with them and be friends with them but they all chase after him and start pecking his face! They are evil to him! I don’t know why they hate him..or her.. so much. But I just thought I’d let you know!

        • I’m sorry to hear that. Are you simply keeping them seperated? Please do keep an eye on the mental health of the wood duck. While it is unlikely that the mallards will ever peck at him enough to actually kill him, ducks tend to simply give up on life at some point after being picked on too much and die.

  48. Hello I have some basic questions.

    How long does the mother stay with the eggs before they hatch? After they hatch will the mother stay at all times with the little ones?

    Thank U

  49. Hi. I have been reading.g almost every comment on here and cannot find an answer to my question. About 3 weeks ago I noticed a ballad nest with 10 eggs in it below my apartment porch. I am on the 2nd floor and can observe it from there without getting too close. The mom has been sitting on her nest regularly and I have noticed her feeding in 30 min increments and then she returns to her nest. She is always nearby if not sitting on the nest. The sad news is there are kids in my neighborhood that will not stay away from the nest, and some of the kids actually removed 3 of the 10 eggs and threw them in the nearby channel. I’ve threatened the kids to stay away or ill call the police (though in reality i know theres nothing they can do). The mother, however, did return to the nest to sit on the Remaining 7 eggs. I havent gotten a close look at the eggs, but Sunday our counties game warden was checking fishing license and I told him about the nest and he glanced in the nest and said how the eggs looked fairly large and opaque (I don’t know if this means they were close to hatching or what). The mom dick came back Monday during the day, but I have yet to see her since. It’s been 48 hours, and in wisconsin the temps have been unnaturally cold this time of year (67 in the day and low 50s at night). Is it safe to say the mother has abandoned the nest at this point? And is there anything I can do to help the eggs….or has it been too late?? I know mother nature has her own course….but i don’t think illmannered children throwing eggs is part of mother natures course.

    • Kara,

      The game warden was probably looking at the eggs for signs of viability. It’s hard to know what he meant about them being large. Were they large for mallard eggs or larger than one might expect mallard eggs to be? A dead egg will also start to puff up slightly and become oddly shaped as gasses build up inside them. Anyhow, it’s interesting he commented on the opacity. Ideally, the eggs should be totally opaque. In other words, almost no light should pass through the shell, and it should not be the least bit transparent. Since he commented on it, I’m lead to believe that they were becoming transparent, which is a sure sign of a non-viable egg. So, if she has been gone that long, I’d say it’s safe to assume she’s not coming back, and that her eggs were not viable. Why is anyone’s guess. The kids disturbing the mother could have had something to do with it, or this hen may be young and doesn’t have the hang of nesting yet. Often mothers don’t time everything right with their first clutch and this can happen.

      Do tell the game warden about the kids if you see him again. I believe it is illegal to take eggs out of a nest.

  50. Sorry for all the typos…my “smart phone” isn’t too smart apparently.

    This is a MALLARD DUCK nest I’m talking about lol…not a ballad obviously :-/

  51. MY DAUGHTER BOUGHT A { BABY } DUCK FROM TRACTOR SUPPLY, ANY WAY THIS DUCK, IS LIKE OUR FAMILY, IT LUV’S OUR PUPPY, OUR CAT,FERRET,AN NEIGHBORS CATS. WE LIVE LITERALLY AT THE RIVER, IT IS OUR BACK YARD, BUT [ QUACKERS ] OUR DUCK, SHE / HE I CALL HER A SHE, SHE DOES NOT LEAVE OUR YD UNLESS WE GO FOR A WALK ,A SWIM , WHATEVER SHE STAYS HERE, SHE ACTS MORE LIKE A DOG , THEN A DUCK, BUT WE LUV HER SO MUCH AN R VERY CONFUSED ON WHAT 2 DO THIS WINTER ,PLEASE IF ANY 1 CAN HELP AN TELL US, WHAT 2 DO 4 HER, I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE ANY ADVICE OR HELP U CAN GIVE, SHE IS SOOO MUCH A PART OF THIS FAMILY THAT I WANT 2 MAKE SURE SHE WILL B SAFE COME COLD, I THANK ANY REMARKS AN GOD BLESS

    • Kim,
      The reason your duck follows you around like a dog is that you have imprinted on her. She literally thinks of you as her flock, and she is instinctual attached to you. This is part of why ducks are such fun pets, but she will almost certainly NOT fly away for the winter. This is OK if you are able to give her shelter, plenty of food and liquid water. Ducks can survive pretty much the coldest weather the US can offer, but they can not be without liquid water. I have kept ducks through winters that reach -25F, and they have been fine because they could get out of the wind and snow in their duckhouse. For an example of a duck run / duck house, you can look at the pictures above. For keeping the water liquid, I use a metal drinker and a heater base. These have worked pretty well down to about -10F, but beyond that I have needed to supplement with warm water. You will also notice that she will eat a lot more food during very cold days. This is so that she will have the energy to keep warm.

  52. i have been feeding a duck in our pond all summer. i think she has only one wing. how do i take care of her for the winter. all others have left. she is so cute. she walks to the house when she in hungry.

    • I don’t know where you live, but building her a house and making sure she has lots of food and liquid water all winter should do the trick. They do not need heat. Just liquid water to drink and a place to get out of the wind.

  53. Dear Cliff,

    Thanks for all the information. I originally had 3 male and 2 female mallard ducks that were left in our pond that we would feed year round. One of the females was killed and now we have 3 males and only 1 female. I was told that you should have 2 females for every male. I was at our feed store the other day and they were selling mallard ducklings, so I bought 5 thinking I would keep the females after trying to sex them and let the males go in the wildnerness or estuary. After reading the other posts I am concerned to let the “males” go if they are not truly wild mallards and can not care for themsleves. I do not want to introduce any more males to our pond, so any advise as to what to do with these 5 ducklings would be appreciated.

    • If they are out living at your pond, it’s not as much of an issue than if they are cooped up. Still, ideally you would have a more balanced gender mix, so yes… Certainly avoid getting more males. Alternatively, give them a year or so and they’ll balance out the mix on their own.

  54. I have a Question,
    i have a Mallard Ducks Couple, when i bought them.
    after some days Female Gave 9 Eggs
    but as the time is passing Number of eggs is reducing
    now 4 of them are remaining
    i am Sure that there is not any Predator which can Reach them
    Can Somebody Help?

  55. So I have a pet Rouen duck and she is very small..She eats all the time and lays eggs just about every night but she is tiny and only weighs about 4-5 lbs. could there be something wrong with her is is she just a runt?

  56. We purchased 4 mallards at TSC about 10 weeks ago. Although they are in a small pen, it appears they can fly out except for the wire mesh covering the top that hold they in. We want to release them on our farm pond. We live in MS so the winters are very mild. If we release them on this pond, can they take care of themselves? We do not live at the farm during the week, so they will have to eat plants, etc. The farm pond had 3 wild mallards on it last week, so will they leave with them?

    Thanks

  57. Question a mom mallard gave birth to her ducks at our pond this spring, they babes are flying..We do feed them daily at night mostly just to give them a lil yum yum snacks. In fact they disappeared for a week and finally came back .Where did they go? The mom duck got wounded protecting her babies we imagine and her wing is damaged so she CANNOT fly, so actually she has 6 babies . The one day I went there 5 were gone all left was mom and one baby the next day they only one left was mom, but then 5 -6 days later all the babies came back… Where were they? Will they fly south without their mom? I love these duckies, Ive even named a few of them Ms Pearl (the runt) Mr. Big Bill (his Bill in ginormous) Jumper (he is always jumping for the bread) and MARMADUCK (the momma obviously) they other 3 or no names still, I haven’t figured how to tell them apart yet, but when I do ill name them too…. Anyway wil they leave this winter and where did they go for the week? Is that normal for ducks to do ?

  58. I was walking with my brother , sister , and my friend and I found 5 eggs and MY BROTHER was soo CARELESS and cracked one open I still have 4 . I do not have a incubator all I have is a heat lamp with a spiral light bulb what do I do?

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