Ducks, depending on their breed, can be flakey mothers. Abandoned ducklings are relatively common in domestic ducks, and it can be heartbreaking.
Both wild and domestic ducks will abandon ducklings, and they usually don’t make it more than a day or two. Wild ducklings are vulnerable to predators and drowning without a mother to guide them. Domestic ducklings are attacked by other birds in the coop without a mother hovering over them.
Some ducklings are sometimes abandoned almost by accident.
In our case, a mother duck hatched out a clutch of 12 and stopped sitting. She still had 4 eggs left in the nest, but something told her that an even dozen was enough!
A young (1-year-old) duck without a nest of her own decided to sit on the nest once their mother had left, and managed to hatch out 4 more ducklings from the surplus eggs they’d abandoned. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very interested in mothering them.
A duck that already has babies will often adopt abandoned ducklings, so long as they’re about the same age as her own. Perhaps her mothering instinct is strongest right after her babies hatch, or perhaps she just can’t tell them apart.
With a 2+ week difference in ages, the current mothers are not willing to take on extra responsibilities.
Not only do they not adopt the new babies, but they’ll actually go out of their way to attack and try to kill them. Two ducklings were found dead, and two more were hiding in a corner trying to avoid the cranky group of mother ducks.
Time to intervene and hand raise some fluffy cuteness, but what to do with abandoned baby ducks?
How to Care for Ducklings
So long as they’re well cared for, ducklings can be re-introduced back into the flock with no issues.
It takes about 6-8 weeks for ducklings to become self-sufficient. If you’re caring for abandoned ducklings, make sure you plan on housing for at least that long.
Water and Drowning
Ducks need an abundant source of water, and go through far more in a day than chickens. For lone ducklings, the water must be very shallow and ideally set up so that they can’t climb into it.
Very young ducklings are at great risk of drowning because they do not produce a natural oil that keeps them from getting waterlogged. They’ll get some of their mother’s oils through contact which allows her to take them for brief swims, but she makes sure to know their limits.
Ducks should not be given water to crawl in until they’re mostly feathered in. I’ve seen 4-week old ducklings become waterlogged and drown in 6-8 inches of water.
Food for Ducklings
Ducklings can consume any un-medicated chicken feed, ideally a starter ration or game bird ration because it contains higher protein to help them grow. The feed must be un-medicated because they consume more feed than chickens of a similar size, and they will overdose on medicated chicken feed.
They should be given free access to clean dry feed, though early on they won’t eat very much. They also love snails, slugs, and garden bugs as well as grass, clover, green, and lettuce.
(If you’re looking for more details, here are a few tips for feeding ducklings.)
Housing & Bedding
They’ll need a home safe from predators and bedding. A home can be as simple as a cardboard box, but ideally would be a Rubbermaid tote or something similar. Shavings, straw, leaves, or dry grass work well so long as you provide at least a 1-2 inch layer.
Ducklings love to play in their water, and their droppings are much wetter than chicken droppings. Without sufficient bedding, they’ll be soaked and may die of hypothermia. Paper towels also work well in a pinch but need to be changed daily as they become soaked easily.
Many sites will tell you how important heat is, and give instructions on a heat lamp and how to set it up so that it’s not a fire hazard. A heat lamp running all night after a few cloudy days is enough to cause our off-grid homestead to lose power.
In our first year brooding ducklings, we tried to use a heat lamp and kept draining the batteries.
For the past 5 years, we’ve brooded ducklings in a box in our garage in June, July, and August without a heat lamp and never lost a single one. A heat lamp may be nice and may keep them a lot more comfortable, but if you’re not able to set one up they’ll likely still do just fine.
Depending on the breed, ducks grow to full size in 8-12 weeks. They’ll need care for at least 6 weeks before they can be safely reintroduced to the flock.
Hello. I’m glad I found your blog post. We lost a mother duck before her babies hatched, and i am wondering if you’ve ever had luck hatching the eggs. We live off grid as well so a heat lamp is not an option. They still have about 10 days left of incubation and I’m not sure if they are even still alive. We’ve been keeping a hot water bottle over them at night and moving them to the green house during the day.
Thanks for your time.
You’re doing exactly what I’d suggest lacking electricity. If you did have a small amount of electricity, we’ve used this brooder plate with good success too. Unlike a heat lamp, which is around 250 watts, this thing is only 25 so it doesn’t kill our off-grid system.
The other thing that duck eggs need is humidity, since the mother gets her breast feathers wet occasionally while brooding. Put a tiny bit of water on your fingers and sprinkle them each day and that’ll help. They’re supposed to be turned each day too…
Hatching duck eggs is tricky they say, but you might just get lucky though. We had a mother reject one duckling once. We took him and put him in a tote in the garage, along with an unhatched egg he was huddling on. The joke was that egg would keep him company. He sat on the egg, and about 10 days later, he had a friend in there. We didn’t turn it or tend it in any way, and all it had was the warmth of another newborn chick.
Good luck, I really hope your brood makes it.
Thank you! We’ve been turning them every few hours. (Perhaps not necessary) and I heard about humidity so I have a moist paper towel sitting over some of the females feather that are still covering the eggs. Perhaps I’ll have good news for you in about 2 weeks.
I really hope so. Crossing my fingers for you!
We have a wild musk ivy duck mom who let her 2 day old babies to a dock on our canal and 4 of them ended up in the water chirping their little heads off. We got them out and they’re back with mommy but WHY would she take them there?? We might not be there next time to save them!!!
There really is no way of knowing why she would have taken them there. Thankfully you were there to rescue them.
It’s instinctual for the parents to lead ducklings to water to avoid predators. Swimming pools or bodies of water without a gently sloped ramp or shoreline are death traps
Will mom duck remember her babies once we reunite them after about 6 weeks?
Did the mother abandon them? What was the reason for separating them?
No the mother did not abandon them. The drake was trying to kill them and had success in killing one and then the neighbors dog killed one. We captured the last 5 and now have them in a pen in our shop so nothing can get to them. They are about 8 or 9 days old and have been away from the mom for 7 days today. The mom went crazy for the first day. We didn’t know if we should have put the mom with them or let her go back to our pond. She has not come looking for them for the last 4 days and the babies seem to be doing well. We put them in a pool 3 times a day to let them swim and get exercise. Any suggestions on what we should do. Also, when should we release them back to our pond. The pond only has the mom and the drake and fish. Thank you.
I probably would have put mom with them but they should be ok without her. Now that you have separated them you will probably need to care for them until they are self-sufficient. At that point, you would just want to reintroduce them to the other ducks in the same manner as you would any other new animal. I would initially place them in the area but be sure that they are protected in case the drake or the mother tries to attack them and gradually introduce them back in.
Thank you for your advise.
My sister has a duckling in her pool. The mother has abandoned it. She is feeding it mealworm, grass, peas, and grass. Problem is we can’t get it out of the pool to take it to the local wildlife sanctuary. It starts to dive deep and we are afraid it will drown. It won’t get out of the pool without its mother, but she hasn’t returned in days. There is a ramp for it to get out. How can we catch it to take to the sanctuary?
That’s really strange, usually, ducks come out periodically…Ours that drowned did so after a few hours, so clearly this one has some level of waterproofing on their feathers and is doing something to stay buoyant and waterproof if it’s been days. My best suggestion would be either floating a few pieces of wood in the pool to give the duck a place to rest, or if you’re really intent on the sanctuary, try using a pool net. Good luck!
The same thing happened to us just yesterday! We managed to get the little guy out with a pool net and made him a little enclosure with a bowl of water and a bowl of mealworms and grass but really don’t know what else to do. How did your little duckling fare and do you have any more advice?
My duck is down to her last duckling and I have taken it upon myself to care for it as it’s sibling was killed just last night. It is about 5 weeks old already. I separated it from its’ mother yesterday and closed up a stable for them today. When I went outside to reunite them earlier, it was like she didn’t even recognize her baby, it was heartbreaking. If I put the baby in a stable and coax her in there, do you think she will try to hurt it?
If she didn’t immediately recognize it and try to protect it, I would worry. I’ve watched ducks kill unprotected ducklings in minutes, in my case it was another rival mother duck and their actual mother wasn’t tending them. Literally pecked it to death before I could run the 30 feet to where they were to save it. Really heartbreaking…
Personally, if she’s not devoted to the one I wouldn’t give it back to her.
Hi, I rescued a single duckling today that I found drowning in a canal near me. It was alone and when I found the mother with other ducklings, the mother swam off despite me placing the duckling very close to her and allowing space for her to approach. I’ve since brought it home and am caring for it as best I can. Due to the current situation with Covid-19, wildlife centres aren’t taking any animals, so at least for the time being I need to care for the duckling. I’m anxious that by looking after it, the duckling will imprint onto me and it won’t be possible to integrate it back into the wild. Do you have any information regarding this?
I’ll start by saying I’m not an expert on wild ducks, since all my abandoned ducklings were domestic ducks rejected by their mothers. That said, I did have a the duck’s I’ve had imprint on me abandoned me within seconds of seeing their own kind. I’d tend them to adulthood, and they’d follow me like a dog (even coming when I called) and then literally as soon as they catch sight of other ducks it’s like they’ve never met me. I wouldn’t worry too much about it not being able to be released again, ducks know they’re ducks and adapt readily.
I have a couple, also rescued. Now that the weather is wet, is it ok for them to be out in it? Think they’re bored in the kitchen!
Hi Vicki. It depends on their age. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks before they are self-sufficient.
I found an abandoned baby Mallard duck. Appears to be maybe about a week old. I brought it home and have been feeding it chicken mix from the local feed store. However, I’m worried that I won’t be able to care for it for another 6 weeks until it’s old enough to be safely released. Are there any sanctuaries k cam bring it to? I’m located in the Chicagoland area.
I am not familiar with your area but a quick Google search of animal sanctuaries in your area should give you the answer.
MOTHER DUCK ABANDONED HER 11 DUCKLINGS 2 WEEKS AFTER HATCHED. MOTHER PICKED OUR ENCLOSED COURTYARD AT WORK AND THERE IS NO WATER SOURCE. OUR AGENCY IS CLOSED DUE TO COVID 19 BUT I COME HERE DAILY TO PROVIDE WATER AND CRACKED CORN. SO FAR- THEY ARE SURVIVING TOGETHER. THEY ARE 4 WEEKS NOW- AND I HAVE A SMALL POOL SET UP WHICH THEY ARE ABLE TO GET IN AND OUT WITH NO PROBLEM. MOTHER DUCK FLEW IN YESTERDAY BRIEFLY AND ALL 11 DUCKS RAN TO HER AND SHE ONLY STAYED A MINUTE AND LEFT AGAIN. I HAVE 2 QUESTIONS: ONE- WHY DOES MOTHER DUCK LEAVE AND COME BACK- AND SECONDLY- WE HAVE A FEW CROWS THAT HANG OUT- AT WHAT AGE WILL THE DUCKLINGS NOT BE PREY TO THE CROWS. THE ONLY WAY OUT FOR THE DUCKS IS WHEN GAIN THEIR FLYING SKILLS TO GO OVER BUILDING WALL SO I EXPECT THEM TO BE HERE FOR AWHILE. THANK YOU
Please answer this question as we have a very similar problem too
Hi Mary, you can see my response to Mary’s question.
I am not certain why the mother is leaving and coming back. As far as the ducklings, they should be full grown at 8 to 12 weeks. Once they are full grown they should be safe from the crows as they generally only attack ducklings and not adult birds.
We were watching a mama duck and her ducklings while we were fishing and as we were leaving and it was dark we realized that the chirping sound we had been hearing was a duckling. We went looking for it and it was hiding all alone chirping. When it saw our flashlight it came closer but was still too scared. We payed duck sounds on the phone and it walked right up to my hand and I was easily able to grab it without any protest or crying. It hid in my hands and cried whenever it wasn’t in anyone’s hands. It’s currently trying to jump out of the box to get to me. I’m not sure what to do?
If you are not able to care for it, then you can find a local animal sanctuary that might be able to assist.
HI, I just came home and a duck is in my pool with 10 babies. now today I have 2 that are apparently abandoned, the mom hasn’t been here all day. I hopefully catch them and put them up for the night in my garage. My question is once they get bigger can I put them in with my chickens?
Those babies may not be able to get out of the pool, and that may be why they’re left in there. Left long enough they’ll become waterlogged and drown, so if they’re not able to climb out on their own maybe help them. If they’re wild ducks, I’m not sure how they’d take to being with chickens (or if they’d just fly away once they can). For domestic ducks, we kept ours with chickens without issue so long as you’re careful about introductions (adult chickens can and often will just kill young birds, chicken/duck or otherwise, so I’d wait until they’re a bit more grown).
My daughter had 4 ducks up to last year. Two of them got killed by a predator and the third died just a few days ago. What would be the best way to introduce the lone duck to other ducks? Also I was wondering if perhaps if it could be taken to a lake or pond as to see if it could survive on its own.
Was your daughter providing food and shelter for the ducks? If so, I’m not sure how well the duck would do in the wild by itself. When introducing other ducks, it depends on how that’s being done. Do you plan to bring other ducks to the property and if so will they be ducklings or full grown?
Dear Ashley, we have found and took in four abandoned wild duck eggs. Three just hatched today! They are snuggling in with our newly hatched baby chickens right now. What can we do to best take care of these wild ducklings? We live off in the woods, surrounded by ponds, lake, wildlife and a lot of greens, both planted and wild. Do the tips you listed here apply to these wild ducklings also? I’m wondering if we can prepare food purely out of natural forest ingredients instead of buying it anywhere. I also wonder when can I introduce them to water ponds and how to monitor that etc. We have no experience with ducks at all, least of all wild ones, and would be so grateful for your thoughts on this. Thank You!
You might have trouble providing them with enough food in captivity unless you give them a large area to forage (but then without their mother as a guide they’re more at predator risk). Domestic ducks eat a lot more than chickens, and wild ducks are often fully grown and flying at 6 weeks…so that’s a lot of food. They’re moving and foraging all day long, led by their mother. If you’re trying for natural forest ingredients, lots of tender wild greens (goosefoot, chickweed, etc), pond plants, and a boatload of slugs, snails, and worms might work, but you’ll have to see how they take to them.
As to exposing them to the water, that’s tricky, as without their mother to guide them out after a while they’re liable to get waterlogged and actually drown as their down will get soaked after a while. Their fluff is waterproof for a time, but not nearly as much as adults.
I really hope it works out for you, best of luck!
I’m raising domestic muskovies. My drake was killed before the hens hatched out any eggs. I’ve got 15 ducklings being shipped in to restore the flock. Is there a chance the hens might raise the new ducklings, or am I stuck with using a brooder until they are old enough to join the flock?
There is a chance…but in my experience, they’re more likely to kill them until they’re at least 4ish weeks old.
So my chickens were sitting on 2 duck eggs.. for the longest time it seems…. Muscovy duck eggs mixed with mallards… they both hatched but one was pecked to death.i got to the other one just in time, though it had a head wound… I think it will be okay but I don’t know how to care for it properly. We have other ducklings and mamas but they are a week and a half older than this little one. Any suggestions?
We’ve kept them in a cardboard box in the house until they were 3-4 weeks old. At that point, they can be slowly re-integrated.
Hi we have an abandoned mallard duckling now about 8 weeks old., she is doing well but we are wondering if she would survive if we put her in the wild.
She’ll likely migrate on her own once she can fly, so I’d let her make that choice and just put her in a place without a roof.
Trisha- we have just taken in a mallard duckling. My kids saved it when they saw it’s mama trying to drown it over an extended period of time. Our neighbours said they witnessed the same thing before my kids noticed it. She has 3 other ducklings as well which she seemed to be nurturing towards. Anyways, we now have this mallard duckling. Please share what you’ve done to care for yours. Ours seems fairly young, but seems to be able to fly. Thanks!
Thanks for this information. My wife and children came across 3 abandoned ducklings near a river by our house. The thought is they are under 2 weeks old. With some help it was determined they weren’t wild and someone most likely dumped them there. We lost one within 12 hours. It was pretty lethargic and it’s head kept falling to the side and it eventually passed. We are on night 2 now. If we can keep the other 2 alive they will be heading to my inlaws farm by next weekend.
Sorry to hear that one passed away. I hope the other two are thriving!
Hello! I am looking for advice for how to best care for two mallard ducklings.
At our cottage, we had a mallard duck nest in a very unfortunate spot 10 feet off the ground and with multiple outdoor cats nearby. The mother left her nest with 8 ducklings but left 4 behind. We were able to hatch two, which was a huge surprise! They are now two weeks old. The attempt to reintegrate them with their mother (who has since lost all her babies) was not successful. They were afraid of her and ran away and hid under my daughter who they have imprinted on. When the mother did swim off with one, the male duck immediately started pecking at it. We have a good setup for baby ducks but would need to build a pen if we were to continue much longer.
I contacted a wildlife rescue near me and they are willing to take them but with me being a softie, I don’t know what is the best place for them. The rescue is on a small inner-city lot and the director mentioned that the ducks don’t get a pool until they are older and almost ready to be released. Until then, the ducklings are put in boxes based on size. Currently, the ducklings get out 5 times a day and do a supervised swim at least three and complain loudly when left. I know that they are wild ducks and belong with their own kind, I’m just wondering about the best timing for that. We are willing to care for them for any amount of time that would be best for them whether it be another week or until flight. Thanks for any advice!
Hi, thanks for your advice. I rescued 2 wild ducklings 3 weeks ago. The mother had 7 originally, 5 disappeared thanks to foxes I think, then she abandoned the final 2. Seconds before a farm cat got them, we picked them up, and have had them in our kitchen, in a cat carrier for nearly 3 weeks. It’s been fun and an adventure. They take a lot of tlc, but are extremely cute. They poo very often!, and I change the bedding 3 times a day. Their favourite it definitely lettuce, but cucumber is also popular. All has to be chopped up fine, but it gets munched very quickly. Protein pellets soaked in water seems popular too. They have a swim for about 1-3 minutes outside, then you can see them wanting to get out, so they come back to the warm kitchen. I give them a little rub down of they look cold. They like cuddles, and also wandering around on the floor, following me, 2 /3 times a day. Kit hen towel is essential!! They have the option when older to join the other wild ducks, on the farm, or can stay on our makeshift pond if they want. Anyone thinking about ducklings, should be aware of the time and commitment, but I know they had no chance of survival without a bit of intervention…. So extremely worthwhile.
I’m so glad you rescued them. It sounds like they’re living really great lives with you!
I recently rescued a baby mallard duck, I think its around about a week old. Ive had it 4 days now but he’s still quite afraid of me which I expected. How long did your babies take to warm up to you?
Thank you (:
Good Luck, it will be a lovely time, watching it grow and develop.
I think it ws about a month when my 2 would follow me a bit around the kitchen.
I hot through loads of lettuce and cucumber feeding them, but it felt good to know that without my help they had no chance at all.
Have fun and enjoy it.
We hand raised a wild duckling that was rescued from a dog attack. We have 4 other domestic ducks close to same age but slightly older. Because of age difference we waited until the wild duck was mature before placing him with the others. They have been together all summer now on our pond but the wild one has never been accepted. He is constantly being pecked and chased. He hangs by himself. He is put up at night in a safe coop with the other ducks. I feel sorry for him but don’t know what to do to help him. Will he ever be accepted?
Today we discovered a juvenile duck in our yard and it is walking back and forth between our yard across an alley to our neighbor’s yard. It’s clearly not full grown as it has a bit of white-ish fuzz on the back of it’s head. It doesn’t seem to know what to do but since we live at least a mile from any significant water source we assume the duck flew to this location. Should we just leave it and it will eventually fly off? Is this duck just hanging out right now and waiting for an opportune time to leave? Or is it completely lost without it’s mother and will die? We contacted the city but it takes a day before the respond. Thanks for your help.
Well, much has happened since my post last night. The “juvenile” duck we saw was actually a mother and a breed i’d never seen before. Definitely not a mallard which is the common duck type around here. Anyway, the mother was in distress because her ducklings had fallen into the sewer! I pulled the sewer cover and my wife was able to kneel down into the sewer and retrieve the ducklings. There were 10 of them! We put them all in a box and took them to the vicinity of the mother. As soon as they were out of the box they ran to their mother and all was well. The only concern is that we don’t live near a significant water source. Hopefully, she’ll be able to navigate the situation. Thanks anyway!
Awesome, I’m so glad this ended well for everyone!
HI Ashley, so today I got a phone call from my husband and a duckling had been sitting outside, almost stepped on by several people all morning. Obviously it was abandoned, I’m guessing because it has either a deformity (born with) or a broken leg. Doesn’t seem to be in pain, though I probably will still take him to the vet on payday. I took the duckling home and now have it in a large sized box with a 2 inch bowl of water. What should I feed the duckling? and should I let the duckling run freely sometimes? it wont seem to be drinking the water it has, I even have a dropper and it wont drink out of that when I try… any suggestions?
Ducks drink like crazy, and if it’s not drinking then I’d say he won’t make it long. I kept a duck with a broken/deformed leg for years, and it healed (to where he was able to walk well) after several weeks in a tote in my garage. But if he’s not eating/drinking, you may be out of luck. I hope it works out for the little guy, best of luck!
Rose Marie Engman
Mother duck and her babies were found in our pool, they all left w the mother however, after getting out of the pool, one was left behind.My kids decided they needed to rescue it and put it in an empty bathtub with blankets for the night.I discovered this hours later and felt that the best thing to do is leave the baby outside because its mother will still be looking for it. It was dark and late but I put it in a box and returned it to a place near the pool. In the morning box is empty, no sign of a problem but the kids are very upset and sure that I killed it. I honestly have no idea if I did the right thing. Just looking for an educated opinion, do you believe there was a chance they are all back together or do you suspect I left it to be killed? 🙁
Hi I have a large horse farm with lots of other dogs and cats around and I found a very young probably knew Lauren would duck. By himself no mother no siblings I don’t know where he came from. I have him in my small dog crate I have gotten organic duck starter food which I mix with water and he seems to be happy with it and he’s drinking well should I introduce any fresh vegetables?Should I take him out of the dog crate to exercise and so he can move around more and just keep them in a confined space I’m really enjoying him he would’ve died the first night if we hadn’t found him some thing would’ve killed him. Can he go out with my chickens once he’s grown up? When do I introduce a pool?
Fresh veggies and greens are great for ducks, and I’d give them to him if it were me. As to space, he’ll likely be fine in a small space for the first week or two, but then yes, a bigger space so he can move. We’ve had 6-week old ducklings drown in a kiddy pool, so until he’s FULLY grown I’d keep any pool at 1 inch deep or so if he’s unattended. We’ve had success raising chickens and ducks together, but the chickens will likely attack him if he’s introduced too young. I’d wait until he’s grown or near grown. There are instructions for introducing new chickens/birds to a cook, I think just putting them in after dark so the chickens wake up with their new neighbor tends to work out the best, but do some reading on methods of introduction (but still, I’d wait until he’s grown).
Thank you for running this forum! I have a mallard sitting on a nest in one of our bushes. Today there was one egg that seems to have been ejected from the nest. It is possible that it rolled away from the nest, but unlikely. It seems more likely it was pushed out of the nest. The egg is cracked, and the baby’s beak is not near the crack, so I am guessing this was a result of hitting the concrete rather than the bird trying to hatch. The bird seems to be very developed. I can see feathers and I hear it making peeps. I brought it inside and put it on a heating pad on a medium-low setting. Should I attempt to put it back in the nest? I am afraid that if Mom rejected it, she will do so again and damage the shell again.
Once a mother has rejected an egg she almost certainly won’t take it back. Our domestic ducks reject eggs all the time, and who knows what their reasoning is. I’ve successfully hatched them by keeping them under a brooding heat lamp if all they need is another few days. There are instructions online on how to repair cracked shells if the egg has cracked pre-maturely. I’ve never had to do it, but I’m pretty sure you can actually just tape up the crack to help retain moisture (I seem to remember seeing a tutorial to the effect). I hope it works out for the little guy!
Hi! Just wondering how everything turned out with the cracked egg…
Will adult chickens adopt an abandoned duckling? Or will they kill it? I dont want to risk it without know.
It really depends on the chickens, but my chickens tried to kill even the chicks of other mother chickens, so I wouldn’t chance it.
I have brought in an abandoned wild mallard duckling. He has only one usable eye. The other eye never opened. Can a wild mallard duck survive in the wild when old enough to be released?
That is a good question, and honestly, I have no idea. Good luck, I hope he makes it!
Hi so glad I found your post!
My dad bought two ducks, one white and a mallard. She laid 7-9 eggs and 7 have hatched successfully. Then he bought another duckling (yellow) at his local tractor supply. They say it’s about 3 days old. The original white mama duck has ducklings that are about 2 days old. We are afraid that she will hurt this yellow duckling or the mallard will hurt the yellow duckling. Should we try it??
It really depends on the mother…some will attack them, others won’t. Good luck, I hope it works out.
I enjoyed reading your column. I live in a community with man-made ponds. We have our share of both wile and domestic ducks. We have been taking care of a neighbors home while they are on vacation. One of the ducks started nesting under a small shrub and laid 11 eggs. Yesterday, we found the mother duck killed and gutted. We presume it was a raccoon, as they are common in the neighborhood. We know she had only been off the nest for less than one day. We think the mother duck had been sitting on the eggs for about 10-14 days before she was killed.
My son and I built a brood box out of an old Styrofoam cooler. We added a 25 watt light bulb encased in metal screening material, a cup of water , and cut a hole on the lid and added an 8″ X 10″ Plexiglas viewing window. Lastly, we placed an analog meat thermometer to keep tract of the temperature. The temperature is holding steady at 99 degrees F.
We have raised baby ducks in the past with good results. We are hopeful that the eggs will hatch and that we can introduce them into the pond next to our home.
Hopefully you got to them in time. It certainly sounds like you are doing all that you can to help them along.
Hello.. a few days ago I rescued 6 baby wild ducklings running up the median Lake Ontario State Parkway. My husband wouldn’t let me keep them saying it was illegal. So I returned them to a safe location in a pond area directly off the parkway. I was hoping the mother was looking for them nearby somewhere? That evening one had disappeared. 3 days later I could find none. I did not know about water logging predators and such. I really thought it was a little Paradise for them to grow and be strong enough to survive. I was wrong. I wish I had seen this before. At least now I know? I’m assuming the checks were three weeks old maybe and obviously born sometime in July a late hatch perhaps? I feel so bad about this. I just wanted to help them but I guess I never should have touched them to begin with OR risk my life to scoop them up from I meant traffic. Sincerely Wendy
Our Frizzle Bantam laid on a Muscovy duck egg and it hatched this afternoon!! I have to say, this is going to be interesting because Ruby the teeny tiny chicken has taken the duckling as her own, as she should because she hatched it faithfully. I do worry though because it’s going to be a matter of days until this duckling is bigger than her step Mama. Muscovy ducks are huuuuuge, Frizzle Bantams not so much. Its like an adorable fairy tale <3
They are safe in our sunroom btw
Well that sounds like it could get interesting for sure.
Thank you so much for that advice. It is so many years since I have rescued ducklings I had forgotten how! My great niece found a duckling on the road, no sign of mother or other ducklings. The duckling is doing well, I have her/him in a case with wheat bag, hottie and a blanket over top to keep warm, I am hoping that is enough – we are southern hemisphere and it is the first month of spring so I am guessing it will be warmer than outside!
I soaked chicken pellets in a bit of water to make them a bit easier to eat. Will this be ok? I can get some chick crumb tomorrow.
Also it has only one leg, There is no sign of trauma and it is very active without it, but guessing this is why it couldn’t keep up with mum. I would like to release it in the wild in a few weeks, but will wait till I am sure it is steady on it’s foot.
Hi Katrina. How is that duckling doing so far?
A few years ago my husband found a newly hatched duckling near our kitchen door. No mother duck in sight. He gave the little wild duck to me and I raised it. In order for it not to be alone we also got a little Peking duckling for company after about 3 weeks. A friend then asked us if we could adopt his male Pekin duck and another acquaintance gave us his Indian runner duck. After 2 months the wild duck was able to fly while the other ducks were unable. The wild duck would fly away and come back visit us daily. This went over the years and even now it still comes to visit us and recently even with her babies. In the meantime the Pekin and Runner duck group got bigger as the female Pekin duck laid eggs and they hatched. Some ducklings looked brown and some looked yellow when hatching. The group of ducks got bigger and bigger and more females also means more delicious duck eggs which we use for cooking and baking or giving away.
Nevertheless during lockdown here I had the idea to put a couple of the duckeggs into the incubator as I thought this might make some families with kids happy to raise some cute ducklings during the tough lockdown rules here in Melbourne.
We had two ducklings hatch one week ago and when I told my already 21 year old son who still lives at home as he studies that I want to give them to another family he protested so intensely that he convinced me that we needed to raise the ducklings as we are offering them the happiest life and other people would not do that. I must admit generally my son is very good with animals and so I decided, if he really wants to raise these ducklings, I will allow it in the house. Now I find myself in the situation that these two super cute ducklings, one yellow and one brown are imprinted on me. During the day they always call when I am not in sight. We let them run around in the kitchen and my son takes over care of them from 6 PM to the morning. Am I happy with this? Not completely as although these ducklings are one of the cutest things on this planet, it really takes a lot of my time to look after them. Cleaning up their poops, washing the towels and also making sure they feel save and happy.
I have a question. Does it harm little ducklings when I let them call for their adopted mum (me) for a longer time, lets say half an hour? Sometimes I simply have to go out of the house into the garden or for our allowed exercise. (we are here in Melbourne in lockdown). Will that do any specific damage if little ducklings are let calling for their mum for an extended period of time? Naturally I feel sorry for them when I hear them call. I tried it with preparing them a cozy area with a cuddly teddy bear, but they simply do not buy into it and when they realise I am not in sight call for me so heartbreakingly loud and intense, that I simply seem to not be able to keep away.
Hi there, Finding this page has been wonderful. Thank you for the time and effort you spend writing answers to us all.
I have three Indian Runner ducks – a drake and two girls who are nesting together. We are at about day 28 (not too sure when to start counting from – is it when the last egg was laid?) and today we found two eggs removed several metres from the nest. One had died – a very small embryo so probably some time ago, but the other held a live duckling with the egg cracked where it’s head and bill was. It was alive and taking breaths. Why would they throw out an egg that looked like a perfectly good duckling? What would you recommend we do when this happens? Do you forsee any problems having two mums? And should we separate our drake from them as we are unsure if he will harm them – does this happen? So far he still appears to be protector to the girls…
Drakes usually don’t harm ducklings, at least not in my experience. Why a duck rejects an egg (or a duckling) is a bit of a mystery, and it could just be by chance. Maybe the duckling was fine and the egg just got kicked out by accident, or maybe the mother knew it wasn’t developing properly somehow. I’m not sure the answer is really known even by science. Sorry about your ducklings, if they’re far enough along it’s sometimes possible to finish their development with a heat lamp for the last few days even if a mom rejects them, but then you’d have to raise the hatchling by hand instead of returning it to the nest (as she’d likely just reject it again).
We’ve had plenty of ducks co-nest and when there are two mums the ducklings actually seem to do better. The mums work together and they’re able to bring up more little ones together than they do alone.
Hello, my younger brother recently bought a duckling from a swapmeet but the issue is that we can keep a duck as it is a lot of work and we already have pets, big dogs which will likely kill it. Weve keep it in a cage for a while now. My issue is that I’ve read online that if we feed this duck it wont know how to survive in the wild. I dont want to raise a duck knowing that if released itll surely die. Please help
I would check your local area to see if there is a local farm that might be able to take it in.
Hello! Mama mallard left her 11 babies last week in the lake outside my condo. We are down to 3 babies and I’m so heart broken! I do my best to chase off predators, I feed them everyday. I really want to take them in to protect them until they are old enough, but I can’t get them close enough. I tried catching them with a fishing net. We even made a little wooden box to see if they would go inside. I’m so sad watching them get taken by herons. What more can I do?
It really sounds like you have done everything that you can. Have you had any luck with them going in the box?
We have 2 males and 2 female domestic fucks we keep on a fenced compound. After several weeks mamas go to their nests or not. 3 days ago the wife and I found 3 very week little ones. One was stepped on and perished. Mom didn’t care. We brought the other 2 inside in a rubber tub with a heat lamp and sod shavings. My wife, a nurse, fed them and held them and while weak we did see they were pooping and urinating. For no apparent reason one died and my wife took it very hard. The remaining one appeared on to be getting stronger and my wife spent hours with it gave her a name and we were both excited it would seek drinking water and eat crushed cream corn and dry starter food we gave the newborn chicks. Well tonight we lost the last one and my wife was hysterically crying which broke my heart.
What did we do wrong? What could we have done differently? The little one was fine and griping an hour before my wife yelled my name and I rushed in to find her holding the little lifeless baby crying she’s dead. We were having a load thunderstorm and powerful thunder scared us…is it possible that that loud thunder scared her to death? What do I tell my wife whose got a heart of gold and selflessly cares for others to assure her we did the best we could and take away her pain?
Sorry for the long story. We raise chickens, have goats and horses so we’re not novices but never ducks
I am so sorry that you lost your little ducklings. It sounds like you did all that you could to help them. It’s quite possible that they were just too far gone when you discovered them. Take comfort in knowing that they were being well cared for when they passed with lots of love.
Hello and nice to meet you!
I have 2 motherless mascovy ducklings (maybe a week old) who are doing wonderfully. I have 2 wild/domestic ducks who I have been feeding for 2 months. They heard the baby ducklings and now won’t even find shelter from the storm over head. I can’t possibly know if they may have had babies and lost them or not but they really seem to want these babies. They run other ducks off now and seem to be protecting. What would be your thoughts on giving them the babies?
I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t try it. I would just introduce them to each other gradually and keep an eye on them just like you would when introducing any new animal.
For whatever reason a clutch of ducklings emerged from an old hollowed tree base…. No mother. I’ve been reading up on helping them grow and thrive…. My question is~ Will they know they are wild and want to leave at some point?
Someone else asked a similar question. This was Ashley’s response. “I’ll start by saying I’m not an expert on wild ducks, since all my abandoned ducklings were domestic ducks rejected by their mothers. That said, I did have the duck’s I’ve had imprint on me abandoned me within seconds of seeing their own kind. I’d tend them to adulthood, and they’d follow me like a dog (even coming when I called) and then literally as soon as they catch sight of other ducks it’s like they’ve never met me. I wouldn’t worry too much about it not being able to be released again, ducks know they’re ducks and adapt readily.”
we have a good size pond next to our condo. there are 4 other ponds in the complex. we were out of state and came back with a small baby duck swimming around aimlessly. we waited a few days no other mother ducks came around. I cut up tiny pieces of apple she ate. after about a week I bought some dried grub worms from Amazon. She loves them. Still no ducks came around, after about a month a mother duck came into the pond 6 small babies and is chasing our duck out of the pond. then a few days later another mother duck and her 2 larger babies came into the pond. her babies look about the size of our duck. she to joins in chasing our duck out of the pond. Now when I feed the duck I have to chase the other ducks to the other end of the pond so that our duck can have something to eat. I am trying to not feed the other ducks hoping they will go back to the other ponds. They are not. I was hoping our duck would get to the point to where it could fly and she is almost there. I do not know if she will fly away south for the winter with the rest of the wild ducks if the are not accepting her now. Our duck is stronger and fatter than the 2 teenage ducks her age but when they come near she gets out of the pond. Is she going to survive? She knows me because I have been her mother for over a month. what should I do?
It sounds like you’re already doing everything that you can do. I would just continue doing what you’re doing. Let us know how she does.
What I am worried about is before winter will she take off with the rest of the wild ducks on there migration. Here in Nevada it get vary cold down to 10 degrees and colder. I think she is ready to start Flying, but she hasn’t yet.
If she is stronger and fatter than the other ducks then maybe it’s time to stop feeding her and allow her to find food for herself and assimilate with the other ducks.
Hi..I am heartbroken. Over the last 2 days I’ve watched a mommy duck disregard her littlest and looked like weakest baby. I live on a lake and watched the little baby try desperately to keep up with her and her 6 siblings. The baby was often abandoned by the mom left to swim alone in the lake with other ducks…fish and turtles. I noticed that when the mommy n babies would come to eat this baby would stay in the water and if it did attempt to come up in the yard it took everything it had..at one point they trambled on it n left it literally floating in the lake with the current taking it. It did try to swim and I noticed it didn’t really eat so since the mom abandoned it we tried to rescue it. We were able to get it and I took it to the wildlife sanctuary and was told if I left it they would euthanize it due to state law not allowing them to raise it. We took care of it during the night..trying to feed it and give it water but it ate and drank very little. This morning..it was very weak and I attempted to try n get it to eat and drink while waiting to take it to another rescue. It passed away and I’m blaming myself. Do you think because I took it in is why it died or do you think it probably was sick and that’s why the mom had no interest. We gave it love and I feel at least it didn’t drown or attacked by predators but still heartbroken.
I’m sorry this happened. It’s so sad. It’s hard to say what the outcome would have been if you hadn’t stepped in. It sounds like you had the best intentions and did the best you could for this little one.
I’m still feeding this duck. she is fat and healthy with nice colored feathers. When the other ducks come around I don’t feed them. I feel sorry for the duck that started out with 6 babies. Now she is down to 3 babies. The 3 are very skinny. if the mother ducks would quit chasing my duck out of the pond I would feed them. I am afraid to stop feeding her, but she does need to be on her own if she is going to fly out of here. Lately the mother duck with the 2 teenagers as I call them flies off and leaves them for the day, but she comes back later. If she would not come back our duck and the teenagers get along fine. The other duck that had the six babies experienced an attack by Crows while they walked from pond to pond. The Crows carry them off and eat them when they are little. I’m hoping the mother duck leaves the 2 teenagers permanently so that maybe our duck would fly off into the wild with them. At what age will mother ducks leave there young to be on there own? I think our duck is almost 3 months old.
I am not sure exactly when they will leave the mother. They can survive on their own around 2 months. I have read that the drakes usually leave the mother first and that the girls will leave when they mate but may come back to the same spot when it is time to have their babies.
HI I have a single duckling that was found in the neighborhood very small and alone. We brought the duckling home and have raised it for about a month on oatmeal and duckling ration. It’s imprinted on me but it is quickly outgrowing life in and out of the house. We have 3 mature hens but no ducks. I’m wondering if I can introduce the duckling to the hen house (does a duck need other ducks?) or if it makes sense to try to introduce it to one of the city park duck flocks. It appears to be a domestic breed and most of the ducks in the city flocks are domestic breeds but we have not been able to find any ducklings of comparable age anywhere or ducklings at all for that matter. Not sure how to proceed. Advice?
Ducks don’t necessarily need other ducks but it could be problematic to introduce the duck to your hens if it is a male. Male ducks who do not have female ducks around or not enough female ducks will attempt to mate with hens and could kill the hens in the process.
Regarding the 2+ week difference that is not a hard and fast rule. I’ve had Broody ducks who will pick out a duckling they didn’t hatch at a 1mile distance even if it is the exact same breed and hatched at the exact same time
And other broodies who will take on any duckling of any age at any time. Most will recognise that a duckling 2weeks or more younger older is not theirs and reject it.
But some will take them. In my opinion, they often know it’s not theirs, but they just are so broody they want to love up every duckling they clap eyes on
I also had a wild mallard who lost all her own ducklings and she ended up adopting another mallard duckling that was 1-2 weeks old and shortly after taking on a clutch of domestic ducklings which were several weeks older. She raised the lot and took on several other ducklings of various ages, shapes and sizes.
At around 3 months old the domestic ducklings (now ducks) were still happily following their mallard mum everywhere…by then, they were 2-3 times her height. Meanwhile at around 4-5 weeks of age their domestic mum had discovered a new drake and went off to start a new nest…I guess secure in the knowledge that “mallard mum” was giving her ducklings the best care ever…..
I found that of the wild mallards they either wouldn’t take anything even the same age, or they would take anything that even vaguely resembled a duckling and give it marvellous committed care. Domestics were more likely to take other ducks ducklings, but less committed to their care (though there were always some exceptions who were exceptional mothers).
I had one domestic who would nest like a champion, totally committed to the nest. The ducklings would hatch and she would stay on them till all were dry and up and walking……. Then, it was like she never got broody in the first place, she was just up and off, no acknowledgement whatsoever of the ducklings from that point on. Luckily when she hatched ducklings and I discovered this I had another domestic duck who was taking on any duckling, including those much younger or older than her own. All I had to do was show her a duckling of any size, age colour or shape and it was automatically hers as far as she was concerned.
While there are some generalisations you can make, there are plenty of ducks who will ignore or break all the rules. Like us they are individuals and have their own thoughts and ideas on what they want to do and how.
So don’t assume that no broody will take on ducklings a lot younger or older, many, most won’t but you may get one who absolutely will. Just monitor them very carefully, not just for a few minutes. It a few hours after putting them together.
I am happy I came across your page, I live in Florida and we have wild ducks around our houses all the time, I usually buy food for these birds and they come and eat, one was always around my house, one day I came back to my home and I saw this duck injured. I think
she maybe was flying and a car hit her, she is in bad shape, her leg was broken and her wings destroyed :(, I thought she was gone a day, now she is always alone and she is moving more but she can’t fly or walk with two legs, I tried to put a bandage on her leg and I give her food lately, I tried to call to rescue but no one answer, I need your opinion of how to take care of her or what to do
Thanks a lot!!!
There might not be any more that you can do for her. You could maybe check to see if there are any vets near you that would check her out or maybe try the department of natural resources in your state, but other than that I am not sure what else you could do.
A mama Mallard was down to four ducklings. The males kept harassing her and she appears to have fled and not come back. It’s been about three days.
We first started seeing the ducklings 20Apr swimming with their mother in the pond. They are at least twenty days old. They can swim and forage. They don’t have their adult feathers yet, but are about double size from fresh ducklings.
The geese let them hang out sometimes and they are in a fenced apartment complex.
Can they make it on their own?
I would say that if they are swimming and foraging on their own then I would say they have a pretty good chance.
Mama mallard left 5 unhatched eggs in her nest and left. My husband put them in our incubator and we now have 5 very sweet 4 week old Mallard ducklings. We now have them in a dog crate (predator proofed) halfway in our pond and halfway out to prepare them to be free.. We have done this before with our Blue Swedish ducklings and it works wonderfully. Our 2 Blue Swedish stayed and roam free on our property and the pond. Question though; will mallard babies fly away once they’re old enough?
They will fly and may leave for short amounts of time and then return, eventually staying out for longer periods. There is a good chance that if they have grown up on your property and there is plenty of food and water that they may decide to stay.
We have many baby ducklings being hatched now. One got away and we had to rescue from pond. Mom won’t have anything to do with it. It seems to have just been hatched, as its eyes aren’t open yet. We are doing everything mentioned above and it sleeps on my chest periodically throughout the day. I have a shallow bowl of sugar water and soften feed for her. She sits in it a lot and I change it regularly. My question: Is it normal for her not to really be able to walk? Also, she trembles constantly unless being rubbed and soothed. Could it be some kind of nerve damage?
How long has it been since it hatched? Is it still in the same condition?
A duck had made a nest in my yard and had started to lay eggs but then my little sister scared the duck away because she tried to play with it. The mama duck left 2 eggs and never came back. It has been about 3 days and she still hasn’t come back to sit on the eggs. Should I grab the eggs and try to save them, or will she come back?
She should have come back by now. It may be too late for the eggs. I’m not sure how long they can go without the mama sitting on them but it is worth a try.
I found two abandoned duck eggs in my yard. They’re mother layed them and never came back. I took the eggs inside and put them in a plastic container with some grass and towels and put a light over them. Will this be enough for them to hatch? Also, how do I care for them if they do hatch?
Here is a helpful article on hatching duck eggs from Cornell University. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/programs/duck-research-lab/hatching-duck-eggs#:~:text=Set%20the%20temperature%20at%2037.5,of%204%20times%20a%20day.
I live in S FL w many ponds creeks canals nearby. At the Publix grocery store Mom Duck has 12 ducklings. It is Aug 27. How old are they? I want to capture some to bring to the pond. When? I saw one swim in a rain puddle. Is it ok to take them? I sprinkle good bread crumbs daily so the are getting used to me. Pls contact me asap. TY!!!
I don’t think I would recommend capturing wild ducklings to bring to your pond. This post is really just about helping out those that have been abandoned by their mother.
Hello I found a baby Muscovy duck about a week ago, not sure how old it is but I’ve been caring for it. It growing fairly quick but it’s been sneezing pretty often with discharge. What can I do for it?
I don’t know what to do there, but I hope he’s ok!