Ducklings are a fun and easy bird to raise. I love seeing them zoom around in the brooder nibbling feed and then waddling over to the waterers! But sometimes keeping them supplied with feed and water at night can be a challenge.
Do ducklings need food and water at night or are they okay with just eating during the day, like us?
Ducklings need food and water at night. As long as they are in the brooder, ducklings must have both food and water at all times.
Your ducklings will grow so fast it will surprise you! That’s one of the things I like best about ducks, you see results quickly and that they are a bit hardier than chicks doesn’t hurt either!
All that growth that your ducklings are capable of doing has to be fueled by feed and water intake. The faster the ducklings grow, the more feed and water they need to do it!
Heat lamp will provide light for ducklings to eat at night
The heat lamp in your brooder will provide enough light for the ducklings to eat and drink 24 hours a day, even if you buy the red bulbs like we do.
Having enough light to eat and drink at night is great for the ducklings, let them decide when they want to eat and when they prefer to rest.
Do Ducklings Need A Heat Lamp is an article I wrote to help you figure out when your ducklings need and no longer need supplemental heat.
Ducklings need frequent meals, since they can only eat small amounts of feed each time. As long as you have feed and water available at all times the ducklings will choose the feeding frequency that works for them.
Having plenty of feed available is especially important for fast growing breeds like Pekins. These ducks have the potential to be really quick gainers, but only if you keep their feeders and waterers full!
If ducklings have food they must have water
As long as your ducklings have feed in their pen, they must also have water available. This is a biggie. Ducks of all ages are heavy water users.
What are they doing with all of this water? Well, the ducklings will learn pretty quickly to play in some of it, that’s the duck way! Biologically, they actually need the water to digest the dry food and to clear out their nostrils.
I wrote this article, How Much Water Do Ducklings Need? to help you figure out what to expect regarding the water consumption of your ducklings.
Check the ducklings’ waterer throughout the day
If you are noticing your ducklings are out of water when you go to feed them the next time, give them a few more waterers in the pen or increase the size of the waterer you are using, maybe do both.
Remember, new ducklings are overnight eaters, since they can use the light from the heat lamp. And, at least with any ducklings I have raised, they seem to run out of water faster than they run out of feed.
An easy way to know if you are giving your ducklings enough water is to check back on them in a few hours.
How are things looking in the brooder? Are the feeders and waterers still pretty full or did those ducklings eat and drink more than you expected?
Keep track of when you check the brooder and time your visits so you can get the feel for their schedule. Now that you have an idea of how much water they need, you can either check back and refill more frequently or get more waterers.
Use multiple waterers (one gallon size) in duckling brooder
I would caution you against getting a bigger waterer, like 5 gallon size, at first. This waterer will be too big for the ducklings. It will have sides on the water trough that are too high for the ducklings to reach over.
Start with multiple smaller waterers, like the one gallon size, and move up to a larger capacity waterer when your ducklings grow a bit.
You can refill feeders each morning, as ducklings grow
As your ducklings grow, you can fill the feeders in the morning and not worry about having feed available all night.
You’ll still need to make sure they have water, but they don’t need to have feed 24/7 since they will be able to eat more in the day.
When ducklings do not need heat, can eat meals
Once your ducklings are old enough to not need heat, they also can move to eating meals versus having feed available at all times.
You’ll need to measure how much feed you are giving them, so you know that they are getting enough for the morning, but now they are big enough and can eat enough to have space between meals rather than all you can eat.
Read my article How Much Feed Do Ducklings Need? for more information on feed amounts by duckling age.
Keep meat ducks on full feed for best growth
Let me mention, this “meals” or limited type feeding is more for ducks that you are keeping around as pets or as breeding stock. Limited feeding is also called restricted feeding, meaning feed is not available at all times.
If your ducks are to be meat birds, you need to give them full feed, since you want them to be gaining at their best. This is especially important if you have a processing appointment scheduled for your ducks.
Appointments are hard to come by lately, so you’ll want to make sure your birds are well grown when your processing date comes around.
Restricted feeding (meals) will not hurt nearly grown ducks, but it can slow down their growth if you are underestimating their feed intake needs for the day.
Limiting their feed has the potential to also limit your ducklings growth, which is a problem if you are trying to raise your ducklings to make weight by a certain date.
It’s just easier to let the ducklings choose how much to eat, that way you know they are getting what they need.
As the ducklings grow, use bigger feeders and waterers
The easy answer to providing the ducklings more feed so they do not run out is to use bigger feeders and waterers, except that won’t work until the ducklings grow a bit!
The larger capacity feeders and waterers have edges that are too high for the new ducklings to reach over.
At first, you’ll need to use the smaller capacity feeders and waterers and simply refill them or use more of them to keep up with your duckling’s needs.
Once your ducklings are a month old or so, they will be much more capable of using bigger water and feed troughs, until then keep them on the easier to use feeders and waterers.
To be clear, you can continue to use the feeders and waterers you started out with, they will still work for bigger ducks and ducklings. All that will change is you’ll need to fill them much more often
For me, it’s easier to switch to bigger sizes and do some other things with my day!
Starter size feeders and waterers can be used in the brooder for years
Don’t worry about these feeders and waterers laying around being unused. You’ll come back to these again and again.
This “starter” size is great for nearly all poultry, everything but quail, so you’ll get tons of use out of these feeder and waterers over your next few poultry projects.
Keeping Ducks is a nice overview article on PoultryKeeper.com. Click around, this site has a ton of great information.