Ducks can get big, fast. If you’ve got a brooder full of rapidly growing ducklings, you’ll quickly find that your larger ducks can create quite a lot of mess in a very short amount of time. So when can you take your ducklings out of the brooder and let them live outside?
Your duckling brooder should start at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and drop by 7 degrees per week. When this temperature drops below the low temperature outside, you’ll be able to transfer your ducklings to an outdoor coop or pen with no heating issues.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the factors you should consider when deciding when to transition your ducklings to an outdoor environment so you can decide where to keep them.
When Can Ducklings Move Outside?
There’s no definitive, hard and fast number for when to move your ducklings outside. There is, however, a range. When your ducklings are between 3 and 5 weeks old, you should probably start the transition to outdoor life by letting them spend supervised time outdoors on warm, sunny days.Learn how to raise your own quail and have an unlimited supply of eggs and meat.
When they’re between 7 and 9 weeks old, they’ll be better able to regulate their body temperature, meaning they’ll be able to spend a lot more time outside.
These numbers can and should be modified by local conditions, including weather, predators, and the level of supervision you’re able to provide.
Regulating Duckling Heat
Heat is a major consideration for any animal, but it’s especially important for young ducklings.
As already said above your brooder should start at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and drop by 7 degrees per week. When the temperature drops below the temperature outside, you can move your ducklings outside.
This means if it dips into the low 40s at night, you’ll want to wait a full 7 weeks before moving your ducklings outside full time.
If you’re in California in the summer and your low temperatures are in the 60s, you might be able to get away with moving ducklings outside at 5 weeks old. You may, however, need to provide a way for them to keep cool on hot days, which usually involves a big pool and some shade.
Using Heat Lamps in Coops
An insulated coop with a heat lamp can help you make this transition a bit faster, but exercise plenty of caution here.
Using a heat lamp outdoors for hours on end isn’t a bad idea in a controlled environment, but if it’s in a coop that’s full of curious ducklings with a raccoon outside trying to get its way in the coop, your environment is anything but controlled.
This means that there’s a nontrivial risk of a fire in your coop, which can have disastrous consequences.
If you’re experienced with this sort of thing and you’ve got a setup that’s resistant to weather, animals, and bad luck, you can definitely use a heat lamp to get your ducks out a bit earlier. If you’re worried about fire, however, it’s probably best to keep your ducks inside for an extra couple of weeks.
It’s easy to get precise, instrument-based readings on the local temperature, but it’s harder to tell if your ducks are comfortable.
One simple trick involves placing a heat lamp on low in a supervised coop. If your ducklings cluster under the heat lamp, the ambient temperature is too low for them. if they scamper around the coop happily, the temperature is right. If they pant and try to stay far away from the heat, it’s too hot for them.
Predation and Other Dangers
It’s a dog eat dog world out there — or, more accurately, a cat eat duckling world. Cats, raccoons, coyotes, alligators, snakes, hawks, foxes, bears, and all sorts of other local predators can and will eat your ducklings if they’re left unsupervised.
As your ducks get bigger, this becomes less of an issue, although larger predators will still snack on full-grown ducks.
Having a well-constructed predator-proof coop can help with this. This generally means quite tight tolerances in terms of gaps, as weasels can get through holes about an inch in diameter.
Similarly, raccoons will absolutely disassemble part of your coop if they can, so be sure that everything is screwed down tight.
It’s worth noting briefly that male ducks (or drakes) can have issues being kept in the same area as other birds, especially chickens.
Be on the lookout for aggressive behavior from your ducks and consider keeping them separate from any other birds that you have to keep your other bids alive and healthy.
A Gradual Transition
Ducks are generally quite messy. As your ducklings grow, you’ll probably find yourself cleaning their brooder daily. This is a great opportunity to give your ducks some time to spend outside.
Simply take your brooder outside and hose everything down while your ducks run around, then take them back in when you’re all done. Be sure to keep an eye out for cats and other predators while your ducks roam around.
Necessary Coop Supplies
As you transition your ducks to an outdoor coop, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got everything set up properly. You’ll need feed, a big container full of water, and enough space for your ducks to roam around.
Both feed and water will need to be replaced daily, if not more often. Ducks are messy eaters and they utilize water in order to swallow their food, meaning their feed will get wet as they travel back and forth from their food source to their water trough.
Similarly, their water will quickly become full of feed, mud, and other contaminants, so you’ll need to replace it daily. Ducks can drink a lot of water, so be sure to provide at least a half-gallon per day per duckling as they grow older.
Most duck rearers are cautious about leaving feed in the coop overnight, but you’ll definitely want to include a source of water for your ducks at all times.
Moving Ducklings Outside
In most cases, the biggest factor that will determine when you can move your ducks outside is heat. As ducks grow, their feathers develop, giving them the ability to regulate their own body temperatures.
Before they’re old enough, they’ll need a warm, heated environment that’s kept at just the right temperature. Eventually, their ability to self-regulate will match up with the local temperature range, allowing them to be kept outside in a predator-proof coop or enclosure.
In especially mild climates, this might be achievable with ducks as young as 5 weeks, while in colder climates you’ll often want to wait until your ducks are 7 weeks or older.
Even then, it can be a good idea to include a carefully protected source of heat in the coop or even take your ducks indoors on particularly cold nights.