How to care for newborn mallard ducklings

Updated April 17, 2017

Your mallard ducklings have just hatched. Even with the mother duck around, you are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of each duckling. While ducklings are relatively self-sufficient, you must ensure that the needs of each duckling are met. From proper housing to the correct food, newborn mallard ducklings require the type of care that all newborn creatures need in order to thrive.

Provide a safe place. Newborn ducklings must have a safe place to live. Use a large cardboard box or large, plastic laundry baskets to initially house the ducklings the first three weeks after the ducklings are born. Place hay, wood shavings or straw at the bottom of the box or basket. Create areas in the box or basket for feeding and sleeping. For example, place two kitty litter trays on one side of the box; one tray is for food and the other is for water.

Create a warm sleeping area. Place the box or basket underneath an infrared chick brooder lamp. Ensure constant heat for the ducklings during the first three weeks after hatching. After three weeks, only turn the lamp on at night. Keep a watchful eye on the ducklings to ensure the lamp is not too hot. Move the bulb further away from the housing if the ducklings move away from the lamp.

Supply food. Ducklings enjoy a variety of foods. Lettuce and soaked wheat are ideal foods for ducklings. When feeding lettuce, ensure that the lettuce is finely chopped. Wheat must be thoroughly soaked and cut to ensure easy digestion. Incorporate chick starter food into the duckling's diet. Provide different food every day. For example, only feed lettuce to the ducklings every other day. Feed the ducklings wheat on the days you do not provide lettuce. Provide wild game starter food daily. Feed starter food to ducklings under five weeks of age. At five weeks, switch to a game grower food. At sixteen weeks, provide regular game bird pellets.

Change the water and bedding regularly. Provide fresh water to the ducklings at least twice a day. Change the bedding in the cage as soon as it becomes dirty. If the bedding becomes wet, change it as quickly as possible.

Create a bathing and swimming area. Fill a paint roller tray with an inch of warm water. Allow the ducklings to play in the water. Ensure that swimming is done close to a heat lamp or heating pad to ensure that the ducklings do not get cold. Allow ducklings to swim daily.

Provide proper housing outside. After the ducklings begin to acquire feathers, provide outdoor housing. Ensure there is enough room for movement and play. During the day, house the ducklings in an area that features plenty of weeds or grass. Ensure that the area is fenced or blocked to prevent lost ducklings. At night, house the ducklings in a large cage with room to move. This prevents dangerous predators from attacking the ducklings.

Make an outdoor swimming area. Mallards love water. Fill a baby pool with fresh water. Allow the ducklings to swim frequently. Change the water daily.


Mallard ducklings hatched in an incubator must stay in the incubator for the first 24 hours after hatching. After 24 hours, remove the ducklings from the incubator. House the ducklings in the box or laundry basket. Mallard ducklings do not need to be kept indoors. The mother duck will take care of the babies. However, for the first few months, keep the mother duck and ducklings separate from other ducks. It is not advisable to release domesticated ducklings into the wild. Before embarking on caring for the ducklings, ensure that you have the money and means to do so. After raising the ducklings, call the wildlife foundation or pet stores to find places to safely release young ducks. Many ducklings enjoy fresh weeds and meal worms. Give ducklings fresh weeds by placing dirt, water and weeds in a bowl. This allows the ducklings to play in the mud and feed. During the first few weeks after hatching, provide water in a shallow dish to avoid drowning. Place the dish with water in the kitty litter tray. This also eliminates getting the bedding wet.


Avoid feeding bread to ducklings. Never allow ducklings to stay in dirty cages. Ducklings and ducks are prone to foot sores and infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard box or plastic laundry basket
  • Straw, wood shavings or hay
  • 2 kitty litter trays, or comparable pans
  • Towel wrapped heating pad or infrared chick brooder
  • Large cage
  • Wild game starter feed
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About the Author

A.N. Pike has been a professional writer since 2006. She has worked for the "McKinney Courier-Gazette" and her campus newspaper, now freelancing for various clients. Pike earned her associate's degree in mass communications and journalism from Collin College.