- Brooders: an enclosed area of some kind where the babies can be kept warm and safe. You can use a wooden box, cardboard box, plastic kiddie pool or storage bin. I used a plastic storage bin with a lid, because I kept them inside, and I have dogs. I cut a big hole in the top of the lid, and stapled chicken wire over the hole. This way, they had plenty of circulation, and the dogs and cats couldn’t eat them. Lots of home-made contraptions can work, but whatever you choose, just remember they need to move around, and they need air circulation. Put a layer of hamster litter or grass hay at the bottom, and you’ve got yourself a brooding box. Newspaper is okay, as long as its shredded. Flat newspapers are bad for the ducklings’ feet. Make sure the littler is changed often, as diseases can result.
- Temperature and Heat Lamps: they need a heat source. Typically an infrared or 250 watt bulb. Metal clamp lights can be purchased at the hardware store, but any light will work. I used an old kitchen light. Just remember, they must be kept at 90 to 95 degrees. Keep a thermometer under the light source and check regularly. Raise the lamp gradually, decreasing the temperature by five degrees every week, until they no longer need heat. A good indicator of how they’re doing is to watch their behavior — if they’re all huddled under the light together, they’re too cold.
- Feeders: For the first couple of days, use a flat dish or container that is one to two inches deep, otherwise they can’t reach. As they grow, a metal chick or rabbit feeder with holes can be purchased, but isn’t necessary. If you want to invest in a good feeder that will last through adulthood, get a hanging feeder or tube feeder because they’re cleaner and less wasteful. Just hang to the height of their backs, and adjust as they get bigger. They’re more expensive than other options, but will save over the long-run in time and money.
- Water: Fresh clean water is essential. You can make a homemade waterer with a large juice or fruit can and a plate. Just puncture the can 3/4 inch from the lip, fill with water, put the plate over the top and flip. This will actually maintain its own water level. After they get bigger, I highly recommend investing in at least a five-gallon automatic waterer, especially in the desert. These can be purchased online or at a feed store.
- Food: For layers, use a medium to high protein chick-starter for six to eight weeks (about 22 percent protein,) then you can switch them to a grower diet. After five to six months, they can graduate to all-purpose crumbles or pellets. DO NOT USE medicated chick-starter as this could be harmful to the ducklings. After they get to be about six weeks old, they will also need fresh greens and fruit, cut in small pieces. As they grow, they love to forage for worms, bugs and plants. Garden and kitchen scraps are a chicken and duck delight.