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I have been keeping, breeding, and showing ducks, chickens, geese, and quail for over 20 years, and during that time I have managed to have a great many successes, as well as my fair share of failures.
Whenever I find myself talking to someone new to the world of raising ducklings, there is one question that comes up time and time again, ‘Do ducklings need food and water at night?’.
In this article, I share my experiences with you and try to answer this question once and for all.
Ducklings do need access to both food and water at night. In fact, in my experience, for as long as your ducklings are in the brooder, they should have continuous access to food and water. Ducklings can become stressed when there is no food or water available.
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Do Ducklings Need Food And Water at Night?
In my experience, ducklings should have access to food and water at night. Ducklings grow incredibly quickly, and their demand for food is almost endless.
Typically, when we keep ducklings in a brooder (which is essentially any enclosed space where the ducklings spend the first few weeks of their lives), they have access to light during the day and night, especially if we are using a traditional heat lamp that gives off a red glow.
Even a small amount of light will encourage the ducklings to be up and about, even during the night, and as long as the ducklings are awake, they will probably want to eat and drink.
Whilst it is essential that we control adult ducks’ access to food as they are typically greedy birds that will gorge themselves, ducklings only tend to eat as and when they are hungry, and as such can be trusted to have free access to food.
Ducklings Must Have Access To Water
Ducklings need to have access to fresh drinking water whenever they have access to food.
Duckling food is essentially a dry powder, and as the duckling eats they will also need to moisten the food to prevent crop impaction.
Ducks, like so many other species of birds, have developed crops, which are basically small food storage pouches that sit between the duck’s mouth and its stomach.
Scientists believe ducks evolved these pouches to allow them to swoop down to a source of food, eat quickly, and then fly off again before predators have a chance to catch them. The crop allows the duck to store the food before passing it further along its digestive system.
If ducklings do not have access to fresh drinking water, the food may become impacted in their crops, which if left untreated can be fatal. Crop impaction is a frequent killer of ducklings.
Provide Multiply feeders and waterer
If possible, it is always advisable to have two sources of feed and two of water in the brooder.
By providing more than a single source, you prevent ducklings from spilling or soiling their only source of food or water (both of which they are inclined to do) and you also prevent where one or more birds dominating a food source denying other birds access.
Don’t allow feeders to run out
As mentioned above, ducklings can become stressed if their feeders or waterers run dry. It is essential that checking and refilling the feeder or waterer is part of your morning and evening routine.
Ducklings can eat a surprising amount of food in a single day (I wrote a whole article about how much food ducklings need a day). You may well check their feeder first thing in the morning, only to discover by the end of the day it has completely run dry of food. The same is true of their waterers.
When To Stop Giving Ducklings Food at Night?
Typically, once I withdraw heat from my ducklings, I will also stop offering food at night.
I usually provide my ducklings with a heat source until they are around 6 weeks old (depending on the time of year), and so I will usually only allow them to have free access to feed until about the same age.
Once I take their heat source away, I move my ducklings on to set meals, two or three times a day.
Do be aware, however, that there is one exception to this rule, and that is if you are raising your ducklings for meat. Ducks being raised for meat will probably want to have free access to feed almost until they go to slaughter so that they gain sufficient weight to be worthwhile processing.
Over the years I have found it is best for ducklings in the brooder to have free access to both food and water during the night.
Ducklings will be active whenever there is light, and even the red glow given off by a small heat lamp can be enough to encourage your ducklings to be up and about eating or drinking during the night.
Ducklings grow to their full potential when they have free access to feed.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘What age can ducklings go on the pond?’.