Like newly hatched chicks, ducklings and goslings are not able to regulate their body temperatures until they are fully feathered. Ducklings and goslings grow quickly and are generally fully feathered by 7-9 weeks old. Since these little ones cannot regulate their temperatures a proper brooder setup is crucial for the health and safety of your birds.
For the first few weeks after hatch, your waterfowl will need to be placed in a temperature-controlled, draft-free environment. Your brooder or temporary waterfowl home should be set up 24 hours before their arrival. Your brooder should consist of the following materials:
- Brooder Enclosure
- Shop Meyer Hatchery Brooder Kits.
- A plastic tub, stock tank, wooden box, plastic swimming pool, or any other kind of container that is draft-free. If the container you choose to use has previously been used, it is very important to properly sanitize it. We suggest scrubbing it clean with a 10% bleach-water solution and allowing it to dry before introducing your waterfowl to their new home. Initially, waterfowl need about ⅓ sq ft per bird.
- Shop Meyer Hatchery Bedding.
- 2” of pine shavings on the floor of the brooder is recommended for bedding. Do not use cedar shavings as their strong aromatic nature has been known to cause respiratory issues in poultry.
- Heat Source
- Shop Meyer Hatchery Brooders.
- Meyer Hatchery recommends a 125-250 watt heat bulb. Temperature is easily adjusted by raising and lowering your heat lamp. Typically, 18” above bird level is a good starting place but needs to be verified with a thermometer, 90-95 degrees at ground level is recommended for the first week. One heat lamp can warm about 40 ducklings or 20 goslings.
- When brooding ducklings using a brooder plate, be sure to set the height of the brooder plate to allow your waterfowl to be able to touch the brooder plate and move freely from underneath the brooder plate. A brooder plate is different from a heat lamp, it mimics a mother bird using warmth and touch. Measuring the temperature with a thermometer is not reliable when using a brooder plate. You want to watch the behavior of your waterfowl. If they are peeping and huddled together, adjust the plate lower, the birds can be cold. Also, make sure to keep the bedding underneath the brooder plate dry. Sometimes the waterfowl can bring extra moisture underneath the brooder plate. Changing the bedding regularly helps to prevent extra moisture, which can cause your waterfowl to get chilled. When you first receive your waterfowl, be sure to encourage them underneath the brooder plate, and show them where the warmth is. You may find you need to do this a few times. The room temperature when using a brooder plate must not go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure your brooder plate is kept at the opposite side of your brooder, away from any splashing water.
- Order your thermometer!
- A thermometer placed at bird level is crucial to keep your brooder at the necessary temperature for the health and safety of your birds. Your brooder temperature should be 90-95 degrees for the first week, then decrease your temperature by 5 degrees each week for the first three weeks of life. At this point, they will not need supplemental heat, as long as they are in a 70-degree climate-controlled environment.
- Shop Meyer Hatchery feed.
- Start waterfowl off with a 20-22% waterfowl starter feed for the first 2 weeks and then switch them to a 17-19% waterfowl grower feed until they are laying age.
- Once they are laying age, they need between 15-18% layer or maintenance waterfowl feed. If waterfowl feed is not available, you can use unmedicated chicken feed protein equivalent but may need to incorporate supplemental vitamins.
Hatch - 2 Weeks
Waterfowl Starter - 20-22% protein
3 Weeks - Laying
Waterfowl Grower - 17 - 19% protein
Waterfowl Breeder or Maintenance - 15 - 18% protein
Waterfowl Maintenance - 14 - 16% protein
- Shop Meyer Hatchery Waterers.
Waterfowl need to be allowed access to water at all times. It is important for them to be able to dip their heads in water to wash their eyes and nares (nostrils) clean of dust and debris.
- It is very important to note, however, that until they are at least 5-6 weeks of age, they do not have the waterproof oils on them they would have when raised with their mothers, and can drown or become waterlogged and chilled, which can lead to death. Make sure waterers are set up properly.
- When receiving shipped Muscovy Ducks, please exercise caution with the amount of water they are allowed to drink upon arrival. Allow them to drink for about 15 minutes, then remove their water for about 15 minutes. Repeat this 3-4 times before giving them full access to drinking water. They are shipped with a double batch of GroGel to help keep them hydrated during shipping.
In the Brooder
Once your birds have arrived it is important to quickly place them into their warm brooder. Dip their beaks in the water to show them their water source and make sure they are tipping their heads back to drink. Once you have placed your birds into the brooder and given them time to acclimate, stand back and observe their behavior. Are they huddled directly under your heat lamp or avoiding the heat lamp? This means that the brooder is too cold or too hot, respectively. Ideally, you want them eating, drinking, and equally distributed. If they seem weak or lethargic we recommend mixing in 1/4 cup sugar to each quart of their drinking water and checking them every 30-60 minutes. If you only have a few that seem weak, separate them from the others until they have regained their strength.
While we do not anticipate a loss, Meyer Hatchery does cover losses of properly cared for birds within the first 48 hours after arrival. Losses must be reported within 72 hours of arrival. To report a loss with a recent order, fill out our Loss Reporting Form.
If your ducklings have leg bands, we recommend removing them or stepping a size, within about 3 days from their arrival.
Once your ducklings or goslings are a week of age, you can allow them playtime in a shallow, lukewarm pool. This will help stimulate oil production so that they become waterproof. Do this with caution--do not keep them in the water for too long and never leave them unattended.
Once your waterfowl reach 7-9 weeks, and are fully feathered, they are ready to be outdoors! If you haven’t already, acclimate them over 2-3 day period before moving them permanently to their new home.