Brooding Chicks and Ducklings. Together or Separate?

Why I decided not to brood my ducklings and chicks together.

I don’t care to brood my ducks and chicks together for three reasons.

  • The ducklings will grow much faster than the chicks. There will be a body size difference and I don’t want my chicks to get trampled.
  • The food requirements are a little bit different. They could eat the same flock raiser food. It has everything both animals need.
    But I was given a bag of chick food which would not have everything the ducks need. So in order to not waste the chick food…. I decided to brood them separate so they could be fed the appropriate feed. This is a short term reason as I could just change foods once this bag was gone.
  • Brooding ducks and chicks make messes. It’s just a fact. BUT the messes they make are different and I handle them just a little different. See the video and article below for details.

Since I have the space and ability, I’ll just brood them separately. It makes sense for me.

Brooding Basics for Either Ducks or Chickens

There are some brooding basics that apply for any poultry. Let’s go over that first.

Brooder food and water containers.

Waterers can be a simple as a mason jar storage lid or some other shallow container. But these waterers with the holes make it much nicer with much less mess.

Brooder food and water containers

Ducklings would have a mason jar lid emptied and dumped over in a flash. In fact even if they don’t turn these over, they empty them quickly. Chicks will daintily drink so the lids or small waterers will work for a time but you’ll need to get something larger for either bird soon. One of these is great if it will fit in your brooder. Bird waterer This is the one I use when the birds get a little bigger.

Brooder Bedding

Shavings is the most common answer to what to add for brooder bedding. It is fairly inexpensive and it does a good job of keeping the brooders fresh. It absorbs excess moisture and doubly helpful for those ducklings. (Good thing I just love ducks because they really are the harder of the two to brood. Messy little things!)

One store I went to had small shavings and large shavings. Go with the larger. The small is pretty small and the birds may end up eating it. Pine or Aspen shavings is acceptable. – Pine is less expensive.

Say no to Cedar shavings! There is an oil in them that is bad for the chicks. It is available as bedding for other animals so you may see it sold. But don’t use it for your brooder.

Brooder Heat Sources

Heat Lamps

I don’t like to use heat lamps. They make me nervous. They work… they’ve been working for years. But I still don’t care for them. You need to be sure they are very very secure. Triple check the set up! If they fall into the bedding they could start a fire, or burn a baby.

I still don’t care for them but I have to tell you…. I use them. Just be careful of how they are used and you’ll be fine. I’ve got some tips below on using them safely.

This is a really nice one! Mine is not nearly so fancy but you might like it. Prima Heat Lamp

I don’t see one exactly like mine at Amazon but this is real close. I like that it has the bulb guard. Mine has the guard too and it makes it much less worry-some. Heat Lamp with Bulb Guard

If you do choose to use heat lamps, get red infrared bulbs. The red light is more soothing to the birds and the infrared warms them up better.

Ceramic heat lamp

These are actually not lights. They just emit heat. There is less fire hazard and energy usage. These can be bought at many places that sell the heat lamps. I’ve seen them at Lowe’s as well. And here are some ceramic heat bulbs at amazon.

Some Pros and Cons to Help You Decide.

It is good for your birds to have a regular day and night cycle. With the heat lamps it is light all the time. There is no natural sleep and wake cycle. Neither the heat plate or plates give off any light. Good old fashioned sunshine dictates the days and nights for our birds.

Many people like the heat lamps because it warms the whole brooder rather than just under the lamp. Although this could be a good thing especially for the one day to 1 week old chicks, be sure they have a way to get away from the heat. Chicks do have the sense to go where they need to be as far as temperature. It is possible for the heat lamps to overheat the birds if you have them in a small area. A tub is common for the very small chicks but they do still need the option to get away from that heat. (this is one reason I like the heat plates)

Heating plates for brooders.

Heat plates and ceramic bulbs are a little more expensive. Ok, it’s true, the heat plate is a lot more expensive, however it might be work the investment.

I have one on order and I will do a comparison once it arrives and I’ve used it a bit. I’m 99% certain I’m going to like these much better. Less fire hazard, and from what the manufacturers claim less energy to run. After reading reviews of different brands I went with the Premier brand. I’ve got Premier fencing that I like and the company has a great reputation. I purchased the small one that works for up to 15 chicks. They have three sizes so get the one for the number of chicks you’ll have.

You can also purchase a clear plastic top that will keep your chicks from perching on your heat plate. It doesn’t hurt a thing when they jump up there except … well we all know what chicks do. They’ll get chicken poop all over. I did not get the protective top. Yes, they perched and pooped. But let it dry and it scrapes right off. It doesn’t bother me. If you think it will bother you to clean this up, look at getting the top. More importantly, realize that chickens are messy. They poop anywhere indiscriminately. Are you sure you want chickens??

To sum it up

  • Heat Plate
  • No light- chicks have natural sleep cycles.
  • Chicks can easily move away from the heat.
  • Less fire hazard.
  • Less energy usage.
  • More expensive.
  • Heat lamp with red bulb
  • Heats more area (could be good or bad depending on the situation).
  • Risk of fire or burning if the lamp falls.
  • Light is on all the time, no natural sleep cycle.
  • Less expensive.
  • Heat Lamp with Ceramic bulb
  • No light – chicks have natural sleep cycles.
  • Heats more area (could be good or bad depending on the situation).
  • Risk of fire or burning if the lamp falls.
  • Less expensive than plate system.
  • More expensive than infrared bulbs.

Differences Between Brooding Ducklings vs Chicks.

So the basics of brooding are the same, food, water, heat, protection. But there are some differences between brooding ducklings and chickens that make it easier to keep them apart. They both make messes but the messes are different.

Brooding Chicks

Chicks like to scratch. So they will end up scratching their bedding into their food and water. If you put the food and water up on a brick or some other riser the bedding won’t make such a mess.

The chicks in my video have water in a mason jar storage lid. It is sufficient for the moment but I’ll need to get something bigger soon. Something like this small chicken waterer will work. Then they can move to something bigger as adults. larger chicken waterer. If you have space in your brooder just go with the larger one. No reason to buy extra. The chicks grow fast.

Brooding Ducklings

Ducks do not scratch like chicks so having the food placement right on the bedding is not a problem. They do however, love to play in their water! Ducks need to be able to dip their entire bill into their water dish. They also delight in spreading the joy! Fresh water makes them excited.

Have a water containment system to keep their bedding dry. Or at least try to keep their bedding dry. I placed my waterer in a disposable cake pan with a cookie rack. I’ve heard of using a paint roller pan and rack.

After I did this video I found an even better solution. I found a cheap plastic oil drain pan at the dollar store. It looks like this one… Oil Drain Pan I bent some hardware cloth over the top and put their waterer on top that. Just be sure you don’t leave any sharp edges sticking out where they might scratch their feet. The hardware cloth is easier for them to walk on and the pan is little wider so it catches more water.

Much of the water splashes into the pan. Not all of it though. 🙂 Ducks just love water! Here is a short video of my ducklings playing.

Anything will work that will catch the excess water that they throw around in delight! Even so plan on changing the bedding for ducks quite often.

How do you know if the chicks and ducklings are warm enough.

Watch the chicks or ducklings behavior to determine if the temperature is right. You can find specific temperatures posted around the internet. Some of them vary depending on your source. The best way to tell is to look at the chicks and ducklings. What are they doing?

  • If they are comfortable they’ll spread around the brooder.
  • If they are too cold they’ll bunch up under the light.
  • If they are too warm they bunch up as far away from the light as they can get.

During this video I noticed that my chicks had started congregating at the end away from the light. They were not behaving like that this morning. They were spread out over the brooder and actively moving around. It was cold overnight and this morning was cool. Now that afternoon is warming up, the room itself is warming up. The chicks staying away from the light means they might be a little too warm. So I’ll move the light up.

I hope this was a helpful comparison of brooding ducklings vs chickens. Leave any comments below.

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Brooding Chicks and Ducklings.  Together or Separate?

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