How to set up a duckling brooder

This duckling brooder setup will make for an easy clean up later.

ducklings in a clean brooder

What do ducklings need?

When I was researching how to raise ducks, I felt that there wasn’t a whole lot of information that was easy to apply on raising ducks. One of the things was just their basic needs. I assumed they were just like chicks but I’ve found that they need specific things that differ from chicks and that meant a slightly different setup for their brooder as well if I wanted an easy cleanup.


Duckling food is a bit different than other poultry food. Their food needs to be a bit higher in protein. I recommend purchasing an organic wild foul feed to ensure your duckling is getting adequate nutrients and enough protein to develop.

They also need sand or small crushed stones to help digest their food. In nature they will find this with their mother as they forage around the water’s edge. We chose sand to give to our ducklings in their brooder.


Because ducklings are different than chicks, the set up for their brooder needs to be slightly different. Ducklings need to be able to not only drink water but dunk their heads under the water. This allows them to keep their eyes moistened and clean.

Ducklings do not necessarily need something to swim in right away but they do need a bowl or water set up deep enough for them to be able to bob their head under water. I recommend starting out with the feeding trough that is sold at most feed and animal stores.

They will also need a vitamin and mineral supplement to add to their water. There are special made supplements for ducklings that add niacin into their water to help support them through stressful times. They would find this in nature usually but since they will be spending the first few weeks of their life in a contained environment, they need to be supplied with the nutrients they are missing out on in the wild.


Starting out, ducklings are pretty helpless to predators so if they are away from a mother, they must have a protective shelter. We use a water trough we bought a few years ago but you can easily use a large tote or even a homemade box to keep them safe. We keep our duck brooder inside our screened in porch.f

To keep them warm, use a heat lamp for the ducklings to huddle under for warmth. During cold days/nights, this will be very helpful in keeping them happy and healthy. In the wild they would huddle under their mother to keep warm. The red heat lamp is helpful for keeping them warm as well as not disturbing their sleep.

They will also need soft bedding to absorb all of the poop and pee. I recommend using pine shavings and either cleaning them out daily or using the deep bedding method and piling on the shavings daily to keep smell down as well as keeping the ducklings from constantly staying in their feces.

pine wood shavings in a metal feeding trough

Setting up the brooder for less mess and easy clean up

Ducks are VERY MESSY. This is an understatement. The bigger they get, the bigger the mess. With this set up you will be able to keep the smell at bay and easily clean out your duck brooder.

I cannot take credit for this idea of a set up but it did inspire me to use what I had already to set up for an easier clean up. I got this idea from Homesteady’s video on a clean and easy setup but I didn’t want to go and buy something new if I already had something that would work.

Because ducks need to dunk their head under water, they leave a huge water mess. They also poop A LOT! Water and poop together really start to smell very quickly and will make you have to buy quite a bit of pine shavings without this set up.

purple tote lid in the middle of pine wood shavings inside a metal feeding trough

I decided to use a lid from a large tote to be my base to put in the bottom of the duckling brooder. On top of that, I placed a 1/2 inch mesh wire stapled to a frame. This allows the poop and water to fall through the holes and the lid underneath catches a lot of it without absorbing into your pine shavings and ruining them faster.

hand pushing pine shavings against framing of mesh wire inside a metal feeding trough

You’ll need to make sure you pile the pine shavings around the frame so that the ducklings can easily step onto the frame because this is where you want to put their food and water.

To clean it up, just take the food and water off the top, pick up the mesh screen and lid or whatever you choose to catch your water and poop, and take it out to a space you can easily wash off with the water hose.

How often do I need to clean it?

When you first get your ducklings, their mess will be manageable by cleaning it out daily. Depending on how many ducklings you get, the mess can pile up quicker.

You can assess if you need to do a deep clean by the smell. If you have a smell then it needs to be cleaned. When they are just a few days to a couple weeks old, I will clean out the pan daily and add fresh pine shavings around the outer edges to absorb any smell.

Once they start getting bigger, eating and drinking more and making bigger messes, I will clean out the pan daily and completely change the bedding every few days. I will also set up a temporary pin outside in the sunshine if the temperature is good for them and this keeps them out of their brooder and there’s less mess to clean up.

ducklings in a water bowl outside

Steps for setting up a duckling brooder for easy clean up

  1. Purchase or build your container that your ducklings will be in.
  2. Add a red heat lamp to the side of the container or hang it over the container.
  3. Place your lid or tray in the bottom of the container.
  4. Place a mesh screen on top of the tray.
  5. Fill in the space around the tray and screen with pine shavings. Be sure to pile the shavings around to be level with the screen so the ducklings will have easy access to walk on it.
  6. Place their food and water on top of the screen then add in your ducklings.
  7. Clean out the brooder daily or if it smells by removing the tray and washing it off with a water hose and adding fresh pine shavings to the brooder.

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