Chicks and ducklings can be fun and exciting to have on the farm, but they can also be a lot of work. The following items have been extremely useful for keeping my chicks and ducklings clean and happy, especially during that transition from the incubator to the brooder.
Setting up a brooder doesn’t have to be complicated. I like to use a small animal cage with a plastic bottom and a wire top that opens both at the front and at the top for ease of access.
The Living World 61859 Deluxe Pet Habitat, X-Large is my favorite cage style for handling chicks or ducklings.
I don’t like using heat lamps with hatchinglings. My objection lies in both the constant light and high power usage typical heat lights put out. Instead, I create a warm environment for my chicks by heating the bottom of the cage with a heat mat (this is the one I use). I place the mat in one corner with an igloo style house, and food and water in the unheated opposite side of the pen. This way chicks can choose whatever area of the cage suits their temperature requirements. Too cold and they will congregate in the house on the heat mat. If they are too warm, they will be out in the rest of the cage. It is a simple and effective method that uses a fraction of the electricity to run.Other Heat Mat Options Available
Ducks can be so much messier than chicks! I am just starting out with ducks and so I followed the recommendations from Lisa Steele to raise ducklings without wood shavings as bedding. Shavings get soaked rapidly requiring constant changing to keep the ducklings clean and dry. Instead, I purchased some non-slip shelf liner, microfiber towels, and two “messy cat” dishes. The results have been great! No wet shavings to constantly replace! Soiled towels can just be picked up, rinsed and hung to dry, while a new towel takes its place.
I line the brooder cage with the shelf liner, cut to fit. This provides a grippy surface for the ducklings so they don’t slip and hurt themselves. Next I put a seed heat mat (shown above) down and then cover the floor in microfiber towels. I purchased a big pack of the towels so that I could have some in use while others were drying. In hindsight, I think I might have liked to go with a larger size towel (I bought 12 x 16″) but getting 24 was definitely the right choice for numbers.
I use one “messy cat” dish for water and the other for a moistened crumble. These really are awesome dished to use for ducklings. The stainless steel bowls lift out of the silicone ring, making it easy to clean both the ring and the bowel as needed. Used for water, the silicone ring catches a lot of the mess the ducks create, making clean up easier.
Then as the water gets spilled and tracked everywhere, I can just replace out sections of the micro fiber clothes. The clothes are very easy to rinse clean and hang to dry.