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Best Ever Mess-Free No Fuss Duckling Brooder

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Brooding ducklings can be wet and messy. Here's my setup for the best ever mess-free no fuss duckling brooder.

Brooding ducklings is a wet, messy business. Ducklings are naturally drawn to water and delight in splashing and spilling it all over their brooder.

Over the past ten years, I've tried countless methods and ways to brood ducklings successfully and I think I've finally got it! 

Personally, I prefer to brood them in our spare bathtub. 

You can read more about that here.  

But not everyone has a bathtub to devote exclusively to ducklings for a couple of weeks, so I've been experimenting with other ways to brood ducklings.

Some recommend using a wire cage so all the water mess just drains out, but I don't like the idea of ducklings walking on wire. That just seems so uncomfortable. 

Others have crafted a sort of platform that the water goes on with a reservoir underneath to capture the water mess. 

Meh... that takes up kind of a lot of space in the brooder and also....requires building.

So I've tried to come up with a really easy, quick way to set up your duckling brooder that still works to keep them dry (or at least dry-ish) and happy.

Best Ever Mess-Free No-Fuss Duckling Brooder

So I start with the largest plastic tote I can find. You'll need to cut the top out to allow for airflow like this, or you can just cut a piece of welded wire to fit the top to keep curious pets (or kids) out! 

A large galvanized tub also works well if you only have a few ducklings.

Here's what else you will need:

  • Several layers of newspaper
  • Egg cartons

And of course a heat source - a heat lamp or EcoGlow Brooder

Ducklings can mess up their living area faster than you can blink an eye, so clean-up has to be quick and easy and inexpensive. 

Sure, you can use puppy pads in the bottom to soak up some of the water mess, but that gets pricey fast.  

You can use pine shavings but they're super dusty and the ducklings always try to eat them and of course the feed and water both end up full of them.

You can use newspaper but it's too slippery and the ducklings can't get a good grip on it.

Layer the Brooder Bedding

Layered bedding is the key. Newspaper will absorb much of the water, while rubber shelf liner provides a nice grippy surface and cloths or towels provide a soft place to sleep.

So I use newspaper on the bottom layer (if you don't get the newspaper delivered, ask friends and neighbors to save theirs for you).

Since newspaper gets really slippery especially when wet and can lead to leg injuries or spraddle leg, I cover that with a piece of rubber shelf liner cut to fit the bottom of the tote.

At one end of the tote - the end where the heat lamp or Brinsea EcoGlow is - I fold a towel or microfiber cloth for the ducklings to use for naps.

Feed and Water 

At the other end of the tote I put the ducklings feed and water. This brilliant design for a water dish works really well to contain a lot of the water mess and the ducklings can't tip it over.

And I've started just using old egg cartons for the ducklings' feed. That way I can just toss them out when they get wet and messy. Saves me time that way.  

I am using the 6-egg cartons right now because I only have 7 ducklings. But if you have more ducklings, then the full 12-egg cartons would also work so everyone can eat at once.

Easy Clean-Up

I have a duplicate tote set-up, so each morning I move the ducklings into a new dry brooder, and take the other one outside to clean.

The newspaper gets thrown away (or you can compost it), and the shelf liner and towels get hosed off and let dry in the sun (or the laundry room on a rack on a rainy day!) as does the plastic tote.  

By the time the ducklings have messed up the second tote, the first one (and all the bedding) is dry and ready to be reused.

Time Outside in a Playpen

After about a week or so, I try to get the ducklings outside as much as possible on nice, warm, sunny days. 

A puppy playpen works great for this and saves considerably on clean-up. The more time they're outside, pooping in the grass and spilling their water on the grass, the less clean-up for me! 

Plus, the fresh air, sunlight and exercise is really good for them. Just remember that the playpen is NOT predator-proof and should only be used when you can be outside and keep an eye on the ducklings.

This puppy playpen set in the sun keeps them fairly warm and out of the wind, but I set up the EcoGlow in it for a bit more warmth if the ducklings need it. 

I just plug it into an extension cord from the house and run the power cord through a space in the little zippered door.

So let's face it... brooding ducklings is always going to be messy. There will always be poop, lots of it, and water, again lots of it. 

So clean-up has to be simple. Quick and easy. 

And cheap.

This method is about the easiest and least expensive that I could come up with. It's working for me - I hope it works for you too! 

For more on raising ducklings, including feed and heat requirements, you'll want to read this.

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Further Reading
Raising Ducklings
What do Ducklings Eat 

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