Many people ask us how to handle a pet duck during the winter months.  Given the outdoor nature of a ducks and other waterfowl, the winter can pose some threats to your pet’s well-being.  However, with some simple preparation and care, your pet ducks or even ducklings can thrive and love the winter months.

Here are some guidelines to follow-

  • Shelter – Even in the harsh winter months, ducks are capable of being outside.  The key is that you must provide them the heat source which will allow them to get warm if they need to.  Essentially, you should either provide a shelter that the ducks can freely move in and out of (such as a Rubbermaid Shed), or you should bring them in every night into a garage or shed.

Ducklings occasionally like to be outside even in the winter

  • Insulation – Any shelter you create should be well insulated, have adequate duck bedding , be windproof, and be waterproof.  Also, if you have a pen or shelter that the ducks will have free access to, the doorway should not be open.  A rubber flap or something in line with a doggie door works great stop heat loss due to draftiness.
  • Shelter Size – Depending on the size of your flock, the size of the shelter should be small enough that the collected heat of the ducks will warm it, but large enough to provide the animals with freedom of movement and the ability to escape the heat should they get too warm.
  • Heat Lamp – An artificial heating source such as a heat lamp works wonderfully to provide the ducks and other farm fowl with warming spot.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using this method –
    • LiveDucks recommends a 75-100 watt of the standard variety, ceramic type, or infrared type.
    • Ensure the heat lamp is out of all animals’ reach, and is not near any flammable materials.
    • Make sure the ducks can escape from the heat lamp area (without going outside), should they get too warm.
  • Dryness – Even though ducks are inherently waterfowl, it is vital that they are capable of drying themselves to stay alive.  This is especially true during the winter time.  Again, it is key to make sure there is adequate, clean and dry bedding available for them.  You should change this often (once / day) to prevent mold buildup which is especially hazardous during the winter.
  • Breed Hardiness – Many of the types of ducks that are available as pets are domestic breeds that are very hardy during harsh winters.  The Pekin Ducks or Rouen Ducks, for example, are large enough such that they will survive quite well.  If you have a smaller breed such as Call Ducks or Mallard Ducks, you may need to take extra winter precaution in colder climates.
  • Ventilation - Make sure the air inside any shelter doesn’t become trapped or stagnant.  If you are using a smaller shelter this can be hazardous.  Small air holes combined with good insulation are key to achieving the right balance of heat and fresh air.
  • Ponds – Pet Ducks will still enjoy bathing and splashing in ponds just like during the Summer.  There are some deicing solutions available which will keep your pond area liquid if you would like to provide this comfort.  Also, for small ponds, a pond heater may work wonderfully.  LiveDucks.com recommends a company called Pond Solutions for small pond heating and deicing.

Ducks still love the water in the cold, and they will love access to ice free water

Ducks still love the water in the cold, and they will love access to ice free water

Ducks and other waterfowl are like other animals in that they have adapted to their climate and to all weather that they are naturally exposed to.  However, keep in mind that your pet duck is most likely a domesticated breed.  Much of their survival characteristics have been bred out over hundreds of years to make them a strong farm fowl.

Finally, do not let a harsh Winter intimidate you or keep you from ordering a pet duck.  One of the main hatcheries eFowl.com uses is near the frigid Winters of the Canadian border, and the ducks still thrive as healthy as ever.  Like most aspects of pet ownership, simple research and preparation will trump any extreme conditions that you may encounter.

12 thoughts on “How do I care for a pet duck in the Winter?

  1. Hi ! I have 2 adorable ducks. We found them on the side of our road about 7 weeks ago. They are very friendly and we love them. They have a beautiful pond to swim in and we have a sturdy outside building for them at night. I am concerned about the cold winter temps here in PA. We put bails of straw in their house and I know they are fine for now….I worry about 10 degrees and colder nights. I know you suggested like a heat lamp….but it scares me that it may get too hot and start a fire with the straw in there. Any other suggestions to keep them warm and it would be safe ? Thank you so much.
    Rita and Allen Fox

  2. i have heard straw is good for ducks , but can i buy wood chips from pet store ,or should i find a saw mill? heat lamps in his kennal scares me can i use something lower it for lizards or in that type? he is living in extra large dog taxi at night so nothing can get him..we have hugh pond along with creek he will not get in pond but will get in creek and his baby pool. is this normal?

  3. HI ! I read your post and it’s sounds simpler to my situation my husband brought me Pekin home for Easter this year..my Duck is name lucy she is adorable she’s living outside my house for now, she doesn’t leave the area. My worries are the same. Winter months.. Unfortunately i live in an apt …..outside there is grass lawn , i put a baby pool out for her. Everyone around knows her & loves her,but still worried. Not sure but thinking to buy her duck diapers and bring her in for the winter months.

  4. I have had my 11 ducks since early spring…so this is “our” first winter together. Is it better to use hay or pine shavings for winter bedding?

  5. My magpie/ancona mix duck just hatched 8 ducklings…. she does have a small shed with dry hay, food and water for her and the ducklings… however, i am afraid that the weather is too cold for them to be outdoors… will she keep them warm enough? i live in central mass. and right now the temps have bee approx 60-70 during the day and dropping to 50 at night..maybe a little colder…

  6. only just read this. it’s my first year with my runners.
    been worried as to what to do in winter, just might put
    small straw bales around the outside of my ducks house
    using a stake thro bale into the ground. then cover house
    and bales with tarpaulin, leaving air vents free. I also
    use thick cardboard from boxes to line floor anyway. started
    doing that a month ago. and cover it with straw. adding fresh
    each day. works well its never damp as there is a main material
    type cover between card and straw. I seem to have happy ducks.
    butch.snowy. charlot.annabell. and muddy.

  7. Hi Rita >

    Just read your 12/2010 comment regarding the two ducks you found on the side of the road.

    How did that work out ?

    My wife and I have a preschool on a hobby farm site near St. Paul, MN.
    We have several ducks that we care for year around. Love to exchange some notes with you regarding your experience with your ducks. I would love to keep my pond open for the ducks during the winter but have not yet found a way to do that with temps that sometimes drop below 10deg below – probably not unlike your winter temps in PA.

    Ron

  8. Someone left 3 white domestic ducks at the lake in our county park, there is a deck that I crawled in under and left a pile of straw to keep them warm. Will they survive Indiana winters like this or should I bring them home and winter them in my garage with my ducks?

  9. Hi Rita, I too have 2 ducks myself, and we also use straw/hay as bedding to keep them warm. However, we do also use sawdust that we have bought from the pallet shop that my friend works at. This has worked very well for us. We use a scooper (such like the one that’s used to clean litter boxes, it looks like a shovel but has holes in it) to clean the wet areas and this allows the dried sawdust to return back down in their bedding and has been helpful to clean their pen without necessarily redoing the entire pen over again. The sawdust acts as an absorbent for any water residue and their feces. Also, it lays flatter on the base of their pen so it’s much lower, while the hay/straw tends to stand up here and there and can become closer to the light/heat lamp which could become a fire hazard. Hope this works, and hope you find this idea useful. Good Luck

  10. Any advise re three ducks and addressing “pecking” order? I successfully introduced the two newbies when they were old enough this spring and the three had a good summer together. But now the older male is chasing the other male away from food. Charging etc and attacking him. NE law said I had to buy in twos and not know the sexes then. Obviously I wouldn’t have chosen another male. We have a duck house for them to live in this winter when the pond freezes. But I’m concerned the older male will kill the younger. Will he? Or just bruise him up?

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