Size is vital in building your own duck brooder

Duck Brooder DIY: How to Make Homemade Brooder for Ducklings

You might be asking, “Why build a brooder?”

Well, anyone who’s spent a fair spell of time on the farm knows ducklings need that extra bit of care in their early days. They require a warm, cozy place to nestle into – a place safe from other critters and possible predators. 

Today, I’m here to help you tackle an exciting project pretty close to my heart – creating a DIY brooder for ducklings.

Can you make your own duck brooder?

You can make your own simple duck brooder with a sturdy box or a large plastic tub, a heat lamp, bedding, food, and water dishes. It’s easy to build and can save you money. Don’t forget to add food and water inside the brooder for ducks. With these and some effort, you can create a safe, warm environment for your ducklings to grow and thrive right at home.

This DIY task is about function over form. Your focus should be to provide your ducklings with a safe, nurturing environment. 

So, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and construct this essential component of duck raising? Let’s dive into the details.

Supplies You Need For A Chick or Duck Brooder:

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Heavy Duty Totes. You Can use the cheap Walmart ones, but they will break more often, usually after only one season. I like to use heavy-duty totes- these are the ones I use. I haven’t had any totes break, and I use them for everything, including a brooder.

Heat source for your chicks and ducklings. This chick brooder is a safer option than a heat lamp, but if you are just starting out- this heat lamp is a good one to use and is cheaper. Don’t forget bulbs for your heat lamp. Color doesn’t matter on the temperature, but red bulbs will allow the chicks to sleep better.

Pine Shavings for bedding. Never use cedar. Don’t use shavings from treated wood.

Food and Water Containers like these should allow ducks to submerge their beaks. I like the raised platform because I’ve had chicken drown before and this style drastically reduces the accidental drownings.

Manna Pro Non-Medicated Starter Feed is a healthy starter feed for both chicks and ducks. Never feed ducks medicated and don’t feed the littles the same feed as your laying hens.

Hardware Cloth to keep out predators from the brooder. Even your friendly cat or dog can quickly kill baby ducks and chicks.

I also like to use ratchet straps when the ducks are too big for a brooder, and I have to switch to a lamp. I raise the lamp every few days so the ducks or chicks can acclimatize to normal temps.

8 Essential Steps to Build DIY Duck Brooder

Embarking on your DIY duck brooder project?

Follow these crucial steps to ensure your ducklings have a safe and cozy home. Find out everything you need to make your own simple brooder for ducks. 

Monitor the duck brooder ducklings daily for any health issues

1. Gather Materials For The Homemade Duckling Brooder

First things first, gather all the necessary materials for your DIY brooder.

You’ll need a large, sturdy tote (or a plastic tub, wooden box, or a kiddie pool), a heat lamp, bedding material (straw or wood shavings), food and water dishes, and a thermometer. 

The brooder setup includes securely arranging your heat source, bedding, food, and water dishes inside the brooder. The setup should cater to the ducklings’ comfort and safety.

How to make a mess-free duck brooder?

The key to a mess-free duck brooder is effectively managing water and food waste. Use a deep dish for water, with smaller holes through which ducklings can stick their bills without getting their bodies wet. Place the dish over a mesh floor or an easily cleaned tray to catch spills. For food, use a feeder that dispenses small amounts, preventing the ducklings from scattering it.

You can make your own simple duck brooder for ducks with a sturdy box

2. Choose the Right Brooder Container With Enough Space 

Size is vital in building your own duck brooder. Make sure your heavy duty tote is big enough to allow at least one square foot per duckling, but remember they’ll need more room as they grow.

A general rule is 6 square feet for each duckling. Consider their growth and activity level when planning. The walls should be high enough (about 12-18 inches) to prevent escape but allow you to reach in easily.

Remember, a good brooder for ducks provides a safe, warm space, allows ample movement, and grants easy access to food and water, supporting healthy growth for ducklings.

3. Set Up Duck Brooder Bedding

Line the bottom of your homemade brooder container with your chosen bedding material. This helps to absorb waste and provide comfort for the ducklings.

Replace the bedding regularly to keep the brooder clean and dry.

The best bedding options for a duck brooder include pine shavings, straw, or hay for excellent absorbency and insulation, pine shavings for odor control and comfort, and coarse sand for easy cleaning and odor management.

Initially, newspaper or paper towels can be used, but they aren’t ideal long-term. Always avoid cedar shavings, as they can cause respiratory problems.

Install the heat lamp securely above one side of the duckling brooder for ducks

Can you use sand in the duck brooder? Sand can be used in a duck brooder. It assists with odor control and is easy to clean but must be coarse to prevent accidental ingestion by the ducklings. Make sure to monitor your usage and check the status of your ducks upon using sand. 

4. Heat Source Setup: Install a Heat Lamp  

Install the heat lamp securely above one side of the brooder for ducks. This will allow a warmer and cooler area within the brooder, helping the ducklings to regulate their temperature. Heat lamps are cheaper, but chick brooders (on Amazon) are safer.

The brooder should be around 90-92 degrees Fahrenheit in the first week, decreasing by about 5 degrees each week. Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature accurately.

The best heat source for a brooder is often a heat lamp. It offers adjustable warmth to maintain the ideal temperature for your ducklings’ health.

Adjustable heat lamps often work best, allowing for temperature modulation as needed.

The lamp wattage for a brooder depends on the brooder size and duckling number. A 250-watt lamp is typically used but varies based on specific needs. Red light is often preferred for brooders. It reduces aggression among ducklings and minimizes disruption to their sleep cycles compared to white light.

What is the cheapest way to heat a brooder? A standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb in a clamp light fixture could be the cheapest heating solution for a duck brooder.

However, be cautious about the risk of fire and the need to regulate temperature effectively. It’s less controllable than a purpose-made heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter.

Survival blankets can help keep the brooder for ducklings warm

5. Provide Food and Water Dishes and Place Them on the Cooler Side

Place your food and water dishes (On Amazon) on the cooler side of the brooder to prevent them from getting too warm.

It’s important to ensure the dishes are shallow to prevent the ducklings from drowning. Clean and refill these dishes daily.

Do NOT feed ducks medicated chick feed. Also make sure that you are feeding ducklings starter feed instead of layer feed. I like this starter feed from Manna Pro that I order off Amazon.

6. Protect the Brooder For Ducklings From Possible Predators 

If there are other animals or threats, you might want to secure the top of the brooder with a mesh or wire cover. Hardware cloth (On Amazon) is the most stable and is strong enough to keep predators out. Make sure this cover doesn’t interfere with the heat lamp.

A brooder should ideally have a cover to prevent the ducklings from escaping and to protect them from predators.

7. Observe Your Ducks From Time to Time

Keep a close eye on your ducklings’ behavior. If they’re huddled under the lamp, they’re too cold. If they’re avoiding the lamp entirely, they might be too hot. Adjust the lamp height as necessary.

8. Maintain the Cleanliness of the Duckling Brooder

Regularly clean the ducks’ brooder and replace the bedding to maintain a healthy environment for the ducklings. Monitor the ducklings daily for any health issues. 

How to make a smell-free duckling brooder? Regular cleaning is essential for controlling odors. Use absorbent bedding and change it frequently. If possible, use a larger brooder which helps dissipate smells and provide more fresh air for the ducklings.

Remember, making a DIY brooder provides a safe, comfortable space for your ducklings to grow and thrive during their first few weeks of life.

How to Keep Duckling Brooder Warm Without Electricity 

Sometimes, you may need to keep a brooder for ducklings warm without the help of electricity. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Insulation: Start with a well-insulated brooder. Thick walls made from wood or dense plastic help retain heat. Place the brooder in an area away from drafts.
  • Natural Heat: Position the brooder where it can benefit from natural sunlight during the day. Be mindful to avoid overheating and provide shade as needed.
  • Hot Water Bottles: Fill bottles with hot water, wrap them in a towel to prevent burns, and place them in the brooder. The ducklings can snuggle up to these for warmth.
  • Thermal Mass: Large stones or bricks can be heated in the sun and placed in the brooder. They’ll slowly release heat over time.
  • Composting Bedding: A layer of composting straw or hay at the bottom of the brooder generates heat as it decomposes. Be cautious of moisture levels, as this can lead to dampness.
  • Survival Blankets: Mylar survival blankets reflect body heat. Lining part of the brooder with these can help keep the ducklings warm.

Duck Brooder FAQs

Can baby ducks be outside in the heat? 

Ducklings can tolerate a bit of heat but remember; they can overheat easily.

Provide a shaded area and plenty of fresh water. They should always have a cooler area to retreat to, and never leave them in direct, intense sunlight. 

Can I use an LED bulb for the brooder? 

While an LED bulb can provide light, it doesn’t emit much heat, which is necessary for keeping ducklings warm. Therefore, a heat lamp, ceramic heat emitter, or even a regular incandescent bulb would be better options for a brooder.

What can you use instead of a brooder?

If a traditional brooder is unavailable, you can use alternatives such as a bathtub, a kiddie pool, or a large plastic storage box.

Remember, regardless of what you use, it should have enough space, be safe, and allow you to regulate temperature effectively. Always prioritize the ducklings’ needs.

What is the cheapest DIY duckling brooder?

A cardboard box or an old large plastic storage container with a standard 100-watt bulb as a heat source could be the cheapest. Use newspapers for bedding, but replace them regularly to maintain cleanliness. 

Repurposing items could lead to a brooder for as little as $20 to $30. If you’re buying all new items, including a specialty heat lamp, the cost could rise to around $60 to $100.


From understanding the basic necessities of a duck brooder to exploring various alternatives in terms of heat sources, bedding, and brooder substitutes, we’ve journeyed through comprehensive aspects of duck brooding. 

Remember, at the heart of it all; it’s about providing your ducklings with a safe, clean, and warm environment to thrive during their early weeks of life. Whether you’re making a mess-free duck brooder or trying to keep it warm without electricity, the ducklings’ well-being must always be prioritized.

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