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When Do Baby Ducks Start to Swim & Can Ducklings Swim?

Ducklings can start learning how to swim when they’re 1 week old, though this process is different from baby ducks in captivity and in the wild. If they’re raised in captivity, you need to supervise them, as they won’t have their mother to protect them.

Ducks are naturally gifted swimmers. They rely on this skill for survival, hence it’s important that they learn how to swim from an early age.

But when exactly do they learn this? And how do they learn it?

Well, it depends whether they’re raised in the wild, or if they’re raised in captivity on a farm or as pets.

If you want to learn how ducklings start swimming, or how you can teach your baby ducks how to swim, read on.

Can Baby Ducks Swim?

Yes and no. Baby ducks can play around in the water, but it’s not until they grow their feathers our, that they can swim by themselves. They’re usually helped along by their mother.

For ducks to swim, they need to float first. To do this, they need to have waterproof feathers, something they achieve with special oil called preen oil. 

Ducklings don’t secrete this oil, but their mother does. This is why ducklings can swim from an early age when they’re following close behind their mother. She’ll secrete preen oil into the water, which the duckling will swim through.

When raised in captivity, without their mother, ducklings can’t swim as early on. Here, they need to grow their own feathers first.

When that’s said, they can still play around in the water. This will allow them to get used to it.

Mother Duck Quacks to her Ducklings

How to Teach Ducklings to Swim

Ducklings are adorable, fluffy balls of fluff. However, they can’t swim on their own until they are fully grown. 

If you want to raise ducklings in your home, you will need to teach them how to swim. Luckily for you, this is not hard at all. You just need the right kind of supervision.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Find an easily accessible pool (a sink can work as well).
  2. Fill it with a small amount of water, about an inch or two deep.
  3. Place the ducklings into the water, and let them play around.
  4. Pay close attention to them.
  5. Let them out if they’re trying to get out, or make it easy for them to get out by themselves.

Once you have done this a few times, and when they’re a few weeks old, you may let them swim without supervision. This does depend on the individual duckling.

Related: Baby Ducks & Raising Them

duckling learning how to swim

At What Age Can Ducklings Start to Swim?

Ducklings can start being introduced to water after one week, but can’t swim on their own until they’re seven to nine weeks old.

When baby ducks are one week old they’ll start to be introduced to swimming. In the wild, they’ll swim close to their mother, who’ll secrete preen oil to keep them waterproof.

Around the seven to nine-week mark, duckling has fully grown out their feathers, which is when they can swim all by themselves.

Can Baby Ducks Drown?

Yes, baby ducks can drown. They aren’t as buoyant as grown ducks, and they aren’t waterproof either, meaning they can sink and drown.

Adult ducks are buoyant, as well as waterproof, making them incapable of drowning (unless forced under the water by external forces).

Baby ducks don’t have this luxury.

While ducklings naturally have an instinct to head towards the water when in danger, they don’t float – not as well as adult ducks at least. As a result, if there is no adult duck present, the little ones can sink and drown.

It’s important that ducklings are always supervised by an adult who can help prevent them from drowning. 

If there is no one around, it’s best to place the ducklings in a safe location where they will not wander into harm.

Related: How do ducks float?

duckling swimming on shallow water

When Can Ducklings Go Outside?

If you’re raising ducks, you can let them outside when they’re three to five weeks old, depending on the temperature and weather conditions.

While ducklings are fluffy, their down doesn’t provide much protection. The baby ducks cannot go outside until they have some feathers in place, or else they will get cold, which may lead to illness or death.

Making sure the weather conditions are right before letting ducklings out is critical. The best time may be in early spring, once temperatures are consistently at 70 °F (20 °C).

Even if the weather conditions are ideal, you should supervise them. After all, they’re still ducklings and don’t have much experience.

small group of ducklings

Are Ducklings Waterproof?

No, ducklings don’t have waterproof feathers as grown ducks do. Not at first. Their down is also not naturally waterproof.

While some people believe that ducks feathers are waterproof by nature, that’s not entirely the case. While they’re good at repelling water, the waterproofing agent comes from a special secreted oil, called preen oil.

Ducklings don’t secrete this oil, which is why the mother duck will rub some of hers on her ducklings before going for a swim.

As the baby ducks grow older, they’ll develop the ability to secrete oil, and they’ll grow out their feathers.

Do Baby Ducks Need a Pool?

While a pool works great, ducklings don’t need one. They do need access to water, but a bowl works fine as well.

Before you bring a duckling home, it’s important to have all of the necessary supplies needed for your new pet. 

Water is crucial for ducklings, both for drinking and for playing in.

A pool is definitely not necessary. All you need is a regular pet water bowl and a place for your duck to get a drink. What’s more, if you do the job right you can give your pet a full bath with that same bowl and your hand.

As long as there’s enough space for them to waddle around in the water, it’ll work out just fine. As they grow larger, you may need to upgrade though.

duckling drinking water

Do Ducklings Like Water?

Ducklings love water. Whether you want them to or not, they’ll play around in it. However, it’s important that it’s not too deep, or too cold, as they can drown or die from hypothermia.

Ducklings are very curious animals. They love anything that they have not experienced before or are new to them.

At first, water will be new to them. As soon as they learn what it is, they’ll play in it all the time.

Ducks are waterfowl, meaning they live most of their lives in or around water. Hence, it’s a natural instinct for ducklings to be drawn to water.

newborn ducklings


Ducks are born with the instinct to swim, but it takes them a little while before they can do it successfully on their own. They can start playing in water after a week, but can’t swim on their own after several more weeks. 

It’s important for ducklings to have access to bodies of water so that they get used to it.

As ducklings aren’t waterproof as adult ducks, they can sink and swim. Hence, make sure they’re supervised when in water.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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