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When Can Ducks Go Outside? (Things to Consider)

Ducks can begin to go outside when they’re between 3 to 5 weeks old, but it’s not until they’re 7 to 9 weeks old, after they’ve grown out their feathers, that it’s truly safe for them.

Ducks love swimming and enjoying the sun, and the same goes for ducklings. However, it’s not always safe to let ducks outside.

If you’re raising ducklings yourself, you should beware of some of the risks that they face. 

When ducks are newborns, they don’t have feathers, they aren’t waterproof, they don’t know how to swim, and they have trouble regulating their body temperature.

Read on to learn more about when ducklings can go outside.

What to Consider Before Moving Ducklings Outside

If you’re raising ducklings indoors, you should know when it’s safe to let them out. When considering this, you should take the following into account:

  • Are their feathers developed?
  • What’s the outside temperature like?
  • Can they drink water from a pond and swim in it?
  • Do they have shelter?
  • Do they have space to roam around?

Are Their Feathers Developed?

Ducks use their feathers to keep warm and to regulate body temperature. Hence, it’s important that they have begun to grow out their feathers before going outside.

Many people want to bring their ducklings outside when they are 1 or 2 weeks old when their feathers begin developing. However, there are some things to consider when thinking about moving ducklings outside when their feathers are developed.

  • First, you should be aware of your local climate when bringing ducklings outside. If it is too hot or too cold, it can be dangerous for the ducklings.
  • Second, you should make sure that there is a place for the ducklings to get out of the sun and elements. If there is not, they could get sick or die.
  • Third, you should make sure that there is food and water available to the ducklings when they are outside.
  • Fourth, you should make sure that there is a place for the ducklings to shelter if it begins to rain or if it is cold outside.
little duckling swimming

The Outside Temperature

One of the biggest decisions when raising ducklings is when to move them outside. One of the most important factors is temperature.

Ducks can go outside when the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6° C). The ideal temperature for ducks is between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).

This is different for ducklings. If the baby ducks haven’t developed feathers, they should only be let out on sunny and warm days, supervised.

duck family

Ducklings Ability to Drink Water

When ducklings are born, they may have a difficult time drinking. This is because they don’t have much control yet, and may not be able to reach the water that adult ducks drink from.

Ducklings will typically drink from very shallow ponds or rain puddles, as these are easy to get to without drowning.

When ducklings are born, they connect with the first being they see, often their mother. They’ll follow her around, and she’ll help them eat and drink. [1]

It is best to use a brooder when ducklings are 0-3 weeks old. When they are 4-6 weeks old, they can start to drink water on their own.

When they are 7-8 weeks old, they can live outside the brooder but should still be supervised. Around 9-12 weeks old, they are ready to live outside full time and be independent.

It is important to always keep a water source near the ducks when they are outside. A pond, lake, or river is the best place for ducks to get their water, but if those are not available then a nice big bowl of clean water should do. 

Ducks like to swim when they drink water, so it is necessary to be able to provide enough space for them when they drink.

newborn ducklings

Ducklings Ability to Swim

Ducklings can swim when they are just one week old if they’re taught so. Ducklings, like all other beings, need to learn how to do things. If they haven’t been taught how to swim, they won’t be able to. 

Ducks are strong swimmers, almost from the moment they are born. When they swim, they typically stay behind their mother. They use waves to make it easier and will travel in a row. [2]

Related: How fast can ducks swim?

Now, if ducklings aren’t raised by their mother, it’s up to their caretaker to teach them. This can be done by letting them play around in a sink.

Be careful about putting too much water in their learning area at first. It’s best to start with just a few inches of water.

Ducklings are also able to walk and run very well from a young age, so it is important to keep them away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water until they are old enough. 

If you live near a pond or other body of water, it is best to fence off an area for your ducklings to stay in until they are old enough to be outside on their own.

female duck with family on a pond

Will They Have Shelter Outside?

Before you move your ducks outside, you need to consider if they will have shelter. If there is a possibility of cold weather or predators, make sure your ducks have a safe place to go.

Ducks can sleep outside when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but when the temperature drops below that, they need shelter. 

Make sure their shelter is predator-proof, as raccoons and other predators can kill ducks. If you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to provide extra insulation or heating for your duck shelter.

ducklings on the farm

Is There Enough Space for Them?

One of the main things to consider when moving ducks outside is if there is enough space for them. 

Ducks need plenty of room to swim and play, so you’ll want to make sure that their new outdoor home has a pond or pool for them to enjoy. If your property doesn’t have a body of water big enough, you may need to construct a small pond.

Another aspect of providing enough space is ensuring that the ducks have a covered area to go when it rains when they want to get away from the sun, when it gets dark and when you’re not around. 

Keeping them in an open or partially fenced-in area can be dangerous for your ducks.

Mallard ducks family

When Can Ducklings Stay Outside?

Ducklings can stay outside when they are able to keep warm and dry. This mostly comes down to their feathers. When their feathers are fully grown out, they can stay outside.

Ducks have waterproof feathers, that also provide insulation. This allows them to keep warm when swimming, or when living outside.

Ducklings will typically have developed their feathers around the age of 7 to 9 weeks old.

Duckling Temperature Tolerance

Ducks are hardy creatures that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They can live outside when the temperature is above freezing and they can go outside when the temperature is below zero. 

When the weather is really bad, ducks will huddle together to keep warm. [3]

Ducks can also regulate the temperature of their legs. Their feet are very tolerant of cold, as they sometimes have to walk on snow. Hence, they can limit the blood supply to their legs, decreasing temperature exposure and damage.

Related: What are duck feet called?

female duck with ducklings outside

Can Ducks Sleep Outside?

Yes, ducks can sleep outside. Wild ducks typically do so, however only when temperatures are warm enough. When it gets colder, they migrate.

Ducks sleep outside in the wild, while they sleep in a coop or pen in captivity. Wild ducks will stay in their habitat as long as temperatures are within their desired range. When winter comes around, they’ll migrate.

They can fly up to 800 miles in a single flight and will fly south for warmer climates.

Another thing ducks need to worry about when sleeping outside is predators. Ducks can be prey to many different animals when they are sleeping outside, such as coyotes, raccoons, and snakes. [4]

ducks sleeping at night

Can You Train Ducks to Go Outside?

Yes, you can train ducks to go outside. You can teach ducks the necessary skills they need to go outside and survive. But there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

Ducks are very habitual, which means, it can be difficult to introduce them to new areas. 

If your ducks don’t want to leave the pen, you can introduce the outside world to them step by step:

  1. Let them get used to their pen if they aren’t already.
  2. Leave the door to the outside open during the day. This will allow them to get used to it.
  3. If they don’t go outside by themselves, simply give them a little push – literally.
  4. If they don’t return by nightfall, you need to usher them in.

Conclusion

Ducks can go out, without supervision, when they’re 7 to 9 weeks old. This is around the time when they’re fully feathered, which helps them regulate their body temperature.

Ducks need their feathers to survive, as well as water, shelter, and their ability to swim.

FAQs

How Cold Is Too Cold for Ducks?

Ducks are hardy animals and can live in temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celcius), though arctic ducks can survive much lower temperatures.

How Old Do Ducks Need to Be to Go In a Pond?

Ducks are able to go in the pond when they have developed feathers. Once ducks have developed their waterproof feathers, they can live outside.

Can Four Weeks Old Ducks Be Outside?

Four-week-old ducks are still much too young to go outside by themselves. They must be kept in a brooder with heat lamps or other heating devices until they are approximately six weeks old. If you want to let them outside, you should wait for a sunny and warm day, and accompany them.

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.