Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (2023)

Ducks are cold-hardy animals, making them an excellent choice if you have harsh winters. Don’t stress about caring for ducks in the winter!

Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (1)

My husband brought ducks to our homestead, and they might be one of my favorite animals – ever. They have adorable personalities, and, for the most part, they’re low-maintenance. Raising ducks in the winter compared to chickens feels like a breeze.

It feels like our weather continues to get more unpredictable than ever. While we had less snow than usual last year for our area, the temperatures dropped lower than ever. Polar vortexes are a real issue lately.

Homesteaders and farmers alike have to know how to keep their animals comfortable and alive when Mother Nature rocks their world.

Ducks are one of the cold-hardiest animals to raise on your homestead. But, with the right preparations and a cozy area to sleep in, they’ll survive whatever temperatures are dealt their way.

Related: Raising Chickens in the Winter: What You Need to Know

Can Ducks Handle Cold Weather?

Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (2)

Your biggest concern is probably whether or not ducks handle cold weather – do ducks get cold in the winter?

Yes, ducks handle and thrive in the cold weather. Think about all the ducks you might see out in the winter at your local pond; they are fine.

The biggest concern is your ducks’ feet. When the temperatures are very low, they could become frostbitten, but I’ve yet to see that happen.

Last year, on Christmas Eve, our temperatures dropped very low, and it snowed. They refused to come out of our pond to go into the warmth of the coop. Instead, they swam all night long, despite my attempts.

Surprise – they were fine. I suppose they know better than I do what they can and cannot handle.

Ducks have a counter-current heat exchange system that stops their feet from becoming damaged in icy and cold conditions. As a result, the warm blood flowing from their heart flows close to the blood flowing from their feet.


It keeps their feet at a normal temperature, even in the cold. Plus, ducks have an average body temperature between 106-108 degrees F under all of their feathers and fat.

Personally, I think that’s fascinating, and I sure wish chickens had something for their combs and wattles because frostbite on chickens is never fun. On the other hand, ducks don’t have frostbite-prone combs and wattles – you only have to worry about their feet.

Related: Dealing with Frostbite on Chickens: What You Need to Know

Raising Ducks in the Winter: What You Need to Know

Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (3)

Caring for ducks in the winter is fairly simple. As long as they have a place to escape the bad weather, that’s really all they need. Our ducks lay steadily throughout the winter (not as good as the spring but steadily) and seem happy as clams.

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(Video) Raising Ducks in Winter

Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (4)

Ducks Need Fresh Water to Drink

Ducks LOVE water. It’s their most favorite thing in the entire world, and they need it all year-round.

Your biggest goal is to make sure their water doesn’t freeze. You have several options, like heated water bowls and buckets. They need to be able to dunk their heads and drink as they eat.

Ducks use water to digest food and clear their sinuses and eyes. It’s why you’ll watch them dunk their heads repeatedly.

Their water needs to be changed and kept clean daily. I suggest keeping their water outside of their coop, especially if you raise chickens and ducks together because ducks will muddy up your chickens’ water.

Never feed your ducks without access to water because they can choke. If they don’t have access to water all night, they shouldn’t have access to food.

Swimming Isn’t a Necessity Though

Water is a must, but swimming is not. Ducks don’t HAVE to swim, although they really love it. Ducks need water to process food but don’t stress if you can’t stop their pond from freezing.

We’re lucky to have a natural pond that doesn’t freeze, but if we didn’t, I wouldn’t put effort into chipping out the ice!

Make Sure Your Ducks Eat Quality Layer Pellets

Keeping your ducks well fed in the winter is a big part of having healthy, happy ducks. Free-range ducks forage for snails and slugs, but foraging isn’t possible when snow and ice cover everything.

We double their rations during the winter and keep up a steady supply of scraps from the kitchen. They love greens and fruit bits. So don’t forget to give them some duck treats as well!

Make sure you offer a quality layer pellet as a majority of their diet. Even if they aren’t laying eggs, ducks still have high nutritional needs.

Feed Your Ducks Healthy Treats

I like to offer healthy treats to my ducks. For example, we offer scratch grains in the evenings before bed to our entire flock; this helps keep them warmer because grains take longer to digest, increasing their body temperature.

(Video) Don't Raise Ducks BEFORE Watching THIS! Everything You Need to Know

You want to provide protein-rich snacks during the winter to your flock, along with fresh greens. Grab some lettuce or kale to give to them. My flock, chickens and ducks, love warm oatmeal!

Related: 17 Healthy Treats for Ducks Your Flock Will Love

Provide a Predator-Proof House

Predators are looking for their next meal in the winter, and prey is often scarce. So now is the time when you have to make sure they have predator-proof housing. Since ducks nest on the ground, they need to be secured.

Also, when it comes to housing, make sure your duck house or coop is well-ventilated. Ducks send off a lot of moisture when they breathe, and this all can lead to problems. Also, the vents need to be up high; we have windows at the top of our barn.

Straw Keeps Them Cozy

Ducks don’t roost like chickens; they lay on the ground to sleep. I often find my ducks sleeping on the ground beside our pond.

Laying extra stay in your duck house or coop helps keep them off the cold ground. We lay a full bale of straw two or three times per year.

Make sure you don’t toss out that straw; it should go right into your compost pile!

The ducks love the straw and build little nests to sleep. They sleep together and stay cozy out of the wind and snow. Also, I like when they lay their eggs there because I hate hunting for duck eggs.

Seriously, my ducks laid eggs INSIDE the pond a few times.

Put Up a Wind Barrier

The cold and snow aren’t annoyances to ducks, but they aren’t huge fans of the wind. Making a wind barrier with a tarp or sheet of plywood will keep your ducks happy. I lay down straw, and they’re so happy.

This isn’t your predator-proof shelter; this is an area outside for them to be out without the cold wind blowing on them.

Ice is a Problem

Snow and cold aren’t a problem for ducks, but ice is an issue. Their webbed feet slip and slide on ice, and they can injure themselves.

(Video) How NOT to Raise Ducks in the Winter

The easiest way to combat that is to lay straw down in the areas they often go like the waterer. Not only does straw help reduce ice forming, but it also stops them from sliding around.

Common FAQs about Caring for Ducks in the Winter

Raising Ducks in the Winter: Everything You Need to Know (5)

What Temperature is Too Cold for Ducks?

Ducks survive when temperatures are in the negatives. As long as they have a warm coop that they can easily access when needed, your ducks know when they’re too cold and need to go inside.

I can’t always say the same for raising chickens in the winter. One year, my rooster stood outside in the freezing rain and snow, and then he ended up with frostbite.

Do Ducks Need Heat in the Winter?

No, ducks don’t need heat in the winter. Adding heat lamps to your duck house or chicken coop increases the risk of a fire, especially if you have any wiring issues.

Don’t believe me?

My husband is a volunteer firefighter and responds to these fires yearly. Talk to your local firefighters to get their thoughts.

However, the fact is that ducks don’t NEED heat in the winter. Nature designed ducks to handle cold temperatures because they have layers of fat and feathers that keep them warm, even when they’re wet.

Will Ducks Lay Eggs in the Winter?

Yes, ducks lay eggs in the winter, but they won’t lay as frequently. If the temperatures are too low, they might stop laying eggs entirely as their bodies put more energy towards keeping them warm. There is no need to give supplemental light; your ducks lay without that.

However, seasonal ducks, like mallards, won’t lay in the winter. Most backyard duck breeds do!

Related: 11 Best Ducks for Eggs for Your Homestead

Can You Raise Ducklings in the Winter?

It’s possible to raise ducklings in the winter, but you need to keep them in a brooder space until they’re fully feathered. Even then, they shouldn’t be outside when the temperatures are below 20 degrees. That’s why most people wait until spring arrives to raise ducklings.

(Video) Daily Winter Duck and Chicken Care - (When it’s so cold it hurts to breathe!)

I find that raising ducks in the winter is much easier than raising chickens in the winter, and that’s still really easy! Farm animals are hardier than we realize, so don’t stress. Give your ducks plenty of good feed, freshwater, and a dry, well-ventilated place to sleep. They’ll make it through winter just fine.


What to do for ducks in the winter? ›

A nice thick layer of chopped straw on the floor of your duck house will be appreciated. Ducks love to snuggle down into the bedding at night to keep warm. Use additional bales of straw for 'insulation' along the inner walls if you live in an extremely cold climate and have a large house for them.

What temperature is too cold for ducks? ›

Tip Tips for Keeping Ducks in the Winter. Unlike chickens who are generally comfortable at temperatures 45 degrees and above, ducks are just fine down to temperatures around 20 degrees F. Below that however, they can suffer frostbite on their feet which could lead to amputation or lost limbs.

What is the best duck food for winter? ›

In winter, their diet is mostly made of seeds, and aquatic vegetation, specifically acorns, corn, rice, and wheat. So if you still want to enjoy feeding ducks, make sure you are offering something similar to what they would naturally be feeding on.

Do ducks need shelter in winter? ›

Housing: Ducks need shelter at night (and for the winter) and shade during the summer. If you already have a chicken coop, you can confidently keep your ducks in the same coop at night, provided you have enough room. But be aware — ducks don't put themselves to bed like chickens do.

What is the best housing for ducks? ›

The Small Home Flock

The shelter should be located on a high, well-drained area of the yard. Whenever available, sandy soil is preferable for the duck yard because it drains quickly after a rain. The earth floor of the sheltered area should be bedded with straw, shavings or similarly dry absorbent material.

Do ducks need to be locked up at night? ›

Regardless of whether you keep ducks with, or separate from, your chickens, they do need to be locked up at night in a secure shelter with hardware cloth on all the windows. Domestic ducks can't fly (except for mallards and muscovies) and therefore are very susceptible to predators.

How to build a winter duck house? ›

Ducks don't need anything fancy. They sleep on the floor and don't even really need a nest box. A cozy corner of the house with a pile of straw is good enough for a nest. Their house can just be a wooden box or old dog house that is at least 3 feet high, with 4 square feet of floor space for each duck you plan to have.

Are ducks okay in the snow? ›

The layers of fat and feathers that ducks are equipped with keep them warm, even when they are wet. As you can see, keeping ducks in winter is pretty easy. You can keep a happy, healthy flock all winter long, even in the coldest of areas!

What do ducks like the most? ›

DO: Feed ducks cracked corn, oats, rice, birdseed, frozen peas, chopped lettuce, or sliced grapes. These foods are similar to natural foods ducks will forage for on their own. DON'T: Leave uneaten food lying around. Leftover food in the water can rot and cause deadly algae blooms that affect local wildlife.

How many ducks are ideal to raise in a backyard? ›

For starters, ducks are easy to raise even in a small backyard. They are extremely social, so consider raising at least three (but preferably five or six) together. In terms of male versus female ducks, good flock makeups include three females (and no males) or a male with four or five females.

What should I feed my ducks daily? ›

Ducks should be fed a commercially prepared age appropriate food as their main diet. Ducks should be provided with suitable vegetables and fruits to supplement the commercial diet. Zucchini, peas, leafy greens, corn, vegetable peels, non-citrus fruit and worms are suitable.

What is the hardiest duck breed? ›

Cayugas are said to be very easily tamed if they are hand raised and are known as one of the hardiest duck breeds. They lay around 150 eggs a year and produce delicious meat, as long as you don't mind being able to see some of the remainders of their black feathers.

How do you keep duck holes from freezing? ›

Some hunters also use sprayers or they run pipes with perforations along the bottom of their ponds. By pumping fresh water into these pipes and allowing it to escape up through the perforations, they keep the water temperature above freezing.

How high off the ground should a duck house be? ›

Boxes should be placed above typical high-water levels and at a height that will allow you to access the box for monitoring and maintenance (4 to 6 feet above land or water). In terms of distance inland, try to keep your box close to the water.

What is the best flooring for a duck coop? ›

Vinyl Peel and Stick Maple Plank Floor Tile would be a great duck house flooring product to install over concrete, wood, or other smooth and solid surface.

What do ducks need inside their coop? ›

Ducks don't need much inside the coop; just a soft layer of straw will do. With chickens, food and water are often provided inside the coop, but for ducks, it's best to keep those outside.

How tall should a fence be for ducks? ›

It is best to have a large confined space for your waterfowl; a spot with a slight slope and sandy soil with both sunny and shady areas is ideal. Height of fencing should be 5-6 ft. for flying breeds and 3-4 ft. for non-flying breeds.

What animal protects ducks? ›

Get a Protection Animal

Well-trained dogs, territorial goats, llamas, and even some hogs will look out for your ducks and come to their rescue if needed.

How do you keep ducks from flying away? ›

This is quite straightforward to do by simply trimming the primary feathers on one wing. Clipping one wing will unbalance the duck making flying impossible and is completely painless, in fact to the duck it is a bit like having its hair cut. Only trim the primary feathers as the others are important for insulation.

Do ducks need a pen? ›

Ducks need to be kept in a secure pen or house when you are not at home that will protect them from predators. To be secure, housing needs to have solid sheeting or welded mesh (with wire at least 1.2mm thick) on the roof, floor and walls.

How do you insulate a duck coop in the winter? ›

Just layer the sleeping areas at least as tall as the ducks themselves and there should be enough natural straw insulation to last for at least a few weeks to a month – depending upon how much time the ducks spend inside of the coop.

How many nesting boxes do I need for a duck? ›

How many: If you are collecting eggs every day, one box for every 3-5 females should be sufficient. If you are using the boxes for natural incubation, each brooding female will need their own box. Bear in mind that ducks may not cooperate and choose to lay outside the nest boxes, no matter what you do.

Can ducks stay out in the cold rain? ›

They are quite happy to stay out in it, and they often preen their feathers and poke around in puddles. (The British refer to a rainy day as “a lovely day for ducks.”) They don't even seem to mind snow or sleet, but they dislike cold and windy weather.

How do ducks feet stay warm in winter? ›

Birds also have specialized scales on their feet and legs that help minimize heat loss. Many ducks, geese, pelicans, gulls and swans further conserve body heat by standing on one leg or even sitting down.

Where do ducks sleep at night? ›

Ducks mostly sleep floating on water.

They are flexible when it comes to their choice of where to sleep. For example, a species of ducks known as mallards can sleep both on land and water. Another species known as Muscovy ducks can also roost (sleep) on the ground.

What is ducks favorite food? ›

Scrambled eggs are one of our ducks' favorite treats. Other favorite proteins include dried or live mealworms, earthworms, slugs, crickets, minnows, feeder fish, cooked fish or meat leftovers, lobster or shrimp shells. Avoid: Ducks don't digest nuts and large seeds well.

Do ducks like their owners? ›

If handled frequently and gently from an early age, ducks will become quite sociable with people. It may take some getting used to, but eventually you will figure out what types of activities your duck enjoys. The more you interact with your pet duck, the quicker you will bond with one another.

Are bananas good for ducks? ›

Ducks love to eat scraps, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be healthy for them. Potassium is abundant in bananas, which is very good for your duck's health. They are a wonderful addition to your pet's diet and offer a delightful, refreshing snack.

What are the signs of stress in ducks? ›

A duck or goose that is stressed can exhibit mild to serious symptoms. Serious symptoms include: lethargy, weakness, sudden lameness (rare), loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, depression, disinterest in normal routines and feathers that remain ruffled open.

Are ducks harder to raise than chickens? ›

Ducks use only floor space, and so need much more floor space than chickens, even before taking into account that their manure is much wetter. They need extra floor space for nests and resting. They need much more water and bigger water containers and bathing water.

What kind of pen do ducks need? ›

You need to prevent your ducks from escaping and also keep them safe from predators with a secure wire duck pen or enclosure. The simplest way to create a perfect duck pen or run is to combine one of the Somerzby chicken coops with a large enclosed run.

Do ducks miss you? ›

A single waterfowl won't know to miss members of its own species, but it will certainly miss YOU when you are away, even more so than a dog or cat might.

How old are ducklings at Tractor Supply? ›

Tractor Supply Ducks

They're a large, all white farm duck that can be used for both meat and eggs. The white feathers and a quick growth rate make them a popular choice for the table. If you plan to eat them you are only looking at 7-8 weeks before you butcher them.

What is a natural dewormer for ducks? ›

You can merely cut a fresh pumpkin in half and feed it to your chickens, or I like to pour some water into the pumpkin half - the ducks really love that! - or fill the halves with some chicken feed to get hesitant flock members to give it a taste.

What is the best layer duck food? ›

Best Feed for Laying Ducks and Geese: Manna Pro Layer Pellet. This pellet is one of the best things to feed ducks, specifically the layers, because it meets their nutritional requirements. It provides 16% crude protein about 3.5 to 4.5% calcium which is vital for stronger eggs.

How many cups of feed does a duck eat per day? ›

Generally, a single duck may eat about a 1/2 cup of feed per day. The following figures are estimates for laying ducks. Feed consumption varies based on bird type, fermentation, and other food scraps provided to the flock.

What breed of duck is the friendliest? ›

Pekin. Originating in Beijing, China (originally called Pekin) around 2500 B.C., white Pekin ducks are a calm, hardy breed. Although raised predominantly as a “table” or meat bird, Pekins do make wonderful pets and laying ducks. They are docile, friendly and can lay between 150-200 large white eggs per year.

What is the easiest duck to raise? ›

Welsh Harlequin, Buff, Silver Appleyards, Saxonies, Anconas, and Magpies are all good choices. Runners and the smaller duck breeds don't have much meat on them, but are still perfectly tasty.

What are ducks worst enemy? ›

Snakes are well documented wood-duck nest raiders, while snapping turtles, largemouth bass, northern pike and even bullfrogs pull plenty of ducklings below the surface. Feral cats, weasels, opossums and herons are also on the hunt for newborn ducks.

What is poisonous to ducks? ›

Common shrubs and bushes you may have in your yard that can be toxic include azalea, bleeding heart, boxwood, castor bean, clematis, honeysuckle, ivy, larkspur, mountain laurel, nightshade, oak trees, oleander, pokeweed, rhododendron, wisteria and yew.

Can you feed ducks Cheerios? ›

Can You Feed Ducks Cheerios? Whether you're asking about original, honey nut, cinnamon, or multi grain Cheerios, it's best not to feed them to a duck, goose, or other bird because they include ingredients like sugar, brown sugar syrup, salt, and preservatives.

Where do I put my ducks in the winter? ›

A coop that's raised off the ground by a foot or is another option. This way, the ducks are not right on the frozen ground. If you live in a very cold region, you can insulate the floor to keep the space cozier. You'll still want to provide straw on the floor of the coop.

Do you feed ducks in winter? ›

Don't just wing it, we have great suggestions

Ducks will normally feed on insects and grass, but these are more difficult to find in the winter when the ground is often frozen. Leftover greens including kale, cabbage and lettuce are great alternatives.

How do you winterize ducks and chickens? ›

Here are seven steps to help ensure your birds are protected from cold weather.
  1. Minimise drafts. ...
  2. Keep your coop well ventilated. ...
  3. Use the 'Deep Litter Method' ...
  4. Use sunlight to trap heat. ...
  5. Make sure your chickens can roost. ...
  6. Make them a sunroom. ...
  7. Protect against frostbite.

Can ducks freeze in a pond? ›

Yes they can and every year they do.

How do I prepare my duck coop for the winter? ›

Stacking straw bales along the inner walls of your duck shelter (if there is extra room), is helpful because they not only take up some of the cold, dead air space, your ducks often like to squeeze behind them to sleep, which also helps them to keep warm. Duck shelters should never be heated.

How do you know if a duck is happy? ›

Ducks will not only quack repeatedly in a high pitched tone when they are happy but they will also bob their heads up and down. When they are turned out to get in a pond, receive fresh water in their pool, or are getting a nice yummy snack the head bobbing could go on for as long as 15 minutes.

How do ducks sleep in coop? ›

Ducks don't roost and will be perfectly happy sleeping on soft straw or shavings on the coop floor. They don't necessarily even need nesting boxes, but rather seem to prefer making themselves a nest in one corner of the coop. They also are more cold-hardy and enjoy cooler temperatures, summer and winter.

What do ducks need in a coop? ›

Ducks don't need much inside the coop; just a soft layer of straw will do. With chickens, food and water are often provided inside the coop, but for ducks, it's best to keep those outside.

What is the best ground cover for duck run? ›

Good choices of grasses include rye, wheat grass or millet. You can also section off part of the pen periodically and plant grass or leafy greens such as kale, collards, spinach, chard, dandelions etc. Then take down the fencing to let your ducks enjoy the buffet once it's matured.

What to use for duck bedding? ›

Bedding. Pine shavings work fine for bedding, but our ducks prefer straw. Straw has wonderful insulating properties during colder months, keeping ducks warm; it also holds its shape better, so they don't end up sleeping on the cold wood or cement floor.

What is the best bedding for chicken coop in winter? ›

Straw is one of the most popular chicken coop bedding choices for northern chicken keepers. Straw is an excellent insulator, which makes it great to use during cold winter weather. Not only is it a good insulator, but it is also easy to maintain and chickens love sorting through straw!

Can I put ice in my ducks water? ›

Adding ice cubes or frozen water bottles to the tubs will help keep the water cooler longer. Your ducks will most likely stand in the water tubs to cool off their feet, which is fine. They'll still drink the water, but plan on refilling the tubs more often in the summer than at other times of the year.

How big a pond do you need for ducks? ›

An aviary pool which is a metre in diameter and 30 cm deep should be adequate for one pair of ducks. If it takes the form of a concrete-lined depression, the water can be swept out almost daily without too much effort.

How do you heat a duck pond in the winter? ›

Keeping your duck water from freezing is one of the biggest challenges to raising chickens in the winter. If you have electricity to your coop, the easiest way is to just plug in a heated dog water bowl. They're easy to clean and refill, and keep the water safely warmed to just above freezing.


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