Small groups of ducklings can be brooded by broody chicken hens and most breeds of ducks other than Pekin and Runner. If the ducklings aren't hatched by the broody female, place them under her at night so that she will more readily accept them.
Ducklings can be brooded artificially in about the same way as baby chicks. Due to their rapid growth, ducklings will need heat a shorter period of time, and floor space requirements will increase more rapidly.
Any small building or garage or barn corner can be used as a brooding area for small numbers of birds. The brooding area should be dry, reasonably well lighted and ventilated, and free from drafts. Cover the floor with about 4 inches of absorbent litter material, such as wood shavings, chopped straw, or peat moss. Litter dampness is more of a problem with ducks than with chicks. Good litter management will require removal of wet spots and frequent addition of clean, dry litter. Be sure litter is free of mold.
Infrared heat lamps are a convenient source of heat for brooding small numbers of birds. Use one 250-watt lamp for 30 ducklings. Heat lamps provide radiant heat to the birds under them. Since the air isn't heated, room temperature measurement isn't so important.
When using hover-type brooders, brood only half as many ducklings as the rated chick capacity. Because ducklings are larger than chicks in size, it may be necessary to raise the hover 3 to 4 inches. Have the temperature at the edge of the hover 85 to 90 degrees F when the ducklings arrive. Reduce it 5 to 10 degrees per week.
Confine the birds to the heated area with a corrugated paper chick guard for the first 3 to 4 days. Watch the actions of the birds as a clue to their comfort. If they are too hot, they will move away from the heat. If too cold they may pile up and be noisy.
High temperatures may result in slower feathering and growth. Supplementary heat may be needed for 5 to 6 weeks in cold weather; in summer, only 2 to 3 weeks. By 4 weeks of age, the ducklings should be feathered enough to be outdoors except in extremely cold, wet weather. In some areas attention to predator control may be necessary when the ducklings are turned out.
Allow 1/2 square foot of floor space per bird during the first two weeks. Increase this to at least 1 square foot by 4 weeks. If the birds are to remain confined after the first month, provide them with at least 2 square feet of floor space.