Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp [And 5 Alternatives to Save You Money]

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Did you know that birds aren’t necessarily born with feathers? Most poultry species, including ducks, are born with a thin later of soft immature feathers. After they are born, they are susceptible to chilly temperatures. 

For that reason, many homesteaders wonder: do ducks need a heat lamp? Well – when ducks get raised domestically, a heat lamp, or an alternate heat source, is utilized to insulate the ducklings while they mature. 

But – there are other duck heat lamp details all duck raisers should know. For long do ducklings need a heat lamp? And – how soon can ducklings leave their poultry brooder?

If you are considering raising ducklings, then keep on reading. You’ll regret missing the following essential recommendations for raising ducklings with heat lamps. 

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp?

Ducklings need an alternate heat source, like a heat lamp. Otherwise, the exposed ducklings may not survive long enough for their feathers to develop and provide warmth fully. You can use a storebought heat lamp or an alternate source of heat, like a heat plate, to provide them with this supplemental warmth. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

First, know that there are two types of bird species.

  1. Altricial – when altricial birds are born, they need more time to develop their sight, strength, and feathers. 
  2. Precocial – Precocial birds are born with vision. And a thin layer of feathers. They can move around and feed. 

The quintessential example of an altricial bird is a bald and helpless songbird chick. Songbird chicks rely heavily on nurturing parents to survive. Over time, they will begin to develop feathers and survive independently. 

In comparison, precocial birds are much different. They can see when they are born and have a thin layer of feathers. As a result, they are much more independent at a young age. 

Birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, are examples of precocial species. Even chickens and ducks are precocial. They are born with some feathers, but not enough to keep warm without help. 

adorable flock of yellow ducklings cuddling
Baby ducklings love cuddling around their lamp for the first few weeks. At first – they love the temperatures high – around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the ducks get a few weeks old, they rely less on the heat lamp. After six weeks – their feathers should be thick enough that they won’t rely on their heat lamp as much. Or at all.

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp Indoors?

The ambient temperature of the indoor space you plan to keep your ducklings in will determine if they need a heat lamp while indoors. 

However, typically indoor spaces are not warm enough for ducklings. In which case, even ducklings will need a heat lamp to stay warm while indoors. 

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp at Night?

Heat lamps are the most important at nighttime. No matter the year, the temperature drops consistently after the sun goes down.

For your duckling’s comfort, we recommend that you adjust the temperature of the heat lamp for nighttime. Generally, you may need to turn the heat lamp up to accommodate the cooler nighttime temperatures.

ducklings and chickens basking underneath heat lamp on grass
The easiest way to tell if your baby ducklings are cold at night? Look at how your baby pet ducks behave! If they huddle tightly next to the heat lamp – there’s a good chance they feel too chilly. But – if the ducklings stop grouping around the heat lamp or if the ducklings abandon it outright, it’s a good indication that they are comfortable.

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp In Summer?

Yes, baby ducklings need a heat lamp during the winter and summer. Why the need for climate control? Because when they are born, ducklings do not have thick feathers. So an alternate heat source is necessary for colder temperatures, even during the summer. 

It’s vital to note that depending on the ambient temperature during the summer? You may need to decrease the temperature of the heat lamp. 

In other words, if it is sweltering because it’s summer, ensure that you adjust your heat lamp’s temperature output. That way, the ducklings don’t overheat. If your ducklings are panting, they are too hot. 

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06/13/2024 09:12 am GMT

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp In Winter?

When local temperatures are usually at their lowest during the winter, ducklings will need a heat lamp to maintain warmth. 

Depending on where you live, the winter may be colder or milder than in other places. But regardless of the mildness of your winter, your ducklings will more than likely require a heat lamp to help them stay warm and survive the winter.

fluffy yellow ducklings around heat lamp
Just look at these adorable ducklings! They love relaxing in the sunlight and under their heat lamp. Duckling heat lamps don’t have to be fancy, either! A pair of 125-watt lightbulbs can make a perfect makeshift duckling heater. Using two bulbs is a borderline-genius idea we love in case one bulb burns out overnight. Keep your ducklings warm and cozy!

How Do Ducklings Get Warm Without a Lamp?

Some homesteaders dislike using heat lamps because of the fire danger they pose. Not to mention the extra energy costs they create. So, when it comes to raising ducklings, heat lamps are not the only solution for keeping ducklings warm while they grow and develop their feathers. 

  • Electrical Brooder – if you don’t like heat lamps, you can try out an electrical brooder to keep your ducklings warm. It’s one of the most reliable methods to keep your ducklings warm if you don’t want to use heat lamps.
  • Hot Water Bottles – water bottles or bladders filled with hot water are effective ways to provide heat to ducklings without heat lamps. Remember that the water will need to be changed out as it cools down. Hot water bottles aren’t as consistent as heat lamps or brooders. But – hot water bottles might be perfect to use once your ducklings begin to wean off their heat lamps.
  • Many Duckling Friends – ducklings understand that they help keep each other warm when they huddle together. For that reason, you never want to raise one duckling by itself. Typically, it’s best to have at least a minimum of three ducklings. 
  • Natural Sunlight – are some parts of your barn warmer than others? Use that to your advantage! Try to position your duckling’s housing in the coziest position possible. That way – you can rely less on electricity to help warm your ducklings. Instead – lean upon Mother Nature to help provide natural solar heating.
  • Feather Duster – if you like a dust-free home, you probably already have feather dusters available. They also work great at keeping ducklings warm and cozy because the ducklings can snuggle in the feathers. Just make sure you use dusters with real feathers. Feather dusters aren’t a viable replacement for heat lamps and brooders in most cases – but are perfect for your ducklings to snuggle and help stay comfy.

Read More – What’s the Best Food for Baby Ducks?

How Long Do Ducks Need a Heat Lamp?

We recommend heating your ducklings with heat lamps for at least two to six weeks. While using heat lamps, monitoring the weather and the duckling’s feather maturation is essential. 

As the temperature warms and the ducklings develop feathers, you may need to adjust the temperature of the heat lamp or remove the heat lamp altogether. 

lovely flock of baby ducklings huddling outdoors
Ducklings should remain indoors in a safe, dry, clean, and draft-free roost. But – after 14 days, you can let your baby ducklings outdoors for short periods – as long as the weather is warm. When baby ducklings go outside, they love to bask in the sun. They look so comfy. And cute!

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp? FAQs

We get a lot of questions about raising ducklings with heat lamps. Below you’ll find the most popular questions and some extra expert insight. 

Do ducklings need heat lamps at night?

Yes! When you raise ducklings, it’s best to keep your heat source running all day, including nighttime. Over time – you’ll find that your ducklings rely less and less upon their heat lamps. But – for the first two to six weeks – heat lamps are essential for healthy ducklings.

How cold is too cold for ducklings?

Ducklings are highly susceptible to cold temps. When starting, you will want your heat lamp set to 90 degrees. From there, you can go on one degree per day. On the other hand, most mature ducks perform best with temperatures of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. However – it’s also critical to note that some cold-weather ducks tolerate (seemingly) icy weather – even as low as twenty degrees Fahrenheit. However, we advise giving your ducks more warmth than that – even mature ducks! (Even cold weather ducks are susceptible to frostbite.)

How Can I Keep Ducklings Warm Without a Lamp?

Heat lamps are likely your best option for keeping your baby ducklings warm. But – there are other things you can use with your heat lamp – especially as your ducklings mature and rely less on their heat lamp. You can also consider trying warmed water bottles, feather dusters (with real feathers), natural sunlight, and electronic brooders.

Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp In the Summer?

Yes, ducklings need a heat lamp even in the summer. However, if you begin noticing that the ducklings are avoiding the heated areas of their shelter? Then that may be a sign that they are too hot. Remember the golden rule for ducklings! At first – they love 90-degree heat. Gradually decrease as the days and weeks pass. You’ll notice your ducklings get less reliant on the heat after about a month.

When Can Ducklings Sleep Outside?

Ducklings are okay to sleep outside, depending on the weather. So long as you have a safe, predator-free environment for them to rest. If you have a safe house or pen outdoors, and the weather is agreeable, you can transfer your ducklings outside between three and five weeks.

However, until the ducklings are seven to nine weeks old, they have trouble regulating their temperature, especially if they are outside. So we recommend you use a thermometer to monitor the temperatures. 

Read More –  About Duck Teeth! How Do Ducks Eat Bugs and Slugs?


Precocial birds, like ducks, are born with a thin layer of feathers, have sight, and can feed themselves. Compared to altricial bird species, they are much more independent after being born. 

However, just because they have a thin layer of feathers does not mean they can stay warm by themselves. In the wild, ducklings rely on one another and their mother duck to provide extra warmth until their feather mature. 

So – when our friends ask do ducklings need a heat lamp? Our answer is a resounding yes! Ducklings need supplemental heat. At least – at first!

Domesticated ducklings require the same help. Typically, it’s most effective to warm your ducklings with a heat lamp. For starting – the hotter, the better. And as the ducklings mature, you can decrease the heat lamp’s temperature. 

Cold ducklings will huddle with one another around the heated area. On the other hand, if the ducks are too hot, they will try to avoid the heat. With time, thick feathers will develop, and the heat lamp will become unnecessary. 

As your ducklings mature, you can begin to transfer them outside to a predator-free shelter. With time, mature ducks will become tremendously cold-hardy (much more resilient than chickens). It’s just the initial two to four months when a heat lamp is 100% essential for survival

What about you? How do your ducks like the cold weather?

We’ve noticed that some mature ducks are more resilient than others.

We’re interested in your experience – and would love to hear more about your thoughts!

Thanks for reading.

Have a great day!

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