Duck, Goose & Chicken Hatchery

Preparing for your Bird’s Arrival


How to set up a brooder prior to bird’s arrival:

* Brooder: Clean, dry area with no drafts
* Heat Lamp or Plate: Initial temperature at 90-95 degrees
* Shavings: At least 2” of pine shavings or hay for bedding
* Feed: Waterfowl Starter or All Flock Starter feed
* Water: Elevated to a height where birds can drink, but not get wet or make a mess
* VitaMetz Waterfowl Boost: Vitamin, mineral, electrolyte, probiotic supplement

Prepare a place for your birds that provides the protection and warm environment they need. Usually this is in a barn, outbuilding or garage. Clean and disinfect a space that has some type of solid wall or partition that will prevent drafts (which can be deadly). Make sure dogs, cats, rats, and predators are kept out. Initially, they need about 1/3 square foot per bird. Start with 2 inches of wood shavings (not sawdust as they may eat it) or straw for bedding. Turn the heat on the day before you expect your birds so the bedding is warm for their arrival. One heat lamp can handle about 35 ducklings, 20 goslings, or 60 chicks / guineas. The lamp is normally hung about 18" from the bedding where the temperature should be 90-95 degrees. Heat plates are also a great tool for providing supplemental heat. Place the water in the pen a day in advance so it is not too cold for them initially. For the first several days we recommend that you supplement their water with a hydration supplement, such as our VitaMetz Waterfowl Boost (1 tsp per 1 gallon water). VitaMetz is specifically designed for waterfowl, but is suitable for any poultry.

Purchase a waterfowl starter feed. Newly hatched ducklings and goslings need crumble starter feed for the first 3 weeks of their lives. Ideally you should find starter feed specifically formulated for waterfowl, but an “all flock” starter feed is fine so long as it has niacin and at least 20% crude protein. Any less protein can result in developmental problems in your birds. After 3 weeks of age, birds can be moved to a grower feed where the protein drops to between 17 to 20%. Too low niacin can cause leg issues and too much protein can cause wing issues.

Waterfowl can be very messy with their water. It is best to elevate their waterer to shoulder height so they can dip their beak in to drink, but not splash and make a mess. We suggest you put the waterer on a platform that allows any spilled water to drip through the platform so they cannot play in it and won't dampen their bedding. For babies it can be 1/2” hardware cloth nailed onto a wood frame or a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. For adults it can be 1” welded wire nailed onto a wood frame. The platform should be large enough to extend at least 6” out from the edge of the waterer for the babies and 30” for adults.

They have arrived!

Normally the post office phones when your birds arrive and asks you to pick them up. When you get your birds home, dip each bird’s beak in water and tip their head back to ensure they drink. If they look sleepy with squinty eyes, this means they are dehydrated and they will only survive if you ensure they drink several times within the first 2 hours. Again, we recommend a hydration supplement like VitaMetz Waterfowl Boost. Make sure they can’t get in the water and get chilled. A wet duckling is not likely to survive. The best way to judge the comfort of the birds is to watch them. If they are huddled under the lamp, they need more heat. If they are all bedded down away from the lamp or breathing with their mouths open, it is too warm in the pen. The ducks should be spread throughout the pen with some eating, some drinking, some sleeping and some playing.

Ducklings and goslings can be introduced to swimming water as early as three weeks of age, but they must be able to walk in and out of the water very easily. The water should not be too cold and they must be able to find their heat lamp for rewarming without difficulty. Do not allow them to become soaked and chilled! Use a soft blow dryer if they become cold and lethargic. In nature, a mother duckling will provide the oil to help waterproof the babies’ feathers. Hatchery born ducklings will not start producing the oil required to be waterproof for about 5 weeks.

Check the pack slip on your box for any important notes we may have made regarding your order. If your birds were sexed, they will be distinguished by colored rubber bands. For an explanation of the band colors, go to the back of your invoice or our Sexing page on this website. The bands should be removed within 3 days or sooner if you notice it getting snug. Supplements or feed will be packed under the bedding.

As they grow:

Waterfowl grow very fast. Make sure you enlarge their pen as they grow and add clean bedding as necessary. Typically it is better to add clean bedding on top of the old bedding than to clean it out every day. Usually the temperature can be dropped about 5 degrees a week and the heat lamp turned off after 2-3 weeks. Though goslings grow faster, they will need a heat lamp longer than ducklings or chicks. As your birds grow and add weight, you can allow them to venture outdoors for brief periods during the day. In the spring and summer this might be at 10-14 days of age. In cooler weather, they might need to be 3 weeks before going outside on a sunny day. Bring them out of the rain if they are not completely feathered. Once they are fully feathered (7-9 weeks of age) they can stay outside all the time with shelter from the sun and heavy rains. If you notice they are making a big mess, double check your water set up. They do not need access to swimming water inside of their run/coop.

At 3-5 weeks you can switch from starter feed to grower feed.

When you see your first mating activity or first egg, you can switch to layer feed. As adults, waterfowl do much better with pelleted feed.


Taking care of baby chicks requires careful attention and nurturing to ensure they grow into healthy and happy chickens. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to care for baby chicks:

Prepare a Suitable Brooder:

- Choose a clean space for your brooder, such as a cardboard box, plastic container, or a small coop. A kiddie pool will work great for the first week or two.
- Line the bottom with absorbent bedding like pine shavings or straw. Make sure it's clean and dry. If it get wet, replace it with new bedding. We prefer straw.

Provide Heat:

- Baby chicks need a consistent source of warmth. Use a heat lamp with a red bulb or a radiant brooder to maintain the brooder's temperature at around 95°F (35°C) for the first week. Our limited experience with radiant brooders has been very positive.
- Gradually decrease the temperature by 5°F (2.8°C) each week until they are fully feathered.

Ensure Adequate Lighting:

- Provide 24-hour light for the first few days to help the chicks find food and water. Then, switch to the day’s natural light.

Offer Proper Nutrition:

- Feed the chicks a chick starter feed, which is specially formulated for their nutritional needs. Talk to your local feed store, they will have what you need.
- Make sure the feed is always fresh and free of contaminants.
- Offer fresh, clean water in a shallow container. Make sure the chicks can reach it without falling in. If you notice they are getting wet, you can add rocks or marbles into the waterer to prevent them from jumping or standing in the water.

Monitor Their Behavior:

- Pay close attention to the chicks' behavior. Healthy chicks should be active, curious, and alert. If they are huddled together, they are cold and need more heat. If it looks like they are trying to stay as far away from the heat source as possible, they are too hot.
- Ensure that they are eating and drinking regularly.

Maintain Cleanliness:

- Change the bedding regularly to keep the brooder clean and dry. Wet bedding can lead to health problems for the chicks.
- Clean the food and water containers daily to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Prevent Crowding:

- Avoid overcrowding the brooder, as it can lead to stress, disease, and pecking issues. Allow at least 1/2 square foot of space per chick.

Handle Them Gently:

- Handle the chicks with care and wash your hands before and after touching them.
- Socialize with them daily to help them become accustomed to human contact.

Watch for Health Issues:

- Keep a close eye on the chicks for signs of illness, such as lethargy, sneezing, or abnormal behavior.
- Isolate any sick chicks to allow for them to have easy access to their own water and feed.

Transition to the Outdoors:

- Once the chicks are fully feathered (around 6-8 weeks old), they can be moved to an outdoor coop or run. You can transition earlier in warmer climates. Another option is to let them out during the day and bringing them inside at night when the temperature drops.
- Make sure the outdoor environment is secure and predator-proof.


Select a Brooding Area:

- Choose a clean and draft-free space for brooding quail chicks. A garage, basement, or a dedicated brooder house works well. Be sure it is well protected from your curious pets.

Set Up the Brooder:

- Place a brooder lamp with a 250-watt heat bulb above the brooding area.
- Ensure there's a thermometer to monitor temperature.
- Spread a layer of clean, dry bedding material (such as pine shavings or paper towels) on the floor.

Temperature Control:

- Maintain the brooder temperature at around 95-100°F (35-37.8°C) for the first week. We recommend you heat space before chicks arrive. This is good practice for you to get temperatures right.
- Reduce the temperature by 5°F (2.8°C) each week until it reaches the ambient temperature.

Feeder & Waterer:

- Provide quail-specific chick feed or keet specific feed in a shallow feeder. Your local feed store should have proper gamebird feed.
- Use a waterer with a shallow dish to prevent drowning. You can put rocks or marbles in the waterer to prevent them from jumping in the water.

Safety Measures:

- Cover the brooder with a mesh or wire lid to prevent chicks from escaping, or from other animals from getting in.

Brooding Quail for the first Two Weeks:

* Feeding: Use a quail chick starter or gamebird feed with at least 24-28% protein. Ensure that feed is always available.
* Watering: Keep the waterer filled with clean, fresh water. Chicks can easily drown, so use shallow waterers or add marbles to prevent chicks from getting wet. A wet quail chick will not survive long.
* Lighting: Maintain a consistent 24-hour light source for the first week to help chicks find food and water.