Baby Duck: 5 Incredible Facts & 5 Pictures!

Written by Sadie Dunlap
Published: December 28, 2021
Image Credit iStock.com/therry
Share this post on:

Baby ducks are very adorable, there’s no question about that. However, did you know that baby ducks travel in groups for protection or that they get their feathers in over time? 

Let’s jump into these facts and more interesting things you may not know about baby ducks!

#1: A Baby Duck is Called a Duckling!

baby duck siblings
Baby ducks are called ducklings or chicks!

iStock.com/therry

An baby duck of either gender is called a duckling or chick. A group of ducklings on land is called a brood. Ducklings can’t fly, but once they can, a group in the air is called a skein, team, or flock of ducks. On water, the group is called a paddling, raft, or team of ducklings.

A duck is a duckling until it’s old enough to mate, which is at around four to six months old. This is when the terminology changes. A fully developed male duck is called a drake and a fully developed female duck is a hen. 

#2: Newborn Ducklings Don’t Have Feathers

baby ducks following mother
Ducklings are born with a soft layer of downy feathers.

iStock.com/Anolis01

Perhaps one of the most prominent features of ducks is their beautiful feathers. You might be surprised to learn that baby ducks are not born with feathers. Instead, they are covered with a soft, fuzzy layer, called down. 

For the first three to five weeks of their lives, ducklings have only their down feathers. Since duck feathers are essential to body temperature regulation, baby ducks can only spend warm, sunny days outside. 

When they reach about six weeks old, ducklings go through what is called a juvenile plumage molt. During this phase, they will shed all their down feathers to make room for their adult feathers to come through. The whole process takes about six weeks and the resulting feathers are dull-colored and will be shed again somewhere around 15 weeks of age.

#3: Baby Ducks Never Get Cold Feet

pair of baby ducks
Duck chicks have a special regulatory system that prevents them from getting frostbitten in freezing water!

iStock.com/Wheatfield

You probably already know that baby ducks have webbed feet, but did you know their feet never get cold? From birth, ducklings have a special circulatory system that protects them from getting frostbite in cold temperatures. This system is located at the top of their legs and radiates warmth down to their feet.

Ducklings’ webbed feet also have no blood vessels or nerve endings in them. This means that no matter how cold the water is, they can’t feel it. That means that they can swim in icy cold water and even walk through snow without getting too cold! 

It’s not hard to believe that a duckling’s webbed feet help them swim. The skin between their toes helps them use their feet as paddles, which propels them through the water faster. Astoundingly, these tiny ducks will also use their feet as a tool when flying. In the air, ducks use their feet as a rudder, which aids in steering.

#4: Baby Ducks Know there’s Safety in Numbers

baby ducks swimming
Ducklings travel in groups for protection.

iStock.com/Stanislav Ostranitsa

A baby duck has many scary predators, like snakes, bears, and even wolves. Sure, they can fly, but they aren’t very fast swimmers. The average swimming speed of a duck is around 8 miles per hour, which is about as fast as a typical human running. This means that they must get creative to protect themselves from threats.

One of the most common ways ducklings protect themselves is by traveling in groups. When traveling with a group of peers, ducks are able to detect threats easier and more quickly. Ducks are also very social creatures and need interaction to thrive. Without companionship, ducks often become lethargic and depressed.

Traveling in groups isn’t the only way that ducklings protect themselves. They also have the astounding ability to sleep with one eye open – literally! When it’s time to rest, ducks can shut off only half of their brains. This way, the other half is awake and alert to detect predators. Baby ducks will only completely shut down if they are in a secure spot, such as in the middle of a paddling of ducks.

#5: Ducklings Waterproof Their Feathers

baby duck closeup
Ducklings have a preen gland that produces oil to waterproof their feathers!

iStock.com/Nick Hurst

Once a baby duck grows its feathers, it will routinely preen them with an oily substance. This special oil is produced by the duck’s preen gland. Ducklings collect this oil and use their bills to spread it across their feathers, making them completely waterproof.

If you’re wondering why an animal that spends so much time in the water needs waterproof feathers. There are a few different reasons! First, their waterproof outer layer helps protect a layer of downy feathers beneath, which are essential to keeping ducklings warm. Having waterproof feathers also ensures that baby ducks don’t absorb too much water on their body, which could hinder them from floating and even flying!

Share this post on:

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are baby ducks called?

Baby ducks are called ducklings. A group of ducklings is called a brood when they’re on land. After four to six months, a female duck is called a hen, and a male is called a drake. Ducklings are considered adults when they are sexually mature.

How much do baby ducks weigh?

Most ducklings weigh only a few grams at birth. For example, the Wood Duck weighs about 12 to 17 grams at birth, while the Black Cayuga weighs in at around 38 to 50 grams. 

What do baby ducks eat?

Ducklings are omnivores and will usually eat almost anything. Their diet covers a wide variety of bugs, weeds, grass, and even algae! As the baby duck enters adulthood, they will even snack on small fish and aquatic invertebrates. 

Where do baby ducks live?

Baby ducks live everywhere that humans do, with the exception of Antarctica.

More from A-Z Animals