Ducklings are best kept in cardboard boxes, as they will soon outgrow their temporary home (as well as make it extremely wet and smelly). They do not usually need to eat until they are at least one day old. Feed them soft foods that are cut very small so they won’t choke. Eggs are a perfect food source for them at this age. You can alternatively give them baby bird formula and soft rice. After they are a week old they can begin eating harder foods like bread, noodles and lettuce. Meat also makes ducklings grow about 50% faster than normal, but be careful–it is the easy for them to choke on meat if you don’t chop it up properly!
Ducks will take to the water instantly 12 hours after hatching. I like to be safe and wait until they’re at least 3 days old before I take them swimming if the subject in question is a domestic duckling. Domestic ducklings aren’t as buoyant or hardy as mallards. As a result of selective inbreeding, most domestics have lost their streamlined water resistant feathers in favor of feathers that make better pillows.
After a swim, it’s important to make sure they preen completely dry and get to sit under a heat lamp. I never leave enough water for them to swim in until they are at least 3 weeks old – I’ve had ducklings catch chills because they played in the water too much and didn’t know when to stop and dry off. Ducks are pretty hardy animals but until they’re about a 5 days old they may require the heat of a lamp to keep from catching cold. In the wild, the mother duck sits on them to hide them from predators and to keep them warm. This is partly why they are so cuddly! They have an instinct to snuggle and hide inside their mom’s feathers. It’s important to start taming your duck while they’re young so they will bond strongly with you.