Can Ducks Drown? A Guide To Duck Safety!

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Recently a friend of mine had his ducklings drown in a kiddy pool. He was devastated. I thought, how could I help? I didn’t even know ducklings could drown. So, I decided I had to understand what happened. I took out my phone and learned all about it to help avoid such future accidents. Here is what I found.

Ducks can drown [1], especially when they are young. It can be an accident while swimming or they can get waterlogged. Chilled water in winters can also lead to hypothermia which in turn can lead to drowning.


A duck parent never lets his kids slide away. Read along to learn how you can safeguard your ducks from water hazards.


Is it possible to drown a duck?

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A duck can drown due to various causes including aggressive mating, waterlogging, accidents, hypothermia, exhaustion etc. Besides these, predators often attack and in the process ducks can get injured and get drowned. 


Ducks sometimes inhale water too quickly and in turn get waterlogged. There isn’t much you can do in such situations except to get them out of water, get the water out of their system and dry them to the best of your knowledge.


In the wild, human waste-debris is a major reason of drowning in ducks. They can get stuck in them and aren’t able to come out in time to take the next breath.

Weak birds also have weak muscles and therefore are unable to preen themselves properly. You need to provide a proper game fowl starter/turkey starter (check them here) feed to help them gain strength.

Besides these, ducks sometimes can get seizures and strokes. A chilling water can induce stroke-like symptoms. If things escalate, consult a vet immediately.

Read more: Read about other duck dying signs here.

Can duckling get waterlogged?


Ducklings can become waterlogged and drown if left unsupervised for long.

Ducklings are prone to drowning especially in the absence of their mother’s supervision. Duck moms preen their kids with an oil like substance[2] that helps keep the ducklings afloat by ‘waterproofing’ them for some time .

However as they are young, they cannot generate this on their own.

Duckling will peddle till they get completely exhausted and then lose their will to stay afloat.

Sometimes ducklings have a hard time getting out of even small walls of kiddy pools. Providing some place to stand on (bricks, stones or anything else) or a stairs like structure both inside and outside the pool can help a lot in such cases.

Duckling muscles are weak and you should not let them play for more than 5-10 minutes in water else they may start slowly going down. Soon, they will start building endurance for long term stays in water and then you can let them be.

It is advised to not let them play in deep water until they are an adult. Even if you provide a ramp, it is hard to teach a duckling to use them. They can still drown. A modded kiddy pool should be their play area till then.

The best solution is to provide them with just a waterer (like this one) where they can only dip their beaks and that’s it.

How to fix a waterlogged adult duck

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Sometimes ducks are not able to get out of the pool and get waterlogged. Their bodies might become frozen and they can become lifeless.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure they reach non threatening temperatures (50 to 60 F). The normal body temp of a duck is around 102-107 F. Use a hair dryer to raise the temps but make sure it’s not too hot. [3]

Make sure not to raise the temps too fast as changing from cold to hot that fast can damage the duck’s body. You can provide them some poultry vitamins (like these)/electrolytes in lukewarm water and that should help raise the temps. If you don’t have those add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a gallon of lukewarm water and provide that.

Put them in a warm spot of the room in a comfy towel and let them stay there till they get well. Eating can be the best things here so provide them with some mushy food and hope they eat. If they did, your task is half done. Rest is on the duck.

How to save a waterlogged duckling


When ducklings get waterlogged, they can lose consciousness and look dead. Still there are ways you can revive them. This is what you need to do:

  1. Get them out of water and dry them by rubbing them with a soft cloth.
  2. Place the ducklings in a warm environment (90 to 95F) like a heat lamp but make sure they don’t get burned. Check with your hand if the warmth is too much or not.
  3.  Once they regain consciousness, provide them with lukewarm water to drink and soup like food if necessary.
  4. Keep the ducklings isolated until you are sure they’re ok.


How long does it take for a duck to drown?

Ducks can remain underwater for about 20 mins.[4] More than that, they will drown. So if you notice such a situation it is time for trouble.


Do ducks drown other ducks?

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Ducks can drown other ducks especially when mating. Drakes (male ducks) like to bite the back of the head and  dunk the head of hens(female ducks) while they mate. This, if continued for long, can lead to asphyxiation and death.


Usually, hens are able to handle a single drake. But, the problem arises when multiple drakes attack a single hen for mating. To keep your hens safe, make sure there is an even pair of drakes and hens in your flock.


Note: if you find a single male drake mounting a hen and the hen’s head is underwater, don’t try to intervene. Drake can get serious injuries and could become infertile for life.


Such a mating ritual can also happen between females if there is a shortage of males and vice versa. Sometimes, mounting is also done to show dominance and pecking order in a group.

Can Ducks breathe underwater?

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Ducks do not have any special glands to breathe underwater. They can stop their breath for a few minutes, possibly 15 to 20 mins but not more than that.


Why do ducks put their head under water?

Ducks put their head under water to keep the head clean. Ducks don’t have hands and hence cannot clean their faces like we do. Else, they may start getting bacterial infections on their face.


In the wild, Ducks like to eat underwater plants and insects. To find them and scoop them up, they dunk their heads under water.


Do ducks sleep in the water?

Thanks to Getty Images

Mature ducks can sleep in water. Ducks have a tendency to remain half asleep while in water so that they can relax their bodies after a long stunt of flexing muscles while keeping an eye on approaching predators.


A lot of animals can do that. Animals shut down half of their hemispheres, sometimes right, sometimes left. [5]


Note: Only full grown ducks should be allowed all night to sleep in water.


Why do my ducks keep drowning?

A duck can drown due to getting waterlogged, hypothermia, predator attacks, etc. Providing a safe, clean swimming environment can heavily reduce the chances of drowning in ducks.


Can ducks live in a swimming pool?

Via Reddit

Ducks can live in a swimming pool keeping in mind that it is not used by humans. Ducks poop a lot and hence they can infect humans with diseases. While having high amounts of chlorine and salts is detrimental to duck health.


Uncleaned pools with ducks can develop black algae as well which is dangerous to animals and humans alike. If you are thinking of making a small pool for your ducks, make sure to add a filter and clean that filter every month or so.


Is chlorinated water ok for ducks?


Ducks should not have a problem with slightly chlorinated water, such as the supply water. If you can drink, then ducks can cope as well.


There is very little chlorine in chlorinated water hence ducks can drink, play in chlorinated pools. The biggest side-effect is that chlorine can lead to dry skin like it does in humans but that’s it.


What about salt water?

Salt water can damage duck’s kidneys. And, hence ducks should be provided only with fresh water in the ponds. Ducks like to squish their food with water to make it most moist and easier to digest. If they do it with salt water, it can have bad consequences.

Can ducks stay in water all night?

Remaining in water all night should not hurt ducks as this comes natural to them. Make sure to put them late in the night so you can remove them early in the morning. If feed is not available at that time, that’s fine too. They may get irritated but not more than that.

Regarding icy cold water in winter, if you have a personal pool, try to keep it ice free. Else. if the ducks are comfortable in chilly water, let them be. The water won’t freeze due to constant movement of ducks.


Frequently Asked Questions

How to keep ducklings out of the swimming pool?

The only way to keep ducklings out of your pool is to do fencing. You can also make their kiddie pool more inviting by digging a hole. Ducks love holes. They will find it more natural and gravitate.


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