Since the ducks are now almost a month old (!), we decided to let them have a little splash-and-paddle in the tub.*
Here, it’s important to exercise a bit of caution — at this age, ducklings can drown or die of hypothermia — but as long as you’ve got the correct temperatures, appropriate water levels, a supply of dry towels, and adequate supervision, you should be fine. And, more importantly, so should they. In fact, they’ll probably thrive, because water is what ducks DO.
That said, duckling bathtime is not dissimilar to baby bathtime — NO, WAIT, HEAR ME OUT —
Would you leave your child unsupervised in/around a large container full of water? Hopefully not. After it got thoroughly soaked, would you eventually pick up the squirming infant and dump it unceremoniously back in its crib, then toss a handful of food at it? Again, I hope not.
— as I was saying, the procedure for baby ducks vs. water amounts to basic common sense: fill the tub with water that’s neither too hot nor too hold to a depth that will allow them to dip their bills (or dunk their heads) without drowning. If they do well with it (and you’ll be able to tell, because they will splash with gleeful abandon), you can add a little more water. We gradually upped the water level (lukewarm) until they were swimming and diving — which was really something to see, and I wish I’d had a better camera trained on them. Oh well, next time.
When they’d had their fill of tub time — and it’s pretty easy to tell when duckling are getting tired because they get a lot calmer and quieter — we picked them up and toweled them off one by one before placing them back in their pen under the brooder lamp, so that they could finish preening and drying themselves without getting chilled. Bathtime seems to have been an enjoyable experience and (as baths are wont to do) made them much cleaner, so we’re thinking of making it a nightly occurrence (especially while the weather is so warm).