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How Long Do Ducklings Stay with Their Mother? (Explained)

Ducklings are little adorable baby birds. Like most other animals they need their mothers’ care to grow up. Ducklings get warmth, learn what to eat, and many survival techniques from their mother.

How long do ducklings stay with their mother?

Ducklings stay 50-60 days with their mother. After hatching they need about two months to be independent. Within these two months, the mother saves the ducklings from other animals, keeps them warm, and teaches them how to survive. After two months they learn to fly and make their way.

Usually, mother ducks need to take care of the ducklings for 50 to 60 days. But the time can vary depending on the species. Here is the information about common duck species in the USA.

Mallard ducklings:

It’s a common species in subtropical areas of America. Mallard ducklings need to stay 50 to 60 days with their mother.

Muscovy ducklings:

Muscovy ducks are larger duck species native to America. They need 35 days to hatch the eggs and 70 to 84 days to raise their ducklings.

Wild ducks:

There are many different species of wild ducks in America. Generally, all wild and domestic ducklings need to stay 2-3 months with their mother. It depends on the size of the species. The larger the species, the more time it needs to stay with its mother.

Wood ducks:

Wood ducks are one of the most beautiful duck species in North America. Wood ducklings need to stay under their mothers’ supervision for 45 to 60 days after hatching.

Can ducklings survive without their mother?

The simple answer is “No”. Ducklings can not live without their mother in the wild. Ducklings can survive without a mother only if you can provide everything they need to live.

Warmth is vital for ducklings, their body temperature should not drop under 75 degrees F. The mother duck maintains the temperature by keeping the babies under her wings. Without the mother or any artificial heater, they will not survive more than two days.

The ducklings also need food and shelter from the wild animals. So ducklings can’t survive without their mother in wild. Even domestic ducklings will not survive without their mother if you don’t take proper care of them.

When can a baby duck survive on its own?

In nature, ducklings need to stay with their mother for 50-60 days. Before that, ducklings will survive 1-2 days without the mother. After hatching, the only thing ducklings know is to follow their mother. They start eating and swimming with their mother within a few hours. 

Ducks are very caring mothers, but in unfavorable conditions, or if the duck panics, she can fly away leaving the ducklings orphaned. 

In most cases, all the ducklings will lose life without their mother. But if the mother duck leaves the ducklings after 40 days, stronger ducklings may survive.

However, with proper care, one can save all the orphan ducklings. It is always better to call the nearby wildlife care center in this situation.

Do mother ducks leave their ducklings?

Yes, rarely do mother ducks leave their ducklings. Ducks usually are attentive mothers. But in many cases, they can leave the babies orphaned. 

It’s tragic as ducklings can’t survive without their mother in the wild. Domestic ducks leave their babies relatively more than wild ducks. Domestic duck that was not raised by her mother has more chances to leave her babies.

If a domestic duck leaves her babies, the owner should take care of the ducklings and provide suitable conditions for them.

Even with a mother, only 30 to 50 percent of ducklings will survive in the wild. Usually, hawks, herons, crows, and other birds are the predators of ducklings. Mother ducks fight hard to save their babies. But sometimes, the mother duck panics and leaves the small ones.

Why do mother ducks leave their ducklings?

Sometimes mother ducks can be quite flakey mothers. Here are the common reasons behind their leaving,

Water is too far: 

Sometimes, the ducks make her nest so far away from water and the food source. The first time traveling to water from the nest is the hardest part for the ducklings. 

They may have to cross many obstacles or even busy roads. When the water is far, there are more chances of danger for them. Such as, the mother can perish, some of the ducklings can be separated, ducklings can be stuck somewhere, and more.

Mother ducks always choose the morning time to leave their nest and reach the water source. This allows them to reach the water early, find food and search for another safe place before night falls. 

If the mother duck picks the wrong time to leave. Things will get difficult for them.


If the mother thinks there are too many predators around her and she is unsafe, she may panic and leave her babies. But in most cases, a mother duck stays strong against the predator and tries to save as many as she can.

She is a new mother: 

Sometimes, some new mother ducks don’t have the motherly instinct. They can leave after the babies hatch. Some can even lay eggs and leave. In those cases, they don’t know what to do next and leave. 

New mothers have less experience caring and defending their babies and they panic easily.

Ducks are bad at maths: 

Ducks can’t count. Losing one or two ducklings is easier than it seems. Sometimes, all the eggs don’t hatch at the same time. Mother ducks can leave the nest without having any idea about the unhatched eggs that are going to hatch in a few hours.

How do you take care of a lost/abandoned duckling?

When you find an abandoned duckling, don’t rush. Follow those tips to take care of the baby:

Heating pad:

If the ducklings’ body temperature is below 75°F, use a heating pad to keep them warm. 75 W light can be an alternative to a heating pad. 


Make a home for them with a box or spare bathtub. Keep it in a quiet place away from children and other pets.


Keep water mixed with sugar in a pot and food. The food can be moist cat food, oatmeal, salad, or scrambled egg. Those are temporary foods. For keeping ducklings for a long time, find some ducklings from local pet stores.

Add companion:

If you found one duckling, buy another one from a pet shop. They become stressed when kept alone.

How can you tell if a duckling is abandoned?

At first, you will have to observe and ensure if the duckling is abandoned or not. If he is, there are a few more steps to follow before you can take him to your house.


Observe the ducklings for a while. The mother duck may come back for its babies. Don’t stay too close to the duckling. The mother duck may scare off. Look around the area and nearby lakes. You may find her there.

If she does not return for her babies and you can’t find her anywhere, it does not matter if the ducklings are abandoned or lost. You will have to take the responsibility of saving them.

Is it ill or hurt:

Often mother ducks abandon ill or weak ducklings. make sure the duckling is healthy. Look for signs of illness, bleeding, or any kind of abnormality.

If you find any problem, visit a local veterinary doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

Look for rehabilitation:

If the ducklings look fine, find out the contact number of nearby animal rehabilitation centers. Contacting them is important as they have all the equipment and professionals to take care of ducklings.

Know the rules:

If you can’t find any rehabilitation center, you will have to keep the baby. But, make sure it’s legal as many cities don’t allow raising ducks and other animals.

Well, if it’s illegal, don’t leave the babies. Bring them to your home and inform local police and follow their instructions.

Do mother ducks grieve?

Yes. Ducks do grieve on other ducks’ life loss. It depends on the level of bond and if he saw the incident. It is a common behavior in other birds too.

Mother ducks don’t have the time to grieve if she loses some of her babies. She becomes busy with the left ones. She must stay careful from predators striking. Mother duck may grieve if she loses most or all her babies.

How will you know if a duck is grieving? She will lose appetite, show unusual aggression and pluck her feathers.

Final thoughts

Ducklings need to stay two months with their mother. If somehow you found any abandoned ducklings, please be responsible and kind to those little birds. Ducklings are adorable but not toys. Don’t let your kids annoy the ducklings and lookout for crossing animals while driving.