Ducklings are adorable balls of fluff, quacking and waddling their way into our hearts. But sometimes, the cute little critters can get themselves into trouble by becoming waterlogged if they can’t get out of water. If you come across a soggy, saturated duckling, don’t panic.

Here are some tips on how to help the poor thing dry off and recover.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Carefully pick up the waterlogged duckling in a towel and gently squeeze excess water from its feathers. Use a hairdryer on low setting to dry it off. Once dry, reunite duckling with mother duck or wildlife rehabilitator.

Assess the Duckling’s Condition

Check for signs of distress

When you first come across a waterlogged duckling, it’s important to quickly assess its condition and look for any signs of distress. Here are some things to check:

  • Observe the duckling’s breathing – is it rapid, labored, or wheezing? This may indicate respiratory issues.
  • Check for lethargy or weakness – is the duckling able to hold its head up and stand? Inability to do so signals exhaustion.
  • Look for shivering – the duckling may be hypothermic after being in cold water.
  • Listen for distressed peeping – healthy ducklings may peep but weak ones sound strained.
  • Look at the eyes – are they partially closed, sunken in, or crusty? This can signal dehydration or infection.

The presence of any of these signs means the duckling is in trouble and needs immediate assistance. Stay calm, and get ready to intervene.

Look for any injuries

While checking the duckling’s condition, also look over its body for any visible injuries or issues. Common problems to look for include:

  • Cuts, scrapes or wounds – these may need cleaning and bandaging
  • Missing or damaged feathers – this can impact waterproofing
  • Discharge from eyes/nose – may signal infection
  • Broken/damaged legs or feet – immobilize with a makeshift splint
  • Oil contamination – use dish soap and water to gently clean
  • Fishing line entanglement – carefully cut away lines
  • Leeches – remove with tweezers or salt water

Even minor injuries can be dangerous for vulnerable baby ducks. Having basic first aid supplies on hand is helpful. But focus first on stabilization and warmth before attempting any wound treatment.

With quick observation and action, many distressed ducklings can be helped and returned to health. Don’t be afraid to step in if you see one in need – your intervention could save its life!

Gently Pick Up the Duckling

Use a towel for handling

When attempting to pick up a waterlogged duckling, it is crucial to use a towel or another soft material to gently wrap around the bird. Direct handling can cause further stress, so a barrier like a towel helps protect the delicate duckling.

Carefully scoop or wrap the duckling to minimize excess movement. Support the body fully rather than gripping only a wing or leg. The towel also keeps the duckling warm while transporting it to a rehab expert or veterinarian.

Avoid excess stress

A waterlogged baby duck faces health threats like hypothermia, pneumonia, and shock. While its survival depends on quick action, it’s vital to handle the animal in a composed, soothing manner. Excess stimulation can worsen its condition.

Speak softly, move smoothly, and transport the duckling in a covered box or carrier to block outside sights and sounds. Schedule the veterinary visit right away, but don’t rush there in a panic. Gentle, conscientious care gives the duckling its best chance at recovery.

Squeeze Out Excess Water

If you’ve just rescued a waterlogged duckling, it’s important to gently squeeze out any excess water from its feathers. This helps reduce the risk of hypothermia. Here are some tips:

Be Gentle

A duckling’s body is very delicate, so you need to be very gentle when squeezing out water. Apply light, even pressure as you run your hands along its body to absorb water into a dry towel. Don’t twist or wring the duckling’s body.

Use a Dry Towel

Have some clean, dry towels on hand to help soak up the excess moisture. As you squeeze the water from the duckling’s feathers, continuously transfer it onto dry areas of the towel.

Dry Thoroughly

Make sure to get the underside, wings, back and head. Keep working over the duckling’s entire body with the towels until its down appears fluffy again. Check for any heavily saturated areas you may have missed. Leaving wet patches can still lower the duckling’s body temperature.

Be Patient

It takes time to fully dry a waterlogged ball of feathers! Work slowly and calmly so you don’t stress out the duckling more than necessary. Speak in a soothing tone and handle it with loving care.

Check for Injuries

As you dry the duckling, inspect for any cuts, puncture wounds or other injuries it may have sustained. Ducklings found in water often get separated from mom and siblings, so they may have faced predators. Gently extend and inspect each wing and leg for injuries.

Seek wildlife vet care if wounds are found.

Keep it Warm

Ensure the dry duckling doesn’t get chilled after. Wrap it in a clean towel and place on a heating pad set to low. Or tuck it inside your shirt, close to your body. Maintain this external warmth until it can be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator.

By drying a waterlogged duckling properly and keeping it warm, you’re giving it a fighting chance to survive until further care is available. Squeezing out that excess moisture is just the first step to overcoming cold water exposure.

Dry the Duckling Thoroughly

Use a hair dryer on low setting

When attempting to dry a waterlogged duckling, it is crucial to completely dry their downy coat of feathers. Using a hair dryer on a low, cool setting is an effective way to accomplish this. Here are some tips for safely drying a duckling with a hair dryer:

  • Make sure the hair dryer is set to the coolest, lowest setting. High heat can harm the duckling.
  • Keep the dryer 6-12 inches from the duckling’s body so you don’t burn their sensitive skin.
  • Gently blow the feathers to fluff and separate them. This allows air to circulate completely through the down.
  • Move the dryer slowly and systematically over the entire body, including the underside.
  • Pay special attention to the wings, chest, and butt area where down feathers trap the most water.
  • Keep drying until the duckling feels completely dry and fluffy. Go over these areas multiple times.

Drying a duckling’s down coat is essential for allowing them to regain body heat. If left wet, they are at risk of becoming chilled, stressed, or even developing hypothermia. So taking the time to thoroughly dry a waterlogged duckling can make all the difference in their health and survival.

Using a hair dryer on low is a safe and effective drying method.

Don’t let duckling get too cold

While drying a duckling, it’s also important not to let their body temperature drop too low. A wet, chilled duckling is vulnerable and needs warmth. Here are some tips to keep a drying duckling from getting too cold:

  • Dry the duckling in a warm room, not outside or in a cold garage.
  • Place a heating pad, set to low, underneath the drying area.
  • Avoid cold metal surfaces which pull heat from their body.
  • Monitor the duckling for shivering, which signals they are too cold.
  • Take short breaks from drying to allow duckling to rest under a brooder lamp.
  • Test the duckling’s body and feet temperature periodically. Feet should feel warm, not cold.
  • Stop drying if the duckling seems distressed, lethargic, or shows other signs of chilling.

Drying a duckling can be time consuming, but rushing the process or allowing them to get chilled can be dangerous. Providing supplemental heat while blow drying, taking breaks, and monitoring their body temperature helps prevent hypothermia.

With some extra warmth and TLC, the wet little duckling will be good as new in no time!

Return Duckling to Mother Duck

Look for mother duck nearby

If you find a lone, waterlogged duckling, the first step is to check if its mother is nearby. Mother ducks are very protective of their young and may be searching frantically for the duckling. Carefully scan the area, looking on land and in the water, for any sign of a distressed adult duck.

Mother ducks often have a distinctive, loud quacking call when searching for their babies.

If you spot the mama duck, gently herd or guide the duckling in her direction. Don’t touch the duckling if possible, to avoid transfering human scent. Often the mother will rush over and shelter the duckling under her wings when reunited. It’s an amazing thing to witness in nature!

If can’t find mother, contact wildlife rehabilitator

If despite a thorough search you cannot locate the mother duck, the next step is to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to care for the duckling. There are over 1,000 wildlife rehabilitation facilities across North America that specialize in caring for injured or orphaned wild animals with the goal of releasing them back to nature.

When you call a wildlife rehab facility, provide details on exactly where and when you found the duckling. Also note any signs of injuries or distress. Many rehabilitators have special incubators and water enclosures designed just for raising orphaned ducks and waterfowl.

Alternately, you can contact your state wildlife agency which often keeps lists of permitted wildlife rehabbers in your area. The sooner the duckling gets professional care, the better its chances of successful release back to the wild once grown.

Wildlife Rehabilitators State Agencies
Specialized facilities and trained experts. Maintain lists of licensed rehabbers in state.
Have right supplies to treat waterfowl. Can connect people who find ducklings with area rehabbers.

With a little help and luck, a waterlogged duckling can make a full recovery thanks to wildlife rehabilitators! It’s important that people know who to contact if they find baby ducks in distress.


Ducklings have a remarkable ability to bounce back after becoming waterlogged, especially with some gentle assistance. By carefully drying the soggy duckling and reuniting it with mom or a wildlife expert, you can help ensure the little quacker makes a full recovery.

With quick action and compassion, we can make sure even the most saturated duckling doesn’t stay down too long.

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