Baby duck food recipes

What To Feed Ducklings For Happy Healthy Baby Ducks.

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If you have never raised ducklings before you may be wondering what to feed ducklings.

If there is a number one, most important thing to raising healthy ducklings, it is getting the food and water right. So, what do baby ducks eat?

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A duck that is started with a healthy diet early in life will be a healthier adult duck later on. She will provide more and better quality eggs and will have a longer more productive life.

Related>>How and Where To Buy Baby Ducks.

Table of Contents

What Do Ducklings Eat?

Ducklings are omnivores. They can eat all kinds of plants as well as bugs and worms. But you will want to start them off on a balanced diet of waterfowl crumble.

Photo Credit: DepositPhoto ID 91919538

Water Is An Important Part Of Feeding Ducklings.

The most important thing is not what to feed ducks, it’s ALWAYS providing clean water with a duckling’s food. Ducks of all ages have trouble swallowing dry food and need to wash it down with water. They also need to wash out their bills frequently. A duck can choke without an adequate water source they can stick their whole bill into.

Related>> How To Get Clean Water For My Ducks.

It’s also a good idea for the first week or two to feed “mash” to your ducklings. That is nothing more than putting water onto the duckling’s crumble. Doing this takes it from the consistency of “grape nuts” to “oatmeal” and is much easier for your ducklings to eat.

They are less likely to choke on the mash. You will, however, need to replace their food a couple of times a day as it does tend to sour when it is wet.

Related>> How Long Do Ducks Live? How To Extend Their Life.

What Do Baby Ducks Eat?

Do ducklings need different food than chicks?

What to feed your ducklings can be as easy as feeding them waterfowl crumble, If you can find it.

It is your best option, but it’s just not always easy to find. However, chick crumble can be made to be satisfactory for your ducklings with a few additions and one caution.

Related>> Setting Up A Brooder Box For Baby Ducks.

You will want to feed your ducklings Chick Crumble NOT adult chicken feed. Ducklings need more protein than adult ducks (or chickens) for the first 2 to 4 weeks. After that, you can start mixing in 1 part oatmeal to 3 parts chick feed or just switch them over to starter grower crumble. (they grow so fast!)
Ducklings need the extra protein (20% compared to 15% for the adult duck). However, you will find that this does not fulfill everything a duckling needs.

DepositPhoto ID 113357716

Related>> Raising Ducks – 101 Duckling Care

What To Feed Ducklings? Don’t Forget the Niacin.

A duckling needs 2 or 3 times the niacin that a chick needs to grow strong bones and joints.

If a duckling does not get the added niacin it requires it can get bowed legs, joint disorders, and have a shortened lifespan.

But all you need to do is add brewer’s yeast to your duckling’s feed. Brewer’s yeast is a wonderful, easy provider of niacin.

A good ratio to use is 2-3 cups of brewers yeast to 10 Lbs of feed. However, it is easier to just sprinkle a little on the top of each batch of feed as you scoop it out for them.

Fresh Eggs Daily makes a brewer’s yeast that is in powdered form with garlic in it. Garlic is good for their immune systems so that is a win-win.

If you need it quickly and can’t wait to have the powdered brewer’s yeast shipped, you can usually find it in pill form at the local feed store or in some pharmacies. But you will then have to use your mortar and pestle to grind it up yourself.

A little added vitamin & electrolyte powder mixed into their water is a good idea for strong healthy ducklings.

Related>> 30 Gift Ideas For Duck Lovers

What NOT To Feed Ducklings!

CAUTION! When you choose the chick crumble MAKE SURE IT IS NOT MEDICATED!

Chickens often get a disease called coccidiosis. Many chick feeds contain medication in the feed to prevent this. Ducklings eat more than chicks and can overdose on this medication. Also, ducks seldom get the disease so they don’t need to be treated for it.

Can You Feed Ducklings Adult Duck Food?

Feeding your duckling the same food as your adults is a bad idea. Layer feed contains much too high a calcium content and not enough protein. If they are eating nothing but layer feed the amount of calcium could be toxic to ducklings.

They should be switched to layer crumble when they lay their first egg.

But don’t worry. If the ducklings are in with the adult ducks and they swipe a few mouthfuls it’s not going to hurt them, but make sure they have their own food and know that is what they are to eat.

If you keep the mother and babies separate from the rest of the flock, for the first couple of weeks, they will get the idea. Raising the adult feeder high enough so the ducklings can’t reach it can help keep the feeds separate.

DepositPhoto ID 3667314 Taden1

How Do Ducks Eat?

A duck doesn’t have teeth. It swallows whatever it can get down its throat and the organ called a gizzard is what grinds it up.

So everything a duck eats needs to be cut up fairly small.

The gizzard, a very strong muscle uses very small stones to grind up the food so it can be digested. In the wild, the ducks can forage for small stones. If your ducks are confined, you need to supply them with grit. Ducklings need especially small grit (chick grit) for the first few weeks.

Related>> 10 Necessities To A Perfect Duck House.

What To Feed Ducklings Besides Crumble?

You can start introducing your ducks to greens and herbs right away. Chop them up fine and float them in their water bowl or give them a little dish of veggies and fruit on the side. Much like a side salad.

Ducks can have an unlimited supply of greens. Kale, romaine lettuce, chard, celery, or carrot greens, herbs, cut grass, and edible weeds. (small pieces please)

They can have up to 10% of their diet in other healthy treats such as raw or cooked cucumbers, peas, broccoli, corn, sweet potato (all parts of the plant – My ducks LOVE sweet potato leaves) whole grains, edible flowers, and fruits such as blueberries, cut up grapes, strawberries (tops and all) and my ducklings favorite, watermelon. They will eat a slice of watermelon down to the tough outer rind.

Another favorite of the ducks is tomatoes. If there isn’t enough to go around, they will chase the lucky one who gets the cherry tomato all over the pen.

Related>> Simple Ways To Get Rid Of Tomato Hornworms.

Ducklings Love Bugs

Ducks of all ages also like earthworms, mealworms, (fresh or dried), or bugs you find in the garden. It’s a great way to make a win out of tomato hornworms. Feed them to your ducks!

Try raising your own red wigglers. They can make great fertilizer for your garden and protein for your baby ducks!

Ducks even like scrambled eggs. A really fun treat, both for you and the ducks, is to put minnows, tadpoles, or feeder fish in their pond and watch them dive for them. They will have the pond cleaned out in no time.

Note: Caution with Ducklings and Ponds. Believe it or not, ducklings can drown.

Related>> Do Ducks Need A Pond?

Remember the more varied the diet the more healthy your ducklings will be and the sooner you introduce new foods the more likely your ducks are to eat a varied diet as an adult. Sounds a lot like people doesn’t it.

DepositPhoto ID 7287420 belchonock

What Not To Feed Ducklings.

Yes, there are a few things that are just not very good for your ducks, and some things that are toxic.

Just a few of the most common Don’ts:

Don’t feed medicated chick feed.

Don’t feed Bread! Your duck can get an impacted crop. No sugary, fatty, or salty foods. Too much weight will cause problems with their delicate legs and they can die from an overdose of salt.

Don’t feed long pieces of grass or other plants. They don’t chew and it will get impacted in their crops. If they eat it from the yard they pull off small pieces and this is ok.

Other no no’s are citrus, mango, white potatoes (all parts), and the seeds or pits from apples, cherries, peaches & apricots.

Don’t feed your baby ducks the leaves of any nightshade plant. Those are tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or white potatoes, as these are toxic.

Even though these two are from the same family, garlic is good but onions are not.

If you want to know more about plants that are toxic to ducks check out: Toxic Treats – What not to feed your flock.

What To Feed Adult Ducks

When they are grown, and they grow up very fast, You will want to start them on adult duck food. this will support their laying wonderful, healthy, fresh duck eggs! Yummm.

Related>> What To Feed Ducks In Your Backyard.

More Duck Reading>>

What To Do If You Found A Baby Duck.

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Raising Ducks 101 – How To Take Care Of Baby Ducklings.

Duck Eggs Vs Chicken Eggs, Why Duck Eggs Are Better.

10 Best Reasons To Raise Ducks.

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What Do Ducklings Eat? 13 Foods for Baby Ducks

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Adorable and fuzzy, ducklings eat a slightly different diet than grown ducks. What they eat helps them grow into strong swimmers, capable flyers, and the chatty birds we know and love.

So, what do ducklings eat?

Ducklings eat insects, plants, algae, and worms.

Wild baby ducks eat differently from pet ducklings as well.

But how much does a duckling need to eat in order to become a fully fledged adult? And what is best to feed your new pet duckling, should you have one? Let’s learn about this adorable bird now.

What Does a Duckling Eat?

Baby ducklings eat bugs, algae, plan matter, and birdseed.


A duckling eats a variety of bugs, including worms and beetles, plant matter, algae, and more. They are considered omnivores and opportunistic eaters, which is why the ducklings in your local park aren’t shy about taking your bread or other bird food!

According to The Wilson Bulletin, the beak structure and overall width of their mouth can affect what a baby duck can eat. Depending on the species, they have the ability to strain food from plants or peck food from the water.

A duckling’s diet changes as the bird ages. Their diets expand and become more omnivorous, depending on the species and the available regional food. Let’s take a look at what a duckling eats on a more in-depth level.

A Complete List of 13 Foods Ducklings Eat

Ducklings have been known to eat the following foods:

  • Worms
  • Bugs
  • Invertebrates
  • Algae
  • Grass
  • Plant matter
  • Small fish
  • Cracked corn
  • Oats
  • Barley 
  • Mixed greens
  • Birdseed
  • Nuts

Ducklings should be fed a diet of mealworms and plant matter at an early age, though grasses tend to make baby ducks bloat. Wild ducks tend to stick to whatever bugs they find, and they will eat food that is fed to them by park visitors or guests.

Bread has been long regarded as a bad thing to feed wild birds. Molding bread can be fatal to baby ducks, and the lack of nutritional value in processed bread can damage a duckling’s ability to grow.

Keep in mind that a duckling’s food source changes as it ages. Even after as little as four weeks, a duckling can shift to eating more bugs or grain meal should you be keeping ducks as pets. 

By four weeks of age ducklings are eating more bugs and grain meal.

Matias Gauthier/

How Much Does a Duckling Eat?

A duckling eats around ¼ pound of food per day. It will depend on the age of the duckling and the food available, as ducklings are keen eaters. They free graze as young birds, and require even more food as they age.

It is important to stick to this amount of food if you are raising ducks from a young age. While ducklings free graze for the first 4-5 weeks of their lives, you should be sure to stick to a certain amount of food once they age a bit more.

A study performed by Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology states that younger ducklings dive for food much less often than older ducklings. This usually leads to an uneven feeding in very young ducklings, and can even put them at risk of predation.

As ducklings age, they begin to behave more like adult ducks- diving for bugs or water invertebrates is less of a problem for them, and therefore they eat in larger quantities. A 0-5 week old duckling is most at risk, between its many predators and its inability to dive for food.

Speaking of predators, let’s take a look at some animals that are a risk to ducklings… There are quite a few.

What Eats Ducklings? Their Main Predators

Predators like foxes, raccoons, and hawks eat ducklings.

Jody Ann/

Now you know the answer to the question, “what do ducks eat, when they’re newly hatched?”, it’s time to take a look at what eats them too.

Ducklings have many predators that will eat them, including cats, foxes, and large fish. The following predators will eat ducklings:

  • Feral cats
  • Foxes
  • Large fish
  • Snakes
  • Bullfrogs
  • Snapping turtles
  • Raccoons
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Crows

According to Ducks Limited, a duckling is unable to fly until it has reached at least 50 days old, making this period of time the most dangerous for them. Their potential survival rate is anywhere from only 10% all the way up to 70%.

Their survival rate depends on many things, including their location and the size of their brood. However, ducklings are indeed easy prey, especially considering their inability to escape or fly away!

What to Feed Ducklings as a Pet

Ducklings eat birdseed, pellets, mealworms, and fruit.

Santirat Praeknokkaew/

You can feed ducklings a variety of things when keeping them as pets:

  • Birdseed
  • Duck pellets
  • Chicken feed
  • Mealworms
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fresh lettuce and mixed greens
  • Cracked corn
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Fresh fruit

Always be sure to only feed your ducklings a certain amount of food per day, and be sure to get rid of any food leftover after a 12 hour period to avoid feeding your duckling contaminated food.

Ducklings love oats, barley, and cracked corn as a treat, though be sure not to feed them too many grains when they are young. There is specific duckling feed that you can buy from pet stores and hardware stores in order to keep them healthy.

Moistening any food that you give a baby duck is a necessary part of the process. Ducklings don’t have teeth or any real way of chewing, and they instinctively prefer to peck and strain food from sources of water.

Speaking of water, having an ample amount of water available to baby ducks is key to their survival. Not only do they require it as swimmers and waterfowl, but they need to be consuming a large amount of water per day in order to survive.

Ducklings are fairly easy to care for as pets, though be sure to avoid placing any pebbles or rocks in their enclosures, as they can easily swallow these and get ill. As they age, ducklings will become easier to care for, and they will eat just about anything you choose to feed them!

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