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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!

What Do Baby Ducks Eat in the Wild & As Pets?

Ducks are members of the Anatidae family and are related to swans, geese, and seabirds such as gannets. There are many different breeds of ducks bred for meat, eggs, or even pets! Most of us have fed wild ducks at one point or another in our lives but did we do it right?

Baby ducks are born with a natural instinct to find food. They will eat anything they can find, so their diet is usually referred to as omnivorous. Whether you have a pet duck or are wondering how to feed the ducks in a pond near you, read on to learn more about ducks and their specific dietary needs.

The Wild Duckling

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In the wild, ducklings hatch from their eggs and then stay close to their mother. She leads them to a suitable area for the ducklings, where they can find food and water.

A wild baby duckling will eat almost anything from worms and insects to algae and plants. When the weather is warm, they may feed during daylight hours. However, as winter approaches in colder climates, they will need to stay near water as their food freezes over.

They also eat a great deal of grass and weeds in the summer, which can cause them to have difficulty digesting during the winter because it makes them too full. This can be dangerous because their stomachs may not stretch as they begin to eat other foods.

As they grow, their diets change to include more insects and even small fish.

Caring for a Pet Duckling

If you have a pet duck at home, it’s essential to feed them properly to grow healthy and strong! You should also make sure your duck has plenty of fresh water to drink every day.

  • Related Read: How to Take Care of a Baby Duckling (Care Sheet & Guide)

What to Feed?

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The first day they emerge from their egg, take out your baby duck starter kit.

In this kit, you can find food pellets for ducks that are soft enough for their delicate beaks to feed on. You can also find supplements such as calcium vitamins along with a duck toy to play with within your pond or water area.

After a few weeks, you should be able to start feeding your duckling small insects and worms. You can let them roam around in a safe area of your yard if possible, or you can put food on the ground for them to find.

Be sure always to keep an eye on young ducks when they are eating so that they don’t choke. Also, make sure to remove any leftover food after a few hours to prevent spoiling.

How Often to Feed?

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Ducklings grow very quickly, reaching full maturity within several months. Some breeds of duckling grow faster than others, but there is no such thing as too much food when it comes to baby ducks!

This is mainly due to their fast digestion rate, which means they eat their food quickly and then look for more.

You can feed your duckling a few worms or insects every day and fish at least twice a week to make sure they are growing as much as possible.

While some recommend feeding your ducklings on-demand or every four hours, it is also acceptable to let them free-feed. Free-feeding means that food is always available to your ducklings, and they eat when their body tells them to.

  • Related Read: What Do Ducks Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Common Health Problems from Feeding

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If you give your ducklings food that they can’t eat, like large fish bones or small rocks, their bills will become overgrown. This can be painful for them and make it difficult for them to eat at all.

Another common issue is that they may ingest gravel from your yard or pebbles from the bottom of a pond. If this happens, the stones will cause blockages in their digestive system, killing them within hours if left untreated.

If you fed your ducklings pebbles, take them to the vet immediately so they can have their stomachs washed in a saline solution. This will remove all of the gravel and small rocks that are eroding their insides.

Ducklings also need a balanced diet with a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins. Deficiencies in either or both of these can make your ducklings weak and lethargic. They may be tired, fall over frequently or not eat at all.

  • Related Read: Do Geese Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

Should You Feed Wild ducks?

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There is a great amount of confusion surrounding the question of whether or not you should feed wild ducks. Many people argue that feeding wild animals will make them dependent on humans for food, and eventually, the animals may become aggressive and dangerous.

Others insist that it is safe to feed wild ducks if you make sure not to attract predators such as hawks and foxes by leaving crumbs on the ground.

It is considered quite safe to feed ducks in designated areas such as nature reserves, which are protected from predators, and have plenty of water for the animals to drink.

However, feeding wild ducks directly on a pond or lake can attract pests such as seagulls and geese. This may make it difficult for other birds and animals to find food during the winter, putting them at risk of starvation.

If you want to feed wild ducks, it is always best to buy organic food and bring fresh water in a bucket instead of leaving out crumbs from your kitchen.

  • Related Read: How Often Do Ducks Lay Eggs?

Final Thoughts

Ducks can make for extraordinary pets. They are cute birds that love human companionship and can bring great joy to your life. With proper care, you could have a new best friend for up to 20 years! The most important factor in whether or not your duck reaches that age is how you feed it.

Be sure to maintain a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients they need, especially as hatchlings. Always do your research before feeding your pet duck a new food.

To learn more about these amazing animals, check out the rest of our blog!

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