What can i feed a baby duckling

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/Shutterstock.com

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/Shutterstock.com

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/Shutterstock.com

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!

25 Things Baby Ducks Like to Eat Most (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips)

Ducks are animals from the family Anatidae like geese, swans, and seabirds, with wiggling buttocks that rarely leave anyone indifferent. What do baby ducks eat is a crucial question regardless of whether you feed them on a nearby lake or keep them in your yard. Let’s take a look.

Table of Contents

  • Baby Ducks Habits and Biology
  • Do Baby Ducks Eat Dirt?
  • What Do Baby Ducks Like to Eat Most?
  • Food Avoid to Feed Baby Ducks
  • Tips to Feed Your Baby Ducks
  • Summary

Baby Ducks Habits and Biology

Believe it or not, you can see ducks on all continents except Antarctica. It is the only place on the Earth that is too cold for them.

Raising baby ducks is not complicated, and it is very similar to raising other poultry. After hatching, you should only place them in a box or crate with straw on the bottom. Since baby ducks only have fluff, you need to provide them with extra heat, preferably heat lamps.

During the first week, the lamp temperature should preferably be 90 F (32 C). You need to slowly reduce it over the next few days until reaching 70 F (21 C). Once the ducklings stop shrinking under the heat source, it means they are ready to turn off the lamps.

At the age of 7 to 9 weeks, baby ducks are ready to stay outdoors, so you can make a cage, like a chicken coop and keep them there. That will protect your ducklings from predators, such as:

  • Raccoons and skunks
  • Snakes
  • Foxes and weasels
  • Cats

However, you need to leave them enough space to spread their wings wholly and freely while cleaning their bodies. Also, bigger space will allow better air circulation in the area.

Ducklings are ready to enter the water when their feathers grow. It is probably a good idea to choose a rubber children’s pool for the first encounter with water, but never leave them unattended. Adult ducks are careless and can inadvertently drown their babies.

One of the crucial things is to provide your ducklings with enough clean water. These birds find it difficult to digest food, so they need to mix it with water to facilitate this process. Also, water helps them clean and rinse their beaks from food debris and dust.

Do Baby Ducks Eat Dirt?

While watching baby ducks as they walk over the space, you can think they swallow mud and dirt. Still, there is no reason to worry since they won’t ingest such things.

Ducklings actually separate small insects, worms, small aquatic plants and animals, and weeds before eating them. In other words, your baby duck sifts mud and dirt while looking for its favorite food.

On the other hand, you should be prepared that baby ducks often swallow sand and pebbles. Their rough texture helps break down and crumble food in the duck’s stomach, thus making digestion easier.

What Do Baby Ducks Like to Eat Most?

For the first few days after hatching, the ducklings live from the egg yolk remains. After that, you need to feed them with starter food for ducks with the addition of vitamin B complex, particularly niacin. Otherwise, you will get birds with crooked legs.

After two weeks, ducklings can eat the same food as adult ducks. Avoid giving bread and crackers to prevent problems with swelling during swallowing. Not to mention that this food type hasn’t any nutritional value for these birds.

Make sure your baby ducks always have enough water. If you notice that they avoid drinking offered water, you should sugar it a bit to attract ducklings until getting into the habit.

Ducks like to eat fruit, but you should give it to them in moderate quantities since it is packed with sugar. The fruit type will determine whether you need to chop or mash it. Your ducklings will enjoy consuming:

  • Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
  • Pitted watermelons and melons
  • Pitted and cut apples and pears
  • Pitted peaches and cherries
  • Grapes without skin and seeds
  • Bananas puree without peel
  • Pumpkin meat cut into small pieces
  • Tomato fruit

Vegetables and green leaves are crucial for duck nutrition, but you need to chop them before offering this food. Remember that ducks don’t chew food but swallow it, and large pieces will make digestion difficult. Your ducklings will particularly enjoy the following:

  • Peas
  • Salads
  • Beets and radishes’ green parts
  • Chard and broccoli
  • Cauliflower and kale
  • Cucumber

Besides fruits and vegetables, your babies will like eating many other plants, including:

  • Mowed grass and clover
  • Dandelion
  • Rose petals
  • Aquatic plants

It is highly advisable not to treat these foods with chemicals since they can endanger your ducks’ health. Once your baby ducks are 12 weeks old, it is time to include dairy products in their diet. The best options are:

  • Chopped cottage cheese
  • Classic Greek yogurt made from whole milk full of natural probiotics

Remember that dairy products naturally cause the unpleasant smell of feces, so there is no reason for worry. Since proteins are crucial in duck nutrition, you should offer your birds treats like:

  • Worms and super-worms
  • Black soldiers fly larvae
  • Crickets
  • Dried river shrimp
  • Boiled and scrambled egg yolks

Keep in mind that this food type shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your ducklings’ diet.

Food Avoid to Feed Baby Ducks

There is a large selection of healthy food to feed baby ducks, so you should avoid some products since their quality is not good enough for these birds. It is necessary to be careful with:

  • Spoiled, moldy, and rotten food
  • Chicken food with added antibiotics and other medicines
  • Cat food with a high amount of methionine toxic to ducks
  • Fried and processed food

Even though ducklings like eating fruit, you need to avoid certain types or their parts to prevent possible health issues:

  • Citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits since they prevent calcium absorption
  • Fruit seeds and pits
  • Peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans

Even though vegetables are healthy food, you should consider that your ducklings won’t like certain types. Plus, some veggies can be harmful to their health, including:

  • Potatoes and their leaves
  • Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants’ leaves
  • Eggplant and green tomato
  • Onion
  • Rhubarb
  • Iceberg salad that causes diarrhea when given in large quantities
  • Spinach that prevents regular calcium absorption
  • Raw and dried beans
  • Avocado

Finally, you should never offer your ducklings some ingredients that are also unhealthy in the human diet, such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Food with high sugar levels

In the end, I need to mention plants you should pay special attention to, especially if your ducklings are free to walk around. Since these plants contain poisonous substances to all birds, including ducks, you should avoid letting them near areas where they grow. The list includes:

  • Buttercup, Lily of the Valley, and Morning Glory
  • Bird of Paradise, Clematis, and
  • Bleeding Heart, Azalea, and Cardinal Flower
  • Hemlock, Larkspur, Milkweed, and Elderberry
  • Jerusalem Cherry, Mistletoe, and Holly
  • Coriander, Parsley, and Nettles
  • English Ivy, Ivy, and Dieffenbachia
  • Burdock
  • Tobacco
  • Weeping Yew and Oak
  • Some mushroom types

Tips to Feed Your Baby Ducks

As I have already mentioned, raising ducks is similar to raising chickens. Once they hatch, moving them to a wooden or plastic box or crate set with straw is necessary.


While they are still small, commercial starter duck food will meet all their needs, but you can also use starter feed for chickens. It is OK, but never forget to enrich it with B complex vitamins, particularly niacin.

You will lightly achieve this by adding brewer’s yeast. In such a case, it will be enough to add 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of yeast to a bag of 90 pounds (41 kg) of chicken food.

After a few weeks, you can start with different food. Let your baby ducks roam freely and feed on available food from nature or leave food on the ground to let them find it on their own.

Some breeders recommend feeding ducks every four hours, while others practice free feeding with constantly available food whenever their bodies ask for it. If you pick out the second option, it is vital to pay attention to food freshness. Never allow it to stay at a place too long and spoil.

Ducks grow very fast and reach full maturity in just a few months. That is why a proper diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is crucial.


Water is necessary for ducklings for several reasons. They have difficulty digesting, so they mix food with water. Plus, these birds often need to rinse dirt and dust from their beaks to protect themselves from infection.

Remember that baby ducks are different from chickens when it comes to water. While chickens need a shallow container for food and water, duckling’s beaks are longer and wider, so such a container won’t suit them.

The duck food and water bowls should be deep and wide. However, never overdo the water tank depth and always try to set stoppers to prevent the duck from putting its head under the water too much.


Baby ducks are easy to raise. It is advisable to provide adequate food and some water surface, like a natural or small artificial lake, to make them happy. Believe it or not, your ducks can live up to twenty years with proper care, a balanced diet, and necessary nutrients.

How to feed little ducklings at home