What to feed baby ducks and chicks

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!

What Do You Feed Baby Ducks for Proper Growth?

Author : Janet GarmanCategories : Feed & Health, Poultry 101

If you’ve decided ducklings will find their way to your home from the feed store or the hatchery in the new year, then you are probably wondering what do you feed baby ducks for proper growth? This is an important consideration in your journey to learn how to raise ducklings.

Believe me, a lot of chicks and ducks have found their way to our farm.  And even though I have been raising ducklings for a number of years, I recently realized that not everything I had learned about feeding ducklings was working. Here are some points on which I have changed my mind concerning what do you feed baby ducks for proper growth.

1.  I am no longer feeding baby ducks a poultry grower ration containing 20% protein past the second week of life.

This was the way everyone I knew was feeding baby ducks. However, feeding them duck food that is a meat bird ration or a duck raiser ration can actually be too high of a protein content for the ducklings long term. I was told for many years to use this type of feed until the ducklings were nearly grown, but I have seen negative consequences from this practice. If you are raising ducklings for meat, feeding a high protein ration may be the correct formula, since the sooner you reach market weight, the better. But with keeping ducks as pets or as egg layers or breeders, the high protein during weeks 2 to 14 of growth can lead to conditions such as Angel Wing or Twisted Wing. This happened to one of the ducklings we raised from hatch here on the farm. As I had with the previous ducklings, I fed a commercial flock raising ration until the ducks reached 14 to 16 weeks of age. However, one duckling did develop Angel Wing, so I looked into the causes and prevention. The extra protein during the development from 2 weeks to 10 weeks, can lead to very fast bone growth resulting in a twisting or bending of the bones in the wing. It usually only affects one of the wings. Keeping ducks as pets in a fenced enclosure, you may not have any noticeable problems from the abnormal growth but ducks allowed to free range or ducks in the wild, will not move as quickly, will not be able to fly at all, and will be easier for predators to catch and kill.

The recommendation according to experts like Dave Holderread of Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, is to feed the 18 to 20% protein ration only for the first 2 weeks of a duckling’s life. Next, switch to a 16% protein ration for the rest of the duck’s life. In addition, allowing the ducks some free ranging time, if it can be supervised to avoid predator attacks, will benefit the duck’s diet greatly. Eating greens and bugs foraged in the wild keeps the diet balanced with the commercial feed offered free choice. Alternatively, you can forage for them and take greens, and weeds and cut up grasses into the pen.

2.  I no longer feed ducks bread products. And I don’t feed stale bread to wild ducks either.

Feeding high protein, high carbohydrate bread products to ducks can also lead to fast growth and twisted bones as the ducklings grow. Flocks of ducks that have no humans feeding them treats show no sign of Angel Wing or abnormally quick bone growth. If the duck cannot act and move quickly to try to escape a predator, it is, in reality, a sitting duck.

3.  The treats I do bring my ducks consist of what they would be looking for in the wild.

Although I do allow my flock to free range when I can keep an eye on them, I still bring them some goodies. After all, it’s part of the fun of having them around. But instead of giving them any old foods we had at the house, I limit their treats to foods that are healthy for them. Here are some items that our ducks love and that are healthy for them.

  • Chopped kale
  • Bite size pieces of romaine lettuce or Swiss chard
  • Watermelon
  • Small amount of cooked pumpkin
  • Peas, carrots, cooked green beans
  • Chickweed and smartweed – They are packed with minerals and nutrition. Both grow in abundance on our farm and are enjoyed by the flock.  
  • Mealworms – My ducks would not be happy if I did not bring the meal worms occasionally. These are given as a treat so of course, they are not eating them every day or in great quantity. However, mealworms are high in protein, so they are a good choice during molting and are a tasty way to entice the ducks back into the duck run at night.
4. My recommendations for what do you feed baby ducks for proper growth?

I have changed to using a flock raiser or higher protein non-medicated chick starter ration for only the first two weeks of growth with ducklings. From weeks 3 to 14, I feed a 16% protein grain ration. After the ducklings are fully grown, feed either the flock raiser ration if you are able to supplement enough with free ranging time or bringing in weeds, and greens and grasses. Otherwise, I use a 16% protein ration unless conditions call for a higher protein ration. These conditions might include the absence of egg laying. It’s not at all a one size fits all feeding plan when caring for ducks in captivity. You must look at the total environmental picture and then feed accordingly for a healthy happy duck.

Let me also state that I am not an expert at raising ducks and you should always do what you feel is right for your flock. Learn all you can about the nutritional needs of any animal and feed accordingly, using the best ingredients you can source.

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How to feed ducklings to gain weight: my experience

How to feed ducklings so that they grow well and quickly gain weight, I share my experience of feeding at home.

Feeding ducklings is slightly different from feeding the same chickens, ducklings can quickly gain weight due to green fodder, which significantly reduces the cost of purchasing compound feed and grain for poultry. In this article I will tell you how to properly feed ducklings so that they gain weight well.

Feeding day old ducklings in the first days of life. nine0007

Immediately after the ducklings hatch from their eggs, they need to dry off on a warm heating pad. The ducklings are placed in a cardboard box in which there is a heating pad and bedding; on a warm heating pad, the navels of the ducklings heal well, which is very important.

On the first day, ducklings rest and gain strength, during the first day of life they do not need food yet, they still have a supply of nutrients in their bodies.

On the first day, the ducklings already need to put a drinker with boiled water and teach them to drink water. To do this, you can tilt the ducklings with their beaks into the water so that they learn to drink it. You can give the ducklings water through a pipette. nine0003

It is important that the ducklings cannot climb into the drinker with their paws, otherwise they will get wet, and hypothermia is extremely dangerous for ducklings at this age. A drinking bowl can be made from a nylon lid from a glass jar, in the center of the inverted lid we put an inverted glass cup filled with water.

What to feed ducklings in the first days? The first food for daily ducklings will be millet and a finely chopped boiled egg, any chicken and duck eggs will do.

Tip! The boiled egg must be crushed very finely, if a large piece of duckling comes across, it can choke on it. nine0003

In order for ducklings to learn to eat food, you can take millet in your palm and roll it by bringing your palm to the beaks, ducklings see moving grains of millet and start pecking at it. It is important to simply show the ducklings that this is food, give it a taste, after which they themselves will find the grains on the litter and peck at them. At this age, food should be constantly in the feeders.

Starting from the third day, ducklings can already be fed finely chopped greens, ducklings are very fond of and willingly eat knotweed, alfalfa, clover, onion greens, young nettles. Greens must first be washed well. nine0003

How to feed week-old ducklings.

Ducklings at a week old are already actively eating food and the main food for them will already be compound feed, you can make compound feed for ducklings yourself from turf. Contain week ducklings in a brooder.

To do this, you need to finely grind corn and wheat grains in a grist, mix and give to ducklings in the form of wet mash.

Tip! Wet mash quickly begin to sour and deteriorate, so knead so much mash that the ducklings eat it right away. nine0003

Ducklings should be fed at least 6 times a day.

Do not forget about the prevention of gastrointestinal diseases, add a little potassium permanganate to the water a couple of times a week so that the consistency is slightly pink.

From a week old ducklings can already be pastured on the grass, for this you can build an aviary and put it on the young grass. If this is not possible, then you can simply pick the herbs and put them to the ducklings, they can already peck it on their own.

To improve digestion, ducklings need to put a feeder with crushed chalk, crushed eggshells and fine gravel.

Feeding one month old ducklings.

Ducklings at the age of one month already need more green fodder, at this age ducklings need to be kept on grazing, they graze well and gain weight.

For good growth and development, ducklings need a body of water or a container of water where the ducklings can bathe. I always feed ducklings fresh duckweed, this is an excellent source of vitamins, duckweed contains many microorganisms that serve as a source of protein for ducklings. nine0003

I put the duckweed in a pond and the ducklings swim all day and catch duckweed and other algae.

But of course, one green food will not be enough, you also need to feed the ducklings with wet mash, I add grated zucchini to the mash, the ducklings willingly eat such food and grow well. Duckweed can also be added to mash, ducklings eat such food well.

Table of feeding rations for ducklings by age.

During the summer period, the ducklings gain very good weight and by the fall you will have adult well-fed ducks. Thanks to plant foods, duck meat is not fatty, more dietary and juicy. nine0003

I recommend watching a video on how to make food for ducklings.

Another video about feeding ducklings.

What to feed little ducklings at home