What To Feed Ducklings For Happy Healthy Baby Ducks.

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?

What To Feed Ducklings. Three Ducklings.

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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.

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.

Feeding Duckling
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.

Feeding Duckling
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

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.

What To Feed Ducklings
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.

What To Feed Ducklings. Three Ducklings.
DepositPhoto ID 7287420 belchonock

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. 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 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.

10 Necessities To A Perfect Duck Coop.

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.

Check out these books for even more duck raising information:

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26 thoughts on “What To Feed Ducklings For Happy Healthy Baby Ducks.”

  1. I need help! Guys at our found construction site in Nigeria, found 3 duckling in a nearby gutter. One died for unknown reasons, I suspect it was cold. The other want me to keep the duckling back but I dont see their mother around and snakes are everywhere. Plus I don’t what to feed them. Although they were eating tiny insects in gutter. The water seems to make them cold as their feather are incomplete. So I need advice. I don’t want them to die.

    • If you can’t find their mother, taking them in and keeping them warm and feeding them OR leaving them and letting them die are really your only choices. Unless you have a wildlife preserve or you can find someone else to do it. Young ducklings need to be kept warm. I’m sorry.

  2. Can I feed my ducklings their favorites treat (such as corn , broccoli, sweet potatoes, blueberries…) even if they very small? It will not harm them?

    • I bought them 3 days ago and they said that they’re 20 days old and they gave me chick food to mix it with a little bit of water, so I don’t know what I should give them besides this meal! Please I need help

    • Sara,
      Yes, ducklings can have teats like greens, herbs and fruit. Make sure you are feeding them the chick (or duck) feed also. Make sure they are also getting brewers yeast as this is needed for strong bone growth. You are in for an exciting journey.

  3. Hi Mary:)

    Thank you for all the great info! We are certainly learning as we go. We rescued 3 baby mallards almost 2 weeks ago. I think they were only a day or two old when we found them (they were 32 grams). We’ve had them inside and are feeding them chick starter with added brewers yeast and adding water to keep it quite soupy. Now that we think they are about 2 weeks old, should we stop adding water to the chick starter? If so, should we do that slowly and make the food thicker and thicker until it’s dry? Thank you!

  4. now my loud duckling doesn’t even want water it’s been about 45 mins is only quiet when I hold it nice and still the other fuck was in water not moving so my husband is holding it it looked sick and theone I’m holding now is still being loud I ran out of feed so I’ve been feeding them stuffing hard bread and watermelon

    • Tiffany,
      The loud duck is probably crying because it is alone. Ducklings do not do well alone. The other duck may have drowned. They do not have the oils an adult duck has and if they can’t get out of the bowl they will drown easily. Bread of any kind is not very good for ducks. Oatmeal is much better in a pinch. I’m sorry for the problems you are having. Babies can be difficult.

  5. I have two baby
    ducks I ran out of feed so I’ve been giving them stuffing and water melon. I’ve been watching them swim in sink and bigger tub
    but todau my man put bigger bowl I noticed one duck kept screaming when I checked a half hour later one of the ducks were totally submerged in water not moving and looked sick. I am holding noiseuy duck now think it’s a female she finally has calmed down I’m worried about the dry bread crumbs has made them sick

  6. Hello,
    I have a question if anyone can answer…

    I have 3 khaki Campbell ducklings and they are about 3 wks old. I have them in a handmade box that I put pine shavings in, my question is; can I use fresh coop odour control in the box mixed with their shavings? It says I can put it wherever poop accumulates but it doesn’t specify bedding, just not to put it in nesting boxes.

    If anyone can help me out it would be greatly appreciated:D


  7. Hi
    Thank you for sharring your experuence.that was nice like a story!
    I’m growing my 5 wild ducklings
    But they are intersted in carrots! (4 days old)

    • I fed mine about 3 to 4 days. It just gives them a start eating. Make sure there water is close when you introduce dry food.

  8. We have four ducks. Gave them duck chick food sold by company where we bought ducks. Realized too late they were not getting enough niacin. Two of the ducks have deformed legs. It is heartbreaking. I researched and am giving them niacin and food with niacin plus watermelon and greens. Is there anything else I can do for these two ducks with deformed legs. I put them in pond twice a day. Raised ducks before and had no problem.

  9. We rescued 2 baby ducks that were drowning in a water basin. 5 others did not make it, we were too late. There was no mother duck in sight. We’ve had them 3 days. One is very healthy and strong. The other is weaker. It isn’t nearly as energetic and doesn’t eat well. It swims, walks, and chirps. I was feeding them crushed meal worms and oats with water mixed. Today I started them on crumbles and gave them chopped kale in water. I gave them their first swim today. They are 3-4 days old. I have electrolytes but I am not sure how I should use them. What should I do with the weaker duck?

    • Electrolytes are usually diluted in their water. Follow the package directions for the amount. As far as a weaker duck, sometimes there is something wrong with an animal and there is nothing you can do. It’s just nature’s way. You can give it a chance, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t make it.

  10. Hi there. I just love your blog. I have been doing lots of research over the past few months prior to getting our baby duck links and your website is always provided us with the most accurate and easy to understand information. So thank you. I am wondering if you can provide me some insight on at what point I should start transitioning our babies to a coop. We are in no rush To do so, but just wanting to get an idea. Also any suggestions that you may have on what we should use for the bedding and the best practices to keep the coop tidy.

    Thank you.

    • The big thing you need to be concerned with when transitioning is warmth. When they are fully feathered out they can then keep themselves warm. If it’s warm at night and they can get out of the wind and weather, they can be outside any time. If you are taking them out of a warm house to a cold outside, “harden them off” much like you do plants. Let them stay outside for longer periods of time until they are used to it. (it will only take a few days if they are fully feathered. When they get their feathers varies depending on the breed.
      As for the bedding, there are many choices. Read my article https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/deep-litter-method/. Part of it is dependent on what you have available in your area.


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