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What Do Baby Ducks Eat? An Easy To Follow Guide

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The momma duck ran as fast as were little waddly legs would take her… She stopped the hawk from taking her little baby chicks but not before the damage was done. Our Blue Swedish duck was the best momma there is. She would go broody every year and one year we decided to put some chicken eggs under her so she could hatch something out. We didn’t have a drake (male duck) so she would just sit for weeks on a clutch of her own eggs with no end in sight.

This momma duck loved raising her little chicken babies and she even tried to save them from a hawk. While I wish I could tell you the story ended well the moral of the story is DUCKS ARE AWESOME! They are cute as babies and pretty as adults. Which is more than I can say for some chickens.

what do baby ducks eat header image

Whether you are looking to a pet duck or you are wanting to raise them for duck eggs they are a really awesome addition to your backyard farm.

Like any typical homesteader or backyard farmer you are doing your research to learn about feeding ducks and understand the nutritional needs they have. Or maybe you really don’t know what to feed your adult ducks altogether well let’s get into it.

Not wild ducks. If you find wild ducklings you should leave them with their mother duck.

All right, what do baby ducks eat? Let’s get into it!

The Method In Which They Eat

You might think that they eat like chickens where they eat a little bit of food and they might go get a drink or they might not. But that could not be further from the truth. Ducks need to have fresh water alongside their food because they use that water to wash down the food. If they don’t it could get stuck and choke them.

Duck Feed Pellets are not always the best idea for new ducklings or adult ducks depending on their size. They can choke on them and have a hard time getting hem washed down. I would not feed pellets until the ducks are at least 4 weeks old.

three baby ducks looking for something to eat

How To Feed Your Ducklings

You might think this should be pretty easy. But let me tell you that ducks are not as simple as you might think. Those sneaky little buggers will make a mess out of anything you let them get into.

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Two Things You Need To Feed Your Chicks

If you order chicks from a hatchery they are going to be much more volatile than from a feed store. Read more on where to buy your chicks here. In the first days of life the chick is living off of the energy left from inside the egg yolk. They have about 48hrs before they need to be fed after hatching.

Electrolytes – These are going to be key to helping your chick service. You can add just a small pea size amount of these electrolytes to a waterer and it will give our chicks an energy boost. If you don’t raise other animals and won’t use electrolytes for anything else these single-use packets are a great option to not have more left over than you need. – Find Electrolytes Here

Chick Grit – Which is like small stones that stay in their gizzard and help them grind up their food. You only need to feed grit for a few days when you first get your chicks then once they are old enough to free-range outside you won’t have to feed them grit anymore. Find the chick grit here.

Here are my tips for the best setup for ducking to have the water they need and also keep the feed from getting disgusting.

  • Have a trough-style waterer that has a small opening and does not allow them to get into it.
  • Put the waterer at least above their chest if not halfway up their neck so they can just dip their beak in and get the water they need. This will keep them from playing too much in the water.
  • Have at least two separate feeding times so you can keep the feed from getting spoiled. If the ducks get the crumbles wet it will start to stink after a bit.
  • Ducks will eat almost anything so you want to make sure you feed them their daily allotment of feed so they get the nutritional value they need BEFORE you give them any kind of leafy greens or treats.
  • If it is warm enough put them in a contained area and let them graze eating small insects and grass. This is great for young ducklings to learn to forage for their own food.
three baby ducks in a storage tub for a brooder

Once they are about 4 weeks old you can start introducing new foods like soft vegetables and leafy greens. They are not going to be able to break pieces off of really hard things like carrots so keep that in mind when you are giving them extras from your garden or cleaning out the refrigerator.

Make sure you cut up things like cucumbers or leafy greens into small pieces (bite-size chunks) until they are at least 12 weeks old and get the hang of breaking off things like soft grasses and veggies.

Other Foods You Can Feed Your Ducks

While any animals should only be given the occasional treat. Here is a list of treats you can give your ducks.

  • Swiss chard
  • Meal Worms
  • Sweet potato (cut up well or cooked)
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (Side Note: If you have a garden anywhere near buy do not feed anything you don’t want them to go after they will get in your garden if there is something they want to eat.)
  • Watermelon
  • Green beans
Three baby ducks in the yard looking for something to eat

Tips To Feed Your Adult Ducks

You can start feeding your adult ducks once a day and put what they will clean up in 24hrs in a bowl.

But you still do not want to have their water in a water bowl or they will turn it into a bath and they could run out of water to drink. This could be deadly on a hot summer day.

If you don’t want to use one of those gallon waterers that you fill with water then screw on the base then flip it right side up, the best option is to have a bowl with clean water set at chest height so your ducks can’t climb or fly into it.

Large 5-gallon waterer

This is a great option because it keeps them from getting right in the water bowl but also stores enough water that if they do start to play around too much they will still have some left to drink later. – Check it out on amazon

The How To Find The Right Food For Your Ducks

When you first get your ducklings you want to feed them on a duckling or waterfowl crumble feed if possible. The chick starter feed is ok but it doesn’t have all the necessary irradiance that ducks need.

The waterfowl feed has things like Niacin and other nutrients that they need to grow strong.

How To Read A Commercial Feed Label

First, read the front of the chick feed bag label and take note of anything important on the front. Sometimes key medications or ingredients are noted on the front.

Note that this feed bag is an example of adult layer pellets but you get the idea. Look for what the manufacturer seems important to call out.

poultry feed bag

Look At The Back Of The Or Paper Feed Lable

Right under the name of the product, there could be something like a medication listed if there is one. It’s usually called ACTIVE INGREDIENT. It may or may not be there but if there is any medication it is required to be listed.

poultry feed tag that is sown into the bottom of most feed bags

Next: The Big List Of Text With Percentages – Is The Guaranteed analysis.

This is the percentage of things like protein content, fat, fiber, and other important nutrients. It will also have max %, min %, or both on the far right of the label. Meaning there is a minimum of (number)% of that nutrient in the feed.

poultry feed bag label reding the guaranteed analysis

The Ingreediance

Next Block: The ingredients are listed in order by the amount in the feed. So if there is more corn in something than oats then corn will be first on the list. However, this does not tell you how much of each item is in the feed. Just that the ingredient is in there.

What Happens If Your Duck Doesn’t Get Enough Niacin

This is where it gets real. Ducks can have very weak bones, their legs may not support their body weight as they should, and their wings could grow to different sizes or angles.

Is It Possible To Give A Duck Too Much Niacin?

You don’t have to worry about giving too much niacin to ducks because the vitamin is water soluble and they will poop out what they don’t need. It’s not stored in the body.

Ducklings should have about 70mg of niacin in about every 2 pounds of feed and adult ducks should have about 50 mg in every 2 pounds of feed.

Now To Know If There Is Enough Niacin In The Feed

You should see something called ppm next to the niacin. Which stands for Parts Per Million or 1 milligram per kilogram. So if the feed says 65 ppm that means that there is 65mg of niacin in every 2.2 pounds of feed.

So here is the key. Ducks need about 10mg of niacin a day. So how much does the duck have to eat in order for it to get a sufficient amount?

Let’s divide 2.2 pounds by 6.5 and see how much feed a duck would have to eat a day to get the right nutrients.

2.2 Divided by 6.5 is about 0.34 so a duck would have to eat about 1/3 pound of feed to get the right amount of nutrients. Which is defiantly doable for a duck over 4 weeks old. While they are supper young you could add some niacin to their feed to increase the level until they are eating more.

The simplest and also the most affordable way to do so is by adding brewer’s yeast to the duck’s feed. You can add about 1 tablespoon for every 1 pound of feed you are feeding your flock. If you want to make sure each bird gets some I would mix it in the top layer instead of just plopping one spoon full on top of the whole bucket.

Duckling Essentials


Brewer’s Yeast

This will help increase the niacin intake as well as any other nutrient your duck needs to have strong bones and legs. – Check It Out On Amazon

Electrolytes

This will help give your young chicks energy for the first few days after bringing them home. – Find It On Amazon

Chick Grit

This will help the ducklings digest their food. – Get It On Amazon

What Is The Point Of Feeding Ducks Oyster Shell

You don’t need to feed oyster shells until the ducks start laying. But this will help make the shells of their eggs stronger. While most ducks have no issue with this you can add some to the feed if you notice the egg shells becoming brittle.

How Much Do Ducks Eat

If a duck is eating mostly commercial feed you can expect to feed one duck about half a pound of feed per day. However, ducks do continually eat. So don’t be surprised if they are demanding more than that. Try giving them other greens and veggies to keep them busy.

Other Duck-Raising Tips

Here are some other tips I have gathered over my years of raising ducks.

They need a heat source.

If you get ducklings they don’t need quite as much as chicken chicks but they do need to have a good amount of heat from heat lamp for the first few weeks.

Start at 85 degrees for the first week then 80 degrees for the next week then keep it at 70-75 degrees from 3-6 weeks of age.

baby duckling ina tub waiting for food

Ducks Grow Fast

Depending on the breed ducks can be fully feathered and about 3/4ths grown by the time they are 8 weeks old. Peakin’ ducks are one of them. Ducks should be able to go outside by the time they have most of their feathers. Just remember that they are easy prey and need to be protected from predators or they will be eaten by something that is much faster moving than they are.

Ducks get to big to raise in storage tubs by the time they are 3 weeks old. This is why you it’s a good idea to wait to get baby ducklings until it is nice and warm outside already. You don’t want to be stuck with a full-grown duck in your house because you got them in mid-February when the feed store started having their chick days.

Raising baby ducks is one of the most memorable things you will do on your backyard farm. While ducks need a little more of a balanced diet and can have repercussions if they don’t get the things they need they are one of the hardiest animals you can raise on your backyard farm.

Make sure you give your ducks the amount of feed they will clean up in one feeding BEFORE you give them any extras and always have water free choice. You will have happy healthy ducks for years to come.

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