Raising ducklings from day old to maturity can be a tricky business. It’s a lot of work! A frequent question I’m asked is “what do baby ducks eat?”
Knowing what you can and can’t feed your ducklings is critical to getting them through the first few weeks of life. Raising ducklings isn’t hard but they do need a certain amount of vitamins – and often, they’re not present in chick starters.
In this article, you’ll discover what you can and CAN’T feed your ducklings, as well as what to add to their feed, so they grow into healthy layers.
Table of Contents (Quickly Jump To Information)
What Do Baby Ducks Eat – Ultimate List
Adult backyard ducks can eat a wide variety of food, but your baby ducks should have a very specific diet from the time they hatch until they’re fully feathered. Baby ducks eat duckling starter, vegetables, fruits, and protein like dried insects (mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, etc)!
Feed for Day Olds – 16 Weeks Old
Of course, you can feed the occasional treat or mealworm, but the basis of your baby ducklings’ diet should be a starter/grower feed that’s formulated specifically for ducks.
Unlike chicks, ducklings need an extra “dose” of Vitamin B (specifically niacin) for their bones and bills to grow correctly. Without it, your ducklings might end up with crooked legs and/or bills that curve up and do not close correctly.
Most duckling feed on the market contains that extra booster of Vitamin B.
If you don’t want to buy extra feed, you can purchase a chick starter and easily add extra niacin to their diet with brewer’s yeast. Just mix it with the starter feed – 1 pound of brewer’s yeast per 40-pound bag of chick starter is fine.
(The brewer’s yeast we sell in the store here is formulated for ducklings, and it contains oregano, echinacea, and garlic – herbs traditionally used to support healthy immune system functions. It’s packed with lots of good stuff!)
What Fruit Can Ducks Eat? 8 Fruits You Can Feed To Ducklings
As a treat when they’re fully feathered, or if it’s very hot and you’re worried about them staying hydrated, you can offer fruit. Yep, ducks LOVE fruit. For baby ducks, you’ll want to cut the treat very small and float it on the water so they can easily reach and eat it.
Fruits contain a lot of natural sugars, so you’ll want to feed them sparingly – but get ready to hear lots of happy quacks!
Some fruits baby ducks can eat are:
- Tomatoes (only the flesh because the vines and leaves are toxic)
- Pears (mash them up)
- Apples (the flesh – not the seeds. You’ll also want to mash them a bit to make it easier for your ducklings to consume them.
- Bananas (mashed is best – flesh only, not the skin. You can use the skins in your garden)
- Peaches (just the flesh – remove the stone)
- Cherries (remove the stones)
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc)
A common question is can ducks eat pumpkin? Yes, they can! They love it!
Vegetables & Leafy Greens
Oh my, do ducks love their leafy greens! It’s always best to float them on water, and tear them into smaller pieces.
Ducks don’t chew their food, and you don’t want long strands of grass or other goodies getting caught in their digestive systems. This is important whether your feeding young ducklings or mature ducks.
Some veggies and leafy greens that ducks love are:
- Cut grass (that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals)
- Swiss chard
- Radish & turnip greens
- Lettuce & other salad greens
Consider creating a garden just for your ducks – the greens are pretty inexpensive to grow and will supply your flock with an extra amount of food, pretty much for free.
You can start feeding these treats when your baby ducks are at least 12 weeks of age. When they’re day olds, it’s better to not feed these treats. I’m not the biggest fan of feeding dairy to ducks, but the items on this list won’t hurt them.
Note that dairy might cause their poop to be more stinky. If that happens, stop offering dairy immediately.
- Whole milk plain greek yogurt (great to add extra probiotics to their digestive systems).
- Cheese, especially cottage cheese. If you feed regular cheese (cheddar for example), it’s best if it’s shredded. That way, your ducks can easily swallow it.
This is also a good go-to “what to feed baby ducks in an emergency” food list.
A common question from first-time duck owners is “Can I give my ducklings treats?” In short, yes!
It’s always a good idea to offer high protein treats. In fact, if you want to give your baby ducks something besides their feed to snack on, dried insects such as black soldier fly larvae or dried shrimp are the best option. Ducks LOVE dried shrimps – they float on water, are easily digested, and ducks LOVE to filter through their water to snap them up.
Some other high-protein treats you can feed baby ducks are:
- Mealworms and Bloomgrubs
- Eggs (boil and dice – leave the shells off. Too much calcium can cause problems with young poultry)
- Dried shrimps
- Black soldier fly larvae
- Superworms (extra large mealworms)
- Darkling beetles
Remember ducks aren’t chickens – they have round bills that don’t pick as easily as hens’ beaks. So, it’s best to float treats on water so your ducklings can easily dig them up.
Before deciding what treats you’ll offer your ducklings, consider their age. The last thing you want is for your fluffy butts to choke!
Larger treats like black soldier fly larvae or chunks of pumpkin might be harder for hatchlings to swallow.
Treats (anything other than duckling starter) should be no more than 10% of a duck’s daily diet. Remember that treats can change the way a duck’s poop looks: either in color, consistency, or odor – so monitor what and how much you are giving them.
Can A Baby Duck Survive On Its Own? Can Ducklings Survive Without Their Mother?
Yes, a baby duck could survive on its own in the wild (and definitely with a human mama). Ducklings walk soon after birth, and automatically know to start looking for food – and know it’s food when they see it!
They’ll also try to “taste test” everything from your fingers to shavings, to actual food!
That being said, ducklings DO have some special needs. For example, ducklings are born with down, and need to be kept warm until fully feathered.
In the wild, they need their mother’s protection to keep them safe and they require warmth to regulate their bodies. Their mother helps them stay warm.
In captivity, we have to provide a heat source until they have feathers. Luckily, ducklings grow VERY fast.
Ducklings in general are easy prey for predators such as foxes, weasels, snakes, skunks, raccoons etc. They have no defenses against these scavengers – they can’t even run that fast. So, you need to make sure your ducklings are kept in a very safe brooder and coop.
Can Baby Ducks Eat Bananas?
Yes! If you’re wondering “what do baby ducks eat?” One answer is BANANAS! Like berries, melons, seeded fruits, and pit fruits will have your pet ducks bouncing with joy. Just make sure to mash them up so their tiny bills can dig in.
Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?
Adult ducks can as layer feed has all the nutrients they need. Baby ducklings, however, should eat a starter that’s specially formulated for them. Ducklings require a lot of niacin for proper bone and bill growth, and most chick starters do not have enough.
If you have chick starter on hand, you can increase the niacin by adding brewer’s yeast. Add 1 pound of brewer’s yeast per 40 pounds of chick starter. You can buy brewer’s yeast for ducklings here.
Can Ducklings Eat Strawberries?
Yes! They can – just be sure to chop them into small bits and mash them. They’ll make your baby ducks happy all day long!
Can Ducks Eat Scrambled Eggs?
Yes, ducks can eat scrambled and boiled eggs. For adult ducks, you can include eggshells (which provide extra calcium). For ducklings, leave the eggshells out. They’ll be too hard for your tiny pets to eat, and too much calcium can inhibit organ growth.
Can Ducks Get Lonely?
Ducks are very social animals – they do feel loneliness, isolation, and grief just like us. They love being part of a flock! It’s important to never leave a duck alone or caged for too long as it can cause them to be emotionally unhealthy.
Can Ducklings Drink Milk?
Yes, but it’s not the best treat to give them. They mustn’t eat too many dairy products. Opt to give them leafy greens, dried river shrimp, or other treats instead.
How Long Can Ducklings Stay In Water?
They can stay in water for short periods as long as it’s a warm day (above 80 degrees). Do not put them in water if it’s below 70 and they aren’t fully feathered – you’re asking for trouble.
Also be sure to give them an easy way in and out of the water, such as having a ramp in the water. If they get cold, they need to easily leave the water.
Can Ducklings Eat Cucumber?
Yes, ducklings can eat cucumber. Just be sure to dice them into very small pieces or grind them up. Ducklings love vegetables!
Can Ducklings Eat Oatmeal?
Yes, they can eat oatmeal (uncooked; rolled, or quick). However, it’s best to feed them duck starter instead. Oatmeal is yummy, but it doesn’t have all the nutrients they need. If you’re stuck, and oatmeal is all you have on hand, then it’ll be fine for a day or two.
You can also offer cracked corn, wheat, and barley.
Can Ducklings Eat Grapes?
Yes, ducklings can eat grapes as long as they’re mashed. Be sure to remove seeds and skins before feeding them to your ducklings.
Can Ducklings Have Tomatoes?
Yes, they can eat tomatoes. Just make sure they’re mashed, and only feed the tomatoes – not the leaves or stems.
Can Ducklings Have Blueberries?
Yes – ducklings LOVE blueberries! Just be sure to mash them, and don’t feed too much – otherwise, your ducklings might get the runs!
As you can see, there are plenty of foods your baby ducks can eat! Although they can survive on just feed, they will be much happier if they get a variety of foods. Not only that, they will be healthier for it. So have fun treating your quackers!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.