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What Do Ducklings Eat? What To Feed Them?

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’ve decided you’re going to raise ducks, then you need to know that taking care of the baby ducklings is the key to success.

However, raising a duckling into a mature duck can be tricky, especially if you’re feeding your ducklings the wrong things. So, while raising ducklings isn’t that hard, it does take a bit of knowledge and making sure the ducklings get the vitamins they need to get through those first few weeks and into adulthood.

So, what do ducklings eat? What should you feed them? Keep following our guide to find out. We’ll discuss what you can and can’t feed your ducklings, as well as a few things you can add to their food, so they grow into the healthy layers you want them to be.


What Do Ducklings Eat?

Baby ducks feed on insects, such as mealworms and black soldier fly larvae, veggies, fruits, and of course, duckling feed.  While your adult ducks can eat anything pretty much, your ducklings need to be on a very specific diet from the time they hatch until they have their full feathers.

The foods above work well for your ducklings, but we’ll go into them in a bit more detail below.

What Should You Feed Your Ducklings?

A proper diet is one of the most essential things to give your ducklings to ensure they have a healthy start in life. There are four critical components to ensuring that. We’ll talk about those components below.

Commercial Feed

duckling eating_PUMPZA_Shutterstock
Image Credit: PUMPZA, Shutterstock

Commercial feed will make up most of your duckling’s food throughout their entire lives. However, feed made for waterfowl, and ducklings specifically, is hard to find, so you may have to go with a chick feed instead.

Starter and grower are the two main types of feed for young chicks, with the starter being higher in protein. You should feed your ducklings starter for the first few weeks of their lives, then switch to the grower for the best results.

It’s best to not feed ducklings starter after the first three weeks, as it can cause angel wing because of the high protein content.


While ducklings and chicks have around the same nutritional requirements, ducklings require niacin in their diets. Therefore, add niacin to their starter, so they get the nutrition they need from it. Failure to give them niacin can result in niacin deficiencies.


duckling eating grass
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

You don’t like to eat the same thing day in and day out, do you? Of course not! Then, neither do your ducklings. If you have the right circumstances and the weather is nice, let your ducklings outside in a safe environment to feed on grass themselves. If you can’t take them outside, then bring some chopped-up grass and weeds inside for them to munch on.

Ducklings also like vegetables and fruits, so you can feed them cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage, and lettuce, to name a few. However, it’s essential to realize you can’t feed your ducklings the same size fruits and veggies that you feed your full-grown ducks. Instead, cut the food into bite-sized pieces so it’s easy to eat and you don’t run the risk of your duckling getting choked on food that’s too big for him to eat.

Also, keep in mind that fruits, veggies, and grass isn’t enough to keep your ducklings healthy and happy. They should only make up a small part of your duckling’s diet. Too much of the fruits and veggies can cause protein deficiencies in your ducklings and ducks. So, make sure your ducklings are getting the right amount of protein in their diets as well.


chicken grit
Image Credit: loocmill, Shutterstock

You probably already know that ducks don’t have teeth if you’ve been raising them for any amount of time. Instead, they use grit in a small amount of sand and rocks to help them chew up their food. However, you may need to feed your ducklings grit, or you might not. There are two ways to tell that grit needs to be added to the diet of your ducklings.

If the ducklings are foraging outside daily, then they can probably find enough grit, as they’re picking through grass, dirt, and sand. If they can get outside to forage, then you don’t need to add grit to their diet.

If your ducklings are in a brooder and only eat commercial feed, then grit isn’t required. This is not at all recommended, but if it’s how you choose to do things, you won’t need grit because they aren’t going to be chewing anything up.

There is chicken grit available to feed your ducklings that you should be able to pick up at any local feed store.

Now that we know what to feed your ducklings and what they enjoy, it’s important to know what not to feed them if you want them to grow up healthy. We’ll discuss this in our next section.


What Not to Feed Ducklings

There are a few things that you shouldn’t feed your ducklings as well.

Take a look at the list below.
  • Cat food, because it contains high doses of methionine, which could kill your ducks
  • Bread, because it’s junk food and has no nutritional value. It can also be dangerous in higher doses.
  • Spinach can harm ducklings because it prevents them from absorbing calcium. However, you can feed it to them in very, very small amounts.
  • Avocados are toxic.
  • Chocolate is toxic.
  • Dry or undercooked beans are also toxic.
  • Citrus because of the acid content, which can cause digestive problems.
  • Raw, green potato peels are toxic.
  • Anything that is high in sugar, salt, or is a high-fat food.

If you want your ducklings to grow into adulthood, it’s best not to feed them the foods above. But, of course, the same holds for adult ducks as well.


Final Thoughts

This concludes our guide on what ducklings eat, what you should feed them, and the foods it’s best to avoid if you want your ducklings to be healthy as they reach adulthood. Raising ducks isn’t as complicated as you might think. A good diet can make all the difference.

Featured Image Credit: wnk1029, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.