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What Do Baby Ducks Eat?

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Collecting backyard fowl can be so addicting. You might have started with chickens, but other feathered friends have caught your eye. But before you run off and grab yourself some adorable ducklings. You should ask yourself one crucial question. What do baby ducks eat? At such a delicate age, you don’t want to get this wrong. 

What Can I Feed A Baby Duck? 

What ducklings eat is all dependent on how old your birds are. Just like your chicks, there are phases of life that need different nutrition based on your duck’s growth. Let’s take a look. 

Hatch Day-Four Weeks Old

During the first month of life, your ducklings are at their most vulnerable. At this time, your ducks will need at least 20% protein and lots of niacin. Protein is crucial for development and growth, while niacin is required for healthy bones and bills. If your ducklings don’t get enough protein, they won’t grow. And without niacin, your ducks will develop straddle legs, brittle bones, and uneven bills. 

So if you want the best feed for your baby sucks, you should feed a waterfowl starter feed. We love the Manna Pro Duck Starter Grower Crumble for this age. Most duck owners find that it works best to wet the food down into a mash for easier access. Just don’t forget to replace the food periodically because mash can spoil quickly. 

Five To Eighteen Weeks Old

After five weeks old, your ducklings are ready to start a grower feed. This feed has at least 18% protein and all the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow fast. It also starts getting your ducks ready for laying eggs. And the best brand for this is Manna Pro Non-Medicated Starter Crumble Feed for Chicks & Ducklings. This Manna Pro markets itself as best for hatchlings of mixed flocks. But with only 18% protein, we think this food is best for ducklings a little older.

Laying Age

When your ducks are around 16-18 weeks old, It’s a good idea to switch them to a layer feed. Layer feeds contain less protein and more calcium so your ducks can lay beautiful eggs. And you will want to set out some crushed oyster shells for extra calcium for your laying girls. At this age, they are no longer little ducklings anymore. But they aren’t truly adult ducks until after they turn a year old. 

Can Baby Ducks Eat Chick Starter? 

When thinking about what ducklings eat, you might also have to consider a mixed flock. If you are raising ducks and chickens simultaneously, you don’t want to divide them during this bonding age. So it’s easier if they share a brooder. 

The best solution for this dilemma is to feed your flock the same unmedicated chick starter feed. It’s essential that you only provide unmedicated feed as the medicated chick starter isn’t FDA approved for ducks and geese. But you have another aspect to think about, and that’s niacin. 

Chick starter feed doesn’t contain the high amounts of niacin that ducks need for bill and bone health. To solve this problem, we recommend brewer’s yeast. Fresh Eggs Daily Brewer’s Yeast with Garlic Powder is a wonderful additive that many flock owners swear by. It has plenty of niacin and the benefits of feeding small amounts of garlic for immunities.

This recipe is also great for those who don’t have duck feed at their local feed store. It’s cheaper than ordering it online, and you don’t have to worry about ever running out before the next shipment. 

A Mixed Flock

If you breed your ducks and leave all ducklings with the mother duck, you might wonder how to feed the babies. The best solution for this flock dynamic is to show the mother and ducklings where the proper food dishes are. Keep it close to the nests and correct them if they eat the adult duck food. After a few corrections, your baby ducks will learn where their food is. 

What Can Ducklings Eat List

When asking what do baby ducks eat, there are plenty of other things to consider. When your baby ducklings get a little older, you can start to introduce a few healthy snacks to their diet. After four weeks of age, you can begin feeding your ducklings foods like: 

  • Pears
  • Apples- no cores or seeds
  • Peaches- no pit, very ripe
  • Berries 
  • Watermelon
  • Grass clippings
  • Pumpkin
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Cucumber
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Clover
  • Dandelions
  • Rose petals
  • Greek yogurt- in moderation
  • Cottage cheese- in moderation
  • Shredded cheese- in moderation
  • Meal worms
  • Earthworms
  • Boiled eggs
  • And dried river shrimp

Your ducklings can have these treats as long as they don’t consume more than 10% of their diet. The exception to this rule is dark leafy greens. You can feed your ducks a leafy salad every day without fear of them overindulging. In fact, as your ducks grow, salads are a vital part of their diets. 

However, there is a little caution you should take when feeding treats of any kind. All of these treats can be hard for your ducklings to digest. So to prevent issues, you will need to chop all fruits and vegetables in small chunks. You might even consider partially mashing the food to make them softer. And finally, it’s best to add the treats directly to water for easy eating. 

What Should You NOT Feed Ducklings

There are lots of things that are healthy for baby ducks to eat. But there are also a few things that your ducklings should never eat. Here are a few of the top things never to give your ducklings.

  • Moldy or rotten foods of any kind
  • Medicated chick feed
  • Citric fruits
  • Pits and seeds from any fruits
  • Leaves from the nightshade family. I.e., potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. 
  • Caffeine
  • Processed and fried foods
  • Anything with added sugar. 
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Raw and dried beans
  • And nuts

What Do Wild Ducks Eat? 

Looking at these lists might have you pondering what wild ducks eat. And what do baby ducks eat out in the wild? The truth is that a wild duck’s diet consists mainly of grasses, aquatic plants, and small aquatic animals. They might even look for weeds, grains, and the occasional wild fruits and vegetables along the shoreline. So as you can see, our domestic ducks have a very similar diet. 

How Do You Take Care Of Baby Ducks?

Raising chickens and ducks are very similar in most ways. You can use the same brooder, bedding, and basic care for all poultry. However, they differ in one significant way, and that’s how baby ducks eat. Most chicks can eat from shallow dishes and drink from small water bowls because they have tiny beaks that peck the ground. But your ducklings have a longer and broader bill that scoops food and water. 

To accommodate your duckling’s nutritional needs, you will need deep and wide waterers and feeders. And it’s also essential to keep clean water available at all times. Most ducks have a hard time digesting food, so they mix it with water to make it easier. But that’s not all ducks use water for. 

You will often see your ducklings splashing their faces in the water. And you might think that they are playing, but your ducks are doing it for a good reason. Ducks regularly clean their bills of dust and debris, and if they don’t have access to this water, they can get infections. 

Do Baby Ducks Need A Heat Lamp? 

A big part of keeping chicks is keeping them under a heat lamp. It might have you wondering if your ducklings need heat as well. And the truth is that they need it just as much in those early weeks as a baby chicken. When your duckling doesn’t have feathers, it needs plenty of help to regulate its body temperature. 

For the first week of life, your ducklings will need a toasty 90 degrees to keep them healthy and strong. After the first week, you will then start to decrease the temperature of the brooder. But how you do this depends on when you hatched your ducklings. 

If your ducklings hatch in colder months, you will need a slight decrease in temperature. So in the early spring or late fall months, you will have to drop the temperature by 5 degrees every week. But if your ducks are late spring or summer clutch, you can lower the temperature by 10 degrees every week. 

Once you start dropping the brooder’s temperature, you will continue to do so until it reaches 70 degrees. You know that your ducklings are ready to turn off the heat lamp when they don’t huddle under the heat source. 

When Can Ducklings Go Outside? 

When your ducks are fully feathered at 7-9 weeks of age, they are ready for the outdoors. As long as it’s at least 65 degrees outside at night, your ducks are ready. They will enjoy the sunshine and free-range abilities. Not to mention a trip into the kiddie pool for a splash. 

And That’s Duckling Nutrition

With this guide, you will never have to wonder what do baby ducks eat again. Your ducks will be healthy, strong, and live their best life with this diet. And you can love them for longer. 

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