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What Do Baby Ducks Eat?

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Ducklings are cute and tender. These adorable babies grow up to become strong and hardy adults. For ducklings to grow properly, they need you to feed them properly.

What can you feed ducklings? Here is a list of food items for ducklings:

1. Duck Feed

By duck feed, I mean processed duck feed.

Ducks need feed that has 18-20% crude protein to grow properly.

According to recommendations from your vet and other expert homesteaders, you can opt to give your ducks medicated feed or not.

Duck feed should be the major food source for your ducklings. If there is not starter duck feed available, you can use chick starter feed (chick starter is generally more expensive because it has more protein).

2. Mealworms

Mealworms are the larvae of the mealworm beetle. Mealworms are rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Ducklings can eat mealworms, but should not fully rely on them. You can buy mealworms from feed mills or you can cultivate them yourself.

3. Seeds and Grains

variety of grains and beans

Ducklings will eat the seeds and grains of various plants. Examples of seeds and grains that ducklings can eat are:

  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Maize
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Barley

Grains should make up a large constituent of your duckling’s diet, especially when there is no processed feed. Grains such as maize are essential in keeping your ducklings warm in the cold nights of winter.

4. Fly Larvae

The larvae of houseflies or black soldier flies are great for ducks. Just like mealworms, you can buy or cultivate them yourself. Make sure that these larvae are properly sterilized for your ducklings.

5. Grub Worms

“Grub worm” is a general term for the larvae of different beetle species. Grub worms can be disastrous to garden plants, but your ducklings can eat them. As soon as your release your ducklings from the brooder for free-range they will eat grub worms and other garden pests.

6. Fruits

Fruits such as grapes, watermelons, etc. are great for ducklings. You, however, should not give too many fruits to ducklings because fruits are high in sugars and carbohydrates but low in proteins (which ducklings need to grow quickly).

7. Vegetables

Vegetables do not make up a large part of the first meals given to ducklings. However, when ducklings are released from the brooder box into a coop or free-range, vegetables are a great way to keep ducklings healthy and active.

Awesome food ideas, right? What will you feed your baby ducks?

How Do You Care for Ducklings?

Do you want to learn how to care for your baby ducks? Here are some tips:

1.  Use Heat Lamps

Heat lamps are very essential when raising ducklings. At their young age, heat lamps provide sufficient heat for your ducklings. The table below shows the temperature requirement for ducklings at different stages:

AgeTemperature Needed
Week 0-195°F
Week 1-290°F
Week 2-385°F
Week 3-480°F

As you can see from the table above, ducklings need high temperatures at their young age and their temperature need reduces by 5°F weekly.

How can you increase the temperature in the brooder box? Use heat lamps. According to the needs of your ducklings, you may install more than one heat lamp.

Later in this article, you will learn how to know when your ducklings are feeling too hot or cold.

2. Use Bedding

Bedding is needed by ducklings. In their first week, you should use newspapers or towels as their bedding to prevent them from eating it (which can choke them).

After their first week, you can use dust-free sawdust, hay, shredded paper, etc. as their bedding.

Bedding is great for insulation of the coop and also keeps your ducklings cozy. Remember to change the bedding when necessary.

ducks gathering around watering source

3. Always Provide Clean Water

Water is vital to your ducklings. Growing ducklings need water as well as feed. Make sure that their water is always clean so that they do not get sick from the water.

Ducklings can be trained to use drinkers. They can also drink water from shallow containers. Do not give your ducklings water in large or deep containers yet. They are prone to drowning in their first few weeks.

4. Set up a Pool or Pond

After four weeks, your ducklings are ready to learn how to swim. Even though is it not compulsory, you should try to give your ducklings a pool or show them a pond nearby.

When drinking water, ducks will usually dip their whole head (including the neck) into the water. Ducks also love swimming, so they really need the pool.

5. Vaccinate and Do Not Fail to Consult the Vet

When you get your new ducklings, give them the necessary vaccines and always consult the vet.

Remember that the birds are still at a tender age, so watch them with close attention and alert the vet as soon as you find anything wrong.

Related Questions and Answers

Got any questions? I’m here to help.

1. Do Baby Ducks Need Grit?

Sure. Ducks need grit to help them digest food. Ducks have a gizzard, or a mechanical stomach, that acts as teeth to grind their food before it becomes digested.

Ducks make use of grit in their gizzard as the teeth. Without grit, ducks will digest food slowly which will lead to a slow growth rate.

Little ducks get sufficient grit from processed feed, but you can place little stones or sand close to their feed. They will collect as much grit as they need by themselves.

2. What Food Should You Prevent Your Ducklings from Eating?

Below is a list of foods that you should not give to your ducklings:

  • Chips
  • Bread
  • Popcorn
  • Junk foods
  • Sugar-rich foods

Make sure that your ducklings do not eat any of the foods mentioned above.

1. How Do You Know If Your Ducklings are Feeling Too Hot or Cold?

Even though there are many ways to identify cold or hot ducklings, the most common method is by the distribution of your ducklings in the brooder.

Here is how to know when your ducklings are feeling too hot or cold:

  • Your Ducklings Are Clustered: If your ducklings are clustered, they are feeling too cold. Your ducklings will huddle or stick by each other when the temperature is too low. If this is the case, drop your heat lamp to a lower height. You can also insulate the brooder or change its location to a warmer place.
  • Your Ducklings are Far Away from the Heat Source: If all or most of your ducklings are nearer to the brooder wall and are avoiding the heat source, they are feeling too hot. In this case, you should raise your heat lamp to a higher height, switch off one heat lamp (if you have multiple), or reduce the intensity of the lamps.
  • Your Birds are Evenly Distributed: In this case, you are doing a great job because your birds have just the right amount of temperature.

Check on your birds frequently when they are very young to determine if they are feeling too hot or cold.

2. When Can Your Ducklings Go Out of the Brooder Box?

Your ducklings can leave the brooder box in 4-6 weeks. If you are not certain about when they are done in the brooder box, wait until the last bird grows feathers.

When all your ducks have grown their feathers, they are mature enough to leave the brooder box.

ducklings outside brooder box

3. How Do You Ventilate Your Duck Coop?

When ducks breathe, they release a lot of moisture into the air. Without proper ventilation, the humidity of the brooder box can get too high and it can harm your ducks because bacteria, fungi, and other microbes thrive better in high humidity.

You should ventilate the brooder box. To ventilate brooder boxes, just make sure that the top is open.

If you fear that your ducklings can jump out of the box, you can install a wire mesh to cover the top so that they cannot jump out, but air can exchange freely.

During the winter, keep the box in a warm place while it remains open. Don’t forget to use heat lamps, bedding, and other accessories to insulate the brooder box in winter.

Has your question been answered?

Final Thoughts

Ducklings are easy to care for, but you need to provide the right diet (protein content) for proper growth. Examples of food ideas for ducklings are processed feed, grains, grub worms, mealworms, and fly larvae.


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