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What Do Baby Ducks Eat? (List of Foods)

Baby ducks can eat a variety of foods, including duckling pellets, fruits, vegetables, small insects, and even dairy products. In the wild, they eat bugs and plant matter.

Sure, adult ducks have no problem gobbling up aquatic plants, water insects, small fish, and other aquatic prey. 

But what do baby ducks eat? What kind of food is good for them?

As baby ducks aren’t capable of swimming on their own, their mother takes care of them in the wild. In captivity, their caretaker feeds them. What should you feed ducklings?

In this article, we will list the best foods for baby ducks and explain why they are beneficial.

What Do Ducklings Eat?

Ducklings eat a varied diet, including small insects, mealworms, and plant matter. On farms, they’re often fed duckling pellets. Ducklings eat a lot of protein for growth.

Ducklings are omnivorous, which basically means they eat animal-based or plant-based foods. 

For protein, ducklings will eat invertebrates, including mealworms, snails, and small bugs. 

The majority of their diet consists of plant matter though, which typically is made up of aquatic plants. They can also eat grasses, but this can cause them to get bloated.

When ducklings are very young, their mother is responsible for bringing them the nutritional food that they need to grow strong and healthy.

Young ducklings can eat themselves but have to learn what’s edible at first. They learn this from their mother.

Related: What can ducks eat?

Duckling Pellets

When ducklings are cared for in captivity, or as pets, they’re often fed ducklings pellets.

They’re soft enough to allow ducklings to penetrate them with their beaks and small enough that they don’t choke on them. 

These contain the necessary vitamins and nutrients that ducklings need for their first few days.[1] 

Duckling feed comes both in starter crumbles (which are what most people start with for their ducklings) and starter mash.

This is an easy way to grab some food for ducklings, as they’re sold in many pet shops. They can also be used to feed ducklings in your nearby part or lake.

duckling pellets

Fruits

Fruits are great for ducks. They enjoy the sugary treats, and fruits contain plenty of vitamins.

They contain healthy sugars and enzymes, which are needed by ducklings and adult ducks in order to stay healthy and strong.

When feeding ducks fruit, it’s important not to serve it in too big chunks. As ducks don’t chew their food, they can easily choke. Hence, cut it into smaller pieces, or even mash it before serving. That’ll make sure they don’t choke.

sliced strawberries

Vegetables & Leafy Greens

Ducklings are omnivores, which means that they eat meat and plants. 

On top of fruits and aquatic plant matter, you can feed ducklings vegetables and leafy greens. Ducklings love these, and they’re great for their overall health. 

Vegetables are generally lower in calories than fruits, but they still contain plenty of minerals and vitamins.

Some of these include:

  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Radish and turnip greens
  • Lettuces and salad greens
  • Cucumber

You can also feed them cut grass, but too much of this can cause bloating.

As with fruit, it’s important to cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, to make sure the ducklings don’t choke.

ducklings on the farm

Protein (Insects & Mealworms)

Protein is important for ducklings to grow quickly. Ducklings are born with very few nutrients in their system; they need to eat as soon as possible.

Protein is an essential nutrient that aids in development and recovery[2]. Without enough protein, their growth will be halted.

This is essential for building muscle, feathers, tissues, cellular enzymes, and antibodies.

In the wild, ducklings feed on bugs and other invertebrates, such as mealworms. These are great sources of protein and are small enough for ducklings to swallow whole.

worms

Dairy

Some claim dairy to be harmful to ducklings, while others like to give ducks dairy products as a treat from time to time.

Dairy can be harmful to ducks since ducks don’t have the digestive systems in place to process large amounts of dairy sugars.[3]

However, small amounts shouldn’t pose any issues. And, dairy products are great sources of calcium.

During these first few weeks, ducklings can be prone to a number of diseases and health problems, if their diet is not supplemented with a calcium source to support development into healthy adults.

Ducks can be fed a dairy product such as dried milk powder, plain greek yogurt, or cottage cheese in order to provide this important nutrient. 

duckling eating

How Often Should You Feed Ducklings?

When feeding ducklings, you can do so using the “free choice” method. In other words, simply leave food out all the time, so they can eat when they’re hungry.

Ducklings need nutrition to grow big and strong. They eat a lot, and they eat often, hence, the best way to feed ducklings is with free-choice feeding.

While there are many different guidelines for duckling diets, some more rigorous than others require you to feed your ducklings every four hours around the clock. Whether you are free-feeding or following a particular diet, it is important to look at your duckling diet plan for the most information about how often you should feed them.

duckling drinking water

Should You Feed Wild Ducklings?

Before you go around feeding wild ducks, there are some things you should know:

  • What to feed them
  • What not to feed them
  • How to feed them

If you want to feed wild ducks, feed them food with nutritional value. Bread is one of the worst things you can feed ducks, as it’s high in calories, but low in nutritional value.

Ducklings need protein for growth, so this is always good to feed them. Ducklings are naturally drawn to insects, small fish, algae, and water plants.

Duckling Feeding Risks

Are you or your children feeding ducks? If so, you need to be aware of the risks ducklings are facing when it comes to feeding.

Ducks can digest certain foods easier than others, and sometimes they eat things they shouldn’t have.

Read about the risks here.

Too Much Junk or Bread

While it may be fun, with the cute little ducklings pecking at your feet for bread, this is not healthy for ducks or ducklings[3]

Unfortunately, most people feed ducks bread, unknowing that it’s bad for them. A little bread won’t do any harm, but larger quantities can be threatening to their health.

Eating too much bread can lead to sickness and malnourishment of ducklings, who are most at risk from this feeding practice. It can also lead to increased populations of ducks, and loss of natural behavior.

Instead, feed them oats, mealworms, or seeds.

cute baby ducklings

Bones Are a Choking Hazard

Ducks and ducklings are at risk of choking, mostly due to the fact that they don’t chew. Bones are especially bad for them. 

When ducks eat, their food goes straight into the stomach, where acids digest it. Sometimes, people, unfortunately, feed them food that’s too big, or bones, which can get stuck in their throat before it reaches the stomach.

Adults ducks may know what they can and can’t eat, but ducklings will attempt to eat almost anything.

Ingesting Gravel

Ducks are one of the most popular wild animals to feed because they provide hours of entertainment, especially when feeding ducklings. 

However, when feeding ducklings, they may accidentally ingest gravel and rocks as well. This can be harmful or even deadly.

duckling on the ground

Conclusion

Ducks are a popular pet that can be easy to keep. They’re relatively inexpensive and don’t require much space or care, but they do need food (ducklings eat some duckling pellets, fruits, and greens).

Make sure you know what type of diet your ducks will need before purchasing them! Read our other articles if you want to learn more about caring for ducks as pets.

FAQs

Can Ducklings Eat Cucumber?

Ducklings eat a variety of different foods. Their diet is usually made up of protein-rich insects and small crayfish. In captivity, they will also eat duckling pellets, fruit, and vegetables.

When feeding ducks, make sure you don’t give them bread. This is not beneficial to them in any way. Instead, feed them something with nutritional value, such as mealworms or grains.

Can Ducklings Eat Oatmeal?

Surprisingly, ducklings can eat oatmeal. However, it is not recommended that they eat instant packets. Instead, they should be given rolled oats or steel-cut oats to prevent bloating and other digestive problems. If the bird’s diet consists of too many rolled oats, the duck can become overweight, so keep it to a small portion.

Can Ducklings Eat Grapes?

Most waterfowl enjoy eating grapes. Ducklings may eat grapes, but they should only be given a couple. They’re high in calories and sugary, and should only be given as a snack. Also make sure to cut it into smaller pieces, or mash it, as they pose a choking hazard otherwise.

Can Ducklings Have Tomatoes?

Yes, but only ripe tomatoes. Unripe tomatoes are not healthy for ducks, but they can eat all ripe, red tomatoes. Some people do believe tomatoes to be toxic, as they’re part of the nightshade family, so you may have to cook them first.

Can Ducklings Have Blueberries?

Yes, ducklings and adult ducks can have blueberries. Just like grapes, they enjoy the treat, but it should be kept to a minimum. Giving ducks too many blueberries can result in being overweight.

Can Ducklings Drink Milk?

Yes, ducklings can drink milk, and often do on farms where both cows and ducks are present. Milk is a good source of calcium and protein. Dairy products should be limited though. Too much milk can result in health problems, as with anything else.

Can Ducklings Eat Strawberries?

Ducks like strawberries, and they’re very healthy to them, in small amounts. They cannot eat them whole because their digestive system is not designed for such large chunks. But if you cut and mash the strawberries before feeding them to the ducks, they can eat them safely.

Can Ducklings Eat Bananas?

Yes, ducks can indeed eat bananas. They’re high in vitamins and minerals and are great treats to give ducks. As with all other fruits, make sure to mash it or cut it up before you give it to ducks.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.