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What Do Ducklings Eat?

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Is it your first time raising ducklings? Or maybe it's just been awhile and you need a refresher.  Here's a handy guideline for feeding ducklings the proper feed for each stage from hatch to laying age to ensure happy, healthy ducks.

Baby ducklings are like any other babies and need lots of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to help them grow up to be strong and healthy.

This simple chart gives you the guidelines you need to ensure you're feeding your babies correctly.

Can Ducklings Eat Chicken Feed?

Ducklings can eat and thrive on chick feed, and adult ducks can eat chicken layer feed, with a few simple caveats: they need more niacin than chicken feed provides, so you'll have to add brewers yeast to their daily feed during all stages of life (in a 2% ratio to feed). 

They also grow really fast which can put undue strain on their legs and lead to angel wing in ducklings, so I like to mix in some rolled oats into their feed (up to 25% ratio to the feed is okay).

What Do Baby Ducklings Eat?

Starter Feed

Hatch to 2 Weeks Old

Your ducklings will see their biggest growth spurt during this critical time. Chick starter feed has the highest levels of protein of any feed (other than meat bird feed!) to help support this rapid growth.

The calcium levels in starter feed are relatively low because the ducklings only need it to grow strong bones, not to produce eggshells.... yet.

Starter feed is available in both medicated or non-medicated formulations. Take care to only feed NON-medicated to ducklings. They don't need the medication, so it's counterproductive to feed it to them.

Feed should be offered 24/7 to your ducklings while they're in the brooder along with fresh room temperature water.

Starter/Grower Feed

2 Weeks  to 18-22 Weeks Old

Although your ducks' growth will slow down quite a bit during this next period, they still need a balanced feed to continue to fill out and mature properly.  That's not a typo. I switch my ducklings to grower feed after two weeks.

The protein level in the grower feed will drop from the level in the starter feed, while the calcium levels remain constant. I continue to mix in the brewers yeast and oats into the feed during this stage.

Layer Feed

18-22 Weeks Old+

As your ducklings begin to approach laying age, they will need to start stockpiling extra calcium in their bodies that will be use to create strong eggshells. 

Anytime within this age range, it's alright to switch them to layer feed when your last bag of grower feed runs out. 

Layer feed contains far greater amounts of calcium than either starter or grower feed. 

Feeding layer feed to young-ish ducks before they are approaching laying age can lead to an excess of calcium in their bodies and kidney issues later in life.

What Else Do Ducklings Eat?

There are a few other things that I recommend when it comes to feeding ducklings.  I do recommend limiting treats or anything other than the starter feed for the first two weeks, but if you can get your ducklings out on grass right from the start, they'll love nibbling on grass and weeds, and drilling down into the dirt for bug larvae and worms.

I also like to offer my ducklings chopped herbs and weeds, especially dandelion greens, right from day one. Toss the chopped greens into their water and they will happily fish them out. 

Be sure that they also have grit to help them digest the greens. A small dish of coarse dirt is sufficient when they're very small. 

Can Ducklings Have Treats?

As I mentioned, I do try to limit my ducklings treats for the first two weeks. After that, they will love a variety of healthy treats including fresh or frozen peas, leafy greens, sliced cucumbers, watermelon and other vegetables. 

Breakfast of Champion Ducklings?

I also recommend adding a few supplements and additions to my duckling feed right from the start - at hatch or day old, depending on when I get the ducklings (and add the same to their adult feed as well):

For more details on the benefits of the various supplements and additions, read HERE.

Choosing a good-quality feed for your ducks is one of the most important things you can do for them. Feeding them the correct feed during each stage of their life is the second most important.

If you're not sure which type of feed you should be feeding, check the bag tag or label for the protein and calcium levels.

My ducks live long, happy lives while laying us delicious, fresh eggs.

Visit their website for more information about their entire poultry feed line - both organic and conventional.

Fresh Eggs Daily Natural Poultry Feed Supplements

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Further Reading:
Can I Raise Chicks and Ducklings Together
Ducks Love Peas

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