What Do Ducklings Need to Eat? [The Complete List]

What Do Ducklings Need to Eat? [The Complete List]

Ducklings Eating

Ducklings, need a high-protein diet for solid growth and development. When they’re day-old up to three weeks old, focus on feeding them waterfowl starter crumbs or unmedicated chick crumbs. These should have a protein content of 21-22%. The crumbs should be unmedicated because ducklings eat more than chicks, and they might end up overdosing on certain medications present in medicated feed.

Ducklings also need extra niacin. So Sprinkle some brewer’s yeast on their feed. You can also start introducing them to greens and herbs. Chop them up fine and float them in the ducklings’ water bowl or drop some in a little dish on the side.

Other than that, ducklings need access to clean water at all times. They have a habit of moistening their food in water before swallowing it.

After the first two weeks, you can reduce the protein content in the diet to 17-18%. However, be cautious. Overfeeding protein could lead to a condition called Angel Wing.

While they grow, broaden their diet by introducing foraged foods like weeds, grass, leafy greens, and insects. These will offer a variety and keep their meals interesting and nutritionally balanced.

What Should Ducklings Eat in The First Few Weeks of Life?

In their early weeks, ducklings need a protein-rich diet supplemented with niacin. To meet these needs, opt for a 21%-22% protein chick starter and niacin supplement for the first 2 weeks. An ideal pick could be Smallholder Range Goose/Duck Starter Crumbs or a similar unmedicated chick feed. These feeds come packed with the vital nutrients your ducklings need.

Niacin is crucial for their overall health. It plays a key role in several systems, especially bone development. You might assume that niacin in green plants will suffice, but unfortunately, ducklings can’t absorb it effectively from this source.

But why unmedicated feed? Most of the time, medicated feed isn’t needed for ducklings. If you can’t find an unmedicated feed, one containing amprolium or another coccidiostat will work just fine.

Your little hatchlings will need to range on clean ground too. A place that’s been free of adult birds for 6-12 months is ideal. This helps prevent bacterial and parasitic issues. Providing grit with their feed is a great idea if the ducklings are on grass or might ingest wood shavings. It lowers the risk of crop impaction.

Ducklings need access to clean water, always. Make sure the water is cool to the touch – not too hot or too cold. With 5 or fewer ducklings, a quart-size chick fount is enough for about two weeks. For larger or older broods, consider going for a gallon fount.

In the first week or two, giving your ducklings a “mash” meal is also helpful. Just add water to the crumble feed – it’s easier for them to eat and minimizes choking risk.

How Should the Diet Change as Ducklings Grow?

From about two weeks to approximately six months, transition your ducklings from a high-protein starter feed to a grower feed. The grower feed, usually containing protein between 17-19%, takes over from the initial 21%-22% protein chick starter. This diet shift gears toward promoting continuous growth and maturity of your ducklings.

Monitoring the feeding frequency and portion size is crucial at this stage. This ensures that your ducklings have access to feed all the time. Strike a balance by feeding them adequate amounts twice a day. This should suffice until the next feed time. However, bear in mind that as their hunger pangs increase with growth, the feed size might need adjustment.

You can switch from starter to grower feed at three to four weeks. For precise and customized advice, reach out to a duck care expert or veterinarian for the best time to transition your breed of ducklings to grower feed.

What Treats and Supplements Can Ducklings Eat?

Ducklings can enjoy a variety of treats and supplements beyond their main feed. However, the treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their diet.

Fruits and Veggies

Ducklings love fruits and vegetables. They’ll eat cucumbers, peas, zucchini, broccoli, corn, and leafy greens like kale, collards, and lettuce. Even root vegetables, including sweet potatoes and carrots, can be served. But these are easier for them to eat when cooked or grated.

Grains as Treats

Whole grains are great for ducks. Cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and quinoa are all solid treat options. Whole grain sugar-free cereals are also ok in moderation.

Protein-rich Treats

Offering ducklings protein-rich treats is also fine. Mealworms and crickets are just a few examples of treats they’ll love. But these should be limited due to their high protein content. Too much protein can lead to growth problems in ducklings.

Niacin Supplements

If your ducklings’ feed isn’t fortified with niacin, you can add niacin to their diet. Use about 1 tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast per cup of feed or add human niacin supplements to their water: 500mg per 8 gallons of water.

Also, always ensure that your ducklings have access to fresh water and grit to help in digestion. When introducing new treats or supplements, supervise to prevent choking. Moreover, treats should be finely chopped, soft or mushy to make them easier for the ducklings to ingest.

What Shouldn’t Ducklings Eat?

Ducklings need a well-rounded diet to grow and mature. Yet, there are certain foods that could harm them. Let’s look into what shouldn’t ducklings eat to protect their health.

Food that may seem harmless to you could be toxic to their bodies. Bread and junk food such as crackers, chips, doughnuts, and popcorn have little nutritional value. Consumption of these foods can lead to malnutrition or even disease in ducklings.

Another no-go is raw meat and eggs. They may carry harmful bacteria, posing a threat to your ducklings’ delicate health. Moreover, raw or dried beans, especially kidney beans, contain a potentially fatal toxin called phytohaemagglutinin.

What about salt and salty food? Salt throws off a bird’s electrolyte and fluid balance, leading to complications like kidney failure. Processed and greasy foods such as pizza and sausages may result in heart issues in ducklings.

But that’s not all. Caffeine and chocolate increase heart rate and may cause cardiac arrest in ducklings. Even onions and garlic, due to their thiosulfate content, aren’t safe. Neither are citrus fruits like grapefruit, limes, oranges, and lemons, which interfere with calcium absorption. The same goes for spinach and nightshade vegetables.

Even though giving dairy products to your ducklings feels natural, keep in mind that they’re lactose intolerant. So, large amounts of dairy can cause them uncomfortable digestion issues.

Also, avoid feeding your ducklings avocados at all costs. They’re toxic to ducks.

How Should Feeding Change when Ducklings Mature Into Ducks?

When your ducklings mature into adults, their diet and feeding routine will need to shift. Around 6 months of age, or when they start laying their first eggs, it’s time to make a change. At this point, they should be switched to a regular chicken layer pellet. This feed, which contains about 16%-18% protein, is what adult ducks need.

The protein intake for an adult duck isn’t as high as that of a duckling. It’s due to this fact that crumbles or pellets are preferred. Interestingly, pellets are the least wasteful when it comes to preserving the feed, followed by crumbles. So, you might want to stick to them for feeding.

Extra calcium is a must-have for adult ducks, especially those that free range or eat table scraps. One reliable option is crushed oyster shell. This vital supplement plays a huge role in the production of strong eggshells.

Feeding also takes a different turn when your ducklings turn into ducks. They no longer need constant access to food. Adult ducks are quite content with being fed twice a day. A balanced ratio would be 40% of their diet in the morning and 60% at night. An adult duck will eat about 225 grams of feed per day.

Alongside the changes in feed and feeding routine, the basics remain the same. Your ducks will continue to need fresh water and grit to help digest foods. They might also relish suitable vegetables and fruits as supplements to their commercial diet.

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