What Do Ducks Eat?

What Ducks Eat Affects Their Health, Growth and Production

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The number one question I always get from backyard chicken keepers thinking about adding some domestic duck breeds to their flock is “What do ducks eat?” Fortunately, ducks can do quite well on chicken feed, although there is waterfowl feed available commercially for those who raise only ducks; or ducks and geese together.

Wondering what ducks eat is a valid question. It’s not as straightforward as feeding baby chickens. In the wild of course, ducks get by eating grass, weeds, bug larvae, slugs, grubs, snakes, and frogs. If you free range your ducks, they will also fill up on these protein-rich, nutritious goodies. And in fact, most of the treats I give my ducks are leafy greens or chopped herbs or weeds. My ducks seem to love anything green. And peas floated in their water tub is a favorite treat.

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What Do You Feed Baby Ducks?

If you’re wondering what do you feed baby ducks, they can be started on regular chick starter feed. You want to choose the unmedicated chick starter feed. Not only are ducklings not susceptible to coccidiosis which the medicated feed protects against, since ducklings eat far more per ounce of body weight than baby chicks, they are likely to over-medicate themselves. So stick with the unmedicated chick starter feed that is around 20 percent protein.

Unlike baby chicks who stay on the starter feed for the first 8 weeks, baby ducklings should only be on it for the first two weeks after they hatch. The high protein content can lead to issues such as Angel Wing which is caused by too much protein in the diet. Cutting the feed with raw rolled oats (up to a 25 percent ratio to the feed) can also help reduce the amount of protein the ducklings are eating and help them grow at a more constant rate.

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Ducklings’ fast growth can lead to foot and leg problems as well. Adding some brewer’s yeast to the feed will provide niacin for strong bones. Brewer’s yeast in a 2 percent ratio to feed is recommended. I add the brewer’s yeast to my ducks daily feed for life.

It’s important to try to get your ducklings out on grass for exercise and fresh air on warm sunny days, and so they can start eating grass and weeds. Just be sure to keep them protected from danger and bring them back inside if they seem cold. Barring time outdoors, pick some grass and weeds for them to nibble on in their brooder. Just be sure they have a dish of coarse dirt available also to help them digest the fibrous plants.

Feeding Growing Babies

After two weeks, the ducklings should be switched to chicken grower feed which has 16 percent protein. I continue to add the oats and brewer’s yeast to the grower feed as well.

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What do Ducks Eat Once They’re Full Grown?

Around 18 weeks old, your ducks can be switched to a chicken layer feed which has the added calcium they need to lay eggs with strong shells. Duck eggs are larger and have thicker shells than chicken eggs, so the appropriate calcium levels are important. You should also provide them crushed eggshell or oyster shell free choice in addition to the layer feed. You can choose crumble or pellet (it’s a personal choice and you should try both to see which your ducks prefer), organic or non-organic.

Be Sure to Let Them Roam

It’s important that you allow your ducks some free range time through all stages of their life. Because they do tend to grow so fast, getting exercise (and fresh air) is extremely beneficial, as is having access to fresh grass and weeds to eat, as well as bug larvae. Your ducks do need grit just like chickens do to help them digest their food but should pick up enough small stones, pebbles, and coarse dirt as they roam to satisfy that need. If you can’t let your ducks out due to predators or your work schedule, then providing them commercial grit free choice is recommended.

what-do-ducks-eat

Domestic ducks can’t fly, so they are extremely vulnerable to predators and should be supervised whenever they are outside of their safe pen or run. If you can’t let them out, clipping grass, weeds, and herbs for them, as well as offering them lots of scraps from the garden is a good idea for their optimal health.

So the answer to what do ducks eat is a fairly simple answer. But it is one that must be carefully managed for optimal growth of fast-growing ducks.

What do ducks eat in your brooder and backyard? Do they have favorite treats? Do your ducks free range daily? Let us know in the comments below.

Lisa Steele is the author of Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Ducks…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013).

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Comments
  • Mine are Muscovy, raised them from a day old! They are free run day and night! They are my watchdogs for the coop and chickens! They eat so many ticks and fleas! Their favorite treat is bananas, tomatoes and meal worms!

    Reply
  • I have 6 Silver Appleyards that I raised from babies. The are totally free ranged but in the AM I throw out a big scoop of scratch grains mixed with chicken layer pellets. They get plenty of leftover veggies as well. This year I fenced in my garden because they learned to help themselves too often. They have a pond on the property that they share with 6 geese that have taken up residency (I think someone drop them off so they could enjoy a good life) They are free ranged as well and also get what I feed the ducks. My duck and chickens get along very well but the geese tend to stay at the pond, only visiting closer to the yard at dinner time! We love all them all!

    Reply
  • We have raised several different kinds of ducks, now have baby white Pekin ducks and love them. In a nine week period of time, they have grown from ankle high to knee high…when are they old enough to join the other ducks and pullets in the chicken yard? And how do you teach them to lay their eggs in the nests in the hen house? Have never solved that problem.

    Reply
  • i see a lot of posts about what ducks eat, care, winter care etc. but i am not finding a lot of information about geese? could someone point me in the right direction and suggest a couple of sites and books?

    Reply
  • We have a privacy fence (shadow box) and bought 50′ of 36″ wire fence and sectioned off a square area for our two Pekin ducks. They free range in their yard and locked in their duck house from dusk to dawn. They eat grower finisher feed will switch to layer pellets next month as they will be 16-18 weeks or 4 months. They love tomatoes, meal worms, kale, crack corn and their pool.

    Reply
  • good morning sir

    sir i have one feed formulation for pekin
    1 30% dried fish
    2 20% maze
    3 25% broken rice
    4 25% wheat bran
    all this increadianc if i mandinate and add vitamin and minarel mix pluss 30gram azola this feed can enough for duck sir .

    Reply
  • I have 5 ducks. 2 Rouen and 3 Peking. They free range day and night and do well with my chickens. They love vegetables, herbs, fruit and grass. I have no grasshoppers this year in my back yard thanks to my birds. We love watching them in their pond and walking the yard. They know when it’s feeding time at night and follow me like the chickens to their feeding spot. They are so awesome and we enjoy them very much. They give me eggs every morning without fail as well. Love the duck eggs for cooking and baking

    Reply
  • Yvette A.

    I have nine ducks of various breeds. Their regular food is a usually a layer food but since they are molting right now they get a mix of layer food and feather saver. They love their treats. I planted 2 zucchini plants and they just love cut up. Watermelon, green peas, fresh greens, tomatoes. They do like dry cat food but I have decided there are better treats. They have kept the duck yards free of little snakes, lizards, grasshopers and other critters. They are attempting the endless job of eating flies. They especially enjoy the chopped zucchini tossed in the water but usually the top of the flock get all those so I sit on the ground and feed them most of these treats.

    Reply
  • Someone has dropped off 10 ducks down the hill from our home by the lake… 6 white and four black and white. I truly believe there were more but can’t be certain. Question is, since they have been roaming free now (and it’s been about a month) , what’s the chances of them being pinned up at night? We have chickens and I am worried about them surviving the winter…. Suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

    Reply
  • My ducks and chickens live together and I just had 3 day old baby chicks. 12 were born and I have 3 left, wondering if my Pekin ducks ate them? Do ducks eat baby chicks?

    Reply
  • so how do you stop muscovies from flying away Ok pekins and rohens cannot fly but what about the others

    Reply

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