Ducks are animals from the family Anatidae like geese, swans, and seabirds, with wiggling buttocks that rarely leave anyone indifferent. What do baby ducks eat is a crucial question regardless of whether you feed them on a nearby lake or keep them in your yard. Let’s take a look.
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Baby Ducks Habits and Biology
Believe it or not, you can see ducks on all continents except Antarctica. It is the only place on the Earth that is too cold for them.
Raising baby ducks is not complicated, and it is very similar to raising other poultry. After hatching, you should only place them in a box or crate with straw on the bottom. Since baby ducks only have fluff, you need to provide them with extra heat, preferably heat lamps.
During the first week, the lamp temperature should preferably be 90 F (32 C). You need to slowly reduce it over the next few days until reaching 70 F (21 C). Once the ducklings stop shrinking under the heat source, it means they are ready to turn off the lamps.
At the age of 7 to 9 weeks, baby ducks are ready to stay outdoors, so you can make a cage, like a chicken coop and keep them there. That will protect your ducklings from predators, such as:
However, you need to leave them enough space to spread their wings wholly and freely while cleaning their bodies. Also, bigger space will allow better air circulation in the area.
Ducklings are ready to enter the water when their feathers grow. It is probably a good idea to choose a rubber children’s pool for the first encounter with water, but never leave them unattended. Adult ducks are careless and can inadvertently drown their babies.
One of the crucial things is to provide your ducklings with enough clean water. These birds find it difficult to digest food, so they need to mix it with water to facilitate this process. Also, water helps them clean and rinse their beaks from food debris and dust.
Do Baby Ducks Eat Dirt?
While watching baby ducks as they walk over the space, you can think they swallow mud and dirt. Still, there is no reason to worry since they won’t ingest such things.
Ducklings actually separate small insects, worms, small aquatic plants and animals, and weeds before eating them. In other words, your baby duck sifts mud and dirt while looking for its favorite food.
On the other hand, you should be prepared that baby ducks often swallow sand and pebbles. Their rough texture helps break down and crumble food in the duck’s stomach, thus making digestion easier.
What Do Baby Ducks Like to Eat Most?
For the first few days after hatching, the ducklings live from the egg yolk remains. After that, you need to feed them with starter food for ducks with the addition of vitamin B complex, particularly niacin. Otherwise, you will get birds with crooked legs.
After two weeks, ducklings can eat the same food as adult ducks. Avoid giving bread and crackers to prevent problems with swelling during swallowing. Not to mention that this food type hasn’t any nutritional value for these birds.
Make sure your baby ducks always have enough water. If you notice that they avoid drinking offered water, you should sugar it a bit to attract ducklings until getting into the habit.
Ducks like to eat fruit, but you should give it to them in moderate quantities since it is packed with sugar. The fruit type will determine whether you need to chop or mash it. Your ducklings will enjoy consuming:
- Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
- Pitted watermelons and melons
- Pitted and cut apples and pears
- Pitted peaches and cherries
- Grapes without skin and seeds
- Bananas puree without peel
- Pumpkin meat cut into small pieces
- Tomato fruit
Vegetables and green leaves are crucial for duck nutrition, but you need to chop them before offering this food. Remember that ducks don’t chew food but swallow it, and large pieces will make digestion difficult. Your ducklings will particularly enjoy the following:
- Beets and radishes’ green parts
- Chard and broccoli
- Cauliflower and kale
Besides fruits and vegetables, your babies will like eating many other plants, including:
- Mowed grass and clover
- Rose petals
- Aquatic plants
It is highly advisable not to treat these foods with chemicals since they can endanger your ducks’ health. Once your baby ducks are 12 weeks old, it is time to include dairy products in their diet. The best options are:
- Chopped cottage cheese
- Classic Greek yogurt made from whole milk full of natural probiotics
Remember that dairy products naturally cause the unpleasant smell of feces, so there is no reason for worry. Since proteins are crucial in duck nutrition, you should offer your birds treats like:
- Worms and super-worms
- Black soldiers fly larvae
- Dried river shrimp
- Boiled and scrambled egg yolks
Keep in mind that this food type shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your ducklings’ diet.
Food Avoid to Feed Baby Ducks
There is a large selection of healthy food to feed baby ducks, so you should avoid some products since their quality is not good enough for these birds. It is necessary to be careful with:
- Spoiled, moldy, and rotten food
- Chicken food with added antibiotics and other medicines
- Cat food with a high amount of methionine toxic to ducks
- Fried and processed food
Even though ducklings like eating fruit, you need to avoid certain types or their parts to prevent possible health issues:
- Citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits since they prevent calcium absorption
- Fruit seeds and pits
- Peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans
Even though vegetables are healthy food, you should consider that your ducklings won’t like certain types. Plus, some veggies can be harmful to their health, including:
- Potatoes and their leaves
- Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants’ leaves
- Eggplant and green tomato
- Iceberg salad that causes diarrhea when given in large quantities
- Spinach that prevents regular calcium absorption
- Raw and dried beans
Finally, you should never offer your ducklings some ingredients that are also unhealthy in the human diet, such as:
- Food with high sugar levels
In the end, I need to mention plants you should pay special attention to, especially if your ducklings are free to walk around. Since these plants contain poisonous substances to all birds, including ducks, you should avoid letting them near areas where they grow. The list includes:
- Buttercup, Lily of the Valley, and Morning Glory
- Bird of Paradise, Clematis, and
- Bleeding Heart, Azalea, and Cardinal Flower
- Hemlock, Larkspur, Milkweed, and Elderberry
- Jerusalem Cherry, Mistletoe, and Holly
- Coriander, Parsley, and Nettles
- English Ivy, Ivy, and Dieffenbachia
- Weeping Yew and Oak
- Some mushroom types
Tips to Feed Your Baby Ducks
As I have already mentioned, raising ducks is similar to raising chickens. Once they hatch, moving them to a wooden or plastic box or crate set with straw is necessary.
While they are still small, commercial starter duck food will meet all their needs, but you can also use starter feed for chickens. It is OK, but never forget to enrich it with B complex vitamins, particularly niacin.
You will lightly achieve this by adding brewer’s yeast. In such a case, it will be enough to add 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of yeast to a bag of 90 pounds (41 kg) of chicken food.
After a few weeks, you can start with different food. Let your baby ducks roam freely and feed on available food from nature or leave food on the ground to let them find it on their own.
Some breeders recommend feeding ducks every four hours, while others practice free feeding with constantly available food whenever their bodies ask for it. If you pick out the second option, it is vital to pay attention to food freshness. Never allow it to stay at a place too long and spoil.
Ducks grow very fast and reach full maturity in just a few months. That is why a proper diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is crucial.
Water is necessary for ducklings for several reasons. They have difficulty digesting, so they mix food with water. Plus, these birds often need to rinse dirt and dust from their beaks to protect themselves from infection.
Remember that baby ducks are different from chickens when it comes to water. While chickens need a shallow container for food and water, duckling’s beaks are longer and wider, so such a container won’t suit them.
The duck food and water bowls should be deep and wide. However, never overdo the water tank depth and always try to set stoppers to prevent the duck from putting its head under the water too much.
Baby ducks are easy to raise. It is advisable to provide adequate food and some water surface, like a natural or small artificial lake, to make them happy. Believe it or not, your ducks can live up to twenty years with proper care, a balanced diet, and necessary nutrients.