What Do Ducklings Eat? 13 Foods for Baby Ducks

Written by August Buck
Published: December 18, 2021
Image Credit Matias Gauthier/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Adorable and fuzzy, ducklings eat a slightly different diet than grown ducks. What they eat helps them grow into strong swimmers, capable flyers, and the chatty birds we know and love.

So, what do ducklings eat? Ducklings eat insects, plants, algae, and worms. Wild baby ducks eat differently from pet ducklings as well.

But how much does a duckling need to eat in order to become a fully fledged adult? And what is best to feed your new pet duckling, should you have one? Let’s learn about this adorable bird now.

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Animal Quizzes

Think You Can?

What Does a Duckling Eat?

What do ducklings eat - mom and baby ducks
Baby ducklings eat bugs, algae, plan matter, and birdseed.

shaftinaction/Shutterstock.com

A duckling eats a variety of bugs, including worms and beetles, plant matter, algae, and more. They are considered omnivores and opportunistic eaters, which is why the ducklings in your local park aren’t shy about taking your bread or other bird food!

According to The Wilson Bulletin, the beak structure and overall width of their mouth can affect what a baby duck can eat. Depending on the species, they have the ability to strain food from plants or peck food from the water.

A duckling’s diet changes as the bird ages. Their diets expand and become more omnivorous, depending on the species and the available regional food. Let’s take a look at what a duckling eats on a more in-depth level.

A Complete List of 13 Foods Ducklings Eat

Ducklings have been known to eat the following foods:

  • Worms
  • Bugs
  • Invertebrates
  • Algae
  • Grass
  • Plant matter
  • Small fish
  • Cracked corn
  • Oats
  • Barley 
  • Mixed greens
  • Birdseed
  • Nuts

Ducklings should be fed a diet of mealworms and plant matter at an early age, though grasses tend to make baby ducks bloat. Wild ducks tend to stick to whatever bugs they find, and they will eat food that is fed to them by park visitors or guests.

Bread has been long regarded as a bad thing to feed wild birds. Molding bread can be fatal to baby ducks, and the lack of nutritional value in processed bread can damage a duckling’s ability to grow.

Keep in mind that a duckling’s food source changes as it ages. Even after as little as four weeks, a duckling can shift to eating more bugs or grain meal should you be keeping ducks as pets. 

What do ducklings eat - duckling drinking
By four weeks of age ducklings are eating more bugs and grain meal.

Matias Gauthier/Shutterstock.com

How Much Does a Duckling Eat?

A duckling eats around ¼ pound of food per day. It will depend on the age of the duckling and the food available, as ducklings are keen eaters. They free graze as young birds, and require even more food as they age.

It is important to stick to this amount of food if you are raising ducks from a young age. While ducklings free graze for the first 4-5 weeks of their lives, you should be sure to stick to a certain amount of food once they age a bit more.

A study performed by Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology states that younger ducklings dive for food much less often than older ducklings. This usually leads to an uneven feeding in very young ducklings, and can even put them at risk of predation.

As ducklings age, they begin to behave more like adult ducks- diving for bugs or water invertebrates is less of a problem for them, and therefore they eat in larger quantities. A 0-5 week old duckling is most at risk, between its many predators and its inability to dive for food.

Speaking of predators, let’s take a look at some animals that are a risk to ducklings… There are quite a few.

What Eats Ducklings? Their Main Predators

A Mallard duckling swims next to his mother
Predators like foxes, raccoons, and hawks eat ducklings.

Jody Ann/Shutterstock.com

Ducklings have many predators that will eat them, including cats, foxes, and large fish. The following predators will eat ducklings:

According to Ducks Limited, a duckling is unable to fly until it has reached at least 50 days old, making this period of time the most dangerous for them. Their potential survival rate is anywhere from only 10% all the way up to 70%.

Their survival rate depends on many things, including their location and the size of their brood. However, ducklings are indeed easy prey, especially considering their inability to escape or fly away!

What to Feed Ducklings as a Pet

Baby bird - baby ducks
Ducklings eat birdseed, pellets, mealworms, and fruit.

Santirat Praeknokkaew/Shutterstock.com

You can feed ducklings a variety of things when keeping them as pets:

  • Birdseed
  • Duck pellets
  • Chicken feed
  • Mealworms
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fresh lettuce and mixed greens
  • Cracked corn
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Fresh fruit

Always be sure to only feed your ducklings a certain amount of food per day, and be sure to get rid of any food leftover after a 12 hour period to avoid feeding your duckling contaminated food.

Ducklings love oats, barley, and cracked corn as a treat, though be sure not to feed them too many grains when they are young. There is specific duckling feed that you can buy from pet stores and hardware stores in order to keep them healthy.

Moistening any food that you give a baby duck is a necessary part of the process. Ducklings don’t have teeth or any real way of chewing, and they instinctively prefer to peck and strain food from sources of water.

Speaking of water, having an ample amount of water available to baby ducks is key to their survival. Not only do they require it as swimmers and waterfowl, but they need to be consuming a large amount of water per day in order to survive.

Ducklings are fairly easy to care for as pets, though be sure to avoid placing any pebbles or rocks in their enclosures, as they can easily swallow these and get ill. As they age, ducklings will become easier to care for, and they will eat just about anything you choose to feed them!

Share this post on:

More from A-Z Animals