Feeding your Backyard Ducks

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Before I brought my first ducks home, I was doing some research on the best food to feed them.   My local feed store carries several kinds of chicken feed and a “mixed flock” feed, but nothing specifically for water fowl.   Way more people keep chickens than they do ducks, so chicken feed is generally much easier to find.

I had tried the mixed flock feed once before with my chickens and was pretty unhappy with it.  It was marketed for being good for chickens, ducks, geese & turkeys from babies to adult.  Sounds like the perfect solution right?  I didn’t think so, at least not that brand.  When my layer chickens were on the mixed flock feed there was a noticeable drop in egg production, and it is the only time we ever have seen the strange “no shell eggs”.

This leads me to believe in an effort to provide nutrition for different age ranges and species it is shortchanging birds in some areas (or maybe it was just a bad brand, in either case it made me leary of trying it again).  When we added ducks to our flock, I knew I didn’t want to go back to the mixed flock feed.  But in the absence of water fowl feed, what should we do?  To save space and effort is it ok to just feed your ducks chicken layer feed?

Early Duckling Stage (0-2 weeks)

Even if you can find adult water fowl feed, it is even harder to find water fowl starter feed, so many people feed their ducklings chick starter.  Ducklings grow much faster than chicks. To facilitate this fast growth, you want to be sure you are providing your ducklings with enough protein.  Try to find a high protein chick starter (20-22% would be ideal) for those first two weeks if you can. High protein feed can be hard to find.  At the very least, aim for one with 18%.

Because ducklings eat so much more than chicks, you want to find a non medicated chick starter.  Ducklings will eat too much and can over medicate themselves.  Chick feed is medicated to prevent coccidiosis, which is common among chickens, but pretty rare in ducks so the medication is unnecessary anyway.

The other consideration with feeding ducklings chick starter is the niacin levels.  Ducklings require 2-3 times the amount of niacin that chicks need, deficiencies can lead to bowed legs and joint issues.  An easy source of niacin is powdered brewer’s yeast.  Add 1.5 tablespoons of brewers yeast to every cup of chick feed. Click here to read more about ducklings & niacin  

Always provide plenty of fresh water with the feed to help the ducklings digest their food, and hold off on additional treats at this time.

What to feed your backyard ducks

Later Duckling Stage (3-20 weeks)

Ducks grow fast. How fast?  A typical Mallard duck at birth weighs 35 grams.  By their one week birthday it will be about 100 grams and by the time they are two weeks old they will be about 250 grams. That is seven times bigger in just two weeks – imagine if your 7 pound newborn human baby grew to 50 pounds in just two weeks!  Believe it or not at 3 weeks, your ducklings will kick their growth into even higher speed!

To avoid a protein overload, you can switch to a lower protein chick grower feed (16-18% protein, still non medicated).  Grower feed tends to be easier to find than the high protein starter feed, but if you can’t find a lower protein feed, you can “dilute” your starter feed with rolled oats.  Mix in rolled oats, to replace up to 20% of your duckling’s feed.  Too much protein can cause a wing deformity known as Angel Wing.  It causes the wing to stick out instead of laying flat against the body.

Continue to supplement your duckling’s niacin intake with brewer’s yeast until about 20 weeks, and of course continue providing plenty of fresh water.

As long as your ducklings have access to grit (sand or dirt) you can start to introduce treats to their diet.  Don’t go overboard, they should still be getting the majority of their nutrition from their feed.

Some good treats to try with later stage ducklings include scrambled eggs, yogurt or cottage cheese, earthworms or mealworms, soft mashed fruits like bananas, peaches or unsweetened applesauce, lettuce & herbs. Try tearing up romaine lettuce or fresh herbs and floating them in their water dish, they will go crazy for it!  Greens (lettuce, herbs, grass, weeds, etc) can be fed in unrestricted amounts, but you should try to limit other treats to less than 10% of their diet.

Feeding your Ducks

Adult Ducks (21 weeks+)

At this point, your duck is full grown and will be getting ready to lay her first egg.  You want to switch over to regular chicken layer feed (or water fowl layer feed if you can find it). You won’t need to supplement with the brewer’s yeast anymore.

Quality layer feed should have at least 16% protein and added calcium to help form strong eggshells.  If all your ducks are older and no longer laying, or if you are keeping drakes only, you can use a maintenance diet lower in protein (about 14%) and calcium if you want.  It won’t hurt drakes & senior hens to eat layer feed, but maintenance feed will help them keep a healthy weight.

Feed should be offered free choice throughout the day along with access to plenty of fresh, clean water.  An adult duck can drink up to a half gallon of water every day, so make sure you are checking the water levels often.  The feed bowl should be emptied and cleaned every day. Because ducks like to moisten their feed the food bowl often ends up with water in it.  Wet food can get moldy, and you don’t want your ducks to eat moldy food.  If you have chickens, you will notice the list of treats ducks enjoy is pretty similar.  Click here to read about treats to try with your duck.  The following healthy treats can be offered free choice along with their feed:

*crushed oyster shells (great source of calcium for laying ducks)
*lettuce/greens (opt for darker greens like kale or romaine – but do not feed them spinach as this can effect their calcium absorption causing issues with laying and egg binding)
*herbs – toss some in their water or pool and watch them fish them out.  Pretty much any fresh herb will be appreciated but some to try include oregano, parsley, basil, mint, sage, dill and marjoram
*weeds – only if your yard has not been treated with any chemicals please!  Some favorites include dandelions (flowers & leaves), clover & chickweed

Feeding your Duck

Other treats ducks love (limit to 10% of diet):

*bugs – fresh or dried, they seem to especially love slugs but also love earthworms, grubs, meal worms & crickets
*live fish – for a special treat get some guppies or minnows and add them to the duck pool!
*cooked rice – white is ok, brown is much better
*cooked pasta – again white is ok, but whole wheat is better
*cooked oatmeal – great in winter, unflavored & unsalted
*scrambled eggs
*plain yogurt
*most fruit & berries – remember ducks have no teeth, so cut up or mashed is easier.   Some favorites include watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, pears, peaches, banana.  Avoid citrus fruits as it has too much acid for a duck’s digestive system
*vegetables – most are fine, but some favorites include peas, corn, cucumber & tomatoes.  Avoid potatoes unless they are cooked

A few words about ducks & bread……

Feeding your Duck

I don’t know about you, but as a kid one of my favorite things to do was to go to the park to feed the ducks some stale bread.  There is now a movement to educate people on the dangers of doing just that.  Is this the fun police swooping in to ruin people’s good times?  Not really.  Is a piece of bread going to kill a duck?  No.  But is it the best thing for them to be eating?  Definitely not, especially for wild ducks.

Bread and other similar products like crackers, chips, & cereal are loaded with carbs and fat .  Bread has very little in the way of the vitamins & minerals that a duck needs to be healthy.  Bread is like junk food for them.  It is tasty and fills them up, making them less likely to eat the food they need.  Feeding your ducks too much bread will cause excessive weight gain and malnutrition from eating too many treats and too little feed pellets.  Because it is so tasty, they tend to gobble it up very quickly which can lead to an impacted crop.

For your backyard ducks, if you want to indulge them infrequently with a bit of bread, ripped into tiny pieces it is not the end of the world.  For wild ducks it is really not a good idea because you don’t know how many other families have given them bread that day.  Weight gain can be especially deadly for wild ducks, not just for health reasons, but because a fat duck may not be able to escape predators quick enough.

If you or your children love feeding wild ducks you could purchase some duck feed and keep it in a gallon size freezer bag in your car, a bag of dried meal worms (you can usually find these where birdseed is sold or at feed stores), or bring along a head of romaine lettuce rather than slices of bread 🙂

What do you feed your ducks?  What is their favorite treats?

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  1. Great post! I get so annoyed with feed store clerks who tell people to feed chick starter to their ducklings, and don’t even know what niacin is, much less that ducklings need it.

    Thank you for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop.

  2. Thank you! A very informative post.

    I was wondering if it is worth (from a monetary perspective) to mix up the feed for older ducks with a grain or cracked corn?

    Also, and a real newbe question, do you mix the grit or oyster shells with the food or is this given separately?

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks Barbara! Older ducks that aren’t laying anymore don’t need all the nutrition of a layer feed so to save money, you definitely could mix in some cheaper grains or corn. Grit and oyster shells are usually given separately, so they can take it as needed 🙂

  3. Olivia says:

    My ducks are about 12 weeks old, free-range in the backyard most of the day and are on Mazuri waterfowl starter. But they seem to be craving mealworms/other yard bugs, even holding out for them and not eating their feed at times. Every time I try to go outside, they run towards me screeching like they’re starving. Any ideas?

    1. Mazuri’s is a nice quality, high protein feed so I wouldn’t worry about them seeking out the treats because of a nutritional deficiency – bugs are just tastier than than feed lol. Every time I step out my back door I have an entourage following me around hoping for treats, I think it’s pretty normal. As long as you have plenty of feed & water out at all times, you might want to cut back on the extra treats for a few weeks so they stop expecting them

      1. Jessica says:

        Hi Liz, could you give me some duck advice?

        I have a mated pair that I recently rescued. I have no idea how old they are, other than they are full grown. She isn’t laying any eggs but they are mating occasionally. I currently make their feed with a recipe I found online but they don’t eat much of it. I don’t know if it is because I also give them a bowl of lettuce at the same time, or if they simply don’t like what I give them. Like you said above, the are probably just eating the food they want (the lettuce and meal worm that’s includedin the feed) and being picky ducks but I worry that they don’t eat enough. Would you recommend Mazuri’s as an alternative? I know drakes don’t need the oystershell that they female does so should I separate the bowls?

        1. Mazuri’s is a great feed, but it can be hard to find. We feed our ducks regular chicken layer feed. I would recommend the crumble kind vs the pellet kind, it will be easier for the ducks to eat. Layer feed will give them pretty much all the nutrition they need, so maybe for the next couple weeks only offer the feed so they will get in the habit of eating that, then you can reintroduce treats. You don’t need to mix the oyster shells in the feed, just offer them in a separate bowl. The drake will likely just ignore them. With the days getting shorter, egg production does slow down. The change of home could also stress her enough to stop laying temporarily. Where you don’t know the age of the ducks, that can make it harder too. If they are 4 or 5 years old, I wouldn’t expect her to laying daily still. The other possibility is that, if the ducks are allowed to free range in the yard, they are hiding their nest. You can try watching them to see where they go and maybe they will surprise you with a stash.

          1. Jessica says:

            Thank you! I’ve only had them for about a month so this has been a learning curve. I appreciate the help!

    2. mustang66 says:

      thats alright ducks like mealyworms, it won’t hurt them my baby dusks eat them about 3 times a week for treats not a meal.

  4. I have a duck that has been living at my house for about 6 months. She is little and stays on my front porch for most of her life. A nest but never any eggs. She only leaves twice a day (sometimes once). Sometimes she is so hungry she will come right up to me. I try not to feed her unless she is acting like she is straving. I have three dogs and I am so afraid she will get attacked. Why would she stay at our home? We live in a community where having a duck is not allowed but she won’t leave.

    1. That is really strange. Does she seem injured? Her behavior sounds like she could be broody (she wants to hatch eggs) but maybe for some reason can’t lay them or a predator is stealing them. It would be unusual for a bird in the wild to be broody for more than a month though. I wish I had some more insight for you!

  5. Great point about the niacin! I’ve read about supplementing with niacin for ducklings before but I wasn’t sure why until now 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Natalie Kirkwood says:

    What sort of duck is that in the very first photo at the top with the writing on it?

    1. Hi Natalie, that is a female Mallard

  7. Hi! Love all the information about the ducks. I already have chicken and this year I got ducks they won’t be 20 weeks till August . I just feed them chicken feed and I put out oysters shells once in a while. (And treats here and there!) Should that be fine because I notice on you blog that you recommend Brewer yeast! Should I start giving that to them? Or will they be find without it? Thanks Misty

    1. Niacin is important in a growing duckling’s diet and brewer’s yeast is an easy and digestible source of it. Chicks don’t need as much niacin so standard chick feed won’t have enough in it. Ducks grow really really fast and the extra niacin helps their leg muscles keep up. I have a hard time finding it in stores, so I order it on Amazon and sprinkle about a tablespoon in their feed 2-3 times a week. The oyster shells are for added calcium, and they won’t really need that until they get closer to egg laying age

  8. My ducks are now 6 weeks old and we are transitioning to the outside all day and night. My questions is how much feed to give them? Just alway keep it full or only so much a day. Right now they pretty much eat as much as they want and when.

    Also it’s getting cooler this week in low 50’s at night? Is this ok for them since they have been indoors at night?

    1. Hi Amy, I like to try to keep the bowl pretty full during the day. You will want to take it in at night (or at least just leave a little in there) so you don’t attract rodents. As long as they have each other to snuggle with and a place to escape the cold & wind they should be fine with weather in the 50s

  9. Joan Erickson says:

    FYI Amazon carries a non GMO duck food. It’s expensive but if you only have a couple ducks as pets it’s a good food.

    1. Thanks Joan – that is great to know!

  10. Janet says:

    I’m a new duck mom (a week as of today) and found this site very informative.I appreciate all the time that you have put into it. My fluff babies were a surprise gift, so I had no prep time.

    1. Thank you Janet – good luck with your babies! 🙂

    2. Montana Jim says:


  11. Lily T. says:

    I’ve found a duckling starter crumble with niacin by Manna Pro, but it doesn’t say how much. Should I still think about supplementing with brewer’s yeast? Could I end up giving them too much niacin? Thanks!

    1. That is great! Manna Pro is a well respected name in the feed business so I am sure they are adding an appropriate amount. I wouldn’t worry about supplementing them with extra!

    2. Kellie Zimmer says:

      A male mallard has taken residence in our pond and takes shelter under the dock. I have begun feeding him cheep dry cat food. I read its good because it contains a lot of grain. How much should I feed and how often.

      1. Anytime you are feeding wild animals you don’t want to feed them too often. You don’t want them to become dependent on humans. So I would limit this to treats only – tossing out a few handfuls when he comes around

  12. Victoria says:

    I got Purina’s mixed flock feed 20% today at Tractor Supply cuz that’s what they suggested, and it was also what they were feeding their baby ducks and chicks for sale. So, what ur telling me is that I need to be mixing brewer’s yeast with this, and then at 3-20 weeks gradually add rolled oats till I get up to a 25%oats/75%feed mixture? And then if they turn out to be female, start also giving crushed oyster shell; or if they’re drakes, find a 14% feed for them? What if I have both? How do I keep the drakes from eating the higher protein food, or vice versa? Sorry for all the questions. I have a rescue baby goose, and we thought he needed friends. I’m still wondering if we have lost our minds lol.

    1. Hi Victoria – congrats on your new babies! You will definitely want to add brewer’s yeast for the ducks as the mixed flock feed won’t have enough niacin for them. As far as the rolled oats, with mixed flock feed it isn’t entirely necessary. The rolled oats are more if you are feeding a high protein chick starter – the difference between a 18% protein and 20% mixed flock feed isn’t really enough to bother making yourself crazy mixing in rolled oats lol. And as far as the drakes go, the low protein & calcium diet is fine for maintenance because they don’t NEED the higher protein & calcium because they aren’t laying. But they will be fine with the regular layer feed, I mostly mention it just in case people have non layers exclusively. I have adult female & male chickens & adult female & male ducks all eating the same chicken layer crumbles. I put out oyster shells, or sometimes just crushed up chicken egg shells, for the birds to eat free choice (just a little bowl bolted to the side of the coop is fine). The boys leave the shells alone, I don’t think I have ever seen any of them eating them. It’s a lot to take in when it’s new, but you’ll get it!

  13. Dorian says:

    We have 3 12-week old Peking ducks. They started out in our house, then moved to the garage, then the fenced in orchard, and then finally our pond (had to wait until we built their floating dock with house).
    Anyway, I have 1 question and 1 issue….

    Question: if ducks have a whole 1/2 acre pond, do I still need to give them water?

    Issue: the ducks don’t like the water… they won’t go in. They hang out in the muddy beach-like area and forage there and in the tall grass.

    Any help with either we’d certainly appreciate it!!

    1. Hi Dorian, as long as the water is clean I wouldn’t bother giving them water in bowl as well. The only reason to still give them a bowl of water would be if you lock them up at night and they have feed in the house. If they have feed, they need to have water with it. Domestic ducks actually prefer to spend a lot of time on land vs wild ducks that prefer to spend more of their time in the water. I am not surprised they spend a lot of time wading about and foraging in the grass. I am sure as they get bigger, braver, and more used to their environment they will LOVE having a huge pond to explore though! You can try tossing out treats that float (like cheerios) to try and entice them to exploring

      1. Eileen goerl says:

        Any idea why my bluish/white ducks would suddenly die? They don’t get water with there night food could that be a reason

        1. Ducks do need to have water with their food. Two things could happen if they don’t have water, they could choke on the dry food, or they could eat way too much and then suffer from bloat (which could in theory kill them). So it’s possible that this is the cause. If you don’t want the mess of water in the coop at night, I always suggest you take away the nighttime food as well.

    2. Shelley Woodrood says:

      Please beware of snapping turtles they will kill ducks.

  14. Joseph says:

    I have a solo Muscovy that hangs around our house. He usually comes in the morning, or in the early evening. Once in a blue moon he may hunker down and spend the night, then leave at dawn. We thought nothing of it and let him be.

    But it has almost been year now and he still drops by. We love him, he’s great, so we wanted to accommodate him a little. We started feeding him something from our local feed store. It’s straight millet and he does enjoy it with a deep bowl of water near by.

    But we now have a pigeon population that also loves the millet! I tried Mazuri instead and the duck won’t give it a second look. He doesn’t seem too interested in flock starter or dried corn either.

    Is there a bag of food I can buy online? Something I can leave in a bowl for him by his water instead of millet?

    I can’t get rid of the pigeons without scaring the other critters in our yard, so I rather just feed the ducks something the pigeons won’t like.

    Thank you!

    1. well Mazuri duck feed was going to be my first suggestion. Mann Pro also makes a duck feed (and you can get it on Amazon). I feed my ducks chicken layer crumbles. Most feed comes in crumbles and pellets and neither my chickens or ducks will touch the pellets. So maybe your guy just didn’t like the consistency of the Mazuri? I don’t generally have a problem with other birds trying to steal the feed, but the squirrels & mice definitely like it.

      Unfortunately pigeons are scavengers pretty happy to eat anything so stopping them is tricky. Maybe try switching up the bowl? They are pricey but maybe you could teach him to use a treadle feeder (like this: https://amzn.to/2Koy0Gb ) I’ve also seen feeder set ups where people have cut a hole in a plastic bin the birds have to put their head into to get the food – where the duck’s neck is so much longer than a pigeons that could work if he would trust it (something like this: https://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/ )

      1. Hi Liz!

        Thanks for sharing the No-waste feeder link. This is a great DIY project. Happy Chickening.

        1. Thanks for the great plans – an awesome way to conserve feed!

      2. Joe says:

        Thank you! I tried different grains and such, and the Muscovy won’t go near any of them. On to chicken layer crumbles! I’lm willing to try anything and that sounds like a great suggestion. Having no knowledge whatsoever, I would never have thought of using “chicken” layer crumbles for a duck. Thank you. We’ll see!

  15. Since we have mixed flock of chickens and ducks we give our ducks flock raiser. The laying fowl get some extra calcium when I give them eggshells which I dry and grind myself after hard boiling some of the eggs for the week. They seem to do pretty well on flock raiser. Layer feed works pretty well too though… Thanks for all the great info!

  16. I have ordered our first chicks and ducklings to add to our hobby farm. We will be housing them together and wanted to keep them in the same brooder when they arrive so they will be used to each other (they will all be born on the same day). You are saying the ducks need the extra niacin. If I add it to the food bowl, the chicks will eat it as well. Do I need to keep it separate?

    1. Hi Amy! I have brooded chicks and ducklings in the same box and it goes fairly well. My biggest advice is to have a really big box. The chicks don’t like to be wet and the ducklings want water everywhere so it’s a constant battle. The food situation is easier, what you will do is instead of brewer’s yeast, use liquid niacin so you can give it just to the ducklings with a dropper – you can read more about it here – https://thecapecoop.com/ducklings-niacin/ You might also enjoy this article I have about raising ducks & chickens in the same space https://thecapecoop.com/raising-chickens-ducks-together/ Good luck!

  17. Kerry says:

    Hi Liz!

    I just purchased 3 ducklings they are about 3 weeks old and I’m wondering if I need to feed them grit? They are only eating chick starter, nothing else.

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Kerry, you don’t need to provide grit until they start eating things other than chick starter. Chick starter is formulated to dissolve without grit. Once you start giving treats or greens they will need some grit to help break it down

  18. Kerry says:

    Hi Liz,

    I am planning on doing a raised herb garden in my duck coop, could you recommend what herbs would be most beneficial for ducks? And the ones they seem to like most? this garden will be for them only, so Is free range fresh herbs good for them in any amount? It will only be a 4×5 garden. Can I use organic garden soil too?

    Thank you,


    1. That is great, they will love that! The things my ducks seem to like most when they get in the garden are my lettuce & salad blend greens, comfrey, and mint. Nearly all herbs would be welcome additions for them though. You can check out my post on herbs for chickens, ducks like pretty much all the same things 🙂 https://thecapecoop.com/top-six-herbs-grow-chickens/ and you might also like to check out this one https://thecapecoop.com/gardening-for-your-pets-livestock/

      1. Kerry says:

        Great thanks! I also was wondering about some moss I found in my yard, it’s around my apple trees, I was thinking of filling it around my herbs in the garden until I get some good growth. Would it be safe to use the moss growing in my yard?

        Thanks again!

        1. That should be fine as long as the moss hasn’t been treated with any chemicals

  19. Hi what brand of brewers yeast for new born ducklings? When I clicked the link up top it brings me to amazon with the season brand but it’s going to take to long to deliver so I went to swansons web site and I’m confused by the niacin levels. The one on amazon says 83% niacin but the same one at swansons site says it 104% niacin. Just don’t want to over due it. Any help would be great I’m a first timer!

    1. I usually use Solgar brand, but any brand will do. Niacin isn’t a vitamin they can store in their bodies so any excess will be excreted

      1. Thank so much! One other question because I know these tractor stores are wrong. There saying I can go right to layer food after 9 weeks on crumble but I’ve read crumbles only for about three weeks then a lower protein food without a lot of calcium and layer food around 6 months. So I found a food called All flock crumbles 16% protein by a company called Mana Pro. Do you know if that’s any good to use till they can go on layer food? Sorry for all the questions I just feel like these stores just sell them and don’t know what they are talking about. They are only 3 days old.

        1. Yes, Mana Pro is a good trusted brand. Some people use starter crumbles with a high protein for the first month, then switch to a grower crumble with less protein. But they also make all purpose “chick feed” which is usually 16-18% so it sort of split the difference. Either route is really fine. Then when they are of laying are traditionally you switch to a layer crumble (or pellet) which adds calcium for quality egg shells. They don’t need calcium when they are too young to lay and excess calcium in their diet can actually harm them. I’ve found that “all flock” feeds can be great when you have a mix of adult layers and babies as long as you still provide some calcium for the layers. If you have just ducklings right now it’s fine to use, but i would suggest you switch to a layer when they are old enough. I’ve noticed when I feed “all flock” my layers start to have thin shelled eggs because there isn’t enough calcium

          1. Yes my crumbles now are 20% protein so keep them on that till about 4 weeks then switch to the MannaPro that’s only 16% and then switch to layer around 6 months old is that correct? The all flock stuff I was just going to do for that 16% till it was time for layer food. Also I’ve noticed that even though they are only three day’s old they are moving from the light instead of being under it like they were should I raise it up some? I know they say to do that weekly or if they are avoiding it that it may be to hot for them. The light is at one end and they keep sitting at other end near food and water.

          2. Yes your feed schedule looks great! And I always think it’s best to listen to the birds with the temperature. Especially if the temps in your house are warmer you might find they need the light less. If they are cold they will start peeping loudly at you. So you can probably start to move your light up a bit if they are avoiding it

  20. Janet says:

    Just a quick comment on duck treats… My boys Love veggies. Their favorites are peas, lettuce and especially green beans. One thing they don’t like though is cooked carrots, no matter how finely chopped.

  21. Bryan says:

    I have 2 ducklings that are 10 days old. I’m feeding them Purina duck feed pellets. I grind the pellets to about the size of the crumbles. Is that Ok? The Purina duck feed also says it has 25 mg/lb, is that enough?
    Also should I be giving them a vitamins/electrolytes, if so, what do you recommend? Thank you!

    1. Bryan says:

      25 mg/lb of niacin.

    2. Purina duck feed is meant to be an “all flock” general feed, so it has elevated protein & niacin for ducklings, but is also safe for adult ducks to eat. If you plan to continue feeding them this once they are full grown & laying eggs I would suggest you add a calcium supplement (crushed oyster shells or egg shells are great for this). This feed is meant to be complete so for the duckling stage you won’t need to supplement anything 🙂 Keep an eye on their leg strength, as long as everyone is walking ok they are all getting enough of the feed to have sufficient niacin

  22. Kerry says:

    When I need to move the ducks to the layer feed do I get the layer feed crumbles or pellets? They sell both kinds at 16 percent protein.
    Thank you,

    1. That is really a personal preference. I like the crumbles better because I think they are easier for them to eat, but they definitely are more wasteful because the tiny crumbles get scattered on the ground

  23. Kerry says:

    Great thanks! Just wanted to make sure they both offered the same thing.

  24. Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! This is so helpful, since I am a new duckling owner! We have three ducklings and are far away from a grocery store. They are about 3 and 1/2 weeks old so we wanted to begin diluting the food but do not have oats at this time! Will rice work for a couple days before we get oats?

    1. Yes, rice will work until you can get oats 🙂

      1. Great. Thank you so much!

  25. Hi my ducklings will be 3 weeks old next week if I start to give them treats you said to offer them grit also. Just wondering do I do chick grit or regular poultry grit ? I’m guessing chick grit is smaller and do I leave it with them all the time or just when I offer a treat? Oh and do I switch to crushed oyster shell instead of grit once they are over 20 weeks? Thank you so much love this site !

    1. Thanks Bobbie! I would go with chick grit as they are still tiny, you are right it is smaller. If you have space in the brooder to leave it all the time that is great – they will instinctually grab some when they feel the need for digestive help. But they are also likely to step in it and toss it about and make a mess lol. So if you want to offer it during treat time and for maybe an hour afterwards that would be fine. They will still need grit when they are older, so oyster shells won’t really replace it. If they are outside as adults though they will be able to find sand or small pebbles on their own (my ducks & chickens free range and I don’t buy anything special for grit, but I use sand in my run). The crushed oyster shells are to supplement their calcium once they are laying eggs.

  26. Hi Liz do you know if Kalmbach Feeds All Natural 16% Flock Maintainer is any good? It’s a crumble I was using the Mann pro but it only comes in 8 pound bags which stinks. The other comes in a 50 pound bag. I moved them down to 16% since they are going to be 5 weeks but they have gone through almost one 8 pound bag in a week so is just not enough.

    1. It’s not a brand I have used before but I looked it up and it looks good! For their age, 16-18% protein is perfect. Make sure you continue to supplement them with niacin as that feed doesn’t have enough for growing ducklings. They really do eat a crazy amount!

      1. Yes thank you I’m still using the solgar brewers yeast in there food until 20 weeks like I’ve read in your other posts !

  27. Erin says:

    Hi Liz, we are first time duck owners and despite my best intentions, I feel like I am totally screwing this up. We have 4 ducklings about 5.5 weeks old. We were feeding them the Purina Flock Raiser – no brewer’s yeast, which I now realize was super important. All 4 of them have developed Angel Wing. I started mixing in rolled oats and tried to find a lower protein feed (15-16%). The only thing I could find was the Manna Pro Layer Pellets, but now I realize they are too young for that. Help! What should I be feeding them and what should I do about the Angel Wing? Thank you so much – you are so attentive to all of us that need your help.

    1. Don’t beat yourself up! There is a lot to learn as a new duck mom! ? Purina Flock Raiser is a multi flock feed and the problem with that is they are trying to make it easy for bird owners to feed different stages and different types of birds. It can leave some with too much of one thing and others with too little. It has 20% protein which is too high for 5 week ducklings. The feed I use for ducklings is Nature Wise Starter Grower Crumble (unmediated). It has 18% protein, so on the higher side, but acceptable. Sometimes you have to go with what is available to you. Go to your local feed store or Tractor Supply and see what they have for starter or grower crumbles, look for something with 16-18% protein. If you can find a feed specific to ducklings that is perfect, you won’t have to add anything. But duckling feed is harder to find than chick feed. The one I buy is meant for chicks so I have to add the brewers yeast to get them enough niacin. Definitely do not give them the layer pellets, you can save that bag for when they are adults. The high calcium will be bad for their kidneys. The good news is angel wing is reversible when caught early. So as soon as possible get them on a lower protein feed and supplement with brewers yeast if it’s chick feed. Really it’s only been a few weeks with too much protein so I would expect they will be able to recover or at the very worst just have a few minor wing issues as adults.

  28. Erin says:

    Thank you, Liz. I really appreciate it.

  29. Kim says:

    We have 4 mallard ducks in the backyard that hang out close to the house instead of venturing out to the pond where we assumed they would prefer to be. Their age guesstimate is 12 weeks. They were raised in the house and am now wondering if they view this as their home. When can we expect them to feed at the pond? And will they eventually fly away? Thank you

    1. They will eventually explore the pond once they get brave enough to venture in. When ducks are raised by their mom they are swimming right from the beginning so it is normal behavior. When they are raised in a house they are going to be leary of the new environment. But they will definitely check it out at some point, realize how amazing it is and want to be out there all the time. Are these mallards you rescued from the wild and are releasing back or did you purchase them from a hatchery? If the goal is to release them back into the wild, it would be good to start backing off the feed you are providing for them. If you keep feeding them they are going to keep accepting the feed because it’s easy. Mallards can fly (unlike domesticated duck breeds) and their instincts will tell them to fly south for the winter so it is highly likely they will fly off when the weather gets cold. The good news is they have amazing memories and the females like to return to the place they were raised the next year when it’s time to raise their own ducklings so hopefully you will see them again in spring.

      1. Kim says:

        Yes my daughter purchased them. I feel bad about backing off on feeding them so want to do it the right way. How much should I still feed them? Do
        I continue with fresh water as well ? I have moved their feeding area closer to the pond to ease them into life away from the house. Thank you

        1. If these are purchased Mallards and you intend to keep them as pets, you will want to continue to feed & water them as normal. They will free range and supplement their diet in the pond but they would still be getting the majority of their feed from you. Be sure to offer them a safe place to sleep at night away from predators. Before I let birds out to free range, I give them a smaller fenced in area to explore. They can go out and explore during the day and at night they learn to come back to their coop where I can shut them inside to keep them safe. After a couple weeks, they know this is home and they should come back all on their own each night at dusk and they can be allowed to free range. I don’t have a ton of experience with Mallards, and my duck don’t have the ability to fly, so I am not sure if you are treating them as pets by feeding them & providing shelter if they will still fly off in the winter. I know that you can trim their flight feathers (watch some videos first to learn the proper way to do it) and that will keep them from being able to fly off. If you do not intend on keeping them as pets, you should really stop feeding them though. Animals that depend on humans for food & shelter are notoriously bad at surviving on their own. I would hate for them to fly off this winter without skills to survive on their own. You could contact your local wildlife rescue about tips for integrating these guys back into the wild if that is your plan.

          1. Melissa says:

            We have a small backyard flock of 5 Khaki Champbells.They were hatched out by a momma duck and we got them at 1 week old. As they got older, we offered them a 2″ tall plastic tub (it was meant to go under a washing machine) to splash around in. Then, we decided to get them a larger sized kiddie pool. They were terrified of it! We had to slowly acclimate them to the silly thing. We finally put it in their enclosed pen they sleep in. They would not go in their pen and we had to catch them. Instead of letting them free range in our backyard, we left them in their pen with the wading pool. They finally got used to it and then, of course, loved it!

            Liz, I’m curious on how your mallard ducks did with instinct with water. And did you keep them as pets or did they fly away this fall?

          2. Hi Melissa, I haven’t rescued any Mallards myself, I was just discussing it with someone that had. All of the ducks I have owned have been domestic breeds. Perhaps the original poster will return to answer. Ducks can be suspicious of change, but as you found with their new swimming tub, eventually they get over it!

  30. Linda Collins says:

    Liz, I have my first duckling and they are fun! But the last
    two days i have noticed dark pink streaks around their wings and along their necks. What do i need to do?? they are about 4 weeks old, eat duck starter food, give niacin and a few fruits/veggies and meal worms. i admit i am kind of worried. thank you.

    1. hmmm I am not sure what that could be. If you would like to email me a photo at info@thecapecoop.com it might be easier if I could see it. Without seeing it, I would guess that it is just part of them losing their baby fluff and growing feathers. They can look pretty awkward and strange for awhile!

      1. LIINDA says:

        Thank you, i will send a photo as soon as i get out of work tonight.

  31. claudia j weiss says:

    I put out bird seed for the wild ducks on our lake once/ day in the summer while we’re here.
    I’m concerned whether I should gradually lessen the daily feedings so that they do not become dependent on the seed since we leave in the autumn.
    I’ve decreased the feeding to once every other day and wonder if I should continue to decrease?
    We live in the northeast so the ducks will be migrating in the winter I assume.

    1. Yes if you are in the northeast, they will be bulking up for their journey and flying south before too much longer. I would start decreasing it to just a couple times a week or even just once a week, because before too much longer they will need to find their own food.

  32. Pamela Cox says:

    HELP! I live in the suburbs and my neighbors bought 3 ducklings this spring that they are no longer caring for. As far as I can tell they are letting the ducks graze the backyard for food and not providing them any kind of feed. When it started to get hot i would fill up their childrens wading pull with fresh water and occassionally provide them some fruits and vegetables (which my neighbor said they are ok with). Now that there are no longer any grass or weeds for the ducks to eat, its progressing to where I provide them celery and mealworms daily. I do not know and/or get along w my neighbors well enough that I can go in their yard and set up bowls etc for the ducks nor do I want to take on this responsibility. Any suggestions for what food i can throw over the fence once daily so I dont have to watch them starve to death? From what I’m reading it sounds like pellets on the ground is not a good idea. Is celery enough? If so how much? (Calling the humane society is not a realistic option for me because the ducks look healthy and I also dont want to start a war.) PLEASE HELP!

    1. Are you sure they aren’t feeding them? It might just be in an area that you can’t see. I keep my duck & chicken feed bowls inside the barn (which is open for them to go in and out all day), but to someone just looking in the yard it might look like they are being left to their own devices with foraging. Ducks have big appetites and love fresh veggies and fruit and especially mealworms so if you are feeding them treats they are always going to gobble them all up like they are starving to death. The problem with tossing feed pellets or crumbles on the ground is that if the ducks don’t find it or don’t eat it all, you are going to be attracting rodents, and that is not something either you or your neighbor want. Ducks are pretty good at foraging, but unless they have a really large yard and you live in a fairly mild climate, I am not sure how they can be expecting the ducks to find enough food to survive the winter. Romaine lettuce is a good choice, they love it and it’s certainly cheaper than mealworms. But again, if they don’t eat it, your neighbors might not appreciate piles of rotting vegetables and fruit being tossed over the fence. Hopefully it’s just a case of the ducks realizing you are the nice treat neighbor so they come to visit you, but I think you probably need to have a conversation with your neighbors about them. Maybe start off by telling them you can’t believe how big they are getting and ask what they are feeding them – sort of a nice, non accusing conversation starter about feeding. If they really are not feeding them, your only options are going to be to feed them yourself (and they really do need more than veggies, they need a good well rounded chicken or duck feed if foraging is limited), look the other way, or call the humane society.

      1. Pamela Cox says:

        Thanks. I am about 95% sure they are not feeding them and the yard is tiny tiny. I will try and catch my neighbors outside sometime and ask. I bought some chicken scratch for the wild ducks at the park. If I give the backyard ducks that is that considered healthy food or again just another treat? Also I read they can have dog food so I gave them a small amount of high quality, high protein stuff today and they gobbled it up! No matter what I give them, how much and how often everything that touches the ground gets eaten within 5 minutes…. also what is considered ‘fresh’ water? I try and change out the sandbox water every day but is that overkill? The less I have to do the better. I dont want to sound lazy but if I wanted to take care of more animals than I already have I’d have gotten a bunch of cute duckies myself!! (Last concern is they bought 2 boys and a girl which i read is not a good thing?? Ugh! I’m praying they will give them up to rescue soon!)

        1. No you aren’t sounding lazy – these aren’t even your ducks! They can be a lot of work and you didn’t sign up for any of this, it’s very nice of you to be so concerned for them! Chicken scratch is mostly corn and grains so would be considered a treat and is ok for occasional feeding but not something they should be eating a lot of. If you wanted to buy something, chicken layer feed is ideally what they should be eating for the majority of their diet. I dump my duck’s pool everyday, but I have a dozen of them and they get it pretty dirty pretty quick lol. With just a few ducks twice a week is probably enough. It’s very hard to keep duck pools crystal clear, they always bring dirt and sand in with them, plus all the poop. If you’ve got algae growing around the edges that is a sign it’s not getting dumped often enough, and obviously if it’s smelly it should be dumped more often. They probably bought the ducks straight run (they don’t tell you what sex the duck is), and if they now have 2 boys and 1 girl that is going to be rough for that one girl come spring time when their first mating season begins. Unfortunately a lot of people jump into buying ducklings in the spring when they are tiny and cute but don’t really do enough research on how to care for them long term – properly cared for they can live 8-10 years so it can be quite a commitment!

          1. Amy says:

            I wanted to share something as we’ve just learned a very hard lesson and am hoping to spare others. We just lost both of our funny, sweet Muscovy girls to botulism which, after 2.5 years of ‘duck parenting’, only now have just become aware of ,unfortunately too late. We live in a very hot, humid climate and had just experienced a period of particularly heavy rains, all making for fertile botulism breeding grounds. Those cute pictures of ducks playing in puddles can actually be a dangerous source of botulism. Standing water, consumed rotting vegetation, maggots (from carrrion) and spoiled food can all be sources of this often fatal disease. We aren’t sure what exactly the source of the botulism was in our case as we had several factors possibly occurring at once but ducks are messy. As careful as We thought we were with food and water if we had known about botulism we would have greatly separated the food and water bowls and checked/changed even more often.

          2. That is so sad Amy, I am sorry that happened to your ducks. Thank you for sharing your experiences

  33. Lucy cole says:

    Hi I’ve got 3 ducks, 1 girl and 2 boys, I know you aren’t meant to keep 2 boys with 1 girl as they end up fighting but we originally thought it was 3 girls, and I don’t feel like I can get rid of any. I’m going to wait and see how they behave, they are only 2 1/2 months old so far (17 weeks), and they all get along fine at the moment. I may consider getting more girl ducks later down the line. Do you think this is okay?

    Another question which I’ve really struggled to fine any answer to online without it being more specific to chickens, is what is the best type of feeder for a duck? At the moment they have one of my dogs bowls for water and a casserole dish for food, but I want to get them proper feeders/bowls.

    1. I think unfortunately once mating season rolls around you will have a problem – but all ducks are different so fingers crossed your trio will continue to live happily together. You might find my article on living with drakes helpful – https://thecapecoop.com/keeping-drakes-in-your-duck-flock/

      Proper feed & water bowls are ones that they can stick their entire head into, so what you are using now actually is fine. Ducks have wide bills that have a hard time fitting into traditional poultry feeders, so I have found they have the easiest time with open bowls. My ducks & chickens live together and we have a rather large flock, so I have a large hanging traditional poultry feeder & an open rubber livestock feed bowl. While the chickens will eat from both of them, I never see the ducks eating from the poultry feeder, only from the open bowl. Their water is also in an open livestock bowl. Ducks need to be able to dunk their entire heads in water to clear their sinuses. They also like to be able to have a mouth full of feed and then gulp down water with it. It helps them to digest the feed

  34. Toby says:

    I don’t raise ducks but 4 years ago when we moved into our house a mama and ducklings paraded around my front yard and I never saw them again. Don’t know how she got them to water as they were small. Each year now we get the same female (I know her by a black dot on her leg) and a drake. First couple of years it seemed like the same drake as he didn’t run away. Well in the spring they do the family and friends plan. One year we would have 17 and today we had 12. Six pair. My female and a male still come and she runs to me. I keep water out in low dog bowls as I feed birds and squirrels too. I buy my duck food at Wild Birds Unlimited. Some fly off or run away but I toss food out and they come. The one female though comes six inches from me. I think they go to the golf course across the way or the park up the road .. they also go into the neighbors pool which I’m sure doesn’t make him too happy. Is it ok to feed these guys? In summer they like to lay in the back for hours. We have an acre yard and it’s quite expanse for them to land so they have a good clearance unlike the other yards on my street. One hit my glass rail a couple years ago I had to take her to the animal ER and wildlife took her but she had to be euthanized. The other ducks didn’t come back at all the rest of that year.

    1. awwww fun! they are obviously quite happy there or they wouldn’t all keep coming back. Females tend to return to the same general area that they were raised in so I’m sure that one female is the same one, and the others are likely her daughters from different seasons and their mates. Some duck breeds do keep the same mate year after year, but most of them find a new mate each season. Just like any wild birds it is ok to feed them, you just don’t want them to become too dependent on your food. Enjoy your ducky family!

  35. Nate says:

    I have four ducklings, four weeks old. One of the four seems to have some problems. He keeps his head down, neck bent all the time (wry neck I believe?). He also seems to have a hard time walking and/or running. He doesn’t go very far before he plops down on the ground again. From 0-2 weeks I fed my ducklings a duckling starter that has high levels of niacin and 22% protein (specifically made fore ducklings). From 3 weeks on I have been feeding them a duck feed which also includes niacin and is 18% protein (again specifically made for ducks). Is my duckling’s ailments possibly a nutrient deficiency? Should I add brewer̵