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I have spent the last 20 years keeping, breeding, and showing chickens, ducks, geese, and quail. Over that time I have raised hundreds of ducklings, hatching them from eggs and raising them to adult birds.
If you are new to raising a brood of ducklings, you will no doubt have dozens of questions about your new ducklings. One question which will surely be close to the top of the list is ‘How much food do ducklings need each day?’.
In this article, I will share with you everything I have learned about feeding ducklings.
The amount of feed needed by ducklings increases as the ducklings become older. A 1-week-old duckling will need around 1/2 pound of feed per week. A 4-week-old duckling will require around 2 1/2 pounds whereas an 8-week-old duckling will need about 4 pounds of suitable duckling feed per week.
How Much Food Do Ducklings Need?
It can be tricky to decide exactly how much food you should feed your ducklings. Anyone who has kept ducks before will tell you ducks are greedy birds that will gorge themselves if allowed to.
However, when it comes to feeding ducklings, it is generally accepted that they should have free access to food at all times. In other words, the feeder remains in their brooder, day and night.
If your ducklings have access to feed all day long, and you have more than one duckling, it can be incredibly tricky to know how much an individual duckling is eating.
The good news is, that you don’t really need to monitor your duckling’s daily intake individually, you just need to keep an eye on your little flock and make sure one bird isn’t skinnier than all the others.
Below I have built a table that gives a guide to the amount of food an individual duckling should be consuming weekly. I have also added a column to show how much feed a group of 6 ducklings will consume each week.
|Age of Ducklings||1 Duckling (weekly)||6 Ducklings (weekly)|
|1 week||0.5lbs (225g)||3lbs (1.36kg)|
|2 weeks||1.6lbs (725g)||9.6lbs (4.35kg)|
|3 weeks||2.5lbs (1.13kg)||15lbs (6.8kg)|
|4 weeks||2.75lbs (1.245kg)||16.5lbs (7.485kg)|
|5 weeks||3.25lbs (1.475kg)||19.5lbs (8.845kg)|
|6 weeks||3.5lbs (1.585kg)||21lbs (9.925kg)|
|7 weeks||3.85lbs (1.75kg)||23.1lbs (10.5kg)|
|8 weeks||4.25lbs (1.925kg)||25.5lbs (11.56kg)|
Clearly, the table above only provides a very rough guide. Different breeds of duck will consume slightly different quantities of feed, depending on the size of the ducklings at any given age.
What is the best feed for Ducklings?
Over the years I have written extensively about what ducklings should be fed. Getting their diet right is essential. Failing to provide ducklings with the right food can lead to your ducklings dying at a young age.
I feed all my ducklings a balanced, dedicated duckling food like Manna Pro Duck Starter which I usually just order from Amazon.com (check the price on Amazon).
Manna Pro Duck Starter food has the correct levels of protein (22%) and niacin (35MG/LB), both of which are essential to a duckling’s healthy growth.
For the first 2 or 3 weeks of a duckling’s life, they need a feed that is high in protein (although it is actually the amino acids in the protein they need, but that’s for another article).
Ducklings also need fairly high quantities of niacin in their diet. If a duckling’s diet lacks niacin, they end up with weak legs and joints and may be unable to support their own weight.
After 2 or 3 weeks it is advisable to change your duckling’s feed to a grower food rather than a starter food, otherwise, they will consume too much protein, which can lead to outward-pointing or drooping wings (sometimes referred to as Angel Wing)
How Should Ducklings Be Fed?
As mentioned above, ducklings should have access to both food and drinking water at all times, day and night.
Although adult ducks can not be trusted with the luxury of endless food on tap, ducklings do not tend to overfeed themselves in the same way.
As long as my ducklings are in a brooder, their feeder never runs out of food. In fact, I only remove it once or twice a week to give the feeder a thorough wash in a mild bleach solution, just to kill off any bacteria.
Ducks can and will foul their food, so cleaning the feeder on a regular basis is essential.
I typically favor a feeder with holes large enough that the ducklings can stick their bills in, but not large enough that the ducklings can get into their feed (like they might with an open bowl).
If ducklings can sit in their bowl of feed, they will!
As your ducklings grow, make sure they can still get their bills into the feeding holes.
Some duck breeders use large, bulk feeders that they perhaps only need to refill once a month. If you are using a bulk feeder, don’t forget to check on a regular basis that the food is still flowing freely. Sometimes, especially in slightly damp conditions, the feed can clump together and stops free-flowing down to where the ducklings can reach it.
What About Drinking Water?
Duck food is essentially either dry powder or dry pellets. Either way, it is essential your ducklings have free access to drinking water at all times.
Not only do ducklings need to drink, and moisten their food as they eat, but they also need to keep the membrane inside their nostrils moist at all times.
If your ducklings run out of water, they can become stressed and unwell very quickly.
Much like with the feeder, you should make sure your ducklings can not get into their drinking water, because the moment they do, they will foul it.
When it comes to raising ducklings, drinking water and swimming water should be considered two totally different things. Ducklings should have access to clean drinking water 24 hours a day, whereas ducklings’ access to swimming water should be limited and adjusted depending on the age of the ducklings.
Exactly how much a duckling should eat will vary not only by the duckling’s age but also by its breed. Large, heavy breeds will naturally eat more than small, bantam ducks.
The table included in this article will help provide a very rough guide to the amount of feed an individual duckling, or a small group of ducklings is likely to consume.
However, in my experience, it is best not to get too hung up on exactly how much feed an individual duck is eating, providing no members of the flock are getting skinny or being denied food by another duck.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Do Ducks Need Grit?’.
- Studies in Duck Nutrition sciencedirect.com
- Systematic analysis of feeding behaviors and their effects on feed efficiency in Pekin ducks ncbi.nlm.nih.gov