Tube Feeding Ducks - Updated 5/7/2020


BYC Staff
Project Manager
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 24, 2012
The Golden State
Step 1:
Bring duck inside and place in a warm room, 80-85 degrees is ideal (watch for signs of over-heating).

Step 2:
Weigh the duck

Step 3:
Once warmed, correct hydration and this should not be done until the duck is warmed up. Tube warmed (102 degrees) Pedialyte or Gatorade at 14 ml per pound of body weight, wait 60-90 minutes and repeat. If no poop is produced by 3 hours after first tubing, repeat once more.

Step 4:
Once the duck is pooping you can start tubing warmed Kaytee Exact baby bird food or a non-lay crumble (lay crumble has too much calcium). Start by tubing 14 ml per pound of body weight and increase a little at each feeding. Do not exceed 23 ml per pound of body weight. Sick birds are tube fed 2-4 times a day.

"Tube feeding, also known as gavage feeding, is an essential part of avian supportive care. Sick birds are often presented with a history of anorexia, and glycogen stores may be depleted within hours in the granivore (including psitacine, passerine and galliform species) secondary to a relatively high metabolic rate. Another important indication for gavage feeding is a documented drop in body weight of 5% to 10%."

The duck crop looks like the one on the left:

More tube feeding info here:
Updated - Go team "Tube Feeding!"

Below is a good article that I found on the web:
How to Tube Feed Sick Ducks

How to Tube Feed Sick Ducks
Last week I went out to feed the chickens and ducks like I always do, and noticed that my little Daisy Duck wasn’t around like she always is begging to be fed…

I wandered on over to the chicken coup and there she was struggling, and unable to get up. Her legs were paralyzed and she wasn’t able to stand. Her neck muscles and bill were also very unstable, and she wasn’t able to eat or drink. After some research on the internet, I suspected duck botulism, and began to gather the supplies I needed to get little Daisy well again.

When a duck is sick, they need to stay hydrated with food in their tummies so that their bodies have everything it needs to fight off the infection or sickness. This is where tube feeding comes into play! Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually very simple to tube feed ducks. Tube feeding is much quicker, and in my opinion, less stressful than trying to coax them to eat by hand.

The below pic was taken a day after I started tube feeding Daisy. She had already gained some use in one of her legs, but not the other one yet…which is why she is sitting so crooked in the pic. At this point, Daisy was able to start drinking on her own, but was still unable to eat, so I tube-fed her for about 3 days until she was able to feed herself again.


  1. Straight Tip French Catheter at 16in in length (anywhere from size 18-30 gauge works great for ducks) You can purchase one from any local medical store or you can get one HERE.
  2. 60ml Irrigation Syringe with catheter tip. You can purchase one from any local medical store or you can get one HERE.



Prepping the Food:

You’ll need to make a ground-up formula to feed your duck through the tube. I use what I normally get at the feed store to feed my duck…

You can use pellets…

Or even dried meal worms.

Put a handful of food into a blender, add some water, and grind it up really well into a formula that has the consistency and look of chocolate milk. You don’t want it too lumpy or thick, or else it’ll clog the tube while feeding. (You can refrigerate any leftover formula for later, and then simply warm it up to room temp before feeding).

Getting the Syringe Ready:
To make sure my syringe glides easily, I pull it apart and dip the rubber tip into some cooking oil.

Then I put it back together and suck up some formula. I fed my large Pekin duck (they weigh 8-11lbs) 40ml for each feeding. If you have a smaller duck, you can feed 20-30ml. (You’ll feed your duck this amount 3x daily).

To avoid air bubbles, I first suck up a little more formula than needed…

…turn the syringe right-side up, pushing out any air pockets or bubbles…

…attach the catheter tube to the tip of the syringe….

…and push out the extra formula until you hit the amount that you want to feed (In my case 40ml).

I use a little bit more cooking oil for lubing up the tube, to help it slide down my duck’s throat easier.

Inserting the Tube Safely:
The easiest way to tube feed your duck by yourself is to straddle them.

Gently (but firmly) open their bill. They will probably fight you on this, but that’s OK.

Insert the tube down the right side of your duck’s throat (Their right side, not yours! ) to avoid inserting it down the airway. I insert the tube gently until I feel it stop (about 6 inches). After I insert the tube, I watch their abdomen to make sure they are breathing normal. Also, make sure not to cover their nostrils on the top of their bill, as this is the only way they can breath. If they are not breathing, the tube is down their airway and you must reinsert.

Honestly, I’ve never had trouble with inserting the tube down the wrong pipe, but there’s a first time for everything so I’m still always careful to make sure.

Here’s video I made showing how I tube fed my duck…

As you can see, my little Daisy Duck made a full recovery and is back to her happy (and sassy) little self!

How to Tube Feed Sick Ducks

I do not guarantee the same results by following my tutorial, as what I had with my sweet Daisy since I cannot diagnose your duck’s illness, nor can I perform the treatment for you to ensure all the steps were followed exactly. You will have to proceed at your own risk as I cannot not accept responsibility for anything that might wrong.

That being said, I am glad I did what I could to save her sweet life. She is very much alive and well because I tube fed her nourishment and kept her well hydrated while she was recovering from a very serious illness. I hope this helps someone else in the same situation.

Many hugs,

Tiffany xo
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Hatchi Wan Kenobi
Project Manager
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Mar 27, 2012
My Coop
My Coop
I had a WH drake that I had to tube feed after he got attacked by a predator. The back of his head got torn open and when it scabbed up he lost a lot of mobility and couldn't eat well. The vet I brought him to showed me how to do it.

Since then I've found it very useful for when a bird is feeling so sick they don't want to eat, and you just need to get them through until they're feeling a bit better. It's also very useful for birds with beak deformities that are otherwise healthy but can't eat well on their own.


May 5, 2017
Western North Carolina
My Coop
My Coop
I have to say that learning how to tube feed has been a God send!! I have used it mostly to give meds. They get the full dose of medication without having to worry about them aspirating while trying to get the syringe far enough in their mouth. I can keep them hydrated when the aren't drinking. If they need nourishment and refuse to eat you can supplement them. I've learned a lot about providing medical care for my chickens...and tube feeding is one of the most valuable skills I have learned! Thank you @casportpony as it was your posts on the subject that convinced me that I needed to learn this skill and all of the information you shared prepared me to do it. I've saved two of my girls by using tube feeding. :highfive:

Patrick McKee

Jan 3, 2018
I am going to swing low on my crop holding capacity and opt for more frequent feedings as I want to get a high energy boost with pain and antibiotics for the day.

I dont have any formulas listed for waterfowl so I making my own and creating a list of things I might need. I want her fed in an hour...

I might just do something like ensure...for dogs..or just ensure for people, or baby food...Im looking for alternatives now.

I should do this on the other thread...sorry.

Miss Lydia

~Gift of God ~ Eternal Life ~John 3:16
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Oct 3, 2009
Mountains of Western N.C.
I think that would be fine.
Hopefully @casportpony can help you out more. I ordered the baby bird food from Amazon along with all I need to tube feed, My lil Runner passed away before it all got here even with prime but I am ready if I never need it again.

I wish you the best I have wormed using the small syringe and going down on the left side[duck facing you] so I know it's pretty easy to get that tube in there. You will have help I hope especially for the first 2 times at least. You'll be a pro after that. lol

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