Country living, DIY, & a Dash of Fun!

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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  1. Pat

    Aww…so glad sweet Daisy recovered well after all your thoughtful care!

    I was an RN for many years and performed many tube feedings for humans

    • Tee

      Thank you for your sweet comments. My animals are like my children and I will to do whatever I can to save them. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and hard to do this stuff, but it is worth it in the end. Thank you for all the care you have given others. A nurse is a special kind of person.

  2. Daisy is so sweet!! Thanks so much for stopping by and for offering suggestions on how to help with my plantar fascitis…It is getting better as I am doing similar exercises prescribed by my Physical therapist, who feels that it could have been caused by nerve manipulation form the knee replacement surgery…..

  3. I have never had to do this…thank goodness! I don’t have ducks anymore, just chickens. But I found it very interesting and am sure that this post will be very helpful for duck owners. I found your post on the Homestead Hop and would love to have you share it on Farm Fresh Tuesdays!
    Hope to see you there!

    • Tee

      Thank you for your kind comments! I just shared it on Farm Fresh Tuesday!

      • Thanks so much for sharing your talent with us, Tee! Congrats on the feature!

        Our new hop is open for business and I hope you’ll stop by and share more of your wonderful posts this week!

  4. Christine Jewell

    Thank you for your tutorial on how to tube feed! I’ve had to attend to a sick duck. I have the proper syringe but unsure where to get the tube at. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Tee

      Hi Christine!
      I actually found my tube at a medical store in town by googling it. Hope that helps!

  5. Janice Persons

    How often and how much should I feed my duck when using the tube feeding method for a sick duck who won’t eat

    • Tee

      Hi Janice,
      For an average weight duck (about 6-7 lbs) you should tube feed about 30 mls per each meal, 2-3 times a day.

  6. Amy

    Hi Tiffany,
    Thank you for sharing this information and am so glad you were able to save your sweet Daisy. We very recently lost two beloved ducks to what may have been botulism and as we weren’t prepared ended up losing them. I thought I was such a careful and doting duck ‘mom’ but somehow failed to be informed about this and am devastated. However, we now have two young ducks, approx 5 & 8 weeks and am wondering what size tubing and syringes you’d recommend for this age and in each stage until they reach adulthood? Also, did you administer activated charcoal to Daisy and if so how much and how often?

    • Tee

      Hi Amy!
      I completely understand the feeling when you lose a feathered baby…and you feel absolutely helpless when they get sick and you don’t know what to do. A size 8 french catheter would work best for a duckling, and I would use a 12ml-sized syringe. If your duckling is dehydrated (which they probably are if they haven’t eaten in a while), feed them warm Pedialyte for the first two feedings or until they poop. You’ll have to weigh them (I use a kitchen scale) and feed at a ratio of 14ml per pound. Wait 1 to 1-1/2 hours and then repeat. If they don’t poop after 3 hours from the first feeding, repeat once more. After they poop, you can switch to a baby bird formula such as Kaytee Exact baby bird food.
      You can increase their food a little more each feeding but don’t feed more than 23 ml per pound of body weight. Feed 2-4 times daily. You can gradually switch to larger french catheters as your duckling grows (the sizes range from size 8 for ducklings, all the way up to 18 to 30 for adult ducks). I hope that helps!

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