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Nutritional requirements for ducks

Nutritional requirements for ducks

Ducks – the iconic Kiwi companions

Good duck nutrition is the difference between happy, healthy pet ducks and a trip to the vet.

Although duck and chicken feeding guides are very similar, ducks have specific vitamin and mineral needs to grow, produce eggs, and maybe even have their own ducklings. 

Keep reading to learn the importance of nutrition for backyard ducks, the vitamins and minerals ducks need as they grow, what to feed them, what not to feed them, and how to feed ducklings so they get the best start to life on the farm. 


Importance of nutrition for healthy, happy ducks

Ducks make wonderful backyard pets for lifestyle blocks – if you know what to feed them! 

Not only does the right nutrition help them grow, it keeps them happy and active. 

The nutritional requirements of ducks are relatively similar to chickens. They need the right food to grow, lay eggs and reproduce. 

However, ducks have a few key dietary requirements you need to supplement:

  • Calcium – egg laying birds all need calcium for strong egg shells. This can be added as grit or you can choose duck pellets that include it
  • Protein – ducks need plenty of protein in their diet from a high quality source such as meat and bone meal. Ducklings especially need around 18-20% protein in their diet as they grow very quickly in the first three weeks 
  • Niacin – niacin deficiency in ducklings can lead to bow legs and joint issues. Some people add grower’s yeast to their mash to supplement this 
  • Coccidiosis medication– unlike baby chicks, baby ducklings are not prone to coccidiosis so do not need medicated feed. If you use chick feed for your ducklings, make sure it does not contain this or they might over medicate 
  • Water – ducks can’t ever have enough water! Mature ducks will drink around two litres per day on average (and keep an eye on non-waterproof ducklings under four weeks). Water is an essential nutrient and aids feed intake and foraging 


What must your ducks’ diet mainly consist of?

In the wild, ducks forage and will naturally get all their nutritional requirements. However, backyard ducks rely on you for their daily intake.

That’s why the main food for pet ducks is commercially prepared duck pellets. Adult ducks will eat around 170-200 grams of duck feed per day. 

Duck pellets contain high levels of good quality protein, as well as calcium, phosphorus and a balance of carbohydrates and fats. Feeding ducks pellets ensures they get what they need each day, especially if they do not have a large natural habitat to roam.

You may also like to include vitamins for laying ducks. Adding grit to their feed adds calcium for strong egg shells.

Your duck’s diet will also need plenty of water for drinking and playing. 

Ducks love treats and tasty morsels added to their diet (like mealworms, dark leafy greens, herbs), but this should only be about 10% of their total diet. 

There are also some foods that you shouldn’t feed your pet ducks, which we will go through in the next section. 


Foods to avoid feeding ducks

As well as making sure your ducks get plenty of protein and calcium, there are some foods that are not so good for their diet. 

Here are some foods you shouldn’t feed your pet ducks

  • Popcorn
  • Avocado 
  • Raw potato 
  • Spinach (this can affect their calcium uptake) 
  • Bread 
  • Allium plants like onions, garlic 
  • Citrus fruit (lemons, oranges, mandarins) 
  • Chocolate 

There are plenty of other treats you can feed your ducks so avoid things that will make them unwell!


Tips for feeding ducklings

Dietary requirements for baby ducks increase relatively fast in comparison to baby chickens. 

They need plenty of protein, at least 18% in their feed. You can pretty much give them as much access as they want to their mash, as they eat a lot. Duck feed containing meat and bone meal is a good source of protein for your farm birds. 

Mix up duck feed with enough water that it floats and they can fish it out. For added interest, you can chop up grass and duckweed. 

Chicken feed can be fed to adult ducks, but not to ducklings. Chicken layer feed is too high in calcium for baby duck vitamin and mineral intake. . 

Chick feed often contains medication specific to chickens, and ducklings could overmedicate because they eat more than baby chicks would. If you want to use chick feed as a substitute for ducklings, make sure that it doesn’t contain coccidiostats (a common chick medication). 

To help with digestion it is good to make sure ducklings have access to water around half an hour before eating. 

If you leave water available to ducklings to drink, make sure it’s not too high. Ducklings are not waterproof until around four weeks and could drown. You can put large rocks in their water bowls to stop them from tipping it over or drowning. 


Take home message

Caring for ducks means they will grow up happy and healthy in your backyard. They can provide wonderful companionship if you look after them correctly!

To help your ducks get the nutrition they need, try Sharpes Duck Feed. Our Duck Breeder Pellets are a specifically designed ration for ducks.  It is a balanced and complete feed for both meat and laying ducks to enable optimum growth, health, and egg production. Both our duck breeder pellets and duck starter pellets contain meat and bone meal for an excellent source of protein as they grow. 



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