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Backyard ducks are a wonderful addition to your farm if you know what to feed them. In this blog post we’re going through what to feed ducks at every life stage, how much they need, what essential vitamins and minerals they need to avoid nutrition deficiencies, and a few tasty treats your ducks will love you for.
Feeding according to the duck’s age
Ducks have different dietary requirements depending on how old they are. If you are rearing them from birth, their food will change a few times.
Ducklings (Up to three weeks)
Dietary requirements for baby ducks increase relatively fast in comparison to baby chickens. They need plenty of protein, at least 18% in their feed.
Chicken feed can be a good food to feed ducks, but not for ducklings!
That’s because it is sometimes lacking essential nutrients that a duck needs in the first three weeks and usually contains medication specific to chickens. However, if you can’t find duck starter feed, chick starter feed is an appropriate substitute as long as it doesn’t contain coccidiostats (a common chick medication).
Later stage ducklings (Three to 20 weeks)
The duck diet in their “teenage” years still needs a good commercially made duck feed. This is to ensure they are getting all the protein and nutrients they need.
A “grower” feed with at least 15% protein is suitable, and at this age you can use the same feed that you would for pullets (teenage chickens). Nutritional requirements for ducks are still important in this late duckling stage even though they are growing fast.
Adult ducks (More than 20 weeks)
The main focus for feeding adult ducks is to keep them happy, healthy and producing eggs well. You can give them ad-lib (unrestricted) access to food throughout the day.
A duck’s diet is relatively similar to an adult laying chicken, but you need to feed them their own unique diet instead of the same chicken pellets and crumbles.
Food to feed your ducks:
- Pellets – Commercially made duck feed with mixed grains and a good protein source like meat and bone meal (don’t forget that ducks are omnivores!)
- Grit – a calcium supplement helps with egg development
- Water – ducks can drink up to two litres of water per day so make sure there is plenty
- Fruits and vegetables – leafy greens are good, but spinach may affect their calcium absorption
Foods to avoid include things like bread, citrus, chocolate, allium plants like onion and garlic, avocado and popcorn.
How much feed is right for ducks?
The amount of feed depends on how old the ducks are.
For laying ducks, the protein content in their diet is more important than the volume. In comparison, meat birds can increase their feed.
If you’ve raised chickens before, you’ll notice that ducklings eat a lot more than baby chicks. You can pretty much give them free access to their pellet mash, as well as plenty of water.
If you leave out water, make sure it’s not too deep, as ducklings don’t get their waterproof feathers until they’re about four weeks old, and can drown.
For older ducklings (three to 20 weeks), you will need about 115g of feed per duck per day. Ducks over 20 weeks will eat around 170-200 grams per day, and will naturally forage on top of that.
The best meal for your poultry and ducks is one that is high in protein and convenient for you to dish out.
Vitamins and minerals feed requirement for ducks
Although ducks and chickens should eat their own diets, duck nutritional requirements are very similar.
Common nutritional deficiencies in chickens and ducks include
- Weak egg shells – ducks need calcium from grit or included in their duck feed
- Slow growth – ducks grow relatively fast and need plenty of protein. In the first three weeks, they should have feed that is around 18-20% protein, and then 15-16% after that
- Undereating – undereating is a primary sign that your ducks are not getting enough water (as well as social and behavioural issues that you should keep an eye out for). Water is considered an essential nutrient for animals
- Bowed/crooked legs – a niacin deficiency in ducklings can lead to bow legs and joint issues. Some people add grower’s yeast to their mash to supplement this
For baby ducklings, the biggest difference is that they do not need medicated feed like baby chicks as coccidiosis is relatively rare in ducks and they could overmedicate.
A duck diet and nutritional requirements can change throughout the seasons slightly as well.
- Winter- protein requirements drop to about 12-14% for mature ducks
- Egg laying – protein requirements may increase from 16% to around 18%
- Drakes/non-laying – protein is at maintenance levels of around 14%
Common treats that ducks love
As well as a healthy diet of duck pellets, you can give your ducks the occasional treat! These shouldn’t be more than about 10% of their total diet.
Some treats that you can give your pet ducks:
- Dark leafy greens like kale and romaine lettuce (avoid spinach)
- Fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, basil (try sprinkling it in their water pond for them to fish out!)
- Non-treated weeds like clover and dandelion
- Uncooked oats
Bread is often fed to ducks but it is not really recommended for healthy growing ducks. There are plenty of other tasty treats you can give them.
Ducks can make wonderful pets on the farm and following this duck feeding guide will keep them happy, healthy and productive.
Looking for high quality duck feeding pellets? Sharpes knows best! Our duck feed range supports ducklings to drakes with meat and bone meal as an excellent source of protein and calcium, and phosphorus for egg shells.