Ducks: Special Dietary Needs

Are you a chicken keeper who would like to add some ducks to your flock? Learn about the nutritional needs of ducks.

 

Chickens and ducks have similar dietary needs, with some important differences. Free-ranging ducks may be able to eat a multi-poultry diet, but they will do better on a feed formulated to meet their specific nutritional requirements.    

  • Niacin: Ducks need higher levels of this vitamin than chickens. Too little can result in leg deformities.
  • Protein: Ducks are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. A diet for ducks should be about 18% protein, some of which should come from animal sources.
  • Calcium: Compared to chickens, ducks need less calcium. Too much can be harmful.
  • Balanced diet: Laying ducks need certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Also, an imbalanced diet can cause a condition called angel wing, which causes the flight feathers to twist upwards.
  • Prebiotics and probiotics: These elements are important to the health of both the digestive and immune systems.
  • Quality feed: Ducks are sensitive to mold toxins (mycotoxins) in their feed. To prevent mold growth after purchase, store your feed in a cool, dry location.  
  • Hard, small pellet: Ducks love to dabble, or dip their food in water while eating. Smaller pellets are easier for them to swallow than large pellets. Harder pellets hold together in water, which means less mess in their drinking water!

James Konecny of Royal Oaks Farm and owner of Lake Barrington Feed and Supply near Chicago breeds award-winning waterfowl by following these requirements in his feeding strategy.

For my waterfowl, I choose feeds that include animal protein from manufacturers that take measures to ensure low mycotoxin levels. I highly recommended hard mini-pellets over crumbles or mash; you’ll see less waste and improved digestion.– James Konecney

You can give ducks a multi-purpose poultry feed, but why not choose a feed formulated especially for them? Country Feeds Duck Feed is a complete, wholesome, balanced diet with the following important elements:

  • A guaranteed minimum amount of niacin
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestion and immunity
  • Vitamins and minerals for healthy egg production
  • Small, hard pellets that are perfect for dabbling

Help your ducks live their best lives with their own specially formulated diet: Country Feeds Duck Feed!

Duck Tales – the Adventure Continues. Owning ducks.

The following series will take you on a journey with Nutrena Poultry Expert, Twain Lockhart and his wife as they navigate the ins and outs of owning ducks.

The duck adventure is progressing along, with these guys really growing fast.

At 6 weeks of age, we moved them to their own separate coop, complete with a pond (plastic kiddie pool)!

I cannot stress how much they love the access to water.

It needs to be changed daily, and they make a muddy mess, but it is so entertaining to watch, so we forgive them pretty quickly.

Speaking of entertainment, these guys are vocal! As I say, they talk to my wife and yell at me.

As the temperatures dropped this winter, a few challenges have arose. Obviously the pond had to be removed.

Additionally, we’ve had to provide water access to them throughout the day, as their location doesn’t have running water.

We’ve provided some straw for bedding, to keep them warm and that seems to keep them content.

As much as us humans are anticipating Spring, I’d venture to guess these ducks are counting down the days until they see the return of their pond and sunshine!

Also read: Getting my ducks in a row!

Nutrition For Ducks: Duck Tales – Nutrition Know-How

The following series will take you on a journey with Nutrena Poultry Expert, Twain Lockhart and his wife as they navigate the ins and outs of duck ownership and providing the right nutrition for ducks.  

There’s a wealth of knowledge to gather when thinking about nutrition for your ducks.

One surprise for us right out of the gate, was we noticed these little guys REALLY put the groceries away.

A feed that has worked great for us is Nutrena Nature Wise 18% Non-Medicated Chick Feed, free choice, meaning as much as they want.

We also supplement with vitamins, electrolytes, and brewers yeast for birds. Baby chicken feed does not have quite enough Niacin for ducks as they can have leg issues if not given enough.

This was the reason for the additional supplements. It’s important to note, you do NOT want to use medicated chick feed, as the medication Amprolium is not approved for waterfowl.

Our ducklings will stay on this starter for about 6 weeks, then we will switch them over to a 16-18% Layer Feed.

Most waterfowl breeders recommend not exceeding 18% protein to avoid a condition called angel wing.

Many also like to dilute the feed with some scratch or oats.

Additionally, it’s recommended to continue to supplement with brewers yeast.

As with any birds, water access is important. I was reminded how much ducks love/need to keep the mucous membranes in their nostrils wet at all times, hence the continual mess in and around the water bowl.

This serves as a great reminder to not try to brood baby chicks with ducklings.

Changing out water often and allowing an absorbent surface for the waterers are very helpful tip for new duck owners.

Check back next month for more duck tales adventures as we dive deeper into the winter care for ducks.

Duck Tales – Newbie Confessions

The following series will take you on a journey with Nutrena Poultry Expert, Twain Lockhart and his wife as they navigate the ins and outs of duck ownership.  

Recently, my wife and I were at our local farm store and we heard chirping. Wait, scratch that, quacking.

As we followed the sound, we discovered 2 lonely ducklings left in the brooder. First, let me give you a little background.

I have been presenting poultry seminars for roughly 6 years, about 50-60 per year. When asked how I feel about ducks, I would usually give a colorful answer.

I am NOT a duck guy. Messy does not begin to describe them.

They are tougher than nails but carry all sorts of diseases that will kill my precious chickens, or so I thought. So, when my wife says, “Oh honey, we need to take them home!” My answer was an immediate “NO! Never!” So as it goes in marriage, we compromised, and I found myself driving home these little ducklings.

To my wife’s credit, she researched brooding ducks extensively. The first step was to put a doggie pad down under a thin layer of shavings. This helped a lot.

In her research, we also discovered ducks need for their mucous membranes to be wet for them to eat. Although it still just looks like they are playing in the water.

My wife bestowed them the names Steve and Bob, as I knew we had 2 drakes (males). They go through feed like crazy, so be prepared. Also, as a side note, do not use medicated chick feed on waterfowl.

Additionally, we discovered that they need more Niacin then baby chickens, so we gave them vitamins and electrolytes that contained Niacin.

Eventually, my wife bought some specialized Brewers Yeast online to mix in their feed for little expense. She cleaned the brooder every day, and while it was being cleaned, Bob and Steve went for a swim in the sink.

Initially we had the water shallow enough they could stand up. After the swim, we bleached the sink out for biosecurity purposes.

I have to say, they are tons of fun and they are starting to grow on me, though I wouldn’t admit it. They have grown like crazy, and at 4 weeks we moved them outside.

Check back next month for more duck tales adventures as we dive deeper into the nutritional needs of ducks.