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!

Caring for a Multi-Species Flock of Chickens

Flock expansion can be an exciting endeavor, especially when you are looking to add a new species or two. It can be a fun and challenging task to meet the needs of a multi-species flock of chickens.

Here are a few tips and recommendations to consider if you plan to take your flock to the next level.

There are three main areas of focus before caring for a multi-species flock:

  • Coop Cleanliness
  • Living Space
  • Management Techniques

Coop cleanliness

Providing your multi-species flock with a clean home is of the utmost importance in preventing sickness.

Keep the coop clean and dry, and keep waterers out of the coop area to prevent splashing and playing by waterfowl.

Remember, anytime you bring new poultry in, you must quarantine them before mixing with the rest of the flock.

Not only will the aid in preventing any pre-existing disease they may bring in, but also is safer for the birds until they are acclimated.

Living Space

Larger poultry need more space, so plan accordingly. Factor in a minimum of 4-square-feet per chicken and even more for larger birds. Failing to provide adequate space can lead to boredom and birds will likely begin to peck at one another.

If space is an issue, or the birds are more confined during the winter months, make sure there are plenty of food/toys/distractions to relieve boredom.

Management Techniques

A successful multi-species flock is an environment where there is little stress on the birds. Having a good ratio of male to female poultry will help keep a balance in the coop.

A good rule of thumb for chickens is approximately 7 hens to 1 rooster. For ducks or other waterfowl, a good balance would include 5-6 females to 1 drake.

Remember that waterfowl are different from chickens and other birds in that they like wet conditions. So their bedding should have more absorbency like straw, pine shavings or grass from lawn mowing.

Additionally, ducks don’t like to roost like chickens, so don’t expect to see them on the perches of your coop! They also prefer cooler weather, are more active at night and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to take a dip in a pool or other body of water.

Another multi-species management recommendation would be to keep chickens and turkeys separate. This is to preventing Blackhead disease carried from chickens to turkeys.

Although not extremely common in a small flock setting, it can be fatal to turkeys if contracted.

These considerations and many more should be made before you dive head first into managing a multi-species flock.

If you are up for the challenge, undoubtedly much enjoyment of watching them grow and flourish is in your future!