Nutrition is important for humans and it’s just the same for ducks. So put down that Big Mac and pay attention because happy ducks aren’t raised by luck. Ducks have similar nutritional needs to chickens but require nutrients in slightly different amounts. If you can’t find duck feed chicken feed is generally an acceptable substitute.
First, don’t use mash to feed ducks. It’s hard for them to pickup and it’s very messy. Instead use pellets or crumbles.
Ducks always need water. If you have young ducklings use room temperature water so it does not lower the body temperature of your ducks.We highly recommend adding electrolytes to the water, especially right after you receive your chicks. We love Sav-A-Chik electrolytes which you can buy at Tractor Supply Stores or Amazon.com. You can also add a little sugar to their water for some quick energy: 1/3 cup per 1 gallon of water. Don’t use the traditional Mason jar waterer since ducks will probably knock it over. The gravity waterers ducks will empty fast since they will splash around in it. Use a large, heavier flat pan of water. You want enough water in the pan that the ducklings are able to get their entire beak in the water. Ducks don’t have saliva glands so they need water whenever they are eating. Put the water right beside the feed so they can eat and drink at the same time. Ducks drink a lot of water and should have water available to them 24/7.
If you like to feed your ducks table scraps, make sure to clean up whatever they don’t eat. Wet food can ferment and can grow mold which can be very toxic to ducks. You should never use feed that has been wet for more than a day. If you are going to store feed, make sure it doesn’t contain more than 10-12% moisture.
- 1 Day old – 3 Weeks: DO NOT use medicated chick starter. Regular chick starter feed is fine if you can’t find waterfowl feed. Ducklings eat more feed per ounce of body weight than chicks do so if you use medicated chick feed ducks will get an overdose of medication. Ducks typically don’t struggle from coccidiosis or Marek’s anyway. Protein content should be 19-20% or so. Offer feed all day and all night along with an ample supply of water. Remember, ducks need water whenever they eat.
- 3-9 Weeks: At this point you’ll notice a growth spurt. Switch your ducks to a lower protein starter/grower feed (15-17% protein) to slow down growth. To much protein can cause leg and wing deformities, kidney and liver damage.
- 9-20 Weeks: Ducks will be almost adult weight but will continue to grow slowly during this period so feed your ducks grower feed (15% protein).
- 21 Weeks – Old Age: Switch your ducks to layer feed at this time to prepare them for laying. Layer feed is 15% protein with added calcium. Again, if you can’t find waterfowl feed, use chicken layer complete feed although you should add the following ingredients to make sure ducks get the nutrition they need:
Brewers Yeast: This will give ducks the niacin they need for proper bone growth, especially in their legs.
Oats: Add raw uncooked oats to the feed, gradually increasing to a 25% oat to 75% feed ratio. This will lower the amount of protein your ducks consume which will help prevent a condition known as “Angel Wing.”
These are general guidelines. You’ll always be able to find a grizzled farmer leaning against a weathered farm post who will tell “ya ain’t dat bright, sonny.” Here’s some general rules of the thumb, so to speak:
If you’re raising ducks for meat, or have a breed that is typically raised for meat (such as Pekins), they will require a higher protein content since their muscles develop faster (protein gives them the amino acids they need to produce muscle tissue). If you have a duck that lays a lot of eggs (around 150 or more – Like Khaki Campbells which can lay up to 300) you should use layer feed since it’s formulated to give them the calcium and other things their bodies need to produce eggs. These types of feeds can overlap a little. Read the labels on your feed since it will likely tell you what it’s supposed to be used for.
Hope that helps,
Read more about duck nutrition:
Duck Nutrition – Duck Research Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Raising Ducks: Choosing Breeds, Feed, Housing & More – MotherEarthNews.com