Feeding Basics

What should you feed your ducks? This is an important decision and a highly debatable topic where there are many options. First, here is an overview of the main types of food for ducks.

COMMERCIAL FEED

Commercial feed is a perfectly computed mix of grains, chemicals, minerals, and vitamins. They are processed and not fresh at all. There are various mixes such as layer feed, chick starter, grower feed, and broiler finisher. The variety you can choose from depends on where you live and how much agriculture there is in your area. In most areas, you will not find specialized duck feed, only chicken feeds. Ducks need more niacin in their diet than chickens, so if chicken feed is a major part of their diet, you will have to add extra niacin. If it’s not a major part, they may get enough niacin from foraging or whatever else they’re eating.

GRAINS

Grains are a healthier choice than commercial feed. However, alone, they don’t have all the nutrition ducks need, especially protein. Laying ducks need a diet with approximately 17% protein, and most grains have far less than this. The only way you could feed your ducks nothing but grain would be if they find most of their food through free-ranging. Grain choices include corn, wheat, oats, sorghum, barley, spelt, rye, triticale, buckwheat, amaranth, and more.




VEGETABLES AND FRUITS

If you have a garden, this can be an excellent supplement to your ducks’ diet! (It cannot make up the entire diet, however.) Do you have some wilted cabbage or lettuce? Overripe tomatoes and bananas? Cucumber peels? Watermelon rinds? Give it to your ducks! (Just don’t feed them anything moldy or rotten.) You can even give them access to your whole compost pile. They will look through for yummy bits and pieces every day. Also, some leftovers are okay to feed your flock, such as salad or rice and veggies.

MEAT

Ducks are omnivores. They need some meat! Often, while foraging freely, ducks will gobble up slugs, worms, snails, even lizards and small frogs. I’ve heard of one Muscovy that ate gopher babies. Many duck and chicken owners will raise or buy mealworms and feed them to their flock. Some owners also raise earthworms for their flock.

FORAGE

The easiest and cheapest food of all: just let your ducks forage! They will scout through the grass for bugs, worms, grass seeds, leaves, and anything else they can find that’s edible. They just need a large, grassy pen. If it is too small, they will eat everything and soon have a miserable, muddy pen. It must be large enough that they don’t wear it out. Another option is to have two or more smaller pens. When one pen is looking shabby, just switch them to the other pen so the first can have a chance to recuperate.

You might wonder…

“Isn’t commercial feed the best because it has vitamins and minerals? Wouldn’t the ducks have mineral deficiencies if they are only eating forage and grain?”

Look at it this way: Do wild ducks and birds have mineral deficiencies just because they don’t eat processed, man-made pellets?

No, of course not! The best answers often come from looking at nature. And in nature, birds get all their minerals and vitamins simply from the sunshine and plants. There’s no need for man’s formulated concoctions.

Now, if your birds are locked in a dark barn all day, then, they will need the commercial feed. They can’t balance their diet themselves by choosing the right plants and bugs, so we have to do it for them. But isn’t it much easier and cheaper – and healthier – to let them do it themselves?

So here are your feeding options:

  1. Feed your ducks 100% commercial feed.
  2. Feed your ducks commercial feed, and supplement with other grains, forage, and veggies.
  3. Feed a mixture of commercial feed, grains, forage, and veggies.
  4. Feed only grains, forage, and veggies.
  5. Let the ducks find ALL their own food (not always feasible).
  6. Any mix of those.

Which route should you take?

First, answer these questions:

  1. Do you want to raise your ducks as healthily and naturally as possible?
  2. Do you want to reduce feed costs as much as possible?
  3. Do you have a garden?
  4. How much space do you have for your ducks?

If you answered 1, 2, and 3 as “YES!”, and you have a large amount of space, you should definitely opt for natural feeding! Give them a large yard with plenty of foraging space, feed them bits from your garden, offer some raw grains, and if that’s not enough, add some commercial feed. Your ducks will be happy, healthy, and cheap to feed!

If you don’t want to raise your ducks as naturally as you can, don’t mind high feed costs, don’t have a garden, and don’t have much space, too bad for your ducks. Please try to give them some fresh foods, but otherwise they will be entitled to eat boring commercial feed all their life.

Now that you’ve read the basics and have hopefully made some decisions about feeding your flock, move to one of these pages: (sorry, not available, but coming soon!)