If there is a number one, most important thing to raising healthy ducklings, it is getting the food and water right. If you have never raised ducklings before you may be wondering what to feed them. A duck that is started with a healthy diet early in life will be a healthier adult duck later on. It will provide more and better quality eggs and will have a longer more productive life.
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When I was just a girl, my brother Jim told me this riddle/poem. Little did he know he was starting me on my road to a life long love of ducks. I went out to my duck pen this morning and looking at my 4 week old ducklings reminded me of this.
On that silly note… Now on to what to feed ducklings.
ALWAYS provide clean water with food. Ducks of all ages have trouble swallowing dry food and need to wash it down with water. They also need to wash out their bills frequently. A duck can choke without an adequate water source they can stick their whole bill into. It’s also a good idea for the first week or two to feed “mash” to your ducklings. That is nothing more than putting water onto the ducklings crumble. Doing this takes it from “grape nuts” to “oatmeal” and is much easier for your ducklings to eat. They are less likely to choke on the mash. You will, however need to replace their food a couple of times a day as it does tend to sour when it is wet.
If you can find waterfowl crumble, you are lucky indeed. It is your best option, but it’s just not available many places. However, chick crumble can be made to be satisfactory for your ducklings with a few additions and one caution.
You will want to feed your ducklings Chick Crumble not adult chicken feed. Ducklings need extra protein for the first 2 to 4 weeks. After that you can start mixing in 1 part oatmeal to 3 parts chick feed or just switch them over to starter grower crumble. Ducklings need the extra protein (20% compared to 15% for the adult). However you will find that this does not fulfill everything a duckling needs. A duckling needs 2 or 3 times the niacin that a chick needs to grow strong bones and joints. If a duckling does not get the added niacin it requires it can get bowed legs, joint disorders and have a shortened lifespan. But all you need to do is add brewer’s yeast to your ducklings feed. A good ratio is 2-3 cups of brewers yeast to 10 Lbs of feed. Thomas labs makes a brewers yeast that is in powdered form with garlic in it. Garlic is good for their immune systems so that is a win win. A little added vitamin & electrolyte powder mixed in is a good idea too. If you need it quickly and can’t wait to have the powdered brewers yeast shipped, you can usually find it in pill form at the local feed store or in some pharmacy’s. But you will then have to use your mortar and pestle to grind it up yourself.
CAUTION! When you choose the chick crumble MAKE SURE IT IS NOT MEDICATED!
Chickens often get a disease called coccidiosis. Many chick feeds contain medication in the feed to prevent this. Ducklings eat more than chicks and can overdose on this medication. Also ducks seldom get the disease so they don’t need to be treated for it.
No you shouldn’t. Layer feed contains much too high a calcium content. If they are eating nothing but layer feed the amount of calcium could be toxic to ducklings. They can be switched to layer crumble when they lay their first egg. But don’t worry. If the ducklings are in with the adult ducks and they swipe a few mouthfuls it won’t hurt them, but make sure they have their own food and know that is what they are to eat. If you keep the mother and babies separate for the first couple of weeks, they will get the idea.
A duck doesn’t have teeth. It swallows what ever it can get down it’s throat and the organ called a gizzard is what grinds it up. So everything a duck eats needs to be cut up fairly small. The gizzard, a very strong muscle uses very small stones to grind up the food so it can be digested. In the wild the ducks can forage for small stones. If they are confined we need to supply them with grit. Ducklings need especially small grit for the first few weeks.
You can start introducing them to greens right away. Chop them up fine and float them in their water bowl or give them a little dish of veggies and fruit on the side. Kind of like a side salad.
Ducks can have an unlimited supply of greens. Kale, romaine lettuce, chard, celery or carrot greens, herbs, cut grass and edible weeds. They can have up to 10% of their diet in other healthy treats such as raw or cooked cucumbers, peas, broccoli, corn, sweet potato (all parts of the plant) whole grains, edible flowers, and fruits such as blueberries, cut up grapes, strawberries (tops and all) and my ducks favorite, watermelon. They will eat a slice of watermelon down to the tough outer rind. Another favorite of theirs is tomatoes. If there isn’t enough to go around, they will chase the lucky one who gets the cherry tomato all over the pen. Ducks of all ages also like earthworms, meal worms, (fresh or dried) or bugs you find in the garden. They even like scrambled eggs. A really fun treat, both for you and the ducks is to put minnows, tadpoles or feeder fish in their pond and watch them dive for them. They will have the pond cleaned out in no time.
Remember the more varied the diet the more healthy your ducklings will be and the sooner you introduce new foods the more likely your ducks are to eat a varied diet as an adult. Sounds a lot like people doesn’t it.
Yes their are a few things that are just not very good for your ducks, and somethings that are toxic.
Just a few of the most common Don’ts: Bread! Your duck can get an impacted crop. No sugary, fatty, or salty foods. Too much weight will cause problems with their delicate legs and they can die from an overdose of salt. Other no no’s are citrus, mango, avocado, white potatoes (all parts) and the seeds or pits from apples, cherries, peaches & apricots. Don’t feed your ducks the leaves of any nightshade plant. Those are tomatoes, eggplant, peppers or white potatoes as these are toxic. (those are toxic to you too by the way) Even though these two are from the same family,garlic is good but onions are toxic.
If you want to know more about plants that are toxic to ducks check out: Toxic Treats – What not to feed your flock.
Check out these books for even more duck raising information:
Now have a happy, healthy ducky day!