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Feeding ducks is slightly different than feeding chickens as their dietary requirements are not quite the same. However, ducks can eat chicken feed, as long as it is un-medicated.
Ducks require nearly twice as much Niacin (vitamin B3) in their diets than chickens do. Without having enough niacin, ducks end up with leg and joint issues and possibly leading to death.
I found feed specifically for ducks hard to find locally. I personally started with chick starter and brewers yeast.
Water + Grit
Ducks need water in order to swallow their food. As a result, If they do not have access to water, while eating, they can choke.
Grit is just as important, once they have started eating any food that is not duck/ chick feed. Grit is just small rocks, course dirt, or sand that they swallow to help aid in digestion. Since they do not chew, ducks use their gizzard to grind up the food before continuing through their digestive system.
Free range ducks do not require grit. They eat it naturally while they are foraging. If your ducks are kept in a pen they will require you to give them a constant supply of grit.
0-3 Weeks Old
Duck starter crumbles (or chicken starter crumbles) with 20% protein.
I’ve heard of successes within a 1-2% range, up or down. However, 20% seems to be the most popular.
If you choose to use chicken starter you need to supplement with Niacin
I have read some people use Niacin pills from a pharmacy and mix that with their food or water. I found it quite confusing on how much to give them.
Ducks also spill lots of water as they drink. So, they may not be ingesting enough of the supplement.
I use Brewer’s Yeast (can also use nutritional yeast flakes). I got it from the farm store. It came in bulk so I buy a big bag at a time, depending on how many ducklings we have.
Mix 1 tbsp. Brewer’s Yeast with 1 cup chick feed. I pour it on top of their food so they ingest as much as possible before it ends up on the bottom.
3-20 Weeks Old
Your ducklings can now move onto Grower Feed with a lower protein. Ours is 17-19% protein chick grower.
Continue with adding the same amount of Niacin.
20 Weeks and Older
They can now be fed layer or breeder food suitable for ducks and chickens with 16% protein.
For drakes and non-laying females you want to give them a maintenance diet with about 14% protein.
If you have a mix of various ages and types of poultry all together you can get All Flock Feed. It covers the nutrients of requirements of layers, broilers, turkeys, geese, ducks and pheasants.
|Protein %||Additional Niacin|
|0-3 weeks||20% Starter||1tbsp/1cup|
|3-20 weeks||18% Growers||1tbsp/1cup|
|20+ weeks – laying ducks||16% Layer or Breeder||N/A|
|20+ weeks – drakes and non-laying females||14% Maintenance diet||N/A|
Broiler ducks (raised for meat) can be fed a feed with 20% protein as they grow rapidly and will have a short lifespan.
There is a bit of controversy over when ducks should switch to a laying feed.
Some people say it shouldn’t be done until they lay their first egg.
Other people say as it should be done by age. However, the age ranges from 16 weeks up to 24 weeks.
I have also heard it be recommended that if you have any males, or ducks that are not laying eggs, they should be given all maintenance feed (or an all flock feed).
In addition to, a bowl of oyster shell offered in a separate dish.
The laying females that need the additional calcium will eat the oyster shell and the males will leave it alone. This way the males and other ducks that don’t need the calcium don’t end up with health issues caused by too much calcium.
It’s one of those things where some people have had success with a certain way and other people have not. For me personally I will be offering a maintenance feed and crushed oyster shell once they lay their first egg.
Snacks to Feed Ducks
Ducks can eat a lot of fresh food when it’s been prepared properly.
Not only does it make eating time a bit more fun for them it adds nutrition to the ducks and their eggs.
According to HGTV, “Treats for your ducks should be limited to no more than 10% of their daily diet, although ‘green’ treats, such as weeds, cut grass, lettuce, chard, etc. can be fed in unlimited amounts.”
Ducks don’t chew their food. They swallow everything whole. So it does need to be offered in sizes small enough for them to swallow whole.
You can also offer them soft foods. They should be able to tear pieces off or squish it with their beak. I like to compare them to babies who are just starting to eat solids.
When in doubt, cut the food smaller.
- Apples – no seeds
- Apricots – no pit
- Asparagus – Cooked
- Beans –cooked or fresh, No raw
- Beets – cooked or grated
- Broccoli – raw or cooked
- Carrots – cooked or grated
- Corn – fresh or defrosted, no need to cook
- Cherries – cut and no pits
- Feeder fish/ minnows
- Fresh Herbs
- Grapes – cut in half, do not feed whole grapes
- Meat or fish – cooked
- Mealworms – dried or live its a number one favourite treat
- Oats – cooked or uncooked. No sugar or flavoured
- Parsnips – cooked or grated
- Pasta – cooked and only small amounts sparingly
- Pear – no seeds
- Peas – fresh or defrosted, no need to cook – has lots of niacin
- Peaches – no pit
- Peppers – only the flesh, no stem or seeds
- Plums – no pit
- Pumpkins – whole thing
- Radish – cooked or grated
- Rice – cooked
- Scrambled eggs
- Shrimp Shells
- Squash – all kinds
- Sweet potatoes – cooked
- Wheat grass
Sprouts are also a great snack for your ducks. They are easy to grow cost effective. They are highly nutritious and ducks love them.
What Not To Feed Ducks
There is a long list of things ducks can eat.
But, there is also a longer list of food that ducks should not eat.
These include but are not limited to:
- Bread – crackers, chips etc.
- Canned Foods – too much sodium
- Carbonated Beverages
- Citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits
- Dried Beans, Noodles, or Rice
- Iceberg Lettuce – no nutritional value, can cause diarrhea
- Nuts and seeds – easy to choke on, only serve ground nuts, best to avoid
- Pepper plant – fruit is okay, avoid giving the core with all the seeds
- White Potatoes – vegetable and the plant
- Processed and sugary foods
- Spinach – interferes with calcium absorption, only in very small amounts or avoid all together
- Tomato plants – only the fruit itself is okay to give, no green tomatoes
It is fine to give ducks our food scraps and bruised/ mushy foods that we do not want to eat. But, they should not be given foods that have spoiled and gone moldy.
Plants That are Not Safe
I have searched the internet and compiled a list of all the plants that I found listed as toxic to ducks, chickens, and other birds.
If ducks have enough edible plants to forage around they will leave the toxic plants alone. They tend to be quite bitter and after one taste the ducks know to stay away from it.
- Angel Wings
- Angel’s Trumpet
- Arrow Grass
- Bearded Tongue
- Bellyache Bush
- Bitter Gourd
- Bitter Root
- Black Bean Tree
- Black Locust
- Bleeding heart
- Blood Root
- Blue-Green Algae
- Bouncing Bet
- California holly
- Cardinal Flower
- Carolina Jasmine
- Castor bean
- Christmas Rose
- Coffee Husk
- Coffee Senna
- Common St John’s Wort
- Corn Cockle
- Crape Ginger
- Creeping Indigo
- Crown Flower
- Curly Dock
- Day Jessamine
- Daphne Berries
- Death camas
- Dog Hobble
- Elephant Ears
- Emerald Feather
- European Spindletree
- False Hellebore
- Flamingo Flower
- Fly Poison
- Giant Hogweed
- Golden Chain Tree
- Green Cestrum
- Ground Cherries
- Hemp Dogbane
- Horse Chestnut
- Hyacinth bulbs
- Imperial Crown
- Indian Mustard
- Jamaican Nettletree
- Japanese Pieris
- Johnson Grass
- Laburnum Seeds
- Lily of the valley
- Meadow Buttercup
- Meadow Saffron
- Morning Glory
- Mountain laurel
- Mountain Pomegranate
- Oak trees
- Oriental Bittersweet
- Paradoxa Grass
- Paterson’s Curse
- Physic Nut
- Potato plants
- Pride of Barbados
- Rangers Button
- Red Buckeye
- Reed Canary Grass
- Rhubarb Leaves
- Rooster Tree
- Rosary Bean
- Rubber vine
- Sabi star
- Sacred Bamboo
- Sago Palm
- Sandbox Tree
- Scarlet Pimpernel
- Sea Mango
- Showy Rattlebox
- Skunk Cabbage
- Spanish Gold
- Spring Parsley
- Star of Bethlehem
- Sudun Grass
- Summer Pheasants eye
- Sweet peas
- Tall Fescue
- Tassel Flower
- Tung Tree
- Virginia Creeper
- Water Arum
- Winter Aconite
- Wormseed Mustard
- Yellow Starthistle
On top of the long list of things ducks are not allowed, it also includes herbicides, pesticides, rodenticides, and some fertilizers. It is important that you do not give your ducks, or allow them access to, any plants that have been treated. If you are trying to get rid of pests and weeds from the garden try a more natural route.