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Once you have a small flock of ducks in your life, you will never want to be without one. I have been keeping, breeding, and showing ducks for over 20 years, and during that time I have fallen in love with these feathered little characters.
Ducks are greedy birds that will eat all day long. There are many articles on the internet discussing what ducks should eat and how much they should be fed.
One question I am frequently asked however is ‘Do ducks need grit?’. In this article, I will address that question and give you all the information you need.
Yes, ducks do need some grit to help them break down and digest their food. Ducks do not have teeth to chew their food, and so they evolved a small organ that sits between their mouths and stomachs called a gizzard. The gizzard’s job is to grind the duck’s food before it reaches the stomach. The gizzard uses grit and small stones to grind up the food.
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Do Ducks Need Grit?
Ducks do need grit. Grit forms an essential part of a duck’s digestive system.
When ducks eat, they do not have teeth to chew and grind up their food. Instead, they have evolved a method of digestion that takes advantage of small stones and bits of grit.
After a duck takes a mouth full of food, the food passes down the duck’s throat and into its crop, where it is stored temporarily.
From the crop, the food is passed into the duck’s gizzard where strong muscles move the food around, rubbing it against stones and pieces of grit that break down the food making it easier for the duck to digest.
From the gizzard, the food passes into the stomach where the nutrients are extracted before the duck passes the waste in the form of duck poop.
Scientists believe birds evolved the crop and gizzard rather than teeth like mammals did as a way of reducing the length of time birds need to remain stationary when feeding.
Ducks are vulnerable to predators whilst feeding, so rather than waste time chewing their food, they can eat, fly off to safety, and they use their gizzard to break down their food. The gizzard essentially replaces the duck’s need for teeth.
Grit forms an essential part of a duck’s digestive system.
How much grit do ducks need?
Each duck only needs a small amount of grit. If your ducks have access to an outdoor area of dirt, that need will be even lower as they will naturally pick up stones and small pieces of grit as they forage for weeds and bugs.
In my experience, the best way to get grit into a duck’s system is to add a small quantity to the duck’s food.
Rather than put a small amount of grit into the feeder each time I feed my ducks, I will typically add about 1/2lb (225g) of grit to each 25lb (11.5kg) sack of food when I tip the food into my storage bins.
Alternatively, you can throw a few handfuls of grit around your duck’s enclosure, allowing them to pick it up as and when they need it.
What Sort Of Grit Do Ducks Need?
I have found the best grit to use is non-soluble crushed granite. It needs to be in small enough pieces that the ducks are happy to swallow it.
Over the years I have tried many different sorts of grit. These days I mainly use Manna Pro Poultry Grit which comes in 5lbs bags from Amazon.com
Whatever type of grit you decide to use, make sure it has been developed especially for poultry. I am not a rock expert, but there may be grits on the market that would not the suitable for ducks, chickens, and quail.
What Else Do Ducks Need with their food?
If there is one other thing I would add to a duck’s diet it would be crushed oyster shell.
Crushed oyster shells are one of the easiest ways to get extra calcium into your duck’s diet.
Producing eggs places a high calcium demand on ducks, and although a good-quality balanced diet will supply the majority of that calcium, adding a little extra helps prevent thin-shelled eggs that are easier broken.
Crushed oyster shells are typically available at any good animal feed store, and even at some pet stores.
Much like grit, I typically add a small number of oyster shells to the duck’s food when I tip it into the feed storage bins. Otherwise, it can be spread around the duck’s enclosure along with the grit.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Ducks have evolved over many thousands of years to use grit as part of their digestive system. Grit has become an essential part of their everyday lives.
Although free-range ducks may have access to sufficient grit while they forage for weeds and bugs, in my experience it is still advisable to add a little to their diet, just to be sure.
Grit can be added either directly to the duck’s feed, or spread around their enclosure for them to naturally pick up as they forage for food.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out one I wrote recently titled ‘Why are my ducks laying soft-shelled eggs?’