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I have been keeping and breeding ducks for over 20 years, and over that time I have built a real affection for these feathered little characters.
Ducks are some of the greediest animals on the homestead. They can certainly give my pigs a run for their money when it comes to consuming pretty much anything I throw at them.
Many new duck keepers are surprised at just how much food a duck can consume. I frequently get asked the question ‘Why are my ducks always hungry?’.
Ducks are incredibly greedy birds. Many new duck keepers do not realize just how much a duck will eat given the chance. It is important that we as their keepers are aware of how much ducks should eat in a day. They must be fed a balanced diet to suit their needs, not their wants.
Why Are My Ducks Always Hungry?
As mentioned above, ducks are incredibly greedy birds. If they are allowed to they will eat nonstop.
This desire to eat constantly gives the impression they are always hungry. However ducks do not only eat when they are hungry, they also eat because food is there.
Below I have listed 3 reasons your ducks are always hungry, and what you can do about it.
What foods should a duck be fed?
If your ducks always seem to be hungry, make sure you are feeding them proper poultry food. A food that has been designed especially for ducks will deliver them all the goodness they need.
The age of your ducks will determine exactly what you should be feeding them. At each stage of a duck’s life, they require a slightly different diet.
What to feed ducklings?
Ducklings have different nutritional needs than adult ducks. As such, they must be fed a dedicated duckling food.
Ducklings have a high protein requirement. It is often said that ducklings need a food that offers a protein content of between 20% and 25%. We typically feed our ducks Manna Pro Duck Starter Grower food which has a 22% protein content.
Do bear in mind however that too much protein can lead to a condition called Angel Wing, which is when a duck’s wing feathers point outwards.
Ducklings also require food that has the correct level of Niacin (which is sometimes referred to as Vitamin B3). Niacin is essential to help ducklings develop strong legs and joints.
Failing to provide growing ducklings with sufficient Niacin can lead to the duckling’s health deteriorating quickly and even to the death of the duckling.
If you do not have access to a dedicated duckling food, then a food developed for chicken chicks can be used but may require brewer’s yeast to be added to provide sufficient Niacin.
What to feed juvenile ducks?
Once your ducks move on from being ducklings and head toward becoming adult ducks, their food should be swapped for one with a slightly lower protein level. At this stage in a duck’s life, a food with a protein level of around 15% is ideal.
As mentioned above, if ducks receive too much protein, they can suffer from drooping wings (Angel Wings).
What to feed Adult Ducks?
Once your ducks reach adulthood they will need to be fed food that reflects their dietary needs.
On our homestead, we feed a lot of Manna Pro Duck Layer Pellets (which we usually just order from Amazon).
We tend to feed our adult ducks the Manna Pro layer pellets as they have the right protein levels and they help ensure our ducks lay strong eggs.
are Your Ducks being fed the wrong foods?
The problem with being a new duck keeper is knowing what NOT to feed your ducks. Many, many new duck keepers make the mistake of feeding their ducks bread.
Let’s be honest, we all grew up knowing that ducks eat bread. It was a fact right? We all went to the local park and threw bread at the ducks.
The problem is, that ducks should not eat bread. It’s not that ducks CAN’T eat bread, but rather it offers them little in the way of nutrients. If we feed our ducks too much bread, their bellies will fill up but they will still be hungry due to the lack of nutrients that bread provides them.
There are other foods that frequently get fed to ducks that will offer them little in the way of vitamins and minerals.
Lettuce is another food that ducks will readily eat, but won’t do them any good. Eating too much lettuce will give ducks diarrhea.
Another green that is not good for ducks is spinach. Spinach interferes with the ducks’ ability to absorb calcium. Citrus fruit has the same effect and should be avoided.
How much should ducks be fed?
Knowing how much to feed your ducks can be tricky, as we know ducks are greedy birds.
As our ducks have free access to pasture and to a large pond, we will typically offer them food when they are first let out in the morning, and then again before they return to their coup at night.
In my experience, leaving the food down for 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day is more than sufficient, providing your ducks have the ability to forage for weeds, bugs, and other tasty morsels they come across.
If you give your ducks all-day free access to food they will overfeed themselves.
What Treats Can Ducks Be Fed?
Your ducks will love being given treats. There are so many different things we can feed our ducks. Some of my favorite duck treats are;
Treats should be exactly that, a treat. It would not be healthy to give your ducks great handfuls of mealworms to eat every day. Give treats little and often and use them as a way to build trust with your ducks.
Treats should also be varied. Treats are an excellent way to get additional nutrients into your duck’s diet. A handful of peas one day, a few slices of leftover watermelon the next.
By adding variety, you increase the overall health and well-being of your ducks.
What Else Do Ducks Need In Their Diet?
As well as feeding your ducks a balanced, high-quality food, they should also have access to;
Although free-ranging ducks that have access to dirt will usually pick up small stones and pieces of grit as they naturally forage for food, they should still have a small amount of grit either mixed in with their feed or provided in a separate container so they can access it as and when needed.
Much like chickens and quail, ducks have a small organ between their mouths and their stomachs called a gizzard. The gizzard is like a pouch that food goes into before being passed through to the stomach.
In the gizzard, ducks grind their food with small pieces of grit to make it easier to digest. A duck’s gizzard essentially replaces the need for a duck to have teeth.
Crushed oyster shell is frequently supplied to chickens to ensure they have enough calcium in their diets to produce strong egg shells.
Whilst a duck’s need for the oyster shell is lower than that of chickens or quail, a bag only costs a few dollars, and it can be either mixed in with the duck’s food or thrown around their enclosure for them to pick up and swallow as and when needed.
Fresh drinking water
Commercial duck food is typically very dry, and your ducks will appreciate having a source of fresh drinking water near to where their food is, just to help moisten their food.
Ducks obviously also need fresh water just to drink. In my experience, an individual duck will drink around 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of water each day.
Ducks are greedy birds, and it is easy to confuse that greed for hunger. Your ducks will pretty much eat as much food as you make available to them.
In my experience, you are better off giving your ducks food little and often.
I will typically give my ducks access to food for around 15 to 20 minutes each morning, then for the same period in the evening. The rest of the day they have access to whatever weeds, seeds, and bugs they can forage in their pasture and pond.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Why are my ducks laying small eggs’?
- Feeding ducks bread bbc.co.uk