How We Feed Our Ducks
Happy Tuesday! The week is looking brighter as we approach days ahead with warmer temperatures. Hurrah! Finally... spring is here. I do not think I have ever looked at the forecast so much in my life. Life is moving here on the farm. But enough with the updates... Let's talk about ducks and what they eat! As most of you know, last year we brought home chickens for the first time. I was all over the best natural things to feed them including herbs and other protein packed treats like nuts, seeds, and mealworms. You can learn all about what my chickens eat in our online course, Finding Your Flock. When we made the decision to try raising ducks this year, I knew that we may run into some trouble housing the two types of birds together, one of those issues being, what if they don't eat the same things?
Much to my relief, they do! There are a few exceptions to the rule, which is what I am here to share with you today. Our ducks have a few special additions to the standard chicken feed you can purchase at the store.
Our ducks currently eat the same feed that we usually give our chickens, from our local certified organic mill, Professional Proteins. They have wonderful mixes for chicks, growers, and layers. We started with a chick feed and have now moved onto grower feed as of last week; the Rouens are currently almost 6 weeks old and the Pekins almost 4 weeks. I noticed a pretty big growth spurt from them, so that means they are ready to move on. Ducks need less protein in their diets as they age as it can cause leg and wing deformities. They'll continue to eat grower feed until about 20 weeks old, and they will move onto layer after that.
While chick feed is ample for ducks, it does not contain enough niacin in it, which ducklings need to grow healthy and strong. Ducks need niacin for their bones, especially their legs. Without adding the extra niacin to their feed, it can result in weak legs and even a smaller than normal adult duck. We add niacin back into their diet by sprinkling brewer's yeast over their feed. This is perfectly fine for the chickens to eat, too, since they will be housed together in the same coop. They need about 3% of the brewer's yeast over their feed. I sprinkle some over their daily rations (about two times a day) with a spoon.
Garlic is so great for both chickens and ducks! It has amazing added benefits for their health like supporting their immune system and respiratory health. I love to put crushed garlic in their water about once every two weeks. You can also use garlic powder over their food! The brewer's yeast that I purchase from Thomas Labs has garlic added to the blend so that cuts out the step.
Adding oats back to their feed can help lower the percentage of protein in the feed, which can cause leg deformities and angel wing in ducklings. I usually add about 20% oats back into the feed each time they eat. This is simply the raw uncooked rolled oats, certified organic, from our bulk grocery store.
Probiotics are good for everyone! I add probiotics into our ducks' daily meals by sprinkling some probiotic powder over their feed, just the brewer's yeast and garlic powder. They only need a little bit, and it will help perk them up as well as promote healthy poos. I have noticed that ducklings have much more watery poop than chicks do (I am assuming from the great amount of water that they drink) but once we added some probiotics into their diet, they have nice thick poops. Much better!
Always good to add vitamins into your flock's diet! In this case, Vitamin E is extremely important as it prevents Wry Neck. This is a condition where a duck has difficulty lifting their heads. Ducks tend to tilt their heads to look at you, as you are much taller than them. If you notice excessive head tilting, even when they are not looking at you and putzing about, that is usually a symptom. They're heads will eventually begin to twist and look backwards; it's like weird painful duck yoga poses - this can happen to chicks too! Giving them some supplementary herbs will help prevent this from happening. Herbs that are high in Vitamin E are cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, parsley, cloves, cumin, caraway, cinnamon, marjoram, and turmeric.
Ducks grow so much faster than chickens do! I took these photos last Monday after I did a deep clean of the coop. I cannot believe how big our Rouens are, and even the Pekins who are two weeks younger than them! They are about the same size, the only way to tell the difference in their age being the feathers over fluff. The Rouens are now almost fully feathered, save for their heads and a few patchy pieces of down. I am just amazed at the quickness of growth every morning when I walk into the coop. Right now the ducks get two rations of food a day - it's true, they eat a lot more! But I cannot say that officially because they have been stuck inside the coop for the majority of their days. The weather is finally warming up enough for them to have the freedom of the outdoors - though our run is still nonexistent. We will keep their coop door open at all times once that is built! For now, we monitor their time outdoors and bring them back in... to eat all of the food!