Backyard Poultry

What Do Ducks Eat? Tips and Best Practices for Feeding Backyard Ducks

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Starting a Flock : Environment

Starting a Flock : Chick Nutrition

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Flock Management : Flock Health

Flock Management : Layer Nutrition

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Ducks come in a variety of colors, personalities and sizes. Smaller duck breeds may weigh only a couple pounds as adults, while larger ones can approach 20 pounds. Fortunately, feeding these water-loving birds is relatively easy, no matter the breed, lifestyle or your flock goals.
 
Feeding your ducks should be the simplest part of raising them.
 
Purina has made it easy to feed all your ducks, regardless of age or lifestyle, with just two specially formulated feeds to choose from: Purina® Duck Feed pellets or, if you’re feeding ducks and chickens, Purina® Flock Raiser® pellets. Whether you’re raising ducks for companionship, eggs, meat or ornamentation, your ducks can eat these feeds from birth through adulthood. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
 
We’d like to address some popular duck feeding questions. First, “Should I ferment my duck feed?” Some duck raisers ferment their duck feed to make nutrients more bio-available. We don’t recommend doing that. When you let tiny microbes break down the feed during fermentation, they will beat your ducks to some important nutrition. There is no need to complicate your ducks’ meal routine with fermented feed.
 
We adjust feed formulation to ensure your ducks get the proper nutrition they need. By considering the digestibility of all the ingredients in the product, we help keep feeding simple. Open the bag. Fill the feeder. Watch your ducks thrive. 
 
Other popular questions we hear:
  • How much water do my ducks need for drinking? Ducks consume a wide range of water depending on age. Ducklings will drink about one-half gallon of water per week in their first few weeks. Once matured, an adult duck will drink up to one-half gallon of water each day. Make sure to empty and clean their waterers daily.
  • A picture containing shapeDescription automatically generatedDo ducks molt and do they need special feed during molting? Most ducks shed their old feathers two times per year in a process called molting. The first molt occurs after nesting and the second from fall to early winter. Molting uses a lot of nutritional energy, second only to the formation of eggs. While molting, your ducks will consume larger quantities of their protein-rich Purina® Duck Feed or Purina® Flock Raiser® feed, which supports their feather regrowth.
  • My ducks are so sweet! Can I give them treats? When giving your ducks treats, follow the 90/10 rule – 90 percent of your duck’s diet should come from a complete feed and no more than 10 percent from treats. For ducks that free-range or have treat access, always start their morning with a complete feed, like Purina® Duck Feed before they go out to explore.
  • Is bread bad for ducks? Bread isn’t bad nor is it good for your ducks. It does not need to be a part of your duck’s diet. If you offer it as a treat, then it should be no more than 10 percent of their daily intake, which is probably less than ½ slice per adult bird per day.
 
Now that you know the basics of feeding your backyard ducks, here are a few tips for caring for them.
 

Duckling tips 

Ducklings, like toddlers, can be known to make messes, and it is no secret that they like to splash. We recommend you feed them in a weighted bowl or large gravity feeder to prevent tipping and make cleaning easy. Choose feeders that will be large enough to accommodate your ducks’ bills as they continue to grow.
 
We also recommend a nipple waterer so these little water-lovers can limit the amount of water that splashes into their brooder. The mixture of manure and water can lead to a smelly environment and could eventually cause mold to form.
 

Egg-laying duck tips 

Most ducks are not as proficient at laying eggs as chickens. If you want a prolific layer, look for Khaki Campbell ducks that can lay a similar number of eggs as chickens. Ducks are seasonal layers, unlike backyard chickens that may lay eggs year-round.
 
When your female ducks begin to lay eggs, they will search out additional calcium sources, which is why we recommend providing a supplemental feeder with Purina® Oyster Shell in addition to their regular feed. When your ladies are no longer laying eggs, they will ignore the oyster shell.
 
When do ducks start laying eggs? Ducks take a bit longer than chickens to reach maturity and will lay their first egg around 26 weeks (as compared to chickens at 18 weeks). Laying ducks will consume an estimated 20 to 30 percent more feed than a similarly sized chicken because they channel more energy into producing nutrient-dense, large eggs.
 

Meat duck tips 

If you are raising ducks specifically for meat purposes, then your ducks will take about eight weeks to reach market weight. Depending on the breed, their feed efficiency will usually be around two pounds of feed for each pound gained. Like other backyard ducks, feed them Purina® Duck Feed pellets or Purina® Flock Raiser® pellets.
 

Ornamental duck tips 

Ornamental duck breeds are known for their colorful feathers and charming personalities – they love to strut their colorful down. Generally, simply keeping your ducks healthy and meeting their nutritional needs with Purina® Duck Feed pellets or Purina® Flock Raiser® pellets will ensure your ornamental ducks look great.
 
We recommend that ornamental ducks be housed separately from domestic ducks, who will often breed with any available females. These delicate gals can be injured or even drowned by aggressive domestic males.
 
Ornamental ducks can lay eggs; however, they lay fewer and usually smaller eggs than other laying ducks. For layers, supplement with Purina® Oyster Shell at 24 to 26 weeks of age or when ducks begin laying.
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