Ducks love to forage for insects, snails, worms, especially near water where they will also find aquatic insects when dabbling or ‘sifting’ through the water or mud. While free ranging on grass, they will also consume seed heads as well as small amounts of grass, chickweed and clover.
Given sufficient food on their pasture wild ducks find most of their own food, however domestic ducks have been bred to lay more eggs and are restricted to a smaller area or run, they have a greater protein and energy requirements than wild ducks and are unable to survive without a ‘top up’ so a common question asked is what do ducks eat?
To ensure they are getting enough food, domestic ducks require a balanced feed which is also why it is cruel to release domestic ducks into the wild.
Feeding ducks that are laying with food that has a protein content of about 16% is ideal to supplement their foraging. Feed can be given on an ad lib in a hopper or alternatively ducks can be fed in the morning once they are let out of their house and again in the evening, placing the feed in a heavy-based feeder to stop it tipping over. Feeding them in the same place and at the same time each day also establishes a routine for them.
Too much calcium can be the cause of Kidney failure. Calcium levels in chickens’ layers feeds (around 3-4%) is needed for egg-shell production but drakes or ducks that aren’t in lay require less (around 1%).
Wheat can be fed in the bottom of a half-bucket of water which will help ducks balance their diet. During the winter, my ducks will eat far fewer layers pellets and a lot of wheat. This is reversed during the breeding season between February and August when the ducks are in lay.
Whilst wheat can be fed dry and water can be provided separately, although it usually makes sense to combine the two – it stops pests such as crows, rats and mice from stealing the wheat but also softens it, aiding digestion. This also stops chickens from eating it too if they share the same run.
As a rough guide, ducks will eat between 150 – 200g (6 – 7oz) of food a day depending on their size.
You can buy Layers Pellets here.
As with other poultry, water is vital to the health of your ducks and it should be provided fairly close to their feeders so they can drink in between feeding.
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