When it comes to duck feed, one thing is essential: the animals are absolutely omnivores. What appears edible to them is also destroyed. And no, ducks aren’t vegetarians either. On the contrary, if you choose between green fodder and a snail, you will give preference to the snail. In principle, all duck species cover a significant proportion of their protein requirements from animal proteins. It is not for nothing that ducks for snail control are kept in many German gardens. The animals are thus something like natural pest fighters. What applies to running ducks, in principle, also applies to all other types of ducks. In this article, we explain What do ducks eat?
Because ducks are omnivores, their diet is also very extensive. The spectrum ranges from grass to roots, grains, seeds, eggshells, and beetles to leftovers from the household, to name just a few examples. For duck keepers, therefore, supplying the animals with feed is usually not a problem. In many cases, it is often not necessary to feed.
If it has the opportunity, a duck will find its food. Seen in this way, she is self-sufficient. However, this requires free-range farming and a correspondingly large garden. The duck will find a rich selection of duck food there. Typically, she is then busy looking for food and eating more or less all day long. This corresponds to her natural way of life and at the same time ensures that she does not get bored. The focus is on:
- other green plants
- Seeds and grains
- fine roots
- Leftovers from other animals
The garden or even a pasture is full of duck feed. However, whether the amount is sufficient depends on how large the area is and how many animals are kept. In addition, of course, the time of year also plays a role. Naturally, there is less to eat in winter than in summer. Against this background, there is a regular discussion among duck keepers about whether ducks need to be fed at all in the summer months if they are kept free-range. At least, in theory, they would be able to provide themselves with food altogether. However, it always depends on the specific circumstances on site.
Amount of feed
It is impossible to give an exact indication of how much feed an individual duck needs per day. Nor is it necessary. A free-roaming animal will be busy looking for food and eating all day anyway. In addition, ducks signal their keepers relatively clearly when they are hungry and need food.
To feed, do ducks eat.
Free-range farming should be the preferred form of husbandry for every breed of poultry whenever possible. They should only spend the night in a well-secured stable to protect the animals from predators such as marten or fox. If free-range farming is not feasible for whatever reasons, feed must be given in the barn. And even if the duck feed is not enough in the garden or on the pasture, there is no avoiding additional feeding. There are two alternatives: Either you provide a ready-made meal or a feed mixture throughout, or you create a menu made up of ready-made feed and leftover food from the household. The latter offers more variety for the animals and is usually preferred by them.
In the vast majority of cases, duck feed is readily available in specialist shops. These are fed mixes, the content of which is tailored to the unique needs of the animals. Mostly they are made up of the following ingredients:
- ground mussel shells
- Sunflower seeds
This fully covers the need for nutrients and minerals and, in particular, proteins. These ready mixes are therefore also suitable as a complete feed.
Feed mixes are offered either in grain form or as pressed pellets. Both variants meet the natural need of all duck species to peck the food. Duck feed is also available as a special fattening feed. It contains a significantly higher proportion of proteins and carbohydrates as well as fats. This makes it possible to achieve faster growth for the ducks, i.e., fatten them in the truest sense of the word. However, this fattening duck feed is not recommended.
On the one hand, the health of the animals very often suffers from rapid growth. On the other hand, the taste of the meat is not infrequently inferior. It is better to give the animals more time to grow.
Make feed mix yourself.
You can do this relatively easy if you don’t buy your duck feed ready-mixed but prefer to make it yourself. It is, of course, ideal if the mix is fresh every day. The following recipe has proven itself and is particularly popular with all types of duck:
- Corn flakes
- Bean flour
- wheat flour
- Barley meal
- Water or milk (to mix)
- cooked vegetables
- cooked potatoes
The cooked vegetables and potatoes must be allowed to cool before a duck can eat them. It is also advisable to chop the potatoes. Incidentally, these do not have to be peeled in advance. On the contrary: the shell contains lots of nutrients that are good for the ducks. Oat and barley meal is available for relatively little money from many grain farmers. The remaining ingredients are available from grocery stores.
In practically every household, there is a daily leftover food that you can feed to ducks. The animals are not picky here either. However, not everything that we humans like is suitable for a duck. If the leftover food contains flavorings and preservatives, they are taboo. The same applies to very spicy dishes. In addition, it must always be ensured that the leftover food is not yet infected with mold and thus inedible. The following leftovers can be fed:
- old bread
- Salad leaves without dressing
- cooked vegetables
- cooked potatoes
The bread should be soaked in water beforehand and then torn into small pieces. If it is already hard, there is no avoiding extensive watering. Some ducks should be able to break an edible part out of a complex piece of bread. The animal could then suffocate on this piece. It is fundamentally vital that you cut the leftover food into as small pieces as ducks eat. It is a good idea to mash them thoroughly and then loosen them up again with vegetables and potatoes. The food should be made with their beak as quickly as possible and then swallow without any problems.
Water plays a vital role in the life of every living being. This is especially true for ducks. It is not for nothing that they belong to the waterfowl group – and they not only love to swim in the water but also have to drink a lot. Water plays a vital role in the duck feed.
Whenever the animals eat, they will drink shortly afterward. To understand this better, you have to take a closer look at their anatomy. Waterfowl and thus also domestic ducks, flight ducks, and running ducks have neither teeth nor a swallowing mechanism. So you are not able to chop up your food or swallow it do ducks eat. Water is, therefore, a vital lubricant that helps move food to the stomach. If there is not enough or no water available, there is a risk that a duck will choke on its food. Therefore, when abstaining, not only should a swimming pond be created, but several drinking vessels should always be available.
Yes, ducks eat earth. However, this does not serve as duck feed but, like water, has supporting function indigestion. You have to know that soil and small stones in the stomach ensure that more significant pieces of food are crushed or ground up. As a result, they can be digested better and, above all, faster do ducks eat. In free-range husbandry, a duck repeatedly takes up the soil with it when it searches for food in the garden or on the pasture – mainly because it very often digs through the ground to find larvae or worms, for example. So it does not have to be administered separately.
On the other hand, things look different when it comes to stables. A bowl with the softest possible garden soil is highly recommended. It also provides variety.
Treats and nutritional supplements
Ducks are not cats or dogs. Treats and food as a reward are not relevant to them. The biggest threat for every duck a live snail anyway, which then devoured in a great hurry. Food supplements such as vitamins or minerals are also not necessary to do ducks eat. If duck feed is fed as described above, the animal receives everything it needs for its health. More is not required and can even be harmful under certain circumstances. In most cases, and with a very high degree of probability, ducks would not appreciate it either.
For every duck keeper, it is probably the highest of feelings when one of his animals has offspring at some point. As a rule, you don’t have to worry about it that much. As soon as a chick hatches from the egg, it is based on the mother’s behavior. This also applies in particular to eating or food.
They learn from the mother what they can and cannot eat. However, for anatomical reasons, they are not yet able to take in larger pieces of food. Especially in the first three weeks of life, you should ensure that you provide the finest possible, small-sized food—duck feed, which labels chick feed available in stores. The main difference to conventional feed, however, only that it very finely ground. You, therefore, do not necessarily have to feed chicks with chick food, which costs a lot of money. Grain meal or small corn flakes are at least as good and are significantly cheaper.
Also, read: what is a duvet.