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Feeding ducks on what we can grow

 
Posts: 97
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Hello fine permie folk -

We have 26 ducks right now on 1/2 acre. They are a variety of ages from chick to laying adult. All are going to be layers or breeders - no meat animals. Our goal is to get off the feed store feed as much as possible. Our ducks get lots of opportunity to forage and get trimmings and scraps from the kitchen. During the warmer months, they seem content with minimal feed added to their diets. But during the cold months there is less for them to forage. Does anybody have experience with growing food for ducks for the winter dearth?

Thanks!
Bryan
 
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I'm also interested in this.

Going to try perennial wheat and sunflowers this year. Guess they need to be crushed before can be accessed
 
pollinator
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I grew Muscovy (meat) over winter on home made feed, they got potatoes (boiled) barley, wheat, black oats, alfalfa and pumpkin. I carefully worked it out so it came to 18% protein (dry weight) they grew and that is about all I can say. They hated the black oats and the alfalfa, the rest was gobbled happily, but the next lot that I did on commercial (pig) feed grew at twice the rate got larger and had more fat, so my mixture certainly needed improvements. The weather was mainly ice and snow so no forage at all.
 
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If potatoes and sweet potatoes grow in your area, I would focus on those. In Storey's Guide to Ducks, the author mentions replacing a large percentage (I think 1/2? I'll have to find the book and check tomorrow) of his duck's diet with cooked potatoes. Potatoes are very vitamin rich. Sweet potatoes are very similar to normal potatoes in their nutrient ratios, and they don't have to be cooked--just chopped up. Potatoes don't take that much effort to grow in most regions, either (I mean, I can grow them...and a lot of plants won't grow for me!)

One thing I would make sure of with your layers, is to see if they are actually laying. I tried to get my ducks to forage for most of their food, and even with a pond and 2 acres to forage on, they got underweight and stopped laying. They also started eating poisonous plants (potato leaves) in their hunger. Take a good look at your ducks and compare them to ducks of their same breed (that was how I noticed how under-fed mine were!) and see if they are laying. If they go long periods of time without laying, they might not be getting enough food to lay.  
 
Bryan Gold
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Location: Frederick, MD zone7b
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Nicole,

Sweet potatoes are a good idea. Especially if they dont need to be cooked. Less work and energy to process their food is key. We live in Maryland, so sweet potatoes should grow just fine.

Sunflowers also sound promising. We have some sunflower seed for the wild birds. Our ducks eat it a but reluctantly, even thrown in water. But perhaps thats just because its novel and new. I was thinkkng they might go crazy for them sprouted. Anybody have a simple method to sprout lots of seeds continuously?

I think pumpkins and such are a great idea. Ours love smashed squashes in their pen. A few years ago we had everybody we know give their pumpkins to us when they were finished in the fall. We will have to put extra effort in that to make sure we get them again this year.

I was thinking about planting pumpkins/ winter squashes in their pen with little bits of fencing around the main stem. That way they can eat the squash bugs, fertilize the plants, and their winter food is right there to be smashed open when needed later.

We are going to be building four mini pastures in a circle to rotate them through. The theory is that a permanent shelter is in the center, and three of the pens are closed off at a time with one left open that can access the shelter. In those pens we are going to plant fruit trees, berry bushes, the pumpkins/ squash, and then lay out wood and debris to attract insects. The plants can be fertilized and kept pest free while providing shade and shelter. The debris can be turned over with a toe randomly to reveal insects. We dont get terribly cold or solid winters. They are broken up with frequent thaws and warmer days. So I figure those warmer days tend to encourage insect hatching.




 
Bryan Gold
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Also, its snowing right now and our ducks seem to never want to sleep or be in the shelter except to lay. They are outside right now playing in their water surrounded by 8 inches of growing snow. Do other peoples ducks act like that? And through all that they seem to lay on without trouble. Crazy animals. Lol
 
Skandi Rogers
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pumpkins in the pen won't work unless almost the entire thing is fenced, they really like the flowers and immature fruit!
 
Bryan Gold
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Hmm. Perhaps trellising the pumpkins. Then I can still get them to eat squash bugs and they will fertilize ...
 
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For long term duck feed, plant oak trees. Choose species that have small enough acorns that the ducks can eat them whole, and you won't need to do any processing apart from collecting part of the autumn glut and storing it for winter.

This is the time of year when all of our poultry spend much of their day under our big royal oak. Partly for the dense shade, because it's been sunny and warm, but also because when it gets windy the early acorns are starting to drop. At the university where I do some of my consulting work, the campus is an arboretum and everywhere there are oak trees you will find ducks for the next couple of months.
 
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Bryan C Aldeghi wrote:Hello fine permie folk -

We have 26 ducks right now on 1/2 acre. They are a variety of ages from chick to laying adult. All are going to be layers or breeders - no meat animals. Our goal is to get off the feed store feed as much as possible. Our ducks get lots of opportunity to forage and get trimmings and scraps from the kitchen. During the warmer months, they seem content with minimal feed added to their diets. But during the cold months there is less for them to forage. Does anybody have experience with growing food for ducks for the winter dearth?

Thanks!
Bryan



A duck needs about 200g food per day, dunno how much you buy until now. So 26 would need about 2000 kg per year, say you give 50% potato, let beside if this is so great at least ducks eat almost everything. But potato are pretty easy to grow an need little work and grow lots on little space. So you still need 1000 kg potato, which need (biological) grown about 500 m², since you don't want to plant potato on the same space each year, you nedd the space 3x, Early and late potatoes would be nice to limit storage space and they are more fresh.

But then planting/harvesting 500 kg 2x a year is quite some work without machinery. You can calculate this with corn, but I guess it needs much more space to grow?
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:I grew Muscovy (meat) over winter on home made feed, they got potatoes (boiled) barley, wheat, black oats, alfalfa and pumpkin. I carefully worked it out so it came to 18% protein (dry weight) they grew and that is about all I can say. They hated the black oats and the alfalfa, the rest was gobbled happily, but the next lot that I did on commercial (pig) feed grew at twice the rate got larger and had more fat, so my mixture certainly needed improvements. The weather was mainly ice and snow so no forage at all.



Great data to have; do you have any theories about what might have been missing? Will you try it again with alterations?

Was the next batch in substantially different weather?
 
Phil Stevens
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Another crop that comes to mind is pulses: peas, beans, lentils, etc. Haven't met a duck yet who did not adore peas. And our ducks have to be fenced out of the areas where I plant three sisters because they strip all the leaves off the bean plants.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Dillon Nichols wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:I grew Muscovy (meat) over winter on home made feed, they got potatoes (boiled) barley, wheat, black oats, alfalfa and pumpkin. I carefully worked it out so it came to 18% protein (dry weight) they grew and that is about all I can say. They hated the black oats and the alfalfa, the rest was gobbled happily, but the next lot that I did on commercial (pig) feed grew at twice the rate got larger and had more fat, so my mixture certainly needed improvements. The weather was mainly ice and snow so no forage at all.



Great data to have; do you have any theories about what might have been missing? Will you try it again with alterations?

Was the next batch in substantially different weather?



the second batch were a bit earlier in the year so it was not as cold, and there would have been more bugs and frogs about.  my theory was that they left most of the alfalfa and avoided the oats as those two were there to bump up the protein  I suspect they did not get optimal protein levels, trying peas might be a good idea or some other more palatable protein form. Or manage to convince a duck to go broody earlier in the year! these probably helped the second lot!
 
Bryan Gold
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Those are serious slugs! I bet your ducks devoured them!

If we ever get more land, oaks sound like the way to go. Ive never experienced them eating acorns as we dont have any oaks. I love the idea of using trees to feed. I wonder if there are other trees aside from fruit orchard trees. Honey locust maybe? Kousa dogwood?

Here is the current list of things i have found to grow or produce to provide a substantial year- round diet for ducks.

1. Winter squashes/ pumpkins ( consider getting your friends and neighbors’ pumpkins after the fall)
2. Potatoes (cooked)/ sweet potatoes [up to 50% of diet]
3. Acorns
4. Sunflower seeds (preferably sprouted)
5. Insects
6. Corn
7. Wheat/barley/oats
8. Alfalfa
9. Peas and legumes
10. Fruit trees
11. Duck weed ( needs a pond)
12. Brassicas like kale and cabbage
13. Amaranth
14. Comfrey


This is not a complete list of what they can eat, more a list aimed at what a farm can grow to provide a substantial part of the ducks’s diet - especially including winter. Our ducks will also eat trimmings and scraps from the kitchen as well as garden vegetables, and grasses and seeds they find.

Does anybody have experience feeding beets pr mangles?
 
Dillon Nichols
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Acorns were definitely not on my list for ducks! Cool; I'm planting some for pigs anyhow, but this will influence locations..

I wonder how big the acorns can be? Does anyone have experience with ducks eating other nuts? If they can do acorns maybe they can do hazelnuts?

I am thinking about rotating ducks through multiple paddocks centred around multiple ponds. My experience of ducks and ponds is that the pond ends up pretty stripped unless it is lake sized, but I'm hoping a rotation will allow a good portion of their diet to be provided by pond life... I haven't found examples of others doing this yet, has anyone else?
 
Phil Stevens
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Dillon, the acorns from our oak (Quercus robur) average 3-4 cm long and about 1 cm diameter. The ducks in question are average sized Swedish Blue crossed with Pekin. Most of our larger hens can eat the acorns as well, but the little ones don't even bother.

I've got the ducks fenced out of the nut orchards because the beans are planted nearby. I bet they would try to eat hazelnuts, but I don't think their gizzards would be able to crack them very well and that could end badly. Are ducks smart enough to know better when it comes to hard-shelled nuts?
 
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Bryan Gold wrote:Hello fine permie folk -

We have 26 ducks right now on 1/2 acre. They are a variety of ages from chick to laying adult. All are going to be layers or breeders - no meat animals. Our goal is to get off the feed store feed as much as possible. Our ducks get lots of opportunity to forage and get trimmings and scraps from the kitchen. During the warmer months, they seem content with minimal feed added to their diets. But during the cold months there is less for them to forage. Does anybody have experience with growing food for ducks for the winter dearth?

Thanks!
Bryan




Watercress. It is darn easy to grow. It grows quickly. Ducks love it. It is one of the few plants that will hold over in winter if protected. Historically it was one of the few greens available to Britons in tougher parts of the year. Depending on where you live, might be able to grow it all year.

Cons: Its a semiaquatic plant. It prefers very moist soils.
 
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I keep trying to come up with a diet for laying hens that could be grown at home. I can get close, but its hard to get the mineral mix right. Most of the foods that are highest in minerals are also high in protein, and chickens get sick if their diet contains too much protein. I don't know if ducks are the same, but it might be something to look into.

At any rate, it would probably be a good idea to add an extra mineral source. Something like bone meal or oyster shell. If you eat meat, you can soak cooked and cleaned bones in vinegar until they soften, then mash them into a paste and mix it in their food. I still haven't worked out the percentages, but a spoonful of bone/vinegar paste per bird should be a safe amount, especially if its mixed with other things.

My chickens like a kind of soup made with cooked beans, grains, and vegetables. They won't eat raw zucchini or cracked corn, but when its cooked and added to their soup they'll chow right down. That might be something to try if your ducks aren't liking a particular grain.

A word of warning on feeding laying birds acorns or other high-tannin foods: Tannins can sometimes cause the yolks to turn green! It doesn't change the flavor or food value, but it can be off-putting. Especially if you're not expecting it!

Tannic acid also binds to iron in the body, rendering it unusable. If acorns are a small portion of their diet, or if you have a variety with low-tannin acorns, then they'll be fine. But if you start seeing signs of anemia, remove the acorns from their diet.
 
john mcginnis
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"They won't eat raw zucchini or cracked corn,"

I have found that soaking the corn with some winter wheat into a mash will usually interest chickens.
 
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Bryan Gold wrote:

We are going to be building four mini pastures in a circle to rotate them through.

I think rotational pastures are great and wish I had some, but I would suggest you have at least one back-up run that you can deep mulch if needed and rely on food from elsewhere so that if your planted runs need a longer break than available, you have back-up. Plants grow at different speeds depending on the season, so a paddock that can recover in 21 days in May, may need 2 months in January.

We soak wheat for our ducks just for 48 hours - it's not really sprouted, but it's quick and easy. We dump it in a fresh bucket of water so they have to dive their heads to the bottom to get it, so we know they're getting their faces cleaned at the same time - stacking functions!
 
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Duck weed will grow in most any size water  container. Even a 5gallon buck, but the larger the better, like a pond.
We ducks eat Americans persimmons?
 
john mcginnis
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Jay Angler wrote:
We soak wheat for our ducks just for 48 hours - it's not really sprouted, but it's quick and easy. We dump it in a fresh bucket of water so they have to dive their heads to the bottom to get it, so we know they're getting their faces cleaned at the same time - stacking functions!



I will try your wheat bucket idea. We are in the end of our summer collapse for greens here in TX so the ducks have little for forage on. I have planted extra sweet potato just for them, feeding them rations of leaves.
 
john mcginnis
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Anyone tried Kang Kong as a forage for ducks? Its a fast grower and prefers a semiaquatic environment. But will the ducks eat it?
 
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