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How to Know if Your Ducks Are Underfed?

 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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We finally have our ducks (nine anconas and one large mixed breed that was free). They free-range on a 3,360 sqft "run" that's half grass, and have salmonberry bramble, and they have free veggies from the co-op. There are lots of slugs and bugs around the free veggies. They usually spend most of the day in the bramble and have yet to even venture onto the back 1/3rd of their run. My husband is very worried that we will underfeed them, so he's been feeding them 4 cups of feed each night, and about half that in the morning. We're going through about a 40lb bag in a week and a half. We got these ducks when half were 9 weeks old and the rest 5 weeks old. They're now 12 and 8 weeks, respectively. The younger ducks rarely finish their food in the morning, but the older ducks clean it up after the ducklings leave. I've been searching online, and my "Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks," but I can't seem to find out how to know if my ducks are getting enough feed.

How do you know if your ducks get enough food?

Thanks you!
 
alex Keenan
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Check out
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/poulsci/tech_manuals/breeder_duck_flocks.html
It give some good feed ratios

I have raised ducks and found them to be bottomless pits.
The best way to tell with young ducks that are foraging is to weigh your ducks.
Young ducks should be putting on weight at a average rate. Some will be more and some will be less.

I would also try
https://www.metzerfarms.com/Articles/RaisingDucksHolderread.pdf

I consider metzer farms the expert on water fowl.

I use the twice a day 15 minute rule for foraging ducks the Metzer Farms talks about. Feed them when you let them out and when you put them away. The get what they can cleanup in 15 minutes.
I also feed my young ducks wet mash. It can be a pain but I have lost ducklings to choking. When they get older it was not an issue.
Make sure ducklings get greens niacin. We learned the hard way when first starting out decades ago that feeds may not supply all the niacin my ducklings really needed. I start them off with soft greens as soon as they are eating feed good. I even raised beds of early greens timed to the duck hatchings.

If you are using ducks for eggs I feed based on pounds of feed per duck. Laying hens need protien and proper nutrition. If I am hatching eggs I beef up the hens weeks in advance with 20 percent protein feed and lots of greens. I find I get better hatches of ducklings if the hens are in peak condition.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Posts: 1029
Location: Pacific Northwest
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Thank you! I will definitely be checking out those websites. The fifteen minute rule sounds like a great way to tell if they're getting enough food. I had heard feed costs were expensive... I just hadn't realized it'd be $20/week for 10 ducks. No wonder people "harvest" their ducks early. It looks like we've ended up with 7 drakes and 3 hens. I'm really hoping at least one more of my 8-week olds we'll be giving me a QUACK. But, regardless, it looks like they'll be quite a bit of duck meat in our future.

We ended up getting brewers yeast and adding it to their feed. The lady at the co-op told us the feed was good for ducks. She must have not realized that the feed companies say on their website that there needs to be supplemental niacin for ducklings. We didn't realize they were deficient until one of the ducklings started limping with no visible injury. We're glad we caught it in time, because his lassitude and limping are now all gone.

For getting enough protein to lay, would bugs be sufficient? We get free veggies/fruit from our local co-op grocery, and the pile of food is COVERED in flies. I see them snapping at the flies all day. We also have lots of slugs. I understand they'll need lots of feed during the winter, but do they still need it when there are bugs, growing veggies, and left-over veggies everywhere?
 
alex Keenan
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Ducks can and will eat a number of bugs. I have found that they love slugs which are a good protein source. You may wish to check out edible bugs in your area. For example in my area we have squash bugs. I can plant a trap crop and let turkeys clear out the bugs. We also have tomato horn worm that is large and very edible. Japaneese Beatle are also abundent in July. All these bugs are edible to both humans and poultry. So I can use what is a pest as a feed for my poultry. You really want something that is abondent. Like if you had the famous bannana slug. In the right places in the North West you can collect a ton of them. In my area I can put up a beatle trap and collect a ton of them.

If you have the space you may wish to think of raising worms, crickets, mealworms, etc. as feed. Your free veggies/fruit from our local co-op grocery can easily be feedstock for an insect farm. Just use the items the duck do not like or do not quickly eat. Keeping a supply of insect protein readly at hand can supplement your food bills.
http://teca.fao.org/read/7927
http://cricket-breeding.com/

Finally, grow you feed. I always grow greens for my ducks. A surprising green is sweet potato vine. It is very edible to both people and ducks, with a high protein content. You can quickly put in a large area by planting cutting. I grow it for roots but I have many plats that just get harvested all summer for roots.
Check out https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/21584/SweetpotatoBrochure.pdf?sequence=1
It is a small scale method for making silage. Ducks can be feed silage as part of their winter rations.

Here is a nice list of duck foods
http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/242460/the-ultimate-list-of-duck-treats-and-supplements
If you have a pond or source of clean fish you will find that ducks eat fish very well. You can supplement feeding what you catch in a minnow trap.

As for egg production you can check weight, color, behavior, etc. of hens to determine if feed is working for you.
There are two types of egg production, one is for eating eggs, the other for hatching eggs.
Egg production for egging just needs to keep hens healthy, at a constant weight, producing at a fair rate.
For Hatching I need to beef up the hens to max health so I can have high hatching rates.

 
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