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tell me about duck feed!

 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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Hi
I am wanting to give my ducks the best food possible. they can't free range here because there are too many predators and I have yet to put in the needed fencing. eventually they will be able to forage part of most days but not every day. I am planning to set things up to create a space that attracts slugs and other bug like critters ducks enjoy eating so that they can always have some and if I can't provide as much as they like that way I am considering raising meal worms to provide extra. I also have a small pond in a location my ducks can't reach where I am growing various plants that ducks enjoy eating (like duck weed) so I have a constant supply of aquatic plants for the, I have read that ducks do well with potatoes and also have been reading that they really like and do well with ulluco and mashua and am seeing how well they will grow for me.

I am wondering what people feed to their ducks?

I am very curious about fermented feed. for now my ducks are mostly getting purchased duck food and even when I provide this with as much locally grown food as they want I plan to provide some duck feed to help ensure they have get all their nutritional needs met. so I am wondering if I should look into fermented feed?

I am thinking about planting fodder plants in flats so that i always have some ready to offer to my ducks on days they can't have plenty of time out and about to forage. chufa seems like a potential fodder plant that ducks would really enjoy and would also be good for them.
 
Robin Kyle
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I have the same sort of question, bummer you didn't get a reply. I would like to make my own duck feed to supplement the grass and bugs and meal worms I am growing for my newish ducklings. I am looking for a no soy, corn, or wheat recipe I can make myself to save on money and boost nutrition, 4 of my birds will be dinner and 4 will be layers with one guy for possible breeding. Anyone have any good advice on this?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I, too, would love information about this. There's a wonderful, long thread about perennial/self-seeding chicken feeds (http://www.permies.com/t/997/chickens/perennial-chicken-feed), for chickens to do the harvesting themselves. But, chickens aren't ducks, and I would assume their nutritional needs are different, just as their eating habits are different (ducks can't peck and claw their way through food like chickens can). I do recall reading in Story's Guide to Raising Ducks that Halderread was able to reduce his feed bill by half--and eliminate the corn feed entirely--by feeding his ducks cooked potatoes (pages 234-235). Potatoes are very vitamin rich, and so are sweet potatoes. My ducks (especially ducklings) LOVE sweet potatoes, and those do not need to be cooked before feeding--I just chop them up. So, you probably could substitute a lot of your duck feed with potatoes/sweet potatoes.

But, I'd love to plant things that the ducks can feed themselves on, that complete their nutritional needs. I just don't know what those plants would be....

Some plants that might be good would be duck weed, dandelion, and mulberry. These are all things the duck can forage for by itself. My ducks also forage under salmonberry bramble, and I hope they'll enjoy the salmonberries as they drop. They sadly do not eat the leaves or the shoots. I know they like huckleberries (the woman I bought them from had a huckleberry bush and a rooster, and the ducks would all congregate under the bush when the rooster came near it, in hopes the rooster would hop up and shake down the berries). My ducks also enjoy creeping buttercup, clover, and grass. Anyone have other ideas of perennial/self-seeding plants for ducks to feed themselves on?

Another thing to consider is that ducks eat a lot of bugs and slugs. So, maybe try encouraging the bug population. I've found that a compost heap that's all "greens" without the carbon-rich leaves/wood, tends to bring a LOT of black flies. Free duck food! I like to throw out old foodwaste to the ducks in a pile in their enclosure. They can eat the food, and the flies that breed on it as rots.

If you want more slugs, you could make a nice moist area full of deep decomposing leaves. Slugs bred like CRAZY on a hugel mound that put leaf and forest litter on. You could even sew some seeds or put succulent plants or carrot tops in the leaf mulm. The slugs will devour them--at least, mine sure did! Nothing grew in there other than the grass I was trying to kill, because the slugs ate it all before it could get big enough.
 
Robin Kyle
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Thanks for the reply Nicole! Lots of great ideas and information. I am raising meal worms for my ducks and add them to their feed every day, they also get a new area of grass with lots of dandelion every day. My question regarding feed is mostly concerning winter. I am in Mpls Mn and the winters are long when there will be very little foraging option for the ducks in my urban !/8 acre with a house. I intend on adding red wigglers to my protein options but I want to know how to compensate for greens in the winter.

 
Dillon Nichols
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Since a pond of some size is so advisable for ducks, what about a series of other ponds to grow plants like the aptly named duckweed? Water your plants with the(rapidly filthified) duck-pond water, replenish it from the 'food-ponds', which should move in some food at the same time; duckweed, other floating plants, insects, hapless water creatures will all be welcomed warmly by the ducks. It could almost be like rotational grazing, except your 'pasture' is moving to the ducks instead of the ducks moving to the pasture.

As far as winter goes, in one of Ben Falk's video you see all his fowl clustering around the greenhouse when he enters, because they expect some of the kale which happily survives through the winter inside. Seems like a good green supplement to me. Depending on climate a basic poly cover might keep duckweed going quite late into the winter as well.

I *think* it was also in one of his videos that I saw cooked winter squash mentioned as good winter bird food.

The ducks I've worked with LOVED berries of any sort. They would surround the Jostaberries, just outside the duck-exclusion fencing, and LEAP up like little velociraptors to retrieve berries. I would expect any berry that drops to be well received, and mulberry with a long season sounds rather ideal.

Nicole, that bit about cooked potato is particularly neat, thanks!

An older thread on this topic exists here: http://www.permies.com/t/16222/ducks/Growing-duck-feed

 
Ghislaine de Lessines
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Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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I can address Robin Kyle's question about a feed recipe without soy, corn, or wheat. I cheat a little because I use a product called Ultra Kibble that gets mixed in varying proportions with scratch grains to create complete nutrition for a variety of birds. I think the proportion for ducks is one part Ultra Kibble to ten parts scratch. It isn't an organic product because it was too difficult for the manufacturer to get all the various ingredients consistently and in the quantities needed. I am comfortable with allowing this compromise for myself as my own diet is not yet 100% organic.
 
Michael Grantz
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Location: Forest, VA
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This winter we fed our ducks fermented feed on a daily basis. We get a non gmo layer feed from nearby and would ferment one of the ducks' two daily rations. To start the starter, I mixed a ration of feed, a cup of ripe sourdough starter, and enough water so that the mix is the texture of wet cement after the grains have absorbed the water. Stir the mix in a 5 gal bucket, put on the lid, and Wait a day or so depending on the temperature, then feed the ducks about 75% of the mash. Use the same bucket, and add a ration of feed and water. Repeat!

In a few days the starter was going hard, and the feed smelled a delicious sour just like dough! I'm sure it unlocked nutrients for the ducks and helped them digest. However, I might be cautious to not feed them too much fermented food. It's a low pH and my guess is that their digestive system wouldn't want acid food ALL the time. So we fed them every other meal this way.

I think this is better suited to the winter, when cold temps make mold and funky flavors unlikely. You have to adjust your timing depending on the weather if you ferment outdoors, meaning you might have to do 2 or 3 buckets at a time during the cold parts.

As for other options, you might look into black soldier fly larvae for protein. Ducks supposedly like borage, so we are growing some they can eventually graze. I'm sure they would love almost any seed humans eat if it's sprouted. Best of luck!
 
Galadriel Freden
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Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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When I was about 11 or so, my family adopted three ducks. We lived in the suburbs of the Utah Valley, which meant hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. In the summer, the ducks were allowed to free range, and frequently visited our near neighbors to forage for bugs, and enjoyed forays into our large vegetable patch. I have heard that ducks like a variety of vegetables, but the only thing ours went for with any amount of damage were big red tomatoes. Mainly they were there for the bugs, especially grasshoppers.

Since our ducks loved grasshoppers so much, they kept our garden and property completely stripped of them (it was amazing!); we kids, and sometimes our parents, would go out every evening to either a neighbor's house (with permission) or a nearby empty lot and collect a quart jar full of those big juicy grasshoppers. We would jam them in till the jar was completely packed, and the grasshoppers would be woozy and slow when we emptied them out for the ducks. And they went crazy for them! As soon as they heard the sound of the lid clanging against the jar, they would come running. It was a great occupation for us kids, running around after grasshoppers: it was like the thrill of the hunt, I guess. We were experts at finding and catching them--even the other neighborhood kids would join in from time to time.
 
Ann Torrence
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Ducks eating grasshoppers would solve so many problems for me. Mine are a couple weeks old and grasshopper season is just coming on. Grasshoppers here can destroy young trees in a matter of days.

I might need more ducks.
 
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