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What Do Ducks Eat?

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tiny yellow ducklilngIf like me, you are new to raising ducks you might prefer to buy duckling food from your local providers. If you are doing this be careful not to buy ‘chick-starter’ which is meant for baby chickens as it may contain medication which can kill ducks. There may be a chick starter food available in your area which doesn’t contain this medication but it is best to make sure – so ask.

DUCKLING FOOD

I was unable to access duckling food locally so I did a bit of research and came up with my own blend of foods – combining what I have in my kitchen and what I grow. This has been a great success, as not only do the ducklings love it but they are thriving on it – getting bigger, stronger, and quackier each day.

Ducks need water to eat food and so they need a fresh supply of drinking water each day. They also need grit which you can buy. I use oyster shells as the local fishermen leave plenty of them around at the little bay close by.

LIKE A DUCK TO WATER

duck and drake swimming in a paddling-poolThey also need somewhere to swim. I have a number of tiny ponds (of the kind you can buy for small children to paddle in) around the garden where the ducks can swim but at the moment I have confined them in a smaller pen to keep them safe from predators like magpies and so they can’t access their usual water sources. Instead I have provided a bowl of water for the parents and a paint roller tray of water for the ducklings to learn to swim.

ducklings near paint trayThe paint roller tray is handy as it gives them a shallow and a deep end. I have noticed that my ducks and ducklings tend to get this water filthy as not only do they walk in it but also tend to poo in it as well. So it needs to be changed regularly.

SLUGS, SNAILS AND OTHER TREATS

Ducks can eat barley, oats and other grains and when they free range, as mine are. They also make themselves very useful by foraging around the garden for snails, slugs and other insects which would otherwise become the scourge of the veggie garden.

My duck and drake go around together as a twosome but they keep within clucking range of our flock of hens and they all get on very well together with no duck/hen fights or hissing.

MEALS ON WHEELS

ducklings eating from a tin foil trayI feed the ducklings and their parents within the pen and I use shallow bowls and plates. My dad used to get meals on wheels and the two sided tin-foil trays they came in were great as they were shallow enough for the ducklings to reach. I could put water in one side and food in the other. Alas, dad has got fed up with meals on wheels and has cancelled them, so no more free tin-foil trays for the ducks.

EGGY PORRIDGE

duck watching her ducklings eating from a bowl I make up enough food to last the ducklings a couple of days to save time and since the food I give them is basically a thick eggy, milky porridge which tends to form a thick skin, I use a non-stick pan to save having to scrub the gloopy mess off the sides of a normal pan.

DUCKLING FOOD

  • Porridge made from fine oats
  • Boiled eggs.
  • Goats milk.

BLEND THE ABOVE INGREDIENTS TOGETHER TO MAKE A FINE PORRIDGE.

GREEN JUICE

  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli leaves
  • Chard

BOIL THE GREENS IN ONE POT THEN STRAIN THE JUICE AND COOL.

jug of green juice for ducklingsI already have these greens growing in my vegetable garden so I just have to pick, boil, cool and strain.

DUCK PORRIDGE & GREEN JUICE

I serve the duck porridge with a ladle of the green juice poured over them and the ducklings absolutely love it – as do their parents. In fact, the mother duck and drake like the duckling food  so much so that I feared they weren’t leaving enough for their babies so I also make a basic rolled oats porridge for them so they can eat this while the youngsters eat their own. Of course duck-life is what happens when we’re making plans so sometimes the ducklings eat their parent’s porridge while their parents eat theirs.

duckling diving into food bowl

DUCK PARENTING

I can’t say ducks make the best of parents as I have watched as the drake pushes and prods them with his beak when they get in his way and the mother walks on them as though they are invisible.  I have read that many ducklings die in the wild as their mothers tend to drag them around and forget about them.

But who’s to say what makes a good mother in duck world?  I have seen the mother hiss protectively at an inquisitive hen that came too close to the fence dividing them and the ducks.

And she certainly has pecked and hissed at me a few times when I came too close as I pushed the food in under the enclosure – so maybe ducks are good mothers – in their own special duckish little way.

Click here for more about raising ducks and click here for more about hens, ducks and fowl.

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