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Feeding Duckweed to Layers

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I live in Suriname, South America, and have a small flock of eight layers in a coop in the side yard.  I am currently experimenting with duckweed as a supplemental feed.  I do not know the actual numbers, but duckweed is supposedly high in protein.  At the present I am feeding the duckweed, and also rice bran (or polishings, from the local rice mills) mixed with laying mash.  I plan to slowly phase out the laying mash, if the hens continue to do well with the duckweed and rice bran.  This will allow me to feed the flock very economically.

Of course duckweed is not normally thought of as a crop, but in warmer areas of North America it would be possible to grow it at least part of the year.  This could be done in an existing pond, or even in a tank or pool of some sort.  I have not actually tried growing duckweed myself yet as Suriname is a tropical country, and I have a year-round, unlimited supply from a canal near my home.

I simply harvest the duckweed and place it in a five-gallon bucket hanging in the chicken coop.  The bucket has holes in the bottom, which allows the chickens to get to the duckweed.  I have found that the holes have to be very large, as the duckweed sticks together and does not fall to the bottom when what is below is pecked out.  When I go into the coop to gather eggs or feed the chickens, I give the bucket a few good shakes to force more duckweed to the bottom where the hens can get at it.  I would really like to come up with a self-feeder which would have the duckweed available all the time without having to shake it down, but that is something for further experimentation.

I would be interested in hearing of anyone else's experiences with feeding duckweed.

A southern North American living in northern South America
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A southern North American living in northern South America
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post #2 of 17

I've never heard of feeding duckweed to chickens, but I do grow a bunch in an 80 gallon stock tub. My duck loves it, and she gets a small bowl of it 2x a week. I posted a thread about feeding duckweed to ducks in the duck forum. I had a reply saying it shouldn't make up more than 40% of a ducks diet...or else it could be harmful. But then again, that's for ducks....I haven't heard of anyone feed duckweed to chickens, but why not? I'm sure it would be good for them as a treat.

Ducks rule, but so do chickens. Proud owner of one female pekin named Sunny.
3 RIR/PRs and 2 EEs. 5 hens 28+ weeks old and almost full size! Please visit my dragons
http://dragcave.net/user/Pet_Duck_Boy114
I'm the Cocky Cockeral of BYC!
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Ducks rule, but so do chickens. Proud owner of one female pekin named Sunny.
3 RIR/PRs and 2 EEs. 5 hens 28+ weeks old and almost full size! Please visit my dragons
http://dragcave.net/user/Pet_Duck_Boy114
I'm the Cocky Cockeral of BYC!
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post #3 of 17

I've heard duckweed is great as a livestock and poultry feed.  However, I don't think I'd phase out the layer pellets altogether without giving the chickens a wider source of foods than just duckweed and rice bran.  I'm no expert, but that doesn't seem like it would give all the minerals they need.  Do they free-range at all?  What about mealworms or other insects, yogurt or yogurt cultures (economical only if you have your own dairy animals and are discarding excess milk), oyster shells, etc.?  There are threads on here that are very scientific about what chickens need in their diets- you could check those for more info.

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

My hens get a variety of foods, but the rice bran and duckweed will make up the bulk of their diets.  I plan to phase out the laying mash because of the high cost of the imported feed, and because I want to use locally available ingredients. 

I would like to hear from anyone who has used duckweed as supplemental feed.

A southern North American living in northern South America
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A southern North American living in northern South America
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post #5 of 17

I used to grow duckweed in the fish tanks and feed it to the guinea pigs.  Duckweed is entirely edible by anything that eats greens.  If you do start growing it though you will never be able to use that container without it unless you clean everything off.  People have torn down tanks, left the gravel to sit for weeks, and put them back together to have the duckweed reappear.

post #6 of 17

I sure wish you all would give me the secret to growing duckweed in abundance!! We live in Northern California and are currently raising tilapia in the backyard. They love duckweed and we have ordered it many times, put it in a seperate tank and waited for it to grow and it just turns yellow and dies off. Is there a secret to getting it going? The tank we put it in is part of the filtration system for the pond itself although we have also tried just putting it in a seperate tank not attached to the pond and it died even faster there. If we do get a good batch that seems to live it just does not grow fast enough to keep the fish fed with. Any ideas? On a side note, the chickens also love the food my husband buys to feed the fish! I have fed my hens duckweed and they loved it but only as a small part of their diet.
CJ

post #7 of 17

When you had it in a totally separate container, did you feed it?  It needs nutrients in the water.  When you had it in a container connected to the pond, it's possible that your up and running filtration system didn't leave enough nutrients in the water to feed it adequately.  Putting aquatic plants in water without nutrients in the water is like trying to grow garden plants in a substrate with no nutrients.  It just doesn't work.

I have pond fish in ponds where the only filtration is an assortment of plants and they grow great.  I have to pull a lot out every year.  That's my version of cleaning the filter.  I do have a pump circulating the water between my ponds.

I'm only guessing that temperature or ph wasn't too far off for it to grow, since your fish were fine in it.  You could check that, though.

post #8 of 17

We had a koi pond and several fish tanks running for many years with nothing but  pumps and the biofiltration provided by aquatic plants.  I bought a half cup of duckweed and within one growing season it had covered the pond and tanks.  It needs the fish poop to grow, though.

post #9 of 17

Interesting, I have the exact same set up as Elmo. The other water plants grow great. Just the duckweed doesn't. The reason I keep it in the tank as opposed to the pond is because the fish eat it so quickly it would never get a chance to grow in there. While we have had success with a little bit it just doesn't seem to be in abundance like everyone says.
Although it does seem to do better in the first filtration tank than the second one. Perhaps the second one is too "clean" as woodlandwoman says. I also wonder if it is the fact we have to get it shipped to us as the only fish store close by only has very little bits of it so in order to get a good supply we buy it on line. The other water plants we buy seem to do just fine though.  Thanks everyone for your help.
CJ

post #10 of 17

I've been feeding it to chicks. It is fertilized with humanure so I made a thread about that http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=4152672#p4152672 It grows great for me! It likes little water movement and anaerobic conditions. It is supposed to suppress mosquito larvae and I haven't been able to find any.

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