So I picked up 7 ducklings at around a week old three months ago, 6 Cayuga and one (supposedly) Khacki. I also have 4 LF Cochins and they range on 1/2 of an acre.
They get locked into the bottom of the chicken coop at night. The chickens had a free-feeder with flock raiser in it. At the end of the first month I noticed that instead of ranging like the chickens, the ducks would eat at the feeder and sleep with a break or two at the pool (and of course, poop a ton in the coop). I might see one or two catch an opportunistic bug and sometimes following the chickens, but not foraging.
So three weeks ago they are fully feathered and getting really fat and lazy(er) with little movement outside of pool, shade napping and coop. I figured I'd feed the chickens up high and see if the ducks would perhaps be encouraged to do some actual foraging. I started feeding them 2 lbs once a day, I'd just scatter it when I got home from work and watch them go to town. The Good: They quit pooping in the coop for the most part. The Bad: That weekend I watched them lay around in the spot I had been feeding from the time they were let out at 7AM until I fed at 4PM then sleep in the grass until I put them away at dusk. The act of feeding them is deafening. Didn't see any bug catching or ranging at any time during the weekend.
Two weeks ago I cut it back to 1lb. I'm finally seeing them range and they are figuring out they can eat the seed heads on the grass, cicadas, and thousands of other bugs we have here in the south. When they see me at any point the neighbors 1/4 mile away can hear them.
They must be getting plenty to eat, they've doubled in size, look great, and are now taller and almost as wide as my cochins. A couple of them are still pretty fat when you pick them up.
I'd really like to find a happy medium where I can have them on an automatic feeder and still have them do the bug duties. Will this be a possibility as they age?
I really want them to range, the bug load here is so high right now I'm kicking up a lot of crickets, cicadas, mosquitoes and who knows what just walking through the area to water.
Thanks in advance for any advice. :)