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5 Week ducklings not eating feed

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by BladeDuck, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. BladeDuck

    BladeDuck Out Of The Brooder

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    I just moved my five 5 week old ducklings outside last week. Before I moved them outside, they were doubling their food intake almost every day. When I moved them outside, they were pretty quick to figure out where the waterer and feeder are and didn't increase their food intake anymore. But now, it seems like I have to trick them into eating 2-3 cups of their pellet feed by throwing lettuce right on top of it. They are eating much less feed now. They don't have access to a lot of dirt but that's all that I can come up with that they are filling their tummies on. I think 5 ducks should be eating a lot more than 2-3 cups of pellet feed. Right?

    Should I be concerned with their dirt and a side of pellet feed diet?

    They seem to eat more when they are locked in their coup at night (boredom?) but I don't want them to get used to just eating their feed at night because I don't want to supplement the necessary water in their coup. I want to keep the 5-gallon waterer outside the coup so they don't make a mess in there. I am hoping to just keep a small amount of feed and the chick waterer for nightime in their coup.


    I currently have them on a 22% pellet gamebird feed (they have been on since day 1). I have a bag of 16% layer feed which I was hoping to already start transitioning them to but I am worried that they are not consuming their current feed as heartily anymore. I may bump them up to the 18% All-Flock feed the next time I have to buy grain. I am not really sure what to do. The layer pellet has 3.5% calcium which I like, I just wish the protein and other vitamins were a little higher. I have read a lot of conflicting advice on what exactly to feed. Thoughts?

    [​IMG] Of course, they seem to be happy eating just dirt.
     
  2. beliabeans

    beliabeans Out Of The Brooder

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    what kind and how big are the pellets?

    you should feed them start feed because they cant eat very big food. my ducks are 2 months old and ima keep them on that untill they are 4 months old
     
  3. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Could you describe what "outside" looks like? How big an area? Are you in a warm climate where there may be bugs and plants available to eat? Are they getting treats? How are they acting? Looking run down yet? What's the waterer setup?
     
  4. duckdad

    duckdad Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thats the problem.
    You;re treating them like chickens and adults. They are not. Waterfowl are different animals. Different needs, different habits.

    They are wayyy too young IMO for any pelleted feed. They should be on chick starter for another month or 2. About 8 to 10 weeks on starter then ween them off to other foods like fresh greens mixed with a mash or blend of pellets.

    Pelleted feed cannot be chewed by a duck unless it gets wet and dissolves then they are often not interested because some of the stronger flavors come out when wet. Mine refuse to eat alfalfa pellets alone....they'd stand there and starve to death. But, if I mix the dampened pellets with finely chopped greens they gobble it down. I run a cabbage head thru the food processor and have enough greens to mix for 4 ducks for 2 days. The feed also has to have the proper protien amount of 18%...not much more and never less than 16%. Ducks are very sensitive to health issues from improper diet. Stunted growth, deformities, liver disease...etc. In the mix I add vits and sprinkle grit or oyester shell in the feed blend.

    next, they NEED access to good deep water at night. Deep enough to submerge their head completely.
    When they eat ANYTHING they MUST be able to dunk their head to clean out their nostrils. The nose vents get clogged with food and they will get sick very quickly if they cannot get that cleaned out by flushing water thru the beak/nose. Thats non-negotiable.

    Ducks are messy. If thats not something that you can do right now perhaps you should re-home them and look into another type of bird or fowl. Ducks need water to dunk and swallow 24/7 and a mess comes with that as part of the deal unless you work toward a solution as many duck-pet owners have done.
    There are MANY ways to help with that, many of us use a small 6-8" pale set inside another larger pale. That keeps 99% of the water contained so its not all over the duck house. They are going to spill, so the idea is to have something around the water supply to catch the spillage. It works. They won;t eat as they should if they do not have access to the water they need to swallow and clean the beak. I use the "double bag" method for food and water and this has cut the spillage to almost zero. I use a square plastic storage box with 2 tupperware bowls or squares inside that for water and food. I can take the whole thing away to wash and reload, each morning and each evening. Water is changed twice a day and always available and feeding is twice daily. Snacks & treats between meals when playing or swimming.

    Punishing the ducks by taking away their water at night won;t help. They will revolt, become alienated and they will never be as good a pet/duck as they could be. Even if you plan on them to be slaughtered they should be treated properly as you are their provider in life.
     
  5. BladeDuck

    BladeDuck Out Of The Brooder

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    All, I was grinding the pellets for about the first 2.5 weeks to mimick a starter feed consistency. Of course some of the pellets would still be in the feed and they would happily eat it all, so I started grinding less and less and they were all still eating the pellets. So since about 3.5 weeks they have been on just pellets. They have always had deep water enough water to clean their heads and bills, but not enough to swim in. I have been putting the 5-gallon waterer in their coup at night, and only a little bit of feed. However, I don't want to do that forever with the large waterer which is why I haven't been putting a lot of feed at night right now. When they are adult ducks, I would like to just have a small waterer set-up in there.

    I'll try grinding the feed again and see if that encourages them to eat more. When you all say they can't eat the big pellets are you talking about not being able to swallow or is it an internal digestive problem? Because, they all have been heartily consuming the pellets until the last few days. They seem to be happy, warm, and their adult feathers are coming in really nicely.

    My waterer is a 5 gallon rubber horse tub with a 5 gallon bucket inside. It will be quite a while until I give them outside bathing water since it is winter here in UT. But thankfully its been rather mild and steady where I am or else they would still be inside. I've been bringing them inside every few days to take a luke warm bath to bathe in.

    I have a small backyard with concrete, brick, and some dirt areas where the previous tenants used to have a garden. However, it was just a very developed weed garden when we moved. I pulled the weeds a few months ago. I don't imagine too many bugs are in there still. Mostly dead weed roots.

    I promise, I'm trying to be a good duck owner, its just my first time with ducks. I've been watching them and changing things based on how they act.
     
  6. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    So, BladeDuck, I'm trying to picture if the ducklings are finding some sort of alternate food, or if there's some environmental stressor to trigger their lack of appetite.

    Here are my thoughts, and I am overly cautious with my ducks, so take it for what it's worth (I have lost two out of 13 ducks, one to unknown internal cause, one to egg yolk peritonitis). Just want you to know my "batting average."

    The recommended temperatures for ducklings are (and there's wiggle room here), 90 degrees F the first week dropping about 5 degrees a week till they're okay with the outdoor temperatures. For my ducks, hatched in late February, it took 90 days before their hardiness - in my opinion - matched the outdoor temperatures. We had a late spring in 2010, too. So they were indoors in the brooder for 3 months. It worked, but it was work.

    I did switch to grower feed, starting at 2 weeks of age, slowly adding more grower to crumbles over a two to three week period, if I recall. I gave them a pinch of chick grit starting at two or three days old, with every 6" plateful of crumbles. I started them on chopped lettuce and pea treats at about a week of age.

    At around 10 to 12 weeks, we started maintenance feed, and soon after a bowl of free choice oyster shell, as they were demonstrating breeding behavior. Sure enough 4 weeks later - at 16 weeks - we had our first egg.

    Are they getting grit? If not, and if they're getting something other than bagged feed which dissolves, they risk impaction. How is their energy level? Are they moping around?

    I gave my ducks water 24/7 till they were about 6 weeks old, then withheld food and water overnight for 8 hours. Once they went outside, I gave them water but no food at night until I felt more certain about the predator issue. Now they have water and food 24/7, but the water is always away from their bedding area.

    So how are they today?
     
  7. BladeDuck

    BladeDuck Out Of The Brooder

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    I imagine they are eating dirt and the dead moss and weeds inbetween the cracks of the bricks. The White Layer always seems to have a mouth full of dirt when I go out there. Yesterday, I put two bowls of food out there and they ate lot more even though either bowl didn't get very low. So they probably ate 4-5 cups of pellets yesterday, which I was happy about. I never let the bowls go empty but maybe they prefer to have the bowls always full looking? I had a cat like that once.

    They have always had straw bedding. They've never been very interested in eating it, though they pick at it a little Their coup is thickly bedded and straw is lightly thrown around the concrete they have access to because it makes it easier to pick up the poop and its probably gentler on their feet than the plain concrete.

    They drink about 2-3 gallons of water a day right now. They poop a lot. We have high enclosed fences, so I don't think the neighbor kids are throwing them anything. There's no evidence of anything else in their area besides what we have fed them.

    They seem pretty lively and alert to me. They're not super friendly but they will happily eat chopped up lettuce and greens from my hand. How much feed should they be eating at this age? I measure in cups because I don't have a scale other than a unreliable bathroom scale. I grinded the feed for them today, so we'll see how it looks when I get back from work.

    I've looked for 'grit' before at my local ranch store but didn't see any. Is grit something special or is it like sand? The dirt they have access to is fairly sandy. The weeds grew REALLY well in there. I did see oyster shells at the store though! I'll get some of those for them to try as they get a little older.

    I really appreciate the help. They really don't act cold to me. When they were really young they would start to pile on top of each other when the heat lamp wasn't close enough. They sleep close but not touching in the coup. I have a regular 75 watt bulb (protected & secure) in the coup on all of the time for them until they are fully feathered. They hang out outside and in the coup during the day, but mostly outside. They like to nap in the winter sun.
     
  8. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    The sandy soil is likely just fine for grit, so it doesn't sound like they're impacted, especially since output is steady!

    Speaking of output, does it look like dark little piles of mud? Or is there some tan coloring from their feed? Yes, we need to get graphic sometimes to know what's going on. [​IMG]

    If you have five ducklings eating five cups of feed a day, energetic, reasonably friendly, and growing at a normal pace, I think you're okay. Having the heat source (yes, be very cautious about safety, there) available to them is good, too. And during the day, water for washing with drinking water 24/7 sounds good.

    When you can, a photo of your babies would be an encouragement. Tell them to smile big!
     
  9. duckdad

    duckdad Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I say they can't eat that feed, its a physical issue. Ducks don;t have teeth so the hard pellets often get "mouthed" or nibbled and dropped. Until they get wet or moist the duck can;t really chew them. This is another example of why they must have good water right next to the food source so they can swallow and moisten the hard feed.

    Thats actually what motivated me to put more effort into their dinners....The wet cabbage or lettuce that I grind up has enough moisture to dampen the pelleted feed and soften it. I have a blend of seed, feed, and greens that seems to work well and keep them all healthy. The bigger the bird the easier they are to feed, but even as adults they still cannot take hard feed without water. Thats just the way a duck is built.

    I've also noticed that they're taste will change as well. Sometimes they will pick thru the dinner casserole and eat what they want and leave the rest. Other times they clean the bowl. Hard to say why or what causes this. I rotate types of greens and alter the blend in an attempt to keep it interesting.
     
  10. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I've seen something similar to what duckdad describes - the amount and type of food that the ducks eat varies day to day.

    Our flock actually has done okay both with dry and moistened feed. And they've turned their noses up at both dry and moistened feed!

    duckdad's approach sounds really good, making sure there's fresh as well as packaged complete nutrient feed available to the ducks. Yes, I've seen mine pick through feed and leave what they don't want.

    Speaking of ducks, I need to go tend the flock.
     

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