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Feeding enough? Ducklings skinny?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by GoodEgg, Jun 10, 2007.

  1. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Hello all,

    I need to ask an updated question about the ducklings. They were hatched around March 21, so they are about 2-1/2 months old. I THINK they are some kind of buff cross, buff/runner cross, and the black ones may be black swedish, or crosses of that. I have a male and female of each type (2 yellow/brown ones, and 2 mostly black ones).

    I am feeding starter/grower, and I give them a large cupful (I think it holds about 16-20 oz. liquid twice a day. Sometimes I give an extra 1/2 cupful. They free range all day, but it's been a bit dry around here. They have about 2/3 of an acre to roam over, with all sorts of weeds and some grass, and it's a pretty rural/woodsy area so a fair amout of bugs (except like I said it's been dry).

    I really don't know if I am feeding them enough. It is *impossible* to feed them all they want. They would never stop eating. They do forage around all over for a good bit of the day, taking breaks to swim and rest in the shade. They call loudly when it's time to eat, but usually seem satisfied the rest of the day.

    They feel "meaty" when I pick them up, which isn't often because they don't want to be held. The blacks are heavier and thicker than the yellow/browns.

    I noticed the runner-looking one has a crease down his chest, like a separation of the breast. He has a long thin neck anyway, and I thought he was a runner cross. Now the others have a tiny little crease there too. Maybe this is a stupid question, but does that mean they are too skinny?

    Or, how can I know how much to feed them? I haven't increased the feed much since they started free-ranging, because I want them to forage, and that was the reason for getting ducks in the first place. But I surely don't want to deprive them or feed them too little either. I can't believe I don't know how much to feed them ... I've kept all kinds of animals and never had to wonder if I was feeding enough before, but I guess I just don't know a thing about ducks.

    Hopefully I can get pics developed soon.

    Thanks if anyone can help?

    trish
     
  2. mlheran

    mlheran Chillin' With My Peeps

    I've noticed the same thing with my ducklings! [​IMG]

    Though mine are still penned because they aren't feathered in yet. I give them a big hunk of freshly-pulled morning glory weeds in the morning, and give them some lettuce treats a few times a day. They LOVE the greens, so I can't wait to let them free range in a month or so.

    Between the six of them (all under seven weeks old) they are now easily going through a quart jar of feed a day. I've been giving them more and more greens since they like them, and that has put less stress on the feed supply (or my back anyway, from those 50# bags!).

    I have noticed the "chest dent" from time to time, but they don't have it permanently, so I guess it is a bit like a crop in chickens -rounded when full and sunken when empty. Though sometimes it seems to depend on the way they stand or sit. Oh, and all of mine are one breed, so they all look the same. [​IMG] Maybe in certain breeds the breast keel is more pronounced?

    Here's a feeding quote from Dave Holerread's book Raising the Home Duck Flock (I got an old copy from eBay, and I hear it was reprinted as "Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks"),

    The rate at which ducklings grow is in direct proportion to the quantity and quality of the feed they consume. For maximum growth they need a diet that provides 20 to 22 percent protein up to two weeks of age, and 16 to 18 percent protein from two to twelve weeks.
    To stimulate fast growth, ducklings should be allowed to eat all the feed they want up to two weeks of age. After this time, you can limit them to two or three feedings daily, when they should be given all the feed they can clean up in five to ten minutes. When month-old ducklings have access to succulent pasture, they can be limited to one feeding daily. Giving the birds their meal in the evenings will encourage them to forage throughout the day.


    He also recommends these feed amounts for grown ducks:
    for a 2-3 lb. duck roughly .25 lbs. of feed per duck
    for a 4-5 lb. duck roughly .30 lbs. of feed per duck
    for a 6-7 lb. duck roughly .40 lbs. of feed per duck

    I've never measured the weight of my feed though. And I leave them feed free-choice since there are six of them and they don't all eat at once.

    It sounds like you are doing just fine with the feed amounts as long as they have a lot of greens available to them. [​IMG]
     
  3. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Thanks Mlheran,

    I hadn't thought of the crop going down. Silly me. Maybe they are ok after all, but I might weigh the feed and check, just in case. Normally they can scarf down the food I give them within about 3 minutes, but then again they are so afraid of not getting their share that they won't stop to drink as they should, and Kupo "peeps" while he eats, actually he's choking! I have to give them a few bites at a time from the cup and take it away until they drink if I want to prevent this.

    And tonight they proved the opposite. I fed them a little later than usual (I usually feed about 20 minutes before I put them up) and they took only a few bites, then put themselves in the cage and let me know they were ready to be locked in. I guess they can't be starving after all? The ants will have a feast tonight.

    Thanks again. Maybe there's no need to worry after all. [​IMG]

    trish
     
  4. SkeeredChicken

    SkeeredChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 27, 2007
    Orlando, Florida
    Quote:Morning Glory?!?!?!? Are you sure you want to be giving them any part of that plant? It's used in certain drugs.
     
  5. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Just an update ... wouldn't you know?

    They continued to ignore most of the food I fed them from the time I posted. They don't beg or come to us anymore either. Instead, they spend quite a bit of the day stripping the seedy tops off of weeds, digging in the roots (wonder what they are eating there???), and one of them has learned a "bug hunting mode" that is hilarious to watch, his neck looks like a snake down low and swinging back and forth, and he snatches them up as he walks past them. They even try to eat fallen branches and leaves from trees ... anything is worth "tasting."

    I guess they are fine. [​IMG]

    Now I need a treat they really like to keep them tame. So far they aren't too excited about anything I've offered.

    I'm glad they usually march into the pen at night when I tell them to go in. Otherwise this new independence would be hard to deal with, like the one night I had to put them up early to go to church, and chased them all over the yard for quite a while, with the neighbor's kids watching in amusement.

    Thanks all,

    trish
     
  6. birdlover

    birdlover Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2007
    Northern Va.
    hmmm...okay, I guess I'm not doing it right! I have 2 month old runners. I have been making food available to them 24/7. Yikes! And it is chick starter and game bird starter. They do have access to the backyard all day and are foraging fine. They especially love the chicken poop (which I posted about earlier). [​IMG] So, what I should do, according to the article you posted is to only feed them once a day, preferrably at night, and give them grower feed? Geesh, I wonder if I've harmed them in some way?

    Ellen
     
  7. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Hi Ellen,

    I don't mean by my post to say that you are not doing it right. [​IMG] And from what I am seeing, I think ducks are pretty forgiving in terms of not being too badly affected by not being raised "by the book." I just keep reminding myself that all those little ducks in ponds around town are doing fine foraging with their mothers and nothing but breadcrusts thrown to them, which can't be too good for them.

    My ducklings were getting close to 3 months old before they started foraging well. When they were 2 months old, I had to feed them 1-2 large cupfuls at a time, 2 or 3 times a day. They cried LOUDLY when they were hungry, which seemed to be almost all of the time.

    And I've kept them on pretty much the same food, which is a type of starter/grower that I found out has 21% protein. When we were trying to "teach" them to forage, we caught lots of grasshoppers and bugs and fed them those, and I have given them lots of weed-tops and weeds in general since they were about a week old.

    In fact, their favorite thing (which I don't often do for them anymore) is for me to fill their little pool with water, then pull as many weeds as I can and toss them in, roots, seeds, and all. They will spend many happy hours working on those weeds.

    I don't even know what the weeds are, and I have been praying that nothing is poisonous to them.

    It's only been about a week ago that they started ignoring the food, and on June 21 they will be 3 months.

    I've offered them a few things, strawberries, boiled eggs, corn, blackberries, tomatoes, and a few other fruits and veggies. They aren't too interested.

    And, for what all of this is worth, these are the first ducks I have had since I lived on my grandma's farm as a child ... so I've been just muddling along myself.

    I just read what I could find, and somewhere I saw that people were feeding in the evening, so that the ducks would be encouraged to forage more during the day. I never knew how much to feed, and I used to keep food available at all times until I moved them outside during the day, which was probably when they were close to 2 months old, if I remember correctly. Then I still fed them about 3-4 times a day, and later reduced frequency bit by bit, but increased amount.

    Good luck with your runners! I'm sure they will do fine. [​IMG]

    trish
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  8. birdlover

    birdlover Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2007
    Northern Va.
    Oh whew! Thanks Trish! Actually I should have been clearer. I have two ducklings that are one month old! So they're a whole month younger than you thought. I moved them to the chicken coop at about 3 1/2 weeks and have been letting them free range on their own more and more. Otherwise, I have them on the grass in a pen which I use to keep the chickens out of their food!!!! Stupid chickens think it's a treat for them!!! My ducks are crazy about chopped up tomato, hard boiled egg, melon and dandilion greens. I also throw weeds (dandilion greens) into the pool for them. And, of course, they LOVE finding bugs to eat. I threw them an earthworm yesterday and they scarfed it right up! Let me ask you this...the temps haven't been very high the past few days...mid 70's at the most. I get nervous letting them swim when it's not very sunny and warm. Last night they got in their pool when I had meant to "close it down" for the day and I actually blow dried them because I was afraid to let them go to "bed" (pile of straw in corner of coop) wet. What do you do about yours being wet when it's close to bed time? Thanks for your encouragement and help, btw!!

    Ellen
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  9. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    You're welcome Ellen.

    It sounds like you are doing fine by feeding them that much. Mine were eating constantly at that age. [​IMG] Or at least seemed to be. The hardest thing was keeping enough water to wash the food down with, since they liked to play in the water, but without it they can choke on dry feed. (I had to give them water in a chick feeder so only their heads could go in, cuz if they could get their feet or anything else in it they always would.)

    Again, I'm no expert. I was told that I shouldn't let them get in the water until they were fully feathered at about 2 months, but I had already let them swim a few times before I was told that.

    What I did was to make sure they were warm enough when they did swim. In the bathtub when they were very young, I had used warm water, and also when they fit in a little tub I carried outside full of water. Later when I started using the pool, I only did it on days when it was very warm outside (we're in Florida, so that wasn't a problem).

    If I thought it cooled off too fast (which it did a couple of times due to storms) or it got too late, I would blow-dry them as well. I was afraid at first that they would be scared or not like it, but they seemed to actually enjoy it. I put them in a smallish box and held the dryer far away, on a warm setting, and kept it moving over them.

    I'm not really sure what someone else would say, but I do think I'd be concerned about letting 1-month olds swim in mid 70's temps, especially if it was close to bedtime. I think you did the right thing by blow-drying them in that case.

    Then again, my little guys got caught out in spring rains a few times. When I started to go "rescue" them, I found that they were having the time of their lives flapping around and playing in the cool rain, so I usually let them stay for a bit, but just brought them in a little early and made sure they got dry. Sometimes I turned the heating pad up a little higher, so they could move to that side if they wanted, but only once did they take advantage of it, if I remember right.

    Maybe someone will have more specific advice than I can give. Like I said, I'm new at this myself, but think I am finding that

    1. Ducklings are much tougher than chicks
    2. A little TLC goes a long way to make up for lots of problems, with both ducklings and chicks

    Good luck with the little quackers! [​IMG]

    trish
     

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