Grain Free Feeding for Muscovies

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Cypress, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. Cypress

    Cypress New Egg

    Sep 9, 2009
    Alright, so I will be jumping in with both feet in the coming weeks and getting some Muscovy ducklings. I understand that they like insects and there are plenty of them around here (I live on the river next to a swamp) so I am looking forward to pest control, along with meat and eggs.

    However I need a bit of help as to what to feed them to get them to come in when called and during the winter months. I will not feed them grains as I have come to realize that this isn't food fit for humans, dogs, cats, ferrets, or cows and so it is probably safe to extend that to ducks too. In addition, I've developed an allergy to wheat since going off it and tiny amounts in the air can make me very sick.

    So my question is, does anyone else feed a grain free diet to their ducks? I'd like to get self sufficient with it if possible, maybe cultivate my own grubs and the like.

    Any help or insight is appreciated!

  2. 70%cocoa

    70%cocoa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2011
    Canberra, Australia
    In theory it should be possible, particularly if you have enough land to supply a portion of their food. They will need plenty of invertebrates and green feed. If you can grow pond plants they will like that. I grow my own mealworms but you'd need a big operation to actually use them as feed rather than just treats. Growing crickets would be another good thing but they will need warmth and humidity and space it'd be a bit of an effort, and quite a slow process.

    If you grow any berries they'd like those. In the summer things like squash are good. They eat the leaves as well as the squash. My ducks love the leaves and tubers of Jersalem artichokes (not sure if you call them by the same name in the States though).

    To get them to come in when called I'd try peas.

    In 'the wild' ducks would eat grains - grass seeds and the like. Grains like oats might be a useful supplement to have on hand during the leaner months in case your land and own efforts can't provide enough.
  3. learycow

    learycow Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 1, 2011
    Southern Maine
    If you can supply them with fresh veggies and fruits, that should be enough for them. I usually let them free range during the winter, and they tend to dig up the snow and find things to eat. But I also supply them daily with veggies, or at least scraps. Bread is good for them too.

    But if this doesn't work for you them I would definitely feed them grain. I feed grain to my layers year-round. I have found that without it, they don't produce as many eggs as they should. And grain is perfectly safe as long as you know what you are buying. I feel poulin grain to mine. And when I can't get that, I feed Dumor. Just do your research, not everything out there is bad. And even if you don't want to feed grain, you can pick up a bag of scratch. It usually contains chunks of corn, oats, barley, and other natural grains. It usually isn't processed any further than extracting the grain and crushing it.
  4. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    I've often seen muscovies that have gone feral on local lakes, and they survive year by year on what they can forage. I'm sure it can be done, but they'll need lots more food and/or lots more room to forage.

    I agree that a grain-heavy diet is not optimal for humans or dogs or cats or cows. I eat very minimal grains myself and feed my cat a grain-free diet. However, keep in mind that every species has unique needs (and it's my belief that the optimal human diet includes a small amount of grain, though a cat has no reason whatsoever to need grains in its diet). Ducks happen to be one species that naturally eats a relatively high proportion of grains in their ancestral environment. Grass and other grain seed is abundant in the wild and abundantly harvested by waterfowl of various sorts, including ducks.

    Some people get their ducks their grain ration by growing it in fields and then releasing the ducks to harvest their own wheat, oats, rice (if they have a paddy), etc. They certainly don't have to have wheat, per se, but at least some grain in their diet is probably a good idea.

    Good luck with your project. It sounds like you are not afraid of hard work and extra effort to meet an optimal diet, and I wish you all the best for that. Keep us updated!
  5. FarmrGirl

    FarmrGirl MooseMistress

    Jul 1, 2009
    Southern Maryland
    My Muscovy love greens of any kind... they'll even eat the leaves off of the trees.

    Greens veggies such as kale grow really well in cooler temps and in the summer I'm sure you can harvest some weeds someplace! We have this very invasive Japanese Stilt Grass growing everywhere here. In area's where the fowl don't have access I pull up an armload of it by the roots, wave it at the geese and ducks and tell them to come get their salad. That weed is there most favorite treat! LOL!

    I try to make sure they get greens twice a day in summer and at least once in winter... it's harder to get them fresh greens. Alfalfa pellets work in a pinch but I try not to feed too much because I think it makes the eggs taste a little funny.
  6. Cypress

    Cypress New Egg

    Sep 9, 2009
    Excellent. Very helpful everyone thank you for your insight! [​IMG] I will look into grubs, crickets and the like from the pet store until I can get my own operation going. I have plenty of long grass for salad. Lol It'll be fun figuring out what they will come for. Sounds like they can eat nearly anything so long as they have enough protein. They will be free-range too so I will be watching to see what they like. Got plenty of mosquitoes for em!

    Thanks again! [​IMG]
  7. Speceider

    Speceider Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2011
    Something to consider is the amount of inverts needed. Using the standard allometric bird equations, a 4 lb muscovy would need 110 grams (dry mass) of crawfish per day to meet their daily energy requirements. I'm just applying the results from another project, that's why I am using crawfish, rather than other inverts, but the energy content is similar (I used 2.55 kcal/g). That doesn't account for true metabizable energy differences of foods, but is just a ballpark estimate of what is needed. Because many muscovies will weigh more than 4 lbs, I would consider that the minimum per bird.

    personnaly, in the wild, over 80% of a wild muscovies diet is seeds, so I am not sure why grains are an issue.

  8. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    ???? X 2
  9. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    Grain is the natural food of ducks. They harvest grass seed, which is exactly what grain is. You can buy grain without wheat in it.

    My ducks are busy right now, harvesting grass seed. They reach up, get the seed head into their mouth and then pull, stripping the seeds off the plant.

    What are you going to feed them over the winter when there are few bugs and not much greenery? Are your ducks going to fly South for the winter, like wild ducks do, to follow the food? If you aren't planning on buying them a plane ticket, they probably can not forage enough to live on in the winter, unless you live in the tropics. You are going to have to feed them.

    I've heard that ducks can eat cooked potato as their carbohydrate ration. I've never tried it, so I don't know from my own experience. I would expect them to be able to eat cooked sweet potato, which is a good food source. They will need additional protein with either of those carb sources, since they are low in protein.
  10. Cypress

    Cypress New Egg

    Sep 9, 2009
    So I could buy grass seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds etc…to get through the winter, in leiu of buying them each a first class plane ticket to South America.

    There is significant cross contamination risk from wheat, barley, and rye in all grains and oats and I am extremely sensitive to those three, just a single low exposure can leave me very sick for days as my body attacks itself in an autoimmune overreaction.

    Not pleasant and not worth it.

    From my research seeds are not exactly the same thing as grains, their structure is different and they don’t have the problem gluten. I have found that I personally have a problem with all grains, wheat being by far the worst and most acute, while the rest I have to ingest for there to be an issue.

    If you think corn is food I suggest watching the documentary King Corn. I figured out it was a problem with me before watching the film but it helped to explain why.

    I think I may have PTSD when it comes to grains but after having them ruin my life for 30 years I think it is warranted PTSD. [​IMG]

    Thanks again for your help everyone! [​IMG]

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