Growing your own duck food, and which breed would be best?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by la dee da, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. la dee da

    la dee da Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello everyone! I have been looking into getting ducks recently, but I want to be able to raise all my animal food instead of buying it. Chickens are easy enough, there are so many threads on it and I can grow just about anything and see if it works, but ducks have me stumped. I read today that ducks are mostly bug eaters so free ranging in a grassy area and growing greens in your garden won't cut it.

    I was planning on raising some mealworms to suppliment my chickens diet, and next year look into roaches (which I've heard are just as easy to raise and prolific). We don't have unlimited space inside our garage and house to keep bugs out of winter weather, and I can only imagine how hard it would be raising enough to feed the ducks, especially since they lay more than chickens. I plan on getting a kiddie pool to grow some duckweed in, but we don't have an actual pond to raise fish in.

    The big question is: Is it possible to grow your own duck food without a pond?

    Is there a breed that is (not a mallard or muscovy) good for this kind of situation?

    I live in Virginia, if that makes any difference.
     
  2. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I am in the process of discovering the answer to your questions. Do you feel up to vermiculture? Doesn't take much space, and once you get the process down (I am told and am working on it now), you should have a good supply of vermiprotein before too long.

    We have runners and buffs, two nice, smallish breeds, prolific layers, (fabulous personalities!), and they don't need to eat to maintain a large body weight. I keep them warmish in the winter, as we have the space in a walkout basement that stays in the 40s F in the winter, so we don't need much extra feed (yay). The basement is not heated, so there is no extra expense there.

    I am beginning to replace some of their boughten feed with whole wheat, and have fed them some rolled oats since day one. Or, maybe day two.

    Comfrey is a plant they like, and seems to be healthy as long as it is a portion, not most of, their diet. They also eat weeds, slugs, squash bugs, Japanese beetles, and worms while out foraging. They also eat very small fish, so if you have or plan on an aquaponics setup, you might be able to give them some fry for protein.

    Other things they can eat, that mine seem to like, are field peas and what my southern family refers to as English peas. These are a bit on the starchy side, but the field peas have a bit of protein.

    Carol Deppe writes in her book, "The Resilient Gardener," that she feeds her Anconas (in addition to some other feedstuffs), cooked potatoes (Yukon Gold, if I recall) and winter squash.

    I have been thinking about finding out if they like cooked sunroof (Helianthus tuberoses) tubers. The tubers are quite nutritious, and I for one really like them, myself.

    Mother Earth News has published an article about feeding one's flock (including ducks) from the homestead, so that could give you more ideas.

    Think about calcium, too. We live near the coast, so shells are not so hard to come by. I have been told many people feed back clean dry crushed egg shells. Some greens, like dandelion, have a bit of calcium in them, and my ducks love dandelion greens.
     
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  3. la dee da

    la dee da Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Some good info you got there. I probably should have mentioned that the ducks I want are mostly for meat so a good size duck is a must. By "good size" I don't mean the cornish or cornish-x version of ducks, just one that reaches a decent weight, such as a large duel purpose chicken.

    Can you tell I'm much more familier with chickens? [​IMG]
     
  4. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I have been told that traditionally, one simply kept a breeding pair or two through winter, and processed the rest for meat so that feed would not be as big an issue in the winter.

    Because of my preferences, I go with the smaller breeds and enjoy them as pets as well as egg layers, fertilizer producers, weed and pest eaters, and cutie pies. So I am no help deciding about meat ducks.
     
  5. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    There is no equivalent to the Cornish Cross in ducks.
     
  6. la dee da

    la dee da Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm not looking for a cornish-x equivelent, just a larger duel purpose breed equivelent (for example heritage barred rock, RIR, and java). My main question is still, would I be able to grow all my own duck food?
     
  7. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Okay!

    To decide if you can grow your own food, you need to start with the size duck you want. Nevermind breed right now. Let's say you want eight pound ducks.

    Find a table to tell you how many pounds of feed the ducks will need per day, per month, per year. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks is one source. Multiply the per-duck numbers by the size of the flock.

    Read the Mother Earth article(s), the chapter on feeding livestock in Small Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon, and the chapter on ducks in The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe.

    Decide what you think will be a good diet for the ducks based on that information. What percentage of each component will you need? Translate that into the appropriate units, such as bushels, or pounds.

    Then.

    Contact your local extension agent, agronomist, or other source of knowledge about your area and ask what yields can be expected from those crops. Add in a fudge factor for learning how to do it (maybe you only get 30% the first year you plant), and another one for weather weirdness (drought, flood, tornado, hail) or pestilence. Calculate, from the figures from your regional resource person, how many acres you need to plant to each component of the diet. Small Scale Grain Raising has tables that put this kind of information into a number of useful formats, such as number of bushels per 100 foot row. That will tell you how much relatively level, arable land you will need.

    Also factor in the tools and equipment you will need not only for planting (field peas recommended depth of planting is about 2ยจ so a seed drill is needed to speed things up), but for weeding if necessary, and for harvest. Do you have a tractor or access to one, or will you be using human powered tools? Perhaps you have or have access to draft animals.

    Harvest happens all at once, so you will need proper storage facilities. This needs to keep rodents and bugs out, let fresh air in, keep the humidity and temperature as close to optimum as possible to reduce spoilage. There are some differences is optimal storage depending on the food source.

    Some items need to be cut at the stalk, bound and hung up to dry, so you would need an area for that.

    Once you know the answers to those questions, you can decide if you can grow your duck food.

    Someone in your area may already be doing that, but I have not found anyone in my area yet who has. Someone on BYC may be doing it, but to be helpful it is best to find someone as close to you as possible.

    Let us know how it goes!
     
  8. billw

    billw Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm pretty sure we could keep ours going indefinitely on potatoes, cabbage, forage, and crushed sand dollars. They will take the potatoes, cabbage, and forage over any amount of commercial food.

    (But, the commercial food is sure a heck of a lot easier for us to manage.)
     
  9. la dee da

    la dee da Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'll look into that amiga, though I'd rather grow non grains it'll at least help get me started [​IMG].

    Billw, do you cook the potatoes first? I know one has to cook them for chickens, is it the same for ducks?

    Anyone else's experiences would be greatly appreciated!
     
  10. la dee da

    la dee da Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Does anyone else have any experience? What kind of foods do your ducks enjoy?
     

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