How to know they're eating the right amount?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 26, 2011
I see lots of questions about how much to expect to feed one's ducks, but I'm not clear on how I know they're eating enough and not overeating?

My Pekin ducks are allowed to free range from the time I leave for work in the morning (around 8am) until just before or after dinner (6-8pm), and I'm feeding the 3 of them only around 3/4 to 1 lb of poultry layer pellets per day, when they come in for the night. Since they have a pond and plenty of yard to pasture on they're getting plenty to eat from foraging, and a little higher density feed to wrap up the day. The female is laying wonderfully, and they all quite happily run around the yard until dinner time, when they gather by their pen for me to shoo them into it.

My concern is that I'm not sure how to tell that they're actually eating enough, and when winter comes, practically all of their nutrition will be from what I feed them and I don't want to under-feed them.

Will I have to start weighing them and monitoring their weight, or is there an easier way to tell if they're not getting enough food?
There is a limit to how much they can eat (in kcals, poor diet, they eat more), so the idea they overeat is incorrect. It's not something you really should worry about. They'll eat what they need.

When I first got them they would go through food at a dramatic rate, emptying the 7lb pellet feeder in just a couple of days, so I started rationing the food out in a more measured way. I'm not sure if they were just eating more than I expected, if other critters were stealing it while they were out ranging for the day, or if they were solely eating from the feeder because they weren't used to foraging yet.

I'd like to encourage them to forage where possible and only go for the easy feed when there's little left on the ground, so I guess when the weather turns too cold for there to be much forage I'll start giving them a measured amount in the morning and in the evening and tailoring the amount so that there's only a little left when they're done with it, so critters aren't coming in and stealing it but they're eating as much as they feel they need.

I'd read that they'll produce fewer eggs if they eat too much. Not overeating so much as not eating within a sweet spot of calories.
You're make not sense. They eat what they need. Did you get them when they were growing? Molting? All those affect food consumption. Intake tracks needs. What is a measured amount? How do you know what they need? I could guess from an allometric equation based on body mass, but it looks like you plan on guessing, based on what? I would venture the guess that your concerns about eating too much will result in fewer eggs because of insufficient intake (how much feed is needed to produce an egg?) than too much intake.

My concern is other animals using their feeder as a food source during the day, birds and squirrels and the like. I've seen other birds finishing off the remnants of what I last fed them when they're out foraging for the day, and I don't want to be feeding the whole neighborhood.

I plan on giving them feed and then seeing how much is left at the end of the day and then adjusting the amount I give them the next day to be not much more than they actually ate the previous time. And keep adjusting it as the winter goes on so they're getting enough but I'm not wasting it on other animals.
I have been told that sometimes, some ducks will overeat (or underexercise). This tends to be a concern with the larger breeds, if I recall correctly, and the health issue is usually leg problems.

To watch my runners' weight, I really watch their overall body condition. Feathers look good? Energetic? Bright eyes? I have raised them to be tolerant of being picked up, so I do just that on a regular basis. I pick them up and see if they feel like they're the proper weight.

If you don't think you know how that would feel, just find something else that weighs the same as one of your ducks, and pick it up and carry it around for a few minutes. Then pick up a duck. This might sound nuts if your ducks don't like being handled. But it is one way to check.

For my runners, I am more concerned about them being underweight (like when they get sick).

I think a vet once told me one should be able to find the bone that runs down the front of their breast to make sure they're not overweight, but you should find another source to confirm that method.

Watch your ducks. Get used to what they look like and if they start looking wider, or especially if it begins to look like they're struggling to stand up or walk, you might have a problem. But it's not one I have seen here on the Duck Forum.
You can feed them free choice or whatever than can clean up in 10 minutes, twice a day. For the winter though, I'd go free choice or the latter depending on my funds haha. I hear they need a little more scratch because of the cold, but I'm not sure. I don't feed scratch, just finisher
This is the feeding regimen that I always used. Free choice in the winter and twice daily feedings spring, summer, autumn-- amount limited to what they consumed in 15 minutes.
For Pekins, adult with nothing else to eat, you won't go far wrong with 1/2 pound of quality feed per duck per day. Feeding twice a day with what they will clean up in under 30 minutes works just fine.

If you've got a lot of wild critters who want to help themselves to the poultry food, it can get mighty expensive to keep everybody in the neighborhood well fed.

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