species appropriate diet

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by k9alexarose, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. k9alexarose

    k9alexarose New Egg

    Jun 2, 2016
    I recently added 3 Welsh Harlequin ducklings to my household, and since all my pets are fed homemade, species-appropriate diets, I was wondering if there are similar guidelines for ducks? They will be free ranging in my back yard, but I'd love for all their food to match their natural diets, without fillers, etc. :)
  2. Kevin565

    Kevin565 Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Dec 22, 2009
    Domestic ducks have adapted quite well to modern feed. There's plenty of organic options on the market now but I've always just been a fan of Flock Raiser and oyster shells.
  3. cayugaducklady

    cayugaducklady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2015
    New England USA
    It's possible to do. If you have a feed mill in your area you can ask them to make a custom mix for you. If you're OK with math/spreadsheets you can make your own balanced mix to include/exclude certain ingredients.

    A lot of it will do with your flock's preferences. My girls do not like crab meal which was the main animal protein source in the premade feed I was feeding. I got tired of them wasting the most important ingredient so I started making my own mixes.

    in my opinion, ducks aren't vegetarians. They're omnivores and my girls seem to be most productive and happy when they're getting animal protein. My girls like offal (organ meats) and venison in particular.

    If you're making your own meat-based,cooked pet foods you can probably give the ducks some of that cooked meat. If it has bones you'll need to grind or process it until smooth in a food processor or powerful blender.

    I'm using a mix of dried black soldier fly larvae and their favorite all meat air-dried dog food mixed into their ration. I top dress with cooked organ meats/trim from my butcher a few times a week.

    THey also have access to free range. Ducks seem to be particularly good at finding what they need. I watch them and if they seem to be focusing on insects/amphibians I'll top dress their next meal with organ meat. If they're focusing mostly on vegetation I'll keep with my normal top dressing schedule.

    The eggs have a mild sweet taste. They're not gamey at all. I was afraid that all the organ meat would give the eggs a pungent taste but it hasn't.

    I'll occasionally top dress with dairy, too. My girls really like low sodium cottage cheese and plain greek yogurt.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  4. k9alexarose

    k9alexarose New Egg

    Jun 2, 2016

    This is exactly the sort of info I was looking for! Some follow up questions, if you don't mind:

    - is there somewhere that shows what their nutrition requirements are and suggestions of what ingredients to include? I'll definitely add meat and free range them, but what grains/vegetation should be included? Am I off base thinking duckweed and watercress would be good? Are there other similar/better things to add like that?
    - I make my own meat-based raw diets, is there a particular reason ducks need their food cooked? And do you avoid feeding other foul like turkey and chicken?
    Thanks again :D
  5. Quackalackin

    Quackalackin Out Of The Brooder

    May 3, 2016
    I have no information on what to home make for ducks, but I'm interested in what others suggest because it wasn't something I considered, I'm curious as to what you make for you other animals if you don't mind sharing, especially if you make a dog food! I make homemade meals for mine sometimes just to make them happy, but on the regular they just get a high quality dog food with a couple meat chunks on top. From the homemade meals I've made in the last I didn't think doing that all the time proved cost effective... So what do you do? Also, I always cooked the meat but have heard of raw food diets, do your animals seem to handle that well?
  6. dotknott

    dotknott Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 11, 2016
    Rhode Island
    My Coop
    1 person likes this.
  7. cayugaducklady

    cayugaducklady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2015
    New England USA
    For starters you'll need the NRC guidelines for poultry book (https://www.amazon.com/Nutrient-Req...F8&qid=1465562393&sr=8-1&keywords=nrc+poultry) or the ability to spend time googling the NRC requirements for poultry. Don't be alarmed that the edition is from 1994. The NRC doesn't meet frequently at all so 1994 is probably the last time the NRC for poultry met to decide upon best nutrition guidelines for poultry. I think the larger animals meet more frequently.

    The book has a few chapters on poultry nutrition and chapters for different species. Most of the book is feed values so you can build a ration.

    I've never found a poultry NRC book that includes the ration software. The NRC books for horses, cattle etc. come with a software program that helps you build rations.

    You can calculate by hand but I find it faster to use a spreadsheet. This is spreadsheet I use http://www.rs.uky.edu/regulatory/feed/2010CalculationProgram.xls . NOTE: THIS SPREADSHEET WAS DESIGNED TO BE USED FOR ANY SPECIES. DO NOT USE THE DRUGS WORKSHEET FOR DUCKS! MOST LARGE ANIMALS INTENDED FOR FOOD CONSUMPTION RECEIVE A VARIETY OF DRUGS IN THEIR DAILY RATIONS!

    There are some feed values already built into the spreadsheet. If you want to use an ingredient that is not on the spreadsheet, you'll need to look up the feed values and type or copy/paste the data into a new row on the spreadsheet. The NRC will have most every thing you need but you might need to google or use a different resource such as an NRC for a different species to find the details you need.

    To build a ration using this spreadsheet, pick the ingredient from the drop down menu. If the ingredient you want ot use is not listed then you need to find the feed values for it and enter those yourself on a new row on the ingredients tab. It will autopopulate the values in the appropriate cells. Then you simply enter the ingredient amount you want to use in the ration. The spreadsheet will calculate t he percentages of protein, etc. for you. Repeat until all ingredients have been entered. You may need ot adjust the amounts.

    It is up to you to make sure that the NRC recommended values for protein, fat, vitamins etc. meet their minimum requirements. This spreadsheet doesn't provide that for you.

    You usually don't end up with nice round values for all of the ingredients so try to use the exact weight/amount for the largest components. Example: the BOSS i buy comes in 40 lb bags. So i base my ration off that & adjust everything else accordingly.

    You may want to practice using the spreadsheet and making rations by copying some well published ration recipes in books or that you find online.

    For vegetation, i'm sure the ducks would love duckweed. In my permaculture research I've read that it is readily gobbled up by waterfowl and that it also grows insanely rapidly. I've also read that it can be dried.

    I've found my girls only like watercress until it blooms. Then they avoid it. I'm guessing it's too bitter then.

    One the advice of an experienced 100% pasture raised poultry farmer I seeded their free range area with a hi sugar horse pasture mix. Most of the grasses naturally grow 1-2 feet tall with seed heads but I wasn't worried about that because we mow with a tractor. It is also supposed to hold up to wet foot traffic better than typical yard grass. That's important to me because we have winters with heavy snow pack that may or may not melt before the next snow fall. The ducks really seem to enjoy feeding on it. They race waddle each other to get the seed heads and the tastiest bits.

    I also feed my dogs a raw diet but I switched over to air dried raw or freeze dried raw for safety reasons. I do not believe that our current food production system adequately protects us from food borne illnesses. I've fed my dogs mixes from Darwin's Pet and they always seemed to eat it better if it was lightly heated. I stopped feedinf darwin's pet because my girls were picking around the veggies. The only actual raw products my dogs get now are from local farms that I absolutely trust to ethically grow and safely process. They mostly get marrow bones, RMBs and chicken necks/frames for teeth.

    I cook the organs for my ducks because I just don't want them to get one of the weird foodborne illnesses that can be in raw meat. I totally understand that the animals and insects they find in their free range area are alive and uncooked :). Because I live at elevation (thanks Appalachian Mountains!) I mostly cook with a pressure cooker. It only takes about 10 minutes at pressure to cook a big batch of organ meat and trim for them. I usually start them in the morning while I'm making coffee so they're ready when i go out to feed the ducks at day break.

    I don't avoid feeding poultry to my girls BUT i buy the poultry organs from my local butcher who either butchers from his own flock or buys from a different, local producer. I know what both flocks eat ( free range) and I know that the birds are raised ethically in an appropriate non-factory farmed environment. I would not buy grocery store poultry because a) I have ethical objections to factory farming and b) my local grocery's meat department is not kept in good shape (smells like discarded feminine hygiene products all the time) and c) they completely don't know how to properly butcher a cut of meat from a primal cut. I once got a pork shoulder roast from there that had the actual spinal column and spinal cord and other nerves attached to it. That was the last time I ever bought meat from there.

    For feed ingredients I'm using what I know my girls like. I also am committed to corn free for them and soy free for me.

    Some of the ingredients I'm using are BOSS, actual wild rice, lentils, oregano, parsley, oats, beet pulp, black soldier fly larvae and air dried dog food. Each night I scoop out the next days daily amount and soak it in water. The beet pulp needs about 45 minutes in cold water to rehydrate.

    I top dress with cooked potatoes and cooked carrots (and cooked mushrooms and beets when i have excess). Potatoes are very similar to water plant tubers. My 6 girls would very easily 5 lbs of cooked potatoes A DAY if i made it available to them. I also top dress with dairy.

    Goat milk eggs are really, really creamy and delicious. But the goat milk itself is expensive unless you have milking goats already. I've tried goat milk replacer, which also provides the same results, but i don't like that I can't find an organic one in my local stores.

    I'm not a poultry ration expert or a poultry expert. I did study agriculture and horse nutrition in college and am most comfortable with building rations for horses because that's what I focused on and practiced in school and real life for many years.

    I don't want to stir up controversy regarding the ingredients I feed. For me, I feel like its the most species appropriate diet I can feed them.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  8. cayugaducklady

    cayugaducklady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2015
    New England USA
    I don't have time to cook for my dogs now but I did do it in my younger days. Right now I rotate between 3 food and rotate flavors: air dried ziwipeak, k-9 natural freeze dried, and vital essentials freeze dried.

    i offer marrow bones, RMBs, and chicken necks/frames. They also get green tripe sticks (so stinky they're called poop sticks in our house), buffalo jerky sticks and dried , soft sweet potatoes for treats. They're now 5 years old still have the energy of puppies and no graying anywhere. Their teeth and gums are in great condition and I don't brush them at all. When i take them in for the annual appointments all the vet staff look at t heir teeth because they're plaque free and bad breath free.

    There are tons of raw feeding groups/forums/communities on the web. Most people I know either throw organ meats, trim and bones in a slow cooker to make their own bone broth/meat soup to top dress a high quality kibble or other freeze dried food or they feed 100% raw by portioning out the "pieces" and feeding on a schedule.
  9. k9alexarose

    k9alexarose New Egg

    Jun 2, 2016

    My animals flourish on their raw diets, have beautiful, glossy coats that shed very little, clean teeth, lean muscular bodies and (one of my favorite parts) small, firm poop that doesn't really smell and dissolves outside in a few days. The only issue I've ever had was discovering my cat has chicken intolerance, but it's easy to leave out of a homemade diet :)

    To make it cost-effective (I learned from a lady with 5 great danes) I: only buy meat that's on sale, buy in bulk, butcher unmedicated/deceased animals, posting ads for people clearing out freezer burnt meat, and I'll be raising quail here soon as well. It ends up being quite affordable, usually cheaper than high quality kibble.

    The recipes are based on the rule of thumb that the diet should include 80% muscle meat (this includes heart, tongue and tripe), 10% bone (uncooked bones are safe), 5% liver and 5% other secreting organ.
    For both recipes, it's important to provide a variety of proteins to ensure adequate vitamins. And for both recipes, you feed about 2-3% of their ideal body weight daily (depending on metabolism and activity level.)

    Dog food recipe (100 lbs)
    50 lbs whole chicken
    40 lbs muscle meat (I use various cuts of beef, turkey and pork; will add game when available)
    10 lbs organ blend made of half liver and half other organs, like spleen and kidney
    I also supplement with bone broth, glucosamine, fish oil and vitamin c. Supplements aren't required, those just have benefits I found worthwhile.

    Cat food recipe 10 lbs
    1/2 rabbit OR 1 Cornish game hen OR 2 quail
    7.5 lbs red meats, including hearts
    1 lb organ blend made with half liver and half other secreting organ
  10. chickens really

    chickens really True BYC Addict

    This is an awesome thread.
    I myself feed my Ducks an all natural diet . Mine love goldfish too eat.
    I feed lots of grains, Fruits, veggies and free range forage.
    Mine love soaked Alfalfa cubes with a few blue berries tossed in.
    Plus a lot more things they need to remain happy, healthy Ducks.
    I answered another thread but got called condescending because of how I feed my Ducks.
    More Duck owners need to read this thread.

    Cheers to you!

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