How to make your own homemade duck feed...

07 April, 2013

Since I got my ducks in early Jan I've been learning a lot about what they will and won't eat.

Will: conventional poultry feed, tomatoes, cherry tree leaves, stale bread, dandelion, horseradish leaves, slugs and bugs of any kind,

Won't: snails (unless pre-squished), strawberry leaves, rocket, iris, rhubarb, rosemary, corn leaves.

While I am more than happy for them to eat bugs and dandelion, and will put up with them eating the tomatoes, cherry and horseradish that they can reach, I really wanted to not have to feed them conventional poultry pellets. Not only because they are highly processed and (to a lesser, but important, extent) cost me money, but because I had read that poultry pellets are designed for chickens and ducks have higher protein requirements and also can be made sick by the antibiotics that are generally in conventional poultry feeds. 

So I decided to make my own.

What a palaver that turned out to be. I searched the source of all information - the interwebs - and found some really useful information, but not what I had really wanted; a simple recipe to make duck suitable feed. So here is what I eventually came up with, and hopefully it will help someone out there who trawls the net for a recipe for a duck friendly feed.

But firstly, the resources that I have used to come up with this recipe:
http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/poultry/feeding/nutritional-requirements-ducks
http://www.metzerfarms.com/NutritionalRequirements.cfm

I also used some nutritional analysis software to put together this mix (a small benefit of being a dietitian by trade, not that I did this analysis on my work computer, during work time... of course not), which has a 17% protein content.

Homemade duck feed:
1kg wheat
1kg barley/oats
1kg maize (corn)
1.5kg chickpeas
1kg lentils/peas
350g sunflower seeds
50g shell grit

This is something I do in the thermomix, to grind the bigger grains into a more manageable consistancy. Now  I have given the ducks whole seed and they seem to do ok, but I heard that whole seed (particularly big grains like maize/corn) can cause problems, so I like to partially grind the grains for my mix.

Generally 6 seconds on 9-10 works well.

Wheat pre-grind

Wheat post-grind

Maize/corn pre-grind

Maize/corn post-grind

I'm quite lucky that my mother works as a seed analyst in an agricultural laboratory and is able to give me all the excess seed that are used for testing, when the owners don't want them back. So I have an almost unlimited free supply of grains and seeds to make the feed. Though I've seen some pet food stores stock the grains and they look to be cheaper than buying the commercial stuff. 

Now even with the best mix of grains, the feed will not be nutritionally adequate for ducks in terms of micronutrients - ie vitamins and minerals, particularly niacin, vitamin A and  vitamin D. So I add a poultry vitamin mix I bought online.


With all the grains weighed and ground as required and the vitamin powder added I then give it all a good mix.


This makes about two weeks worth and I keep it in a plastic storage container in the duck pen. They haven't discovered it... yet.

As you can see some grains are still whole, but no really big grains remain.

The ducks got weaned off the commercial pellets over a 4 week period, from a 50/50 mix, to a 75/50 mix, to a mostly homemade mix.

They seem to love this just as much as the pellet stuff.

The two boys (Bloom and Thal) right and left, with girl duck Heston centre. Yes, I have named my ducks Heston, Bloom and Thal - get it? 

That said they still eat all they tomato, cherry leaves, horseradish leaves and dandelion they can get their beaks on.

22 comments:

  1. Yum, I want some myself! I am too working out what my chook girls will and wont eat. As they were free range raised, their favourite thing seems to be grass! They wont touch the fruit and veg scraps I have given them and don't touch the layer pellets either!

    The crusts of very grainy bred they seem to like and I have just offered up some roasted eggshell and millet ground with the mortar and pestle and they liked that.

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    1. That sounds like my grandmothers chickens - they love being let out into the yard from their (very luxurious) pen and "mowing" the lawn.

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  2. Well researched and I think the mix looks fabulous. The ducks look so happy have you names for them yet?

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    1. Cheers. Sadly I haven't given them names yet - mostly because of everything I think of nothing seems quite right. Maybe I just need to pick some names and be done with it! Ok, I've decided: I'm naming them after my favourite and most admired chef - the boy (above photo center) is now Heston, and the ladies to the left and right respectively are Blum and Thal. There it is!

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  3. Do they really routinely put antibiotics in chicken pellets? I'm going to have to stop letting my chicks out soon until I can put up some fencing - the occasional silverbeet leaf loss I can handle but the are now big enough to decimate an entire plant in a few fell pecks.

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    1. Hi Liz,
      What I understand about 'antibiotics' in poultry pellet you buy from a stock feed or pet food stores is that many varieties of chick starter are medicated (they have what's called a coccicidiostat- anti coccidiosis medication- I don't believe its technically an antibiotic?)basically it stops the coccidiosis cysts that your baby chicks pick up in the environment from hatching and playing havoc on their stomach lining. As they get older you wean them onto 'grower' which still has some but by time they are on layer there isn't any medication but by this time the chooks have developed their own immunity. I could be wrong but Backyard Poultry forum might be a good place to start if you want more info.

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    2. That is what I had read in a few places, but given Jodie's knowledgeable response it may not be precisely the case. I had read it more in response to duck feeds and whether chicken pellets were suitable - many places I checked said conventional chicken pellets had 'antibiotics' that are important for chickens but can be harmful for ducks. But I definitely agree the Backyard Poultry website and forum has a lot of great info.

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  4. Bek- I love the way your ducks only eat pre-squashed snails. Sounds a bit like my chooks who only eat leaves if they are "freshly picked off a stem" (by them) or drink water that is in "the wild" ie not in their cage.

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    1. I know, crazy. I threw them unsquished snails for a while and they completely ignored them, but squished they love them. The disgusting thing is having to pick them up after squishing them and then throwing them into the ducks' pen. Good to know ducks are not more picky than other poultry.

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  5. Great post Bek - thank you :)

    I have just inherited 7 ducklings and a mother and am not loving the idea of commercial "duck feed". I want our chickens off their feed and onto something homemade too. Appreciate your research here - thank you! :) I will blog about your post and send everyone your way from my readers as well - I am sure people would love to know your recipe. :-)

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    1. Cheers. Wow, ducklings. I wish I had gotten mine as ducklings (they were about 12 weeks old when I got them) and had the opportunity to get them more used to humans. They're still a bit skittish here. I am the same in not liking being tied to commercial feeds, especially when I'm not sure exactly what is going into them. Feel free to blog about the post, I hope its useful to others.

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  6. Awesome! Thank You so much for formulating and sharing this information and recipe :) I too share the same vantage point on "commercial" anything. I will be picking up some ducklings as well and wondered if You know whether this recipe is adequate for day olds? Perhaps with a supplement? Also whether You know whether it would work for chickens? Again perhaps with a more tailored supplement to that species?

    Thanks again!

    Warm Blessings~

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    1. Happy to help. However I don't profess to be anything other than an enthusiastic amateur and have no idea whether this is suitable for day olds or chickens. The Merzter website was full of great info so you may be able to find out more there. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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  7. Hey love your recipe! I stumbled upon your blog via 'google' searching for a home-made duckling feed. Last year I resorted to making my own chick feed (http://ayearinredwood.com/2013/09/03/chicken-feed/), as here in Ireland the commercial feeds are full of gmo ingredients, and only come in 25 kg bags - not ideal when you only have one or two chicks! Will be following your blog from now on.

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    1. Cheers! As you may have seen, I've recently sold the ducks with the intention to now get chickens myself. So I may be using your chicken feed recipe!

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    1. I believe so, but I haven't crunched the nutritional numbers to be sure it meets all their nutritional needs.

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  9. I am sitting here, typing with one hand, because there is a duckling nesting in the other. we are only keeping it temporarily, even though I would love to have a duckling, my mother says 'too much work!'. Anyway, is there any way to make this as easy as possible, since its only temporary, without spending money? Temporary feed, and a box to keep it in? I have no idea how to take care of a duckling. I made it mash out of bran flakes and water and it ate some, along with a little bit of kiwi, and some lettuce leaves, but otherwise, I have no idea what to feed it. (I don't think that the above will work for very long). I looked around on the internet and couldn't find anything for temporary use.

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    1. Oh wow, a duckling. So cute! My understanding (very amateur so be warned) is that they can handle very finely ground grains. Maybe even some rough stoneground flour or lsa (linseed, sunflower and almond) mix would suit, but I'd be trying to give it a lot of different things to see what it likes and give the best chance of meeting all it's nutritional needs. Good luck!

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    2. Like, if the duckling is, say, a week old, how muck longer would it have to have super finely ground grains? Also, food wise, do you think that flax seed, ground oats, and ground cat food would be an okay substitute for a while, (We decided to keep the duckling) until we get around to getting the baby food pellets?

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    3. There's also this funny thing the duckling does, (Which we named Constance Petunia von Duck), where she doesn't like eating finely ground foods. She goes for the larger ones. I think its funny, and it may just be because she's older than I thought. There was this funny thing she did where she walks around the house (She's a house duck) and try's eating everything she sees. Shoe laces, that are on someones feet, the edge of a towel. And she sleeps constantly. Its like a newborn baby, the way they sleep and gnaw on everything? Its precious. <3

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    4. I'm really sorry but I have no idea what ducklings need, as I've never raised one. I'm making a bit of a guess, but flax and oats I reckon would be ok, however I'm dubious about the cat food.
      That is an awesome duck name, and I love the tale of eating everything. Very baby like and very adorable. I hope all goes well.

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