Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?

Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed

I had one of the interesting conversations with an old friend of mine last week. He was telling me he was losing his ducks due to feed poisoning. Which lead me to ask, ”What type of feed are you feeding them?” He told me he was using chicken feed and so I asked him ”Can chickens eat duck feed?” He looked at me and said ”Gosh no! Ducks are a different species!”. With that, I replied with, ”So ducks cannot eat chicken feed?” Right then he said aloud, ”Wow! I need to look into buying duck feed for my ducks!”

Can ducks eat chicken feed? Ducks are omnivores and can eat chicken feed if necessary. However, they cannot live on only chicken feed since it does not provide sufficient nutrients for the ducks to thrive and grow properly. Chicken feed does not provide enough nutrients to ducks’ bodies particularly niacin that they need the most.

Because poultry and waterfowl have different nutritional needs, feeding them the same feed will not provide long-term nutrition for either bird. If you plan to feed chicken feed to ducks or other waterfowl, be sure to consult your local veterinarian to determine what additional supplements are needed.

Ducks can eat chicken feed. But it’s not recommended for them to eat too much of it. Ducks and chickens have different dietary needs – ducks should have a high protein and fat diet, while chickens need something that is high in carbs. Chickens can eat duck feed, but the reverse is not necessarily true.

Many pet parents keep a mixed flock of ducks and chickens in their backyard. And while these birds have no trouble sharing their living quarters, sharing meals can be problematic in the long run. However, there are many areas where it is difficult to get a hold of waterfowl feed, while chicken’s layer feed is readily available in every pet store. So, is there a way to feed both chickens and ducks the same feed? That’s what we are going to figure out below.

This article will discuss the different dietary needs of ducks and chickens, the problems your ducks can face if they eat chicken feed, and how to take care of those problems.

Differences between the nutritional needs of ducks and chickens

The first thing that you need to learn about ducks is that these birds need the same nutrients to remain healthy throughout all the different stages of their life: infancy, adolescence, adulthood, egg-laying. What changes at every stage is the amount of these nutrients.

To help you understand your feathered pet’s dietary needs better, we have curated a table below. This table contains information about their nutritional requirements during different stages of their life. Check it out:

Nutrients RequiredNew-born (0-2 weeks)Juvenile (3 weeks-1st egg)During egg productionBetween laying seasons
Feed TypeCrumbled feedCrumbled feedLayer PelletMaintenance Pellet
Vitamin A15 KIU15 KIU15 KIU12 KIU
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)2 mg2 mg2 mg2 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)4 mg4 mg4 mg3 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)55 mg55 mg55 mg40 mg
Vitamin B4 (Choline)1,600 mg1,400 mg1,000 mg500 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)11 mg11 mg11 mg10 mg
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)2.5 mg2.5 mg3 mg4 mg
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)0.25 mg0.2 mg0.2 mg0.15 mg
Vitamin B9 (Folate)1 mg1 mg1 mg0.85 mg
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)0.01 mg0.01 mg0.01 mg0.01 mg
Vitamin D3 KIU3 KIU3 KIU2 KIU
Vitamin E20 IU20 IU20 IU20 IU
Vitamin K1.75 mg1.5 mg1 mg0.4 mg
Calcium, Ca1 mg0.9 mg3 mg0.9 mg
Potassium, K0.83 mg0.8 mg0.8 mg0.4 mg
Magnesium, Mg0.05 mg0.05 mg0.05 mg0.05 mg
Sodium, Na0.14 mg0.14 mg0.14 mg0.14 mg
Chloride, Cl0.16 mg0.16 mg0.16 mg0.12 mg
Phosphorus, P0.4 mg0.35 mg0.4 mg0.35 mg
Iron, Fe80 mg60 mg60 mg50 mg
Manganese, Mn50 mg60 mg60 mg60 mg
Copper, Cu8 mg8 mg8 mg6 mg
Zinc, Zn60 mg65 mg65 mg40 mg
Iodine, I0.4 mg0.4 mg0.4 mg0.4 mg
Selenium, Se0.2 mg0.2 mg0.2 mg0.11 mg
Crude fat4%4%5%4%
Crude protein22%18%17.50%16%
Crude fiber4%5%5%6%
Linoleic acid1%1%1.50%1%
Calories2,920 kcal3,010 kcal2,740 kcal2,700 kcal

Although we have listed “crude protein” in the table above, ducks specifically need the following amino acids that make up the protein:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
  • Total Sulphur Amino Acid (TSAA)
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Now, if you take a look at the chickens’ dietary needs, you will find more or less the same nutrients in their diet as well.

So, what’s the difference between their diets, you ask? The difference is in the amount. Chickens and ducks need different amounts of the same nutrients in their diet.


Problems with feeding chicken feed to ducks

As we have established in the last section, there is a difference in the amount of nutrients ducks and chickens need.

This means that if the ducks are eating chicken feed regularly, they might suffer from the deficiency of some nutrients or have some nutrients in a larger amount than they need.

Two important nutrients will be severely imbalanced in the ducks’ diet if they are eating chicken feed.

A deficiency of niacin

Ducks need about twice the amount of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) than chickens do. This is because, unlike chickens, ducks lack the ability to synthesize Niacin from tryptophan efficiency. Due to this inability, ducks are solely dependent on their diet for the consumption of Niacin.

Chicken feed is designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of the chickens. And since chickens need only a small amount of Niacin, their feed contains this vitamin in moderation.

If your ducks are eating chicken feed, they will soon suffer from Niacin deficiency. This is more commonly seen in ducklings that consume chick starter feed instead of a feed designed for their own nutritional needs.

The deficiency of Niacin in the ducks and ducklings can lead to serious health issues, such as enlarged hock joints and bowed legs. If they don’t have access to sufficient Niacin for a long time, they might become permanently crippled and lose the ability to walk properly.


Excess protein

Chickens need access to a large amount of protein while growing up for two reasons. Protein adds more meat to their body (if they’re being raised for meat production) and prepares them for optimized egg-laying. However, this kind of accelerated growth is not healthy for the ducklings, so they need lesser Protein than the chickens.

If your ducklings consume chicken feed (which contains more protein than they need), their healthy growth might be hampered. Many duck-owners have claimed that feeding their ducklings chicken feed has led to issues with their leg joints and the development of angel wings.

Angel wing is a condition in the ducklings in which their flight feathers start growing too fast and begin to curve away from their body. When these wings are fully developed, they will not be able to support your pet’s flight, rendering them flightless in the end.

While in the domestic ducks, this is just a cosmetic problem, it is more serious in the wild ducks that cannot migrate during winters.


The difference in feeding methods

Other than the nutritional differences in their diet, ducks and chickens also eat their feed differently.

While chickens have no difficulty in gobbling down their dry feed, ducks are used to eating with access to water, taking a sip now and then to gulp down their food.

If you don’t provide the ducks with water, they can very easily choke on the food they’re eating.


How to feed a mixed flock?

Do you happen to have both chickens and ducks in your backyard and wonder how to feed them all together? Don’t worry, there is a way for you to achieve it, although it might mean more work for you.

Both ducks and chickens can safely eat chicken feed together if you’re willing to make the following additions to their diet:

  • Brewer’s yeast is a great source of Niacin that can cure its deficiency in the ducks’ diet. It helps their bone grow properly and will also not harm the chickens. You can mix add about 2.5% of brewer’s yeast to their daily diet.
  • If you can’t find brewer’s yeast or want to go for another source of Niacin, you can also purchase liquid Niacin supplements or Vitamin B3 capsules. You should add both these supplements to their water and not their feed. If you’re using the liquid supplement, you can add 500 grams of it to over 4 gallons of water. If you’re going with capsules, break down a single capsule and sprinkle it into their water tub once a day.
  • Adding some leafy greens into their water tub is also efficient in making their diet more nutritious.
  • Always remember to give your pets access to plenty of water when they’re eating. While the chickens might not need it, ducks certainly do.


Feeding chick feed to ducklings: things to remember

If you have little ducklings in your flock and are planning on feeding them chick feed, there are a few things you must keep in mind:

  • When you’re purchasing chick feed for them, be careful not to buy the medicated ones. Baby chicks are highly susceptible to the parasitic disease of Coccidiosis, which is why many brands add Amprolium to their feed to protect them from it. However, ducklings don’t need Amprolium in their diet.
  • While chicks are recommended to eat starter feed for 8 weeks, ducklings grow much faster and should be fed only for the first 2 weeks. Once they’re 2 weeks old, switch to low-protein grower feed for them for the next 16 weeks. At the age of 18 weeks, they’re ready to be added to the group of adult chickens and ducks and eat the layer feed with them.


Frequently asked questions

Between chickens and ducks, which bird has more difficulty in surviving in a cold climate? Ducks are hardier than chickens and can adjust to cold weather much more efficiently. Unlike the chickens, they possess down feathers and an underlayer of fat to keep them warm during winters.

Can ducks catch poultry diseases easily? No. Ducks have better immune health than most fowl birds like chickens and turkeys and, therefore, rarely catch diseases like Coccidiosis and Mycoplasma gallisepticum.


Conclusion: Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?

Ducks can eat chicken feed, but it is not the right diet for them. While it might be tempting to try to save a few bucks by mixing duck feed with chicken feed, the results may be fatal for those inquisitive ducks. 

Chicken feed is made specifically for chickens and they will get nutrition from it. However, ducks cannot eat chicken feed because a healthy balanced diet is not possible with it. Ducks should be fed a pellet designed especially for them in order to provide them the proper nutrients and vitamins.

And that brings us to the end of our article!

Thank you for reading all the way to the end! Hopefully, this article has been informative and entertained you along the way.

We’ll be back soon when we will have a new related article for your enjoyment. Until then, don’t feed your ducks chicken feed!

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