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Growing all a duck's feed

Bob Starn

Joined: May 22, 2012
Posts: 8
Has anyone tried growing all the feed they need for their ducks? I'm curious how it can be done, so no feed needs to be imported. I'm guessing that there are things that produce well that are good for ducks that also grow in marginal parts of a yard, and I'm curious what those might be.
osker brown

Joined: Jun 28, 2011
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
I've only had ducks for 1 1/2 weeks, but my goals are the same as yours. So far they seem infatuated with soldier fly larvae, so now I need to build a bin to provide them larger quantities. As soon as I source stock I plan on starting a contained forage pond with duckweed, water hyacinth, and duck potato for them. Space isn't really an issue for me so they have plenty of forage to supplement these high energy feeds.

Glorious Forest Farm
Jordan Lowery

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
I'm on the same path here is what's helping me

Black soldier flies ( good for chickens and fish too)
Azolla fern ( n fixing pond cover)
Snails ( my ducks LOVE snails)
Pasture- ish area ( more boggy but not a mudpit lots of grass)

Still learning stuff all the time.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
boon skyler

Joined: Aug 01, 2012
Posts: 2
if you plan to put water hyacinth in the pond with ducks, keep some in separate pond ducks will them so fast, plants would not a chance to repopulates.
Darren Collins

Joined: May 04, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Jamberoo, NSW, Australia
I'll second the azolla suggestion. My ducks love it! It's high in protein, and fairly easy to grow in shallow ponds. They say in the height of summer, it can double in volume every few days.

You probably should grow it somewhere the ducks can't get to, and bring it to them in buckets or something. If they can get to it, they may well eat every last bit of it.

Zoe Wroten

Joined: Nov 15, 2011
Posts: 19
Location: New Hampshire, zone 5
Agreed on azolla, but don't forget duckweed! For me here in NH, it grows faster than azolla and I think will make it through the winter. I plan to keep small colonies of both going through the winter in an unheated aquarium inside. I also tried drying some azolla, but it doesn't look great...we'll see what the ducks think.

My ducks more-or-less free-range and I've noticed them particularly loving: dandelion greens, young linden/basswood leaves, bugs of course (including Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and mosquitos right off my arms!), worms, but most of all GRASS SEED. I have a few rather unkempt areas where I have been attempting to eradicate poison ivy, so this summer I sowed a bunch of buckwheat and just let all the weeds grow that wanted to. The ducks will completely ignore the garden full of lettuce (which they also adore) and jump up to eat the weed seeds. I scythed some down and will put it in their nighttime coop as bedding; hopefully they'll have some fun munching on the seeds, too. My guineas are the same with grass seeds, though I'm not sure what else they eat -- they tend to just circle the property munching on tiny bugs or other things I can't discern.

I grew a small paddy of rice this year and the ducks go absolutely nuts trying to reach the grains (thankfully it doesn't take much fencing to keep ducks out). I want to learn how to hull and eat my first crop, but it was so care-free to grow I will probably grow more just for the ducks in the future (no need to hull!).

I have witnessed my most adventurous duck eating whole frogs and garter snakes. I have also noticed them nibbling lichens, though I am not sure if they're really eating it or just checking it out. Of course they love worms, and I have two robust vermiculture bins I plan to fed them from in winter.

They have seemed not at all interested in the alpine strawberries that are growing all over the place, nor have they paid much attention to tomatoes or other garden fruit. They LOVE bean flowers, of all strange things. They didn't seem interested in blueberries that much during the season, but they were still pretty young then.

In the spring I intend to plant more lindens (early perennial greens), mulberries, comfrey, and some grain/green broadcast polyculture areas for them. I would love to know what other fruits/leaves/nuts/perennials they love but don't destroy.

Carol Deppe has a great section on homegrown duck feed in her book _The Resilient Gardener_. She has great luck feeding her ducks potatoes and winter squash (both cooked). I'll probably expand my plantings of these two for the ducks, but I want to focus more on perennials/fruits. I'd love to hear others' ideas!
Kelly Smitherson

Joined: Sep 19, 2012
Posts: 46
what kinds of ducks are you talking about? What are you asking of them?

but here is what our ducks are eating right now, and we have the very best ducks ever- muscovies

goat milk is a staple for our critters, our goats are good to us

fodder, we sprout a mixture of seeds, the poultry get some at three days and then some at 7ish days as well

bugs, our ducks follow us as we work and watch for us to turn up bugs

our ducks HUNT, I do not just mean forage, they hunt, they seek out and eat entire nests of mice, my ducks are awesome

flies, nothing eats flies like muscovies

shakin the bushes, our ducks have a foraging habit of grabbing a branch, and shaking it, the berries and bugs fall off and they eat together

table/garden scrapes/compost/brewing - ducks are just plain good eaters

Jeff Cope

Joined: May 24, 2012
Posts: 9

I'm also trying to grow as much feed as possible for a flock of ducks and geese. Some supplemental feeding with purchased grain will always be needed, probably, but I hope to grow as much of my own grain as I can and supply most fresh stuff with perennials and pasture. Some of the ones I'm growing to experiment with are linden, mulberry, Fragrant Spring Tree (Toona sinensis), beech, artichoke and cardoon (which they love), and Malabar spinach to balance out all the ones that produce prodigously in the spring or fall in the fall. It's a Mediterranean climate here so pasture is good from November to June and then dries and dies as most of the garden crops and perennial greens come in.

They eat all the plum and California live oak leaves that fall into the pen and some passiflora (not their favorite). I'd like to find out about the duck edibility (duckability?) of black locust, katuk, alfafa, fuki, udo, and hops.

Over the next year or so I'm planning to add a couple of goats and sheep, a few quail and rabbits, as education/demo projects and for diversity. By then I'd like to develop the pasture more and have some of the mentioned trees going as coppices for goat browsing--with the trunks protected. Some windfall fruit and nuts, and carob will add to the mix for the ruminants.

Any suggestions for other plants who haven't been mentioned that ducks and geese like ?
Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
Goodness Jeff, what a wonderful varied diet they'll have. My ducks have been stealing the buckwheat seeds off the plants so I guess they like them. Buckwheat is a great plant to have in the mix - forage for ducks, hens and bees (who speed to the flowers as if they were sweets), fairly drought tolerant, good ground cover, good biomass, edible leaves when they're small (though not in too great a quantity as they're a laxative!).
Jeffrey Hodgins

Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
See my post on compost worms as animal feed. Also woodlice are edible I don't know how you would harvest thous though. Checkout worm harvesters. Oh and my post on high sugar feed for ducks if you have fruit on hand you should be able to feed up to 35% simple sugars without affecting the growth rate at all and you could go higher if the food is abundant enough but you will affect the feed to meat ratio and the gut to meat ratio as well.

Diversified Food forest maker . Fill every niche and you'll have less weeds (the weeds are the crop too). Fruit, greens, wild harvest, and nuts as staple. Food processing and preservation are key to self self-sufficiency. Never eat a plant without posetive identification and/or consulting an expert.
Eric Ellison

Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 5
Location: San Juan Island, Wa.
Hey folks, Basically a new member.

Eric - Double Dog Farm, Like to join in if I may.

I've raised several different breeds of mostly egg laying ducks. Khaki Campbell, White Layer, Golden 300 and Muscovies. Currently I have 26 Ancona ducks. I was influenced by Carroll Deppe's book Resilient Gardener. They will be 13 weeks old tomorrow. I must say of all the breeds, I have raised, the Ancona is the most handsome. Here are some pictures.

The Ancona are not finicky eaters. Here are some of the things I have tried on them.

Sea Buckthorn, After reading that their leaves have about 24% protein, I pruned off a couple branches and threw them in the pond. They didn't go for it right away, but by the end of that day, the branches were stripped.

Comfrey, Two berms in my orchard have comfrey on them. They are roughly 5ft wide and 20ft long. The ducks chewed the plants to the soil line. I have low fences around the berms now.

Fruit, peaches, plums, tomatoes, asian pears, gooseberries, currants, marionberries.

Vegetable, Boiled potato and squash, lettuce and most leafy greens.

They are also very good at bug and slug control. It's amazing they can swallow a huge Pacific Banana slug.

Anyone have a Pellet mill? My brother and I are thinking about buying a PTO driven model. They are about a $1000. This mill produces about 400 to 600 pounds of feed pellet per hour. It also could be used for fertilizer and wood stove pellet production.

Good to be here.

I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to the flora, fauna and human life that it supports. One planet indivisible, with safe air, water & soil, economic justice, equal rights and peace for all
Jeff Cope

Joined: May 24, 2012
Posts: 9
So many great ideas. The mention of Seabuckthorn's high protein reminded me of Moringa, too. Hoping to try it in a few years when the seedlings get big enough.
Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
Hi Eric, and welcome on board

Your photos of your ducks certainly did display how handsome they are! After reading Carol Deppe's book I too wanted some but was unable to track them down this side of the pond (sorry for pun).

Fortunately my ducks leave the comfrey alone but the chickens and the geese just love it.
Raine Bradford

Joined: Sep 24, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: West Fork, Arkansas
[quote=Zoe Wroten

My ducks more-or-less free-range and I've noticed them particularly loving: dandelion greens, young linden/basswood leaves, bugs of course (including Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and mosquitos right off my arms!)

Hi Zoe. I was curious about your ducks' habit of eating squash bugs. I have never read that before. (Although I haven't read tons of stuff on ducks yet...We are getting 30 Ancona ducks next month). I was planning on getting guineas this spring to control the squash bugs. We cant grow any kind of pumpkin, squash or even cucumber here because of them. How do you allow your ducks access to your squash without them destroying the rest of your garden? And are they able to completely keep the squash bugs under control? I would rather not get guineas if I don't have to... Thanks in advance for your advice!
Devon Olsen

Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1044
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
this is a nice thread, those ancona's certainly do look pretty!

and awesome to hear they like misquitos cus i hate the damn things!

do ponds that have ducks in them appear to be cleaner or clearer water than ponds that dont? or does it seem more murky?
assuming boht ponds have plenty of plant growth covering every bit before ducks are introduced?

it just seems like everyones experience is that they devour water plants and such quite readily so i wonder if you had a bunch of plants in the pond before the ducks if you could expect them to be gone after teh ducks or just reduced in numbers or controlled?

Older Cheyenne, WY project . My Available products thread . Great Facebook alternative, get PAID to use social media . straight to my zazzle store . straight to my redbubble shop
Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
Devon Olsen wrote:

do ponds that have ducks in them appear to be cleaner or clearer water than ponds that dont? or does it seem more murky?
assuming boht ponds have plenty of plant growth covering every bit before ducks are introduced?

it just seems like everyones experience is that they devour water plants and such quite readily so i wonder if you had a bunch of plants in the pond before the ducks if you could expect them to be gone after teh ducks or just reduced in numbers or controlled?

Well my pond definitely is murkier. As for plants, I was worried about that before getting ducks as I have some lovely water lillies and grasses/sedges. However, last summer the water lillies were the best they've ever been and there were 10 ducks foraging around there full-time (as well as across 2.5 acres free-range). The grasses suffer a nibbling evry now and then but they come back good and strong.
chris thorpe

Joined: Feb 25, 2013
Posts: 1
Location: SW France
Our ducks adore figs. In the season we have more than we can eat and I pull off the over-ripe ones fro the ducks, who arrive at a run when they see me going anywhere near the trees! They also jump to try and snagg the low hanging fruits. Before the ducks we had rather beautiful newts, but the Muscovies ate everything of an organic nature in the pond, including snakes. In fact the only thing they have refused is Jerusalem artichokes, but the chickens soon polished those off.

A tallent for And speaking it differently, rather than for arguing well, is the chief instrument of cultural change.
Richard Rorty
Jay Angler

Joined: Sep 12, 2012
Posts: 81
A couple of questions for people knowing what's good for Mallard-based ducks (runners and Campbells)
1. Does anyone have any reason *not* to feed tent catepillars to caged Runners/Campbells? Our chickens won't eat them, and I recall they may have something "yucky" in them that discourages predation of birds, but I fed some to the 4 ducks I have and they hoovered them - but they seem to not be very discriminatory and I'm *very* new to ducks.

2. Does anyone know the actual nutritional value of slugs for the above 4 ducks? They certainly love them, and struggle to get down the huge north-west coast version. Many animals will eat things they prefer, but are junk food. I'm probably not giving them many more than they would find on their own given a safe large foraging area, but our predator level is too high. Eventually I will get set up better, but these poor boys and girls needed rescuing immeadiately and it's a learning experience!

At the moment they get about 500ml of layer pellets in the morning which are usually gone by 5 pm, some sort of bucket with floating greens (Kale, dandelion greens, duck weed, or Swiss chard) and about 100gr of wheat that's soaked overnight in water as an evening meal. The slugs happen whenever I harvest them from my garden. Their pen is 4x8 open-bottomed that I move on grass twice a day. Mallard-based ducks don't really eat grass - I've read that they can't digest it, but they do poke around looking for bugs and roots right after being moved. When I first got them, they'd been living such a deprived existance that they didn't seem to have a clue and I have no idea what they were being fed.

Any input is welcome! Thanks
subject: Growing all a duck's feed