Most stores selling food for agricultural animals stock food for chickens but not ducks. The consensus among people who raise ducks is that while ducks can eat chicken feed, they have different dietary needs. Growers should use chicken feed to supplement traditional food that ducks like and need, not replace it entirely. Ducklings have different needs than adult ducks, and there are risks to feeding ducklings medicated chicken feed.
Ducklings need more niacin than chicks. Without it, their legs can become weak or bowed. Ducklings can get niacin from roaming in a pasture and eating bugs, slugs and other insects. They should not be fed entirely on chicken feed whose niacin content is intended for chickens.
For the first three weeks after they're born, feed ducklings chick-starter that is 20 per cent protein. When they get older, feed them chicken-grower that is 16 per cent protein.
It should be noted that not all chicken feed is medicated. The medicated chicken feed is largely formulated for mass, commercial chicken-growing operations; the spread of disease among large numbers of chickens enclosed in growing sheds is a constant threat.
Ducklings eat more than chicks. They also tend to be healthier than chicks. The medications in chicken feed are not good for ducklings if they eat too much of it. Medicated chicken feed in moderation is OK for ducklings.
Food for Ducks
How much a duck eats depends on the time of year. In the winter they will eat more to keep warm and to make up for the bugs and grass that they ordinarily eat by foraging in fields. Ducks are waterfowl and need to maintain a layer of fat that chickens don't have.
Ducks need more than chicken-grower feed. They should also be fed scratch feed, corn and poultry grit.
In addition to grain, ducks like greens and tender, mild vegetables. Most grocery stores have wilted lettuce and vegetables that are past their prime that produce managers just throw away. They will ordinarily let you have these to feed your ducks.
Growers report that if ducks are fed feed marketed for egg-laying hens, their eggs taste less "ducky." Ducks fed chicken feed should still be allowed to forage.
Ducks need water to drink and an area with at least four inches deep to clear their nostrils. They can use a plastic kiddie pool or a trough used for farm animals.
Change their water two or three times daily in the summer and a minimum of once a day in the winter.
Ducks don't do well if they're kept confined. They should be allowed to roam around and forage during the day. It's OK to lock them up in a coop or pen at night.