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What’s the deal with ducks?

All animal species need a balanced diet for health, welfare and productivity but what constitutes a balanced diet changes as an animal grows, matures and goes through different physiological stages.

For example, young rapidly growing ducks require high levels of protein and energy however as their growth slows down with age, the amount of energy and protein they require decreases. Macro mineral requirements also vary with age and stage of production. Over or underfeeding these key nutrients can affect bone integrity and/or animal performance and overall health and wellbeing.

The NRM Lifestyle range, which includes Meatbird Crumble, Pullet Grower and Peck‘n’Lay, can be combined or used individually to cover the needs of ducks at all stages of their life.

Ducklings grow at a remarkable rate compared to chickens – although comparable in size at hatching, a duckling leaps ahead in growth in the first week and by 9 weeks the duckling will weigh more than 2kg, while an egg-type chicken would only weigh around 700g (depending on breed of course). For this reason, ducklings require feed with a higher protein level to support their rapid growth. NRM Meatbird Crumble is a great feed option for supporting the growth of ducklings. It is recommended that ducklings are not given a feed designed for hen chicks, not only because of the lower protein content but also because of the coccidiostats that are often included in chick starter feeds, which are not recommended for ducklings and can even be harmful for them.

Meat-type ducklings destined for the table can be kept on the NRM Meatbird Crumble until slaughter, however for pets and/or laying ducks, once duckling growth starts to slow down at around 4–6 weeks of age, protein requirements reduce which means it is a good idea to move them to a lower protein feed. NRM Pullet Grower is the ideal next stage feed for ducklings as it provides essential nutrients but will not result in excessive weight gain. At 4 weeks of age gradually introduce NRM Pullet Grower into the diet so that the birds are consuming only Pullet Grower from 6 weeks onwards. For non-breeding mature ducks, NRM Pullet Grower is a suitable all-round maintenance feed, so mature ducks can be kept on the Pullet Grower indefinitely. 

Duck eggs are prized for their richness compared to hen’s eggs (they have higher fat and protein levels and are excellent used in baking). Egg laying for ducks begins at about 16 to 18 weeks of age. Laying ducks are extremely productive and generally lay more eggs over a season compared to heritage breeds of chickens. Laying ducks do however require a diet higher in protein than laying chickens and still have high requirements for calcium (as egg shells are predominantly made of calcium carbonate). A combination of NRM Peck‘n’Lay and Meatbird Crumble provides a good balance between the calcium and protein requirements of these birds. These two feeds can be offered separately, allowing the birds to select the appropriate combination to meet their nutrient requirements. Laying ducks may also benefit from being offered oyster shell grit, as this can help with calcium supply and gizzard function.

All the poultry feeds in the NRM Lifestyle range contain balanced energy and protein levels, as well as added macro minerals, trace minerals and vitamins to ensure optimum health and vitality of birds.

For more information, contact your NRM Nutrition Specialist or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.

Article provided by Stacey Cosnett, Nutritionist.