Ready to completely ditch the feed store and save a buck? If so, you might want to consider making your own homemade duck feed.
There’s nothing wrong with the feed store, of course – and in reality, you probably can’t totally quit your monthly or weekly trips to stock up.
However, knowing how to make your own homemade duck feed is a great way to save money on your feed bill. It can lower the cost of raising ducks and make it a more practical endeavor. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
Here are some tips on growing and making homemade duck feed so that you can get started today.
What to Feed Ducks
Ducks are versatile eaters that will happily munch on all kinds of food. Some basic options include:
- Chicken feed
- Cracked corn
- Supplements (like grit and oyster shell)
You can find a more comprehensive list of what you should be feeding your ducks for the best nutrition (and what you should be avoiding!) in our extensive post on feeding ducks. Remember, in addition to store-bought and/or homemade duck feed, you also need to provide plenty of water.
4 Reasons to Grow Homemade Duck Food
While many of the options for feeding ducks that are listed above are free or inexpensive, you are going to need to include a wide variety of foods for a healthy, well-rounded, and balanced diet. Your ducks may love snacking on bugs, but they can’t subsist solely on crickets and worms!
Buying commercial poultry feed can become expensive, especially if you have a large flock of ducks. Whether you want to raise ducks for eggs or meat or are simply interested in attracting wild ducks to your backyard pond, these are some of the reasons why you might want to consider growing your own duck food.
1. Less Expensive
Ducks really only need a specialized feed during the first few weeks of life. Like baby chicks, young ducklings need a higher percentage of protein while they are in their most rapid stage of growth.
After that point, though, you can easily make your own duck feed. As long as you maintain adequate ratios of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and other nutrients, you may be able to forego store-bought feed entirely.
This can save you money and also eliminate the inconvenience of having to travel to the feed store.
2. Lets You Use New Parts of Your Landscape
By growing plants that are designed specifically for homemade duck feed, you’ll be able to explore new uses for your homestead.
For example, duckweed, which grows primarily in the water, won’t take up any of your traditional garden plots. You won’t have to build a raised bed or erect a trellis. Yet you’ll still be able to grow delicious, nutritious food for your ducks.
3. Improves the Health of Your Ducks
In the wild, ducks don’t eat Manna Pro Duck Feed – or any kind of bagged feed, for that matter. They forage! Growing your own duck garden is a great way to closely mimic the natural diet of your ducks.
You’ll need to supplement during the winter months, of course, when plants are in short supply. You’ll also probably need to supply additional protein-based treats here and there to make sure your ducks are getting everything they need.
However, feeding your ducks a diet that is close to what they would consume in the wild is a great way to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
4. Some Plants Offer Additional Environmental Benefits
If you’re interested in being more self-sustaining on your homestead, growing your own homemade duck feed can help you meet those goals.
How, you might ask? The benefit is twofold.
For one, you will reduce your carbon footprint when you don’t feed as much (or any) food that has to be shipped to you from halfway across the country.
Second, there are several kinds of duck feed you can grow that not only do no harm to the surrounding environment but actually improve it.
Case in point? Duckweed. As the name alone implies, duckweed is the perfect plant for ducks. It’s also beloved by many species of fish as well as various land-dwellers (chickens included!).
Furthermore, duckweed helps to purify the water. It grows rapidly and helps choke out algae as it absorbs the oxygen, space, and nutrients that algal growth requires. If the plants happen to die back on their own, they return valuable nitrogen to the water, too.
Best Foods You Can Grow For Ducks
If you’re interested in growing your own food supply to make homemade duck feed, here are some of your best options.
Duckweed is the quintessential foodstuff you can grow for ducks. It remains a variable source of food all the way into late fall. In some warm climates, it survives throughout the winter. It will merely go dormant until the spring. If allowed to grow freely in your pond, it will provide constant feed for your ducks.
Although duckweed provides several ecological benefits, as mentioned above, you do need to be careful about letting it get too aggressive. It can make the water unsuitable for some animals, like turtles.
2. Water Hyacinth
Second only to duckweed, water hyacinth is a great plant to grow for your ducks. Like duckweed, it grows remarkably fast. It can triple in size in just a week to ten days, in fact.
Another benefit of growing water hyacinth, besides its rapid growth rate, is that you can harvest it and then dehydrate it. It will have just as many nutrients as if you were feeding it fresh and it is loaded with protein, too. Water hyacinth has the same protein content, pound for pound, as soybeans.
Water hyacinths grow well even in poor water. You don’t have to worry too much about nitrogen or phosphorus levels with this hardy plant. Unfortunately, it tends to die back when it’s exposed to cold temperatures. It generally can’t survive when it’s colder than 40 degrees.
Millet is a small grain that you will often find in commercial poultry feeds. It’s often fed directly to pet birds like parrots and cockatiels, too.
Although millet fetches exorbitant prices at the feed store, it’s actually quite easy to grow. If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to get several full batches per year. It should be sown in moist soil (usually around the banks of a pond). Your ducks will be able to forage for it as long as it never becomes totally flooded out.
Corn is one of the easiest crops you can grow if you are making homemade duck feed. After all, you probably have some growing in your backyard garden as it is! Just harvest it at the end of the season and let it dry for long term storage. It’s a good source of fat and calories for your ducks.
5. Fairy Moss
Fairy moss is a gorgeous plant that looks somewhat like duckweed. However, it tends to be much longer. If it’s not fed upon by ducks, it can rapidly overtake a pond. It is an excellent companion plant for rice and can help to improve its yield, too.
Because peas can be grown just about anywhere (and with no pond or pool required), they are a smart option for making your own duck feed. Pea seeds are easy to find in most stores and are so inexpensive. Plus, peas provide an excellent source of nutrients for your ducks.
7. Wild Rice
The only downside to growing wild rice is that your ducks may feed on it before it’s mature, which can kill the plants before they reach their true potential.
When allowed to grow to their full size, though, wild rice plants will reach up to eight feet above the surface of the water. That’s a lot of duck feed! Depending on the climate where you live, you will usually plant wild rice seeds in the fall. It will overwinter and then appear under the water in the spring.
You can find more information on growing wild rice here.
2 Additional Tips for Starting a “Duck Garden”
1. Decide on Container or Plot Growing
Growing your own fodder for homemade duck feed is unlike growing any other kind of animal food. That’s because many of the plants you will be growing actually thrive in an aquatic environment, instead of on land.
Therefore, you will have several options available to you.
For typical plants like corn and peas, of course, you’re probably going to want to grow directly in a garden plot. However, you can grow some plants, like peas, in containers for year-round cultivation and harvest, too.
You don’t have to have a duck pond to grow aquatic foods for your ducks, either. While you certainly can – and it’s a great way to create an authentic natural environment for your ducks – you can also grow these options in kiddie pools or shallow plastic tubs.
You’ll simply toss the food to your ducks as soon as it matures (or you can let them forage in there on their own, although the plants may not make it as long because they are constantly being nibbled on).
2. Pay Attention to Regulations
Bear in mind that some of the plants you might decide to grow for ducks, like water hyacinth, are actually invasive in some areas. If you plan on growing in a pond that is connected to another waterway, you’ll want to be wary of doing this. Check your local regulations and growing guides to figure out what is allowed.
Worst-case scenario, if the plants you want to grow are considered invasive, you can always grow them in an isolated kiddie pool or tub. Just follow good biosecurity measures (like cleaning your gardening tools) to make sure you don’t accidentally spread those invasives to the waterways.
Don’t Neglect Other Components of Your Ducks’ Diets
While these plants are a great place to start when you are making your own homemade duck feed, don’t neglect that ducks prefer a varied diet. You may want to start small and use your homemade foods as supplements instead of as the primary source of your ducks’ nutrition when you are first starting out.
As long as you mind nutrient ratios to give your ducks the most balanced diet possible, you can easily grow your own nutritious duck feed – and save money and time on your homestead in the process.