Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?

two ducks walking in grass

We receive this question quite frequently at Kalmbach Feeds®. The answer is yes, in most cases. Ducks do have some unique nutritional requirements, but most of those unique requirements are necessary while they are growing. Once ducks reach sexual maturity, they can usually be fed the same thing as your chickens. Let’s dive a little deeper into the unique nutritional requirements of ducks and what to look for in a layer feed that you plan to feed them.

What Are Some Unique Nutrient Requirements for Ducks?

As we have discussed in previous articles, ducks grow exceptionally fast. Because of their fast growth rate, ducks require a lot of energy and a lot of extra nutrients to maintain their structure, bone strength, and body confirmation. Ducks also need high levels of niacin. Niacin is a B-vitamin; Vitamin B3 to be exact. Most animals can easily convert tryptophan – an essential amino acid – into niacin. However, ducks are not very good at this process. Therefore, they require a lot more niacin from their diet. Ducks suffering from niacin deficiency may have legs that swell at the hock or become bowed. If not treated properly, it will eventually become very difficult and uncomfortable for these ducks to walk. That is why it is very important to choose a high-quality starter/grower feed that meets the niacin requirements for growing ducks. As ducks age, however, their niacin requirement starts to decrease. The niacin requirement in feed for adult ducks is about 20% less than the niacin requirement of a baby duck. At this stage, the niacin requirement is pretty close to the level required for adult chickens. Also, because ducks tend to consume more feed each day as compared to a chicken, they can usually meet their daily niacin requirement with a good quality layer feed.

Key Differences Between Duck Feed vs Chicken Feed

How Will I Know if a Layer Feed Will Work for My Ducks?

Not all layer feeds are created equal. Adult chickens do have slightly lower niacin requirements than adult ducks. If a layer feed is formulated to meet only the bare-minimum requirement for chickens, then it may not be the best option for ducks, too. Check the ingredient listing on your feed tag for a niacin supplement. If you still aren’t sure, ask your supplier! I promise that we get this question all of the time, and we are happy to help with all of your inquiries. All of our Kalmbach® layer feeds are formulated with duck layers in mind and would make great feed options.

What if I Still Want to Supplement?

Though it is often not required with most good-quality layer feeds, some duck owners may still want to supplement the diet of their layer ducks. A common supplement may be leafy greens, which are loaded with vitamins. Dried Brewer’s Yeast is also a very common niacin supplement for duck owners. You can usually find Dried Brewer’s Yeast at your local feed store, drug store, or online.

Can I Feed Too Much Niacin?

Too much of anything is never a good idea. However, the toxicity threshold for niacin is actually pretty high, since niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that your birds don’t accumulate large stores of the vitamin in their body reserves. To make sure you are providing the best nutrition for your layer ducks, pick a good quality layer feed that will meet their nutrient needs. Don’t hesitate to contact the feed company if you have questions or you aren’t sure about the best feed option. And, most importantly, enjoy the time with your ducks!

Nancy Jefferson

Dr. Nancy Jefferson has been a member of the Nutrition and Technical Services team at Kalmbach Feeds since 2013. She received her Ph.D. from West Virginia University in 2008 and has worked in the feed industry for over 15 years. She lives on a farm in Crown City, OH with her husband, John, and their children. Dr. Jefferson is a passionate poultry enthusiast and loves her chickens! Together, she and her family raise beef cattle and she keeps an ever-growing flock of backyard chickens.