Can Chickens Chow Down on Duck Grower Feed?



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I still remember the day I accidentally bought a huge 40-pound bag of duck grower feed instead of chicken feed from my local Tractor Supply store.

As I poured that fancy duck grower formula into the chicken coop feeder, my feathery ladies immediately flocked around to eat it up as usual.

But after a few minutes I noticed the words “Duck Grower” on the bag label and thought uh oh, what have I done!

The short answer is yes, chickens can safely eat moderate amounts of duck grower feed without issues.

But there are some important nutritional differences between duck grower and chicken feeds you need to understand first before offering it.

Decoding the Difference Between Chicken Feed & Duck Grower


At first glance, you might assume any kind of poultry feed can be interchangeable.

But the dietary needs of ducks and chickens differ more than you probably realize.

Duck grower feed is specially formulated with higher percentages of protein, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish meals to match their unique nutritional requirements.

A typical duck grower feed contains around 20-24% protein content. Some medicated starters have even higher protein levels reaching up to 26%!

Compare that to the 16-18% protein in most chicken feeds, and you can start to see the imbalance.

Duck Grower also has extra niacin added in – a vitamin ducks need more of as they grow and develop.

The omega-3’s from fish and marine products like anchovy and menhaden meal give ducks lush, waterproof plumage.

Meanwhile, standard chicken feed is lower in protein with added calcium and phosphorus for strong eggshell development in laying hens.

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It’s finely tuned to deliver the right nutrition chicken need during different life stages.

The Dangers of Feeding Too Much High Protein Duck Grower


What happens if your flock gobbles down duck grower as their main food source?

The excess protein puts more strain on your chickens’ kidneys as they work overtime to filter out the unused protein.

Trouble walking, lethargy, poor feathering, vent pasting, and loose droppings start to occur over time.

Their poor kidney function also throws off calcium metabolism between bone calcium reserves and eggshell production.

Egg eating and osteoporosis can then become serious issues in your flock.

However, in the short term, boosting their protein intake a bit above normal levels is not typically harmful.

Times When Duck Grower Can Do More Harm Than Good


Young chicks under 16 weeks should not eat medicated duck starter feeds.

The higher medication levels like amprolium for coccidiosis prevention can overload their still-developing digestive and immune systems.

I found this out the hard way and lost two chicks even with the correct dose after they exhibited neurological issues.

And any duck feed containing the coccidiostat nicarbazin is extremely toxic to chickens, even in small amounts!

Nicarbazin interferes with vitamin absorption and causes molybdenum deficiency.

Without enough molybdenum, protein structures deform and the riboflavin thickens the egg white incorrectly so chicks die in the shell.

If you suspect your duck feed has nicarbazin, do not feed it to chickens at all. It’s just too risky.

Potential Health Benefits of Duck Grower for Chickens

Occasionally swapping out chicken feed for the right duck grower in moderation does come with some health bonuses.

The higher protein can boost egg production since protein is the building block of egg components like membranes and albumen.

Some chicken keepers swear their hens lay more abundantly and regularly when supplemented with duck grower.

The omega fatty acids make feathers sleek and shiny since oil coats each feather shaft.

And the protein supports muscle growth and development in meat birds like broilers and cornish crosses to upgrade their meat quality.

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Just introduce duck grower slowly over 2-3 weeks, gradually increasing the ratio to 30% duck feed, 70% regular chicken feed at first.

This gives their digestive system time to adjust.

Monitor them closely for any signs of trouble. And never feed duck grower long term as the sole ration.

So next time you accidentally grab the wrong feed like I did, take a deep breath!

It’s not optimal, but in transitioning carefully, it likely won’t doom your dear dinosaurs to duck delicacies forever.

Have you ever fed your flock duck grower too? Let me know your experience in the comments!

Does Duck Grower Help Egg-Laying Performance?

Some backyard chicken keepers report improved egg production and quality after supplementing duck grower instead of standard layer rations.

The research is mixed on whether duck grower reliably boosts laying capacity across an entire flock long-term.

A British study found minor increases while an American study found no difference in hen-day production.

The extra protein may help hens in poor body condition regain primes laying form if deficient.

Omega-3’s properly develop the yolk as well, optimizing interior egg nutrition.

And healthy, robust pullets that start laying while eating duck grower seem to outperform older hens switched from chicken layer feed.

So duck grower holds promise for select laying chickens but isn’t necessarily a silver bullet.

Does Duck Grower Impact Meat Bird Quality?

Broilers and cornish crosses will gorge on duck starter feed if given access.

Who can blame them with nearly 30% protein and a taste like candy?

But does all that excess protein only make them grow faster?

Or can supplementary duck grower improve the final meat quality?

Turns out the amino acid balance does enhance breast meat texture and juiciness!

The only catch is monitoring closely for leg issues since rapid growth strains developing joints.

If supplemented properly a week before processing, duck grower finishes broilers strong.

How Do You Transition Chickens From Chicken Feed to Duck Grower?

Any diet change for chickens should take place slowly over 5-7 days.

This gives their digestive system time to adjust to new nutrients.

Start by mixing 25% duck grower and 75% original feed for the first 2 days.

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Then go half and half for 2 more days.

Finally divide 75% duck grower and 25% chicken feed for the last stretch.

Watch closely for signs of trouble like loose droppings, lack of appetite, or low energy.

Temporarily slow the transition if stressed.

What Feed Conversion Ratio Differences Exist?

Chickens eat about 1.8-2 pounds of feed for each pound of body weight gain.

Ducks range from 2.5-3.5 pounds of feed per pound of growth.

So ducks require around 1.5x more feed to add the same weight as chickens.

This matters when pricing out feeds if budget conscious.

You’ll burn through duck grower much quicker thanks to their worse feed conversion ratio.

Yet another reason duck grower works better as a supplemental feed rather than the sole diet.

Can Chickens Eat Food Formulated for Other Poultry Like Geese Or Quail?

Chickens tend to tolerate other land fowl feeds better than waterfowl feeds.

Geese and quail starters contain higher fiber and protein levels better suited to chicken digestibility.

And medications like coccidiostats are less hazardous across similar intestinal tracts.

That said, these feeds don’t deliver the precise mineral and vitamin balance chicken require long-term.

Occasionally swapping with geese or quail feed poses little risk.

But exclusively feeding it risks malnutrition deficiency disorders eventually.

How Do You Supplement Chicken Feed With Duck Feed?

The simplest method for integrating duck feed is topping off the normal ration.

Feed your standard chicken feed first as the base.

Then sprinkle duck feed on top to amplify protein and omega intake.

This enables the chickens to self-regulate proportions.

Healthier, heavier breeds tend to consume more of the duck feed boost.

While smaller breeds wary of excess protein stick to the underlying chicken feed.

It’s a built-in safeguard against overload.

What About Feeding Whole Ducks As Treats?

Chickens relish meat as an occasional protein-packed snack.

And nothing captivates their attention quite like fresh chopped duck!

Wild or home-raised waterfowl carry more parasites to pass though.

Fortunately freezing or cooking duck neutralizes contagions.

Chop frozen ducks into bite-size nuggets.

Or simmer duck pieces fully before drying and crumbling over feed.

This makes a memorable meal chickens won’t soon forget!

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