🦆Deciphering Whether Chickens Can Nibble on Duck Starter Feed! 🍽️



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I still remember the day I accidentally bought a 50-pound bag of duck starter instead of chick starter.

As I lugged the huge bag across the feed store parking lot, I wondered if my feathery ladies would turn up their beaks at this duck-centric cuisine.

After doing some quick googling when I got home, I learned that chickens can safely eat duck starter feed without issues.

The protein, nutrients, and ingredients are similar enough between the two types of feed that either can be fed to both ducklings and chicks.

Of course, being the overly cautious chicken momma that I am, I still slowly transitioned my flock from chick feed to duck feed over the course of a week, watching carefully for any signs of digestive upset or decreased egg production.

Be Careful With Those Medications!


The one exception is with medications added to commercial feeds.

Duck starter commonly contains more niacin and higher levels of a coccidiostat medicine called amprolium.

While a little extra niacin doesn’t hurt, too much amprolium could make your chickens sick.

Be sure to carefully read the ingredient list before feeding any commercial duck or chick feed to your mixed flock.

For example, when I was transitioning my chickens from the chick starter to the duck starter feed, I made sure to thoroughly check the ingredients list on the duck feed bag.

It contained higher levels of niacin and amprolium medicine compared to standard chick feeds.

While the extra niacin wasn’t a concern, the elevated amprolium levels could cause health issues if fed long-term at too high of amounts.

So I gradually transitioned my flock over 7 days, slowly adjusting the ratio of duck to chick feed each day while closely monitoring my chickens for any decrease in egg production, change in manure consistency, signs of lethargy or illness, or refusal to eat.

Luckily my ladies didn’t seem to mind the change at all once transitioned!

Their egg laying stayed consistent, energy levels were normal, manure looked healthy, and they eagerly gobbled up their duck cuisine without complaint.

I kept a close eye on them for 2 full weeks after the switch just to confirm there were no adverse effects from the elevated medicine levels.

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But the duck feed didn’t cause any observable issues – what a relief!

Watch That Protein Percentage


Another difference is that ducklings require higher levels of protein—around 18-20%—compared to the 16-18% protein in chick starter feeds.

This slightly elevated protein percentage won’t hurt your chickens but could be pricey if fed long-term.

For example, the duck starter feed I accidentally bought contained 20% minimum protein versus the 18% minimum protein content of standard chick starter.

Protein helps support rapid growth and development in young ducks and chicks, but too much over time isn’t necessarily beneficial for adult chickens who aren’t growing as quickly.

The extra protein can put unnecessary strain on their kidneys and liver to metabolize and eliminate all the excess nitrogen.

Plus, higher protein feeds are usually more expensive, so feeding a 20% duck starter long-term would raise my feed costs compared to a 16-18% layer feed.

I fed the excess duck starter to my flock for the first 6 weeks before switching them to 16% layer feed per the package instructions.

The slightly elevated protein didn’t seem to affect them negatively as chicks, but I felt better moving them to feed optimized for egg layers as they got older.

No signs of liver or kidney trouble, their droppings looked healthy, and their egg production came in right on schedule.

For birds younger than 6 weeks though, that duck starter gave them plenty of nutrients for rapid growth thanks to the higher protein!

Consider Separate Feeds for Older Birds


While young ducks and chicks do well on almost identical starter feeds, their nutritional needs diverge as the birds mature.

You’ll get better egg production and health by switching to specialized layer feeds for your chickens once they start laying.

Provide a specific maintenance diet for adult ducks as well.

For example, my chickens went on 16% layer feed at 6 weeks old per the package instructions, right when their combs started reddening.

Layer feed is specifically formulated to support egg production, with precise calcium and nutrient levels duck maintenance food doesn’t provide.

I kept my ducks on 20% duck feed since they weren’t laying yet – no sense paying more for layer feed they didn’t need.

Around 5 months, my ducks started laying so I switched them to a 16% duck layer ration for better egg shell quality.

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Their nutritional needs are different from my chickens, especially for calcium and niacin.

The species-specific layer feeds optimized their health and laying ability based on unique duck and chicken biology!

For those first few weeks though, whew, I was relieved I could feed that huge bag of duck starter to my peeping fuzzballs!

No one seemed to notice or care about the switch as long as their tummies stayed full.

Does Duck Feed Affect Egg Taste?

Some backyard chicken keepers wonder if feeding their hens duck feed will make the eggs taste funny or fishy.

Fortunately, subtle differences between duck and chick starter feeds don’t alter the flavor of eggs once the hens start laying.

Egg taste is influenced more by diet later on, just prior to and during egg formation, rather than early nutritional composition.

As long as your chickens have a diet consisting predominately of layer feed by the time they start laying eggs, switching to duck starter for a few weeks as chicks won’t impact flavor at all.

I closely compared our duck feed eggs to the ones we got beforehand when feeding chick starter and didn’t notice any differences in color, texture, or taste.

They were identical to our usual golden brown, farm fresh eggs my family has come to love!

Can Chickens Eat Duck Grower and Finisher Feeds?

Beyond starter rations, ducks and chickens require different nutritional balances in their grower and finishing feeds optimized for growth versus egg laying.

Since their bodies prioritize development differently, feeding mismatched grower feeds long term reduces productivity for your ducks and hens.

You’ll get the healthiest birds and best results sticking as closely as possible to feeds designed specifically for ducks or chicken at each stage.

In a pinch, both could eat the other’s grower feed for a few days without issue.

But the elevated protein and other nutrients tailored to rapid duck development could strain your chickens.

If your feed store is out of chick grower, duck grower will work very short term only for similar age juveniles.

Should You Keep Medicated Chick Feed Away From Ducks?

Some medicated chick feeds contain coccidiostats that help ward off the coccidia parasite in juvenile chickens raised indoors.

Since ducks rarely deal with severe coccidiosis infections, they lack sensitivity and have built up little immunity to standard coccidiostats used in chickens.

Feeding medicated rations could potentially harm young ducklings lacking the proper gut flora and biology to process these drugs.

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On the other hand, apparently healthy adult ducks seem less prone to issues if they sneak chick feed with coccidiostats in moderation.

To stay 100% safe though, keep medicated feeds clearly labeled and stored securely away from curious ducks of any age.

Could Eating Duck Feed Make My Chickens Quack?

A common backyard chicken keeping myth is that feeding waterfowl feed somehow encourages chickens to “quack” more by adopting duck behaviors and vocalizations.

But in reality, a chicken’s basic biology prevents them from quacking no matter how much duck food they eat!

While their beaks and tongues are both able to produce a range of sounds, the avian vocal anatomy needed for quacking isn’t present in galliform species like chickens, turkeys, pheasants etc.

So rest assured your hens gobbling down duck grub will keep clucking and buck-bucking away as usual rather than bust out in full-on quacks!

How About Homemade Duck and Chicken Feed?

When sourcing or mixing up homemade feed batches, the ideal protein and nutrient ratios do differ between waterfowl and galliform poultry species.

But with access to diverse forage and free choice oyster shell calcium, active backyard ducks and chickens prove resilient if fed the same basic scratch and grain mix in a pinch.

They may need supplemental vitamin D, niacin etc. depending on ingredient composition to balance out nutritional deficiencies though.

As long as you provide age-appropriate feed quantities catered to the requirements of ducklings or chicks specifically, leftovers can safely be finished off by the other species without risk.

Can Ducks and Chickens Share the Same Feeder?

To reduce arguments, wasted feed, and contamination, it’s best to offer ducks and chickens separate ad libitum feeders.

Ducks gobble down feed more voraciously and scatter a good portion around nearby soil and water sources fouling things up.

Plus ducks roaming through chicken coops spread higher moisture levels and germs.

They have different nutritional needs across life stages as well making combined feeds complicated.

With a dual species flock, provide duck-proof chicken feeders up on platforms embedded against walls.

Use hanging waterfowl feeders or long, narrow troughs for duck feed only they can access.

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