How do you feed a mixed flock of poultry with differing food requirements? What can a chicken owner do when they want to add more chickens or even add ducklings into the mix? Let me give you a few pointers that have worked for us concerning how to feed a mixed poultry flock.
What to Feed a Mixed Flock of Poultry
The important thing for any animal is getting the best nutrition. It is possible to house chickens, ducks, partially grown pullets and ducklings together, and still provide the nutrition that each requires. The key, to put it simply, is to feed them all a non medicated chick feed and then add the extra nutritional requirements of laying hens and ducks in separate feeders. In the meantime, supply the laying hens with free choice calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells or dried crushed egg shells. The chicks who don’t need it will not eat it, and the hens can eat all of the free choice calcium they need. Excess calcium in feed can lead to extra fast bone growth in growing chicks and result in weakened bone structure.
The Special Needs of Ducklings
- Ducks have a few special requirements in a search for what to feed a mixed flock. The laying ducks will need some extra calcium from time to time. Most of the time, my ducks have very strong shells without adding calcium to the pellet feed. When ducklings are growing it is important to monitor the amount of protein that they are receiving if their diet consists mainly of commercial feed. Too much protein can lead to wing abnormalities and leg bone issues due to too fast of a growth rate. The wing condition known as Angel Wing is a result of commercial food for ducks and not enough forage and insect eating. Ducks are excellent foragers and when they get most of their nutrition from a processed poultry food and not enough green grass and bugs, they can have problems. There are a few ways to work around this in a mixed flock.
- 1. if possible, keep the ducklings separate from 3 weeks of age until 10 weeks of age.
- 2. feed some forage material to the ducklings and chicks such as fresh grass clippings (chopped small to avoid choking) or timothy/orchard grass hay. Our ducks would rather eat grass hay than duck pellets any day of the week.
Niacin is a requirement for ducklings. An easy way to increase niacin for your ducklings is through supplementing with Brewers Yeast. Adding this to the feed will not adversely affect the chickens. A second way to increase niacin content is to ferment the feed you use. Fermenting increases the nutrition available in the feed. (links to other posts on fermenting chicken feed Natural Probiotics for Chickens, How to Save Money by Fermenting Chicken Feed Fermented Chicken Feed)
Commercial Flock Raiser Diet for Mixed Flock
The feeds formulated for mixed species have a higher protein percentage than is needed for ducklings. These flock rations are intended for meat birds who will have an abbreviated life span. I have stopped using these flock feeds for my ducklings and use a lower protein percentage non medicated chick starter for ducklings.
By paying a little more attention to the rations you use to feed a mixed flock , you can successfully keep a mixed flock of poultry even if they are varying ages.
(this post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Mag.com)
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