Can Ducks Eat Chicken Food?

Ducks are lovely domestic birds for many reasons. One of these reasons is that they are easy to look after. They are also hardy and can eat almost anything they come across while foraging. Does it mean they can eat the chicken food? The answer is yes. Ducks can eat chicken feed when their usual food is not available.

However, there are a few side effects that arise from consuming chicken feed. But with proper guidelines, you can allow your ducks to share food with your chickens. Below is a piece of comprehensive information about the nutritional requirements of your ducks, the composition of chicken food, the risks and benefits that come with feeding ducks chicken feed, and a selection of a few nutrient-rich alternatives to chicken feed for your ducks.

Nutritional Requirements Of Ducks

Your ducks have their own nutritional requirements. Vitamin B3 or niacin is the most important of all the nutrients that your ducks need. Niacin helps support healthy, strong legs. It also plays a crucial role in the overall growth of ducks. Lack of this nutrient can result in fragility or deformities.

Protein is another nutrient that every duck needs to grow and develop. The amino acid in proteins contributes largely to better aging. Make sure you feed your ducks protein-rich foods in moderation. Too much of this nutrient can encourage rapid growth and this is not a good idea. Ducks that grow too fat or too fast are likely to develop foot and leg problems.

Excessive consumption of proteins can further cause a condition known as angel wings in ducks. This condition causes wings to start curving away from the body, making it difficult for your ducks to fly.

The addition of a few raw oats to the duck feed helps reduce the protein levels that can cause the angel wing condition. Always read the labels on the commercial duck feed to know the correct amount of protein-rich food recommended for your ducks. Generally, ducks need these amino acids found in protein:

  • 1. Leucine
  • 2. Lysine
  • 3. Isoleucine
  • 4. Histidine
  • 5. Arginine
  • 6. Threonine
  • 7. Tryptophan
  • 8. Valine
  • 9. Total Sulphur Amic Acid Or TSAA

When you compare the nutrient values in the chicken diet and the duck feed, you will be surprised to find that both share more or less similar nutrients. The only difference comes in the amount of each nutrient formulated for chicken and duck feeds.

Composition Of Chicken Food

The chicken feed comes with plenty of benefits for your poultry, especially ducks. These benefits are mainly nutritional and quite helpful to the growth, development, and productivity of your chickens and ducks.

Typically, chicken feed contains oilseed, grains, and several animal by-products. Each nutrient in the chicken feed is carefully formulated to provide the required benefits. For instance, protein content varies considerably depending on the type of feed you are giving to your chickens.

Most of the feeds have no more than 18% protein content to ensure that your birds are getting the right amount of this vital nutrient. This formulation is only applicable to chickens. How about ducks?

As you may know, ducks will require slightly different dietary needs. In particular, niacin content in chicken feeds is what makes the difference. This dietary difference is considered potentially harmful to the ducks. So, make sure that you are feeding your ducks on chicken feed occasionally to avoid health complications.

feeding ducklings

Can Ducks Eat Chicken Food? Risks And Benefits

It is practically possible to give chicken feed to your ducks. But this should only happen if at all you have only the chicken feed on hand. Bear in mind that chicken feed consists of a wide range of nutrients and minerals in different proportions compared to duck feed. These nutrients can also be beneficial to your ducks’ well-being.

Unfortunately, this type of feed does not have the required nutritional balance formulated for ducks. In this regard, you should not consider it as a long-term solution to your ducks’ dietary needs. If you do so, you will be exposing your ducks to great dangers and risks.

As explained above, chicken feed is rich in high protein content that helps chickens grow rapidly and increase their egg production. This cannot be the case with your ducks given that excess protein is not an option for them especially when given for a long time.

Again, your ducks need a lot of niacin in their diet and the chicken feed alone cannot provide this vital nutrient. You may be required to mix chicken feed with about 5% brewers yeast to make it nutritionally balanced for your ducks.

From this information, you can conclude that relying on chicken feed as a source of food for your ducks can contribute to a lack of niacin and too much protein. Both cases can impact the growth of your ducks and even interfere with their productivity.

Effects Of Feeding Chicken Food To Ducks

There are two major effects of feeding chicken food to your ducks for a long period of time; niacin deficiency and excess protein. A lack of niacin can interfere with the growth and development of ducklings. This water-solution type of amino acid is not stored in the duck’s body. Therefore, your ducks will need it all the time to stay healthy and active.

Feeding chicken food to your ducks can immensely contribute to an over-abundance of protein. As such, it is crucial to know the nutrient composition of the chicken feed before giving it to your ducks.

Excess protein can cause serious health problems in ducks. The extra protein can cause both leg and foot problems including angel wings which may prevent the ducks from flying (in the case of wild ducks during migration).

Alternatives To Chicken Food For Ducks

Instead of giving your ducks some chicken food, you can provide them with some alternative feeds. Cracked corn, rice, birdseed, oats, sliced grapes, chopped lettuce, and frozen peas are the ideal solution and the perfect choice of alternative source of essential nutrients for your ducks.

These alternative foods are somehow similar to a selection of natural foods that ducks normally forage while roaming the field.


Ducks can indeed eat chicken food. While this is good news for someone raising both chickens and ducks in their backyard, a lot of care and consideration should come into practice. When feeding ducks chicken feed, make sure you do so sparingly given that each type of poultry has its own nutritional requirements.

For instance, the excess chicken feed can harm your ducks because of too much protein and lack of niacin. Remember, lack of the right type of nutrient can lead to sickness, weakness, deformities, reduced egg production, or interfere with hatching. Worse still, it can negatively impact body growth and feather formation. For that reason, check the composition of chicken feed before giving your ducks to eat.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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