Niacin for Ducks: Dosage and Signs of Deficiency

Ducks are among the best livestock to keep currently. They are beautiful, provide a lot of manure for your farm, need minimal shelter, and lay large nutritious eggs that fetch high prices.

Nonetheless, you can only benefit from rearing ducks when you take optimal care of them. One of the elements of their care is giving them the right high-quality feeds to support their fast growth.

Vitamins are among the crucial dietary requirements for ducks. Unfortunately, it is quite common for ducks to suffer from vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency.

As a duck owner, you should understand what this vitamin is, the signs of its deficiency, and how you can prevent or treat it to protect your flock. Read on to learn about these and other aspects of niacin for ducks.

What Is Niacin?

There are two types of vitamins that support the growth of your duck. These are fat and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are primarily derived from fatty foods like vegetable oils and dairy.

These can be stored in fatty tissues and the liver, so your duck does not need to eat containing fat-soluble vitamins daily. Conversely, the ducks’ body does not store water-soluble vitamins, so they need these supplied by their diets daily.

Water-soluble vitamins are also excreted through urine if their amounts exceed what the duck needs. They are supplied in grains, yeasts, meats, vegetables, and fruits.

Niacin is also called vitamin B3. It is a water-soluble vitamin with two chemical forms: niacinamide and nicotinic acid. A duck’s body will absorb niacin in the stomach, intestines, and guts.

Body tissue then converts the niacin into NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate).

NAD and NADP change the food your duck ingests into usable energy. Though most niacin for ducks is derived from nicotinamide, a few feeds contain NADP and NAP.

Niacin Deficiency in Ducks

Unlike ducks, humans have niacin-rich diets. Moreover, their bodies can synthesize niacin from an amino acid known as tryptophan. Tryptophan is present in high amounts in chocolate, turkey, chicken, eggs, dairy products, and bread.

Unfortunately, ducks cannot manufacture tryptophan, so niacin has to be constantly supplied in their diets. Furthermore, niacin is quickly eliminated from the body when in excess amounts rather than stored. These issues place ducks at risk of niacin deficiency.

While niacin deficiency affects ducks of all ages, it is more common in ducklings since they have accelerated growth in their first eight weeks of life.

The high growth rate means a duckling’s cells will constantly work to make new muscle and support the increased bone mass. A duckling is born with a niacin reserve that lasts for 2-3 days after hatching.

When this reserve runs out, here are some niacin deficiency symptoms you might observe:

  • Loss of appetite is seen as fewer visits to a food bowl
  • Lethargy
  • Bowing of legs
  • Swollen hock joints
  • Low weight gain
  • Failure to thrive
  • Pigeon toes

The manifestation of these signs will depend on the niacin deficiency’s severity. In general, ducks rarely suffer niacin deficiency past ten weeks old when the developmental phase is done. Mature ducks can get enough niacin on commercial feeds and pasture.

When niacin deficiency is untreated in ducklings, the condition can cause lifelong deformities, seizures, and sometimes death.

Benefits of Niacin for Ducks

Niacin is an essential vitamin for the growth of strong bones, soft feathers, and hard feathers in ducklings. The ducklings need about 0.2mg/kg of niacin in medicated feeds and 2mg/kg in non-medicated feeds in their first eight weeks.

After this age, most ducks will have reached their adult sizes, so their growth rates will have significantly slowed down, but they need about 12.5mg/day of niacin.

In ducks, niacin maintains healthy feathers and skin while supporting clear vision. Niacin is also crucial for the optimal functioning of the circulatory, digestive, and nervous systems.

Vitamin B3 converts food into energy to help maintain muscle tone. In so doing, it can prevent the development of diabetes and lower bad cholesterol levels.

How to Supplement Niacin for Ducks

Most duck farmers feed their birds chicken feed that contains less niacin than a duck needs. This places the bird at risk of niacin deficiency. You have several options for ensuring your ducks get enough niacin for their development.

You can start your ducklings on commercially formulated starter feed that contains enough niacin and other nutrients to support their growth. Alternatively, you can use mixed flock feed formula and general duck feed to ensure the birds get enough niacin.

Unfortunately, these approaches are not always enough for ducks. Below are the ways of supplementing niacin for your ducks to ensure they have enough.

Brewer’s Yeast

This increases the niacin for your ducks while offering a host of health benefits and increasing protein. Brewer’s yeast is available at health and livestock supply stores. A few livestock feed companies have special brewer’s yeast formulations for chickens and ducks.

You will calculate how much you need for your duck depending on your brewer’s yeast brand. For example, if your feed already contains 30mg/kg of niacin and you need 55mg/kg/day, you only supplement 25mg/kg of niacin, which can be about five tablespoons for every 2.2 pounds.

Niacin Tablets

Brewer’s yeast might be too expensive for some duck keepers. You can instead use niacin tablets to supplement niacin. The tablets contain 500mg of niacin. Generally, one tablet is mixed with about 4-8 gallons of water. Fortunately, as a water-soluble vitamin, overdosing on niacin tablets is not a significant concern.

Niacin-Rich Foods

Niacin is present in animal and plant-based foods. Since ducks are omnivores, you can supplement their niacin intake using peas, tuna fish,  slugs, snails, wheat, potatoes, sardines, pumpkin, salmon, sweet potatoes, and feeder fish.

Allow Free-Ranging

Niacin deficiency happens less frequently in free-range ducks. This is because free-range ducks have good niacin sources like snails, insects, and flies. Allowing your ducks to free-range not only reduces the risk of niacin deficiency but also lowers your feed budget.

Niacin Dosage for Ducks

Testing duck urine might give you a definitive diagnosis of niacin deficiency. However, this is generally tricky, and most people do not do it. Niacin deficiency in ducks is usually made by checking for symptoms and signs of the same.

Though some signs and symptoms mirror other conditions, you can be sure niacin deficiency is affecting your ducks if they respond to supplementation of vitamin B3.

The exact dosage of niacin tablets when managing deficiency depends on the age and breed of your duck. Generally, experts agree that your duckling should have at least 55mg of niacin/2.2 pounds of feed. You can aim for 25mg/kg/feed for mature ducks to manage niacin deficiency.

Precautions and Risks

When using niacin tablets, remember that these are available in extended and slow-release tablets. Some are manufactured for humans since they are designed to prevent niacin flush. This is a common issue among people who take high niacin doses.

Since you will grind the tablets before adding them to your duck’s feed, you negate their slow-release properties. Moreover, the tablets have additives that support their slow absorption. These additives can harm your ducks, so they are best avoided.

Settle for a standard niacin tablet instead of the slow-release tablets. Liquid niacin is also an ideal alternative. This is added to your duck’s drinking water, so its dosage and administration are simple.


Niacin deficiency is among the leading issues that might harm your duck farming venture. Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that supports your ducks’ growth and healthy feathers’ development.

When deficient, ducklings have bowed legs, pigeon toes, and swollen hock joints. They are also weak and do not thrive.

While duck feeds contain some niacin, you can supplement the vitamin with tablets, brewer’s yeast, and niacin-rich foods. Niacin tablets are also used to manage niacin deficiency but you should steer clear of the slow-release variety to protect your ducks.

With the understanding of niacin deficiency in ducks gleaned from the above article, you can now run a successful duck farming venture.

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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