Lemon the Duck

Dietary Needs of Waterfowl and Feel Restriction

Laura Backman
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Dietary Needs of Waterfowl and Feed Restriction


    Mimicking the natural diet of waterfowl in an unnatural environment can be a tricky proposition and meeting the needs of the bird without creating an inefficient metabolism is sometimes hard to do in captivity. Fortunately many commercial feeds available to poultry will ensure the birds energy needs are met and that they will receive a balanced diet. Using commercial feeds dose come with some responsibility though. Particularly with pet and breeding birds. These birds need the nutrition to carry out their normal daily functions, but must be maintained at a healthy weight. Lean and strong, will help them to be able to fight diseases, prevent metabolic problems and give them a long and healthy life. Many of the problems with joints, foot problems, molting difficulties and infertility have been linked with too many calories in a birds daily diet. Many people feel the need to allow free access to concentrated feed all day and night throughout the life of the bird. However this is to the detriment of the birds and will lead to an inefficient metabolism, inability to properly fight disease and a shorter life span. Think of a wild duck or goose. They must walk or fly for miles in order to get enough food to maintain them.  Their diet consists mainly of fresh vegetation which is almost all water and fiber and whole foods (fruits, berries, insects, etc.) which are used up by the body faster than grain based commercial diets. Our domestics living as pets live pampered lives with no worries about where their next meal is coming from or migrating vast miles in order to secure a food source. Excess calories in a domestic bird is simply not needed. When a domestic bird is fed high calorie diets their bodies do not work properly. Excess calories are stored as fat that accumulates around organs, causing decreased liver function and of course, excess weight gain. For heavy waterfowl unable to float in water most of the day, this causes a massive amount of strain on legs and feet. Restricting caloric intake is essential to the longevity of waterfowl. Concentrated feeds are just that, concentrated. They are meant as a supplement or to get birds fat for market. It has been proven that animals will live 20 -40% longer on a calorie restricted diet. This holds especially true for domesticated waterfowl that have been bred for efficient feed conversion. Remember most domestic breeds were specifically bred to gain a lot of weight on very little feed. It is essential that this is recognized and you feed the appropriate amounts to maintain the health and longevity of your pets and important breeding birds.

    I realize it is hard to "deny" your pets food, but it is in their best interest.  You are helping to ensure a happy, healthy and long life for your beloved feathered companion.

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