Study on Feed Intake by Ducks: Males Eat Faster

FRANCE - All ducks ate more as they got older and made fewer daily visits to the feeding station, according to new research from INRA. While both sexes ate the same amount, the males ate much faster than the females.
calendar icon 3 April 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Researchers at Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) have carried out a detailed analysis of the individual feeding behaviour of male and female mule ducks.

In their paper in Journal of Animal Science, first-named author, B. Basso and colleagues explain that they studied the feeding behaviour of 19 mule ducks (males and females) bred in a group during their growth phase (between three and eight weeks of age) using the recording system for waterfowl feeding behaviour developed at INRA.

The basic feeding behaviour data obtained allowed them to confirm on the one hand the reliability of the tool and also to compute feed intake traits per day (average daily feed intake, number of visits and time spent feeding per day), per visit (feed intake per visit, visit duration and visit feeding rate), and per meal (meal size, meal duration and meal feeding rate).

Daily feed intake increased with age (130 to 248g per day) while the time spent feeding decreased from 14 to 5.5 minutes per day.

Because the duration of visits remained stable (average 45 seconds), this reflected a decrease in the number of visits per day. Feed intake per visit and the feeding rate per visit increased sharply with age. The same trend was observed at the meal level for both the feed intake and the feeding rate.

Feed intake did not differ between males and females but the time spent feeding was significantly greater for females than for males (10.8 and 8.9 minutes per day and 53 and 37 seconds per visit for females and males, respectively), leading to significantly greater feeding rate for males (30g per minute) than for females (24g per minute).

Grouping visits in meal events minimised the differences between genders as the meals tended to comprise fewer visits for females.

Basso and co-authors conclude that, with the hypothesis of a genetic link between feeding behaviour during growth and force-feeding ability of ducks, genetic selection of these behavioural traits could be included in breeding programmes to improve the force-feeding capacity of mule ducks.


Basso B., M. Lagüe, G. Guy, E. Ricard and C. Marie-Etancelin. 2014. Detailed analysis of the individual feeding behavior of male and female mule ducks. J. Anim. Sci. 92(4):1639-1646. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-7110.

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