Ask the Swan Specialist

Re: Cygnet feeding
By:The Regal Swan
Date: 2 July 2015
In Response To: Cygnet feeding (Christian)

Hi Christian:

Yes, the lady is absolutely correct. Swans can choke without water so they eat by dipping the food in water or eat soaked food. If you feed the swans dry food, then the food must be placed in a floating feeder or other such feeder where the swans can dip it in the water prior to eating. Young cygnets can readily choke on too large a piece of food or dry food.

You should feed the swans 1/2 mixture of cracked corn and 1/2 poultry layer pellets. The crumbles dissipate too quickly in the water and may not provide adequate amounts of food resources. The pellets will fall to pieces but there will be ample portions left in the water.

You must provide cracked corn or the cygnets can develop neurological issues from not having adequate amounts of Vitamin A which the cracked corn provides. The poultry layer pellets provide necessary minerals, vitamins and micronutrients. You can also provide them with chopped lettuce for supplementing their vegetative needs. Lettuce is an acquired taste so you may need to add a little bit of bread to the lettuce to introduce the swans to the lettuce. Lettuce will help during the winter when aquatic and other vegetation is sparse.

You want to stay away from any food source that has a high content of protein as this can cause a condition called "slipped or backwards wing", "angel wing", etc.

This condition occurs when the wings grow faster than the supporting tissue and the wing cannot be supported properly which cause the wing to look backward or slipped out of position. This condition can also be caused by genetics, but usually is a result of a high protein diet.

All of this food mixture can be placed in a floating feeder or placed directly in the water. The problem with using no feeder is that the fish and other waterfowl will eat before the swans may have a chance to feed. If, however, you do not use a feeder, the food needs to be adequately replenished throughout the day so that the swans are getting enough nutrients and the food needs to be placed in at least 3 feet of water away from the bank of the pond. You do not want to encourage predators to attack the birds while they are feeding near a bank.

By placing the feeder or the food in the water, approximately 3 feet from the bank, you will also prevent such pests as ants, rats, raccoons, etc., accessing the food.

We use a dog café, which has the bottom removed (this is where water is placed for a dog and you do not need this portion) and mounted on a pole 3 feet into the pond. The swans can be taught to use the trapdoor and feed at will. You would only place cracked corn and poultry layer pellet in this feeding system. You would need to drop bread and lettuce nearby for supplemental purposes. And, no bread does not hurt the birds. You just don't want to use it as a mainstay for their diet, just as a treat or getting them accustomed to you, the feeding system and the lettuce. A photo of the feeder can be found on earlier posts about feeding swans on this website.

The other issue with any feeding system is that if the swans do not eat the food completely, it can become moldy. Therefore, if you use any type of tray, dog café or other such feeding system, you must keep it cleaned on a regular basis. The mold can kill the swans. It is for this reason that you do not want to load more than 1/4 of the feeder with food so that food is not wasted by becoming moldy and having to be discarded.

We hope this information is of benefit. The Regal Swan

Messages In This Thread

Cygnet feeding -- Christian -- 2 July 2015
Re: Cygnet feeding -- The Regal Swan -- 2 July 2015