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The number one question I always get from backyard chicken keepers thinking about adding some domestic duck breeds to their flock is “What do ducks eat?” Fortunately, ducks can do quite well on chicken feed, although there is waterfowl feed available commercially for those who raise only ducks; or ducks and geese together.

In the wild of course, ducks get by eating grass, weeds, bug larvae, slugs, grubs, snakes, and frogs. Around 18 weeks old, your ducks can be switched to a chicken layer feed which has the added calcium they need to lay eggs with strong shells. Your ducks do need grit just like chickens do to help them digest their food but should pick up enough small stones, pebbles, and coarse dirt as they roam to satisfy that need. If you can’t let your ducks out due to predators or your work schedule, then providing them commercial grit free choice is recommended. If you can’t let them out, clipping grass, weeds, and herbs for them, as well as offering them lots of scraps from the garden is a good idea for their optimal health. Lisa Steele is the author of Duck Eggs Daily : Raising Happy Healthy Ducks…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013).

What is the best thing to feed ducks?

DO: Feed ducks cracked corn, oats, rice, birdseed, frozen peas, chopped lettuce, or sliced grapes. These foods are similar to natural foods ducks will forage for on their own. DON’T: Leave uneaten food lying around. Leftover food in the water can rot and cause deadly algae blooms that affect local wildlife.

What do ducks naturally eat?

Nutritional Consequences. Wild ducks and geese feed on a variety of grains and grasses, aquatic plants, and invertebrates, all naturally found in the wild. When eaten in combination, these foods are nutritionally balanced and provide everything a wild duck or goose needs to survive.

What do ducks eat in a day?

Water plants..Leaves and roots..Grass..Berries..Seeds..Grains..Snails..Salamanders.

Backyard ducks can eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and meat or fish in addition to their layer feed. A varied diet of healthy treats not only makes life more interesting for them, it makes the ducks healthier and their eggs more nutritious. It also ensures that nothing goes to waste. Our ducks are regularly fed kitchen and garden scraps, both raw and cooked. With a few exceptions, they can eat anything not moldy or spoiled. Wilted, bruised or bug-eaten produce is just fine, as is stale cereal.

Heading to the park to feed the ducks is a very old and popular family pastime; it’s a fun, free activity and a great way for parents and children to see and appreciate wildlife and nature.

In contrast, foods commonly fed to waterfowl in public parks, such as bread, crackers, popcorn, and corn, are typically low in protein and essential nutrients and minerals (such as calcium and phosphorus). If everyone visiting a park “only” gives a few pieces of bread or crackers to ducks and geese, it quickly becomes the bulk of what wild waterfowl consume, and results in a variety of nutritional disorders. Birds with MBD have incredibly soft bones and joints that are often malformed and fractured; these injuries are caused by an overall calcium deficiency in the body, which is linked to an inappropriate diet. Another common issue with ducks and geese in public parks is “angel wing” — a condition where the ends of an affected bird’s flight feathers are twisted upward. The intense competition for poor quality food combined with other stressful interactions often cause the ducks and geese to have suppressed immune systems, which reduces their ability to resist infection. In public settings where waterfowl are fed artificial diets, these birds often lose this fear and are more likely to be consumed by predators (feral cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, etc). But the bottom line is that wild ducks and geese should be able to find plenty of food on their own – so if you can resist the temptation to feed, simply pack your binoculars and camera and enjoy watching the birds.

If you ask most birders when they had their first personal interaction with a wild bird, many would likely say it was when they fed the ducks at a local park or pond as a child. Many conservationists and city officials debate whether feeding wild birds is a good idea or not. Despite this difference of opinion, if you feel the inclination to pass along some treats to ducks or geese, it helps to know what foods are healthy choices.

The issue of whether it is all right to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl is a topic of controversy among bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and park officials. In reality, they are capable of fending for themselves, finding their food in the wild, and do not require human handouts to survive, no matter the season or how much they beg for treats. One thing the experts all agree on is that too much feeding is unhealthy and can create excess waste and pollution that can destroy habitats and harm birds and other wildlife. Birders also agree if you must give ducks or any other wild birds a treat—and no posted notices or local ordinances discourage the practice—then nutritious treats are the best choice to offer. Some people may feed ducks their leftover stale or moldy bread, which should never be fed to the birds: Several types of mold can be fatal to waterfowl. Cracked corn Wheat, barley, or similar grains Oats (uncooked; rolled or quick) Rice (plain white or brown, cooked or uncooked, whole or instant) Milo seed Birdseed (any type or mix) Grapes (cut in half or quartered if very large) Nut hearts or pieces (any type but without salt, coatings, or flavoring) Frozen peas or corn (defrosted, no need to cook) Earthworms (fishing bait or dug from the garden) Mealworms (fresh or dried) Chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes Vegetable trimmings or peels (chopped into small pieces) Avoid feeding the ducks if other visitors are already offering treats: Too much food can lead to health problems and uneaten leftovers. Litter can hurt birds and the environment; dispose of all trash properly, including bags, twist ties, plastic clips, and any unsuitable or moldy scraps.

What Do Ducks Eat?

What Ducks Eat Affects Their Health, Growth, and Production

Reading Time: 4 minutesThe number one question I always get from backyard chicken keepers thinking about adding some domestic duck breeds to their flock is “What do ducks eat?” Fortunately, ducks can do quite well on chicken feed, although there is waterfowl feed available commercially for those who raise only ducks; or ducks and geese together.Wondering what ducks eat is a valid question. It’s not as straightforward as feeding baby chickens. In the wild of course, ducks get by eating grass, weeds, bug larvae, slugs, grubs, snakes, and frogs. If you free range your ducks, they will also fill up on these protein-rich, nutritious goodies. And in fact, most of the treats I give my ducks are leafy greens or chopped herbs or weeds. My ducks seem to love anything green. And peas floated in their water tub is a favorite treat.

What Do You Feed Baby Ducks?

If you’re wondering what do you feed baby ducks, they can be started on regular chick starter feed. You want to choose the unmedicated chick starter feed. Not only are ducklings not susceptible to coccidiosis which the medicated feed protects against, since ducklings eat far more per ounce of body weight than baby chicks, but they are also likely to over-medicate themselves. So stick with the unmedicated chick starter feed that is around 20 percent protein.Unlike baby chicks who stay on the starter feed for the first 8 weeks, baby ducklings should only be on it for the first two weeks after they hatch. The high protein content can lead to issues such as Angel Wing which is caused by too much protein in the diet. Cutting the feed with raw rolled oats (up to a 25 percent ratio to the feed) can also help reduce the amount of protein the ducklings are eating and help them grow at a more constant rate.Ducklings’ fast growth can lead to foot and leg problems as well. Adding some brewer’s yeast to the feed will provide niacin for strong bones. Brewer’s yeast in a 2 percent ratio to feed is recommended. I add the brewer’s yeast to my ducks daily feed for life.It’s important to try to get your ducklings out on the grass for exercise and fresh air on warm sunny days, and so they can start eating grass and weeds. Just be sure to keep them protected from danger and bring them back inside if they seem cold. Barring time outdoors, pick some grass and weeds for them to nibble on in their brooder. Just be sure they have a dish of coarse dirt available also to help them digest the fibrous plants.

Feeding Growing Babies

After two weeks, the ducklings should be switched to chicken grower feed which has 16 percent protein. I continue to add the oats and brewer’s yeast to the grower feed as well.

What do Ducks Eat Once They’re Full Grown?

Around 18 weeks old, your ducks can be switched to a chicken layer feed which has the added calcium they need to lay eggs with strong shells. Duck eggs are larger and have thicker shells than chicken eggs, so the appropriate calcium levels are important. You should also provide them crushed eggshell or oyster shell free choice in addition to the layer feed. You can choose crumble or pellet (it’s a personal choice and you should try both to see which your ducks prefer), organic or non-organic.

Snacks Ducks Love

Backyard ducks can eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and meat or fish in addition to their layer feed. A varied diet of healthy treats not only makes life more interesting for them, it makes the ducks healthier and their eggs more nutritious. It also ensures that nothing goes to waste. Our ducks are regularly fed kitchen and garden scraps, both raw and cooked. With a few exceptions, they can eat anything not moldy or spoiled. Wilted, bruised or bug-eaten produce is just fine, as is stale cereal.

Fruits

Ducks enjoy many different types of fruits, including berries, melon, seed and pit fruits. Grapes, bananas, plums, watermelon, pears and peaches are all fine for ducks.

Vegetables

Some favorite veggie treats include cucumbers, peas, zucchini, broccoli and corn. Also kale, collards, cabbage, chard, lettuce and all kinds of squash are great treats. Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes and parsnips are also super nutritious treats but ducks have a far easier time eating them if they are cooked or grated.

Grains

Whole grains are better than white for your ducks. Cooked whole wheat or vegetable pasta, brown rice, millet, quinoa and oats all are good treat options. Whole-grain, sugar-free cereals are also okay in moderation. Sprouted grains including mung beans, alfalfa, broccoli, wheat berry or quinoa are extremely nutritious treats for ducks.

Protein

Scrambled eggs are one of our ducks’ favorite treats. Other favorite proteins include dried or live mealworms, earthworms, slugs, crickets, minnows, feeder fish, cooked fish or meat leftovers, lobster or shrimp shells.

Nutritional Consequences

Wild ducks and geese feed on a variety of grains and grasses, aquatic plants, and invertebrates, all naturally found in the wild. When eaten in combination, these foods are nutritionally balanced and provide everything a wild duck or goose needs to survive.In contrast, foods commonly fed to waterfowl in public parks, such as bread, crackers, popcorn, and corn, are typically low in protein and essential nutrients and minerals (such as calcium and phosphorus). While a single feeding of these “junk foods” may not harm waterfowl, it adds up! If everyone visiting a park “only” gives a few pieces of bread or crackers to ducks and geese, it quickly becomes the bulk of what wild waterfowl consume, and results in a variety of nutritional disorders.Waterfowl in public parks are often admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centers with metabolic bone disease (MBD). Birds with MBD have incredibly soft bones and joints that are often malformed and fractured; these injuries are caused by an overall calcium deficiency in the body, which is linked to an inappropriate diet. Calcium also plays a crucial role in the formation of eggs/offspring, clotting ability, cardiovascular and neuromuscular function, and a variety of other metabolic activities. Birds with MBD are often so malformed they cannot fly and become dependent on handouts, completing a vicious cycle. Affected birds are typically too weak to compete for food and defend themselves and are often the victims of aggressive attacks by other ducks and geese.Another common issue with ducks and geese in public parks is “angel wing” — a condition where the ends of an affected bird’s flight feathers are twisted upward. “Angel wing” occurs when ducks and geese grow abnormally quickly; the affected birds’ joints don’t fully form as the wing and feathers develop and the weight of the growing feathers rotates the tip of the bird’s wing. If caught in initial stages, waterfowl suffering from this condition may be treated with splints to guide bone growth in the correct position. Although there are several theories regarding the causes of “angel wing”, some studies suggest that diets high in protein may be to blame. Well-meaning citizens feeding commercial duck, chicken, or turkey feed to avoid the “junk food” may be unintentionally creating this disorder.One more problem with bread products is that this type of food expands in water — and the stomach — which gives ducks and geese an artificial feeling that they are full. As a result, these birds may not feel motivated to continue foraging on natural foods of higher nutritional value.

Overcrowding & Disease

In the wild, a particular lake or pond habitat can sustain a certain number of ducks and/or geese – there is a maximum number of individuals that can successfully reside there indefinitely, with enough food, water, and shelter. This “carrying capacity” of the habitat can be artificially increased when supplemental food is added.While extra food may appear to be a good thing, it may lead to an expanded waterfowl population beyond the carrying capacity of the habitat. Without increasing space and other resources, ducks and geese can become stressed and overcrowded. Increased numbers of animals leads to increased competition for food; weaker birds in these environments often sustain severe injuries from more dominant birds. During the spring breeding season, gangs of male ducks physically attack each other to get access to female ducks. This not only leads to plucked featherless areas and skin lacerations, but females often drown as they cannot escape the driven males. Females that manage to escape the male ducks often nest up to a mile away from the water. This abnormal nesting behavior may put them at risk of urban predators, vehicle collisions, and perils not associated with nesting in natural areas.Overcrowded habitats also are prime territories for disease outbreaks; there have been numerous outbreaks of botulism, avian cholera, duck plague (duck enteritis virus), and aspergillosis (fungal infection) in city duck ponds where supplemental feeding is a regular activity. The intense competition for poor quality food combined with other stressful interactions often cause the ducks and geese to have suppressed immune systems, which reduces their ability to resist infection.For areas with high volumes of supplemental feeding, it’s also quite common for the unconsumed, leftover food to attract scavengers, including raccoons, opossums, and rats. Dense populations of these scavengers bring the potential for further disease outbreak, including zoonotic diseases that are transmissible to humans.

Habitat Degradation

There are also environmental issues related to artificially increasing the number of ducks and geese in a given area. Large numbers of waterfowl in a small area can seriously impact the surrounding environment.Feces generated by overcrowded waterfowl result in increased deposition of carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen in the water and surrounding grasslands. The addition of these nutrients to water (a process known as eutrophication) promotes excessive algae growth, leading to decreased oxygen levels, foul-smelling green and cloudy water, fish kills, and an overall decrease in water quality. Some common algae species (blue-green algae) even produce toxins associated with illness in wildlife, humans, and pets.Certain species of waterfowl may also be destructive to the environment, due to their natural foraging strategies. Canada geese graze on grass and other low-growing plants and, when in large flocks, often destroy lawns and gardens surrounding city ponds. If these birds cannot find enough food, they often migrate short distances to golf courses, sports fields, and other grassy public areas yet still use the public park as a “home base”. Increased waterfowl populations can also lead to erosion of shorelines and a general negative public opinion of ducks and geese.

Habituation

In the wild, a healthy fear of humans and other potential predators allows ducks and geese to survive and reproduce. In public settings where waterfowl are fed artificial diets, these birds often lose this fear and are more likely to be consumed by predators (feral cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, etc). Urban waterfowl may also be more likely to be hit by vehicles, entangled in litter, and maliciously harmed by humans. Habituated geese can pose a significant public health threat at certain times of the year if they are defending a nesting female or a brood of goslings. These habituated geese have the ability to seriously hurt humans, particularly children.

What You Can Do

Allowing ducks and geese to find their own wild, nutritionally balanced diet is best – for the health of waterfowl and the surrounding environment.For those who would like to slowly stop feeding waterfowl: the least problematic foods mimic the waterfowl’s natural diet – greens and insects. Chopped up greens [kale, collards, dandelions (only from pesticide-free yards)] are more nutritious than any junk food, including corn. Ducks and geese eat insects too — so a special treat of mealworms or freeze-dried crickets would also likely be enjoyed! But the bottom line is that wild ducks and geese should be able to find plenty of food on their own – so if you can resist the temptation to feed, simply pack your binoculars and camera and enjoy watching the birds.

Debate About Feeding Wild Birds

The issue of whether it is all right to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl is a topic of controversy among bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and park officials. There are many myths about feeding wild birds: Some believe that feeding the birds will stop their migration. Whether they are hand-fed or not, some waterfowl species are already non-migrating birds that live in city parks and similar bird habitats.Some people believe the misconception that waterfowl do not have their natural foods at hand in the parks and urban ponds. In reality, they are capable of fending for themselves, finding their food in the wild, and do not require human handouts to survive, no matter the season or how much they beg for treats.One thing the experts all agree on is that too much feeding is unhealthy and can create excess waste and pollution that can destroy habitats and harm birds and other wildlife. Also, leftover, uneaten food can attract rodents, create unpleasant odors, and spread diseases. Some birds that are fed too often can become aggressive, and may become a nuisance if they overpopulate a small area.Birders also agree if you must give ducks or any other wild birds a treat—and no posted notices or local ordinances discourage the practice—then nutritious treats are the best choice to offer.

Watch Now: What Do Ducks Eat?

Duck Food to Avoid

The most common items people feed to ducks and waterfowl are often the least nutritious and most unhealthy. Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn, and similar bread-type products or junk food scraps are not the right foods for birds.Feeding ducks bread is bad because the food has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings’ growth. The uneaten remnants often pollute waterways and attract vermin and other pests. Some people may feed ducks their leftover stale or moldy bread, which should never be fed to the birds: Several types of mold can be fatal to waterfowl.