The dos and don’ts of feeding ducks

Last week we looked at the way that ducks differ in their care needs from chickens. This week we’re looking at the things that you should, and definitely shouldn’t, feed your ducks.

As many of you will already know ducks make fantastic pets and are surprisingly easy to keep. As long as they have food, water, and a safe, secure duck house they’ll be happy. Keeping ducks tends to get complicated when they become ill and it can be hard to find a vet that has more than a basic knowledge of waterfowl.

Just like with humans, a duck’s diet plays a big part in their general health and wellbeing. Too many treats and “junk food” will make ducks irritable, unhealthy, and could lead to life threatening medical issues – just like humans!

Luckily feeding ducks isn’t complicated and as long as you stick to our list of “safe” foods you should have happy, healthy ducks.

The majority of your ducks’ daily diet should be made up of a commercial duck or waterfowl food. You can also feed them layer’s mash or pellets made for chickens but you may find you need to water down the pellets to help your ducks swallow them.

Here’s our list of other foods you can, and can’t, feed your ducks:

Good food

The items on this list can be used as treats or, especially in the case of the vegetables, in small amounts as a daily supplement to the commercial duck food.

  • Vegetable trimmings/peelings
  • Tomatoes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Cracked corn
  • Chopped hard-boiled eggs – you can even leave the shell on for an extra calcium boost
  • Worms, bloodworms, meal worms
  • Snails/slugs – be careful if you use pesticides in your garden
  • Frozen peas/sweetcorn – especially welcome in hot weather!
  • Shredded lettuce/cabbage – organic is best
  • Cottage cheese in small amounts

Bad food

no-bread-300x203The items on this list really are absolute no-nos. Of course, you’ll always get someone that claims they feed their ducks all of these foods without any difficulty, but we think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Bread and bread products
  • Pasta, noodles, rice
  • Popcorn, cookies, biscuits, pretzels etc.
  • Seeds, nuts, seeded crackers
  • Chocolate
  • Greasy, fatty, salty, or sweet foods
  • Onions, garlic, spicy foods

Ducks that are fed junk food become internally obese so you won’t be able to see that they’re getting fat. The fat will form around their internal organs and eventually they’ll drown in it.

This might sound dramatic but junk food will rapidly decrease a duck’s lifespan, reducing their lives to just one or two years rather than the 10 that they could live for.

As a general rule anything that would be considered a “treat” for you is going to be bad for your ducks. Before feeding your ducks something new ask yourself whether they’d realistically be able to find it in the wild.

For example, ducks naturally graze on vegetation in the wild so most vegetables are safe. On the other hand they’re unlikely to come across a cream cake or spaghetti Bolognese in the wild so it’s not wise to feed it to them in captivity!


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