What can ducks eat? If you are about to get ducks, or if you have just rescued an abandoned duckling, what to feed ducks is one of the things you need to know.
Right along with the question, “What should ducks NOT eat?”
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Raising And Feeding Ducks.
My first introduction to raising ducks was when we rescued 8 – day-old orphaned ducklings.
I dove right into the deep end of the pool, because this was the first farm animal I had raised. It was a crash course about what I could feed them, and how I needed to take care of them. I didn’t know the importance of proper housing and keeping them safe from predators, or how crafty predators could be. I really didn’t know how many predators we had in suburbia!
I had a lot to learn about keeping ducks and I wish I had the information all in one place like this at that time. It would have made some of the adventure a little easier.
I’ve learned a lot in the years since those fluffy little quackers came into my life, and I hope this helps you out on your duck keeping journey too.
What Can Ducks Eat?
If you’ve never kept ducks before, you may have many questions about what to feed ducks.
Ducks and chickens are omnivores and can eat a wide range of foods. When I hear a commercial about “our chickens are fed an all-vegetarian diet” I think poor birds! Chickens and ducks aren’t meant to be vegetarians. In fact, they need a fair amount of protein in their diets.
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What Do Ducks Eat In Nature?
When you think about what a duck or chicken eats in the wild, it will help you to understand what your duck can eat in your backyard.
When allowed to roam free your birds will eat grasses and weeds, lizards, mice, bugs, slugs, worms and toads, berries and seeds, and vegetation of all kinds. In the wild when there is plenty of food to eat, birds will choose the foods that give them the nutrition they need and leave the poisonous plants alone. They are really pretty smart that way.
So, if you have poisonous plants in your yard like rhubarb or rhododendron, don’t worry, they know to leave them alone. But if they are confined and only get what they are fed, they may have nutritional deficiencies, a feeling that they have to eat everything in their area or just build trust that what you are giving them must be good to eat. So, then you need to be a little more careful what you feed to your feathered friends.
How Do Ducks Eat?
The first thing you need to know about feeding your ducks is not food at all. It’s water.
Ducks need water available while they eat. The water should be clean, or as clean as it can be with ducks around, and it needs to be plentiful. Full grown ducks will drink at least ½ gallon of water each day and that is before they play in it.
Water is the most important part of your feeding regimen.
Related>> How To Get Clean Water For My Ducks.
The second thing a duck needs is grit. Birds don’t have teeth. They swallow their food whole and an organ called a gizzard uses tiny stones or shells it finds on the ground to help it grind up the food so it can be digested.
If your bird is free-ranging it can often find its own tiny stones, but not if it’s confined. However, in a neighborhood lawn, there may not be many available, so it’s a good idea to provide some grit, free choice, for your girls.
One thing that ducks need more of than chickens is Niacin. You can provide it for your girls by sprinkling a little brewer’s yeast on their food. Ducks need it to grow strong bones, especially while they are young.
Just sprinkle about a Tablespoon of brewers yeast per Cup of food, right on top of duckling’s daily ration. If you mix it into the whole bag it will just drop to the bottom and they won’t get the amount ducklings need each day.
Once they are full-grown, (older than 10 weeks) this can be cut back to ½ to 1 teaspoon per cup as a grown duck has much less need since their bones are finished growing.
When they are egg-laying age, they need extra calcium. I find it helpful to have a little dish of crushed eggshells or crushed oyster shells available for them.
They can have this free choice as they can eat when they need it and It’s not in the feed for those who don’t need it, like growing ducklings or drakes.
And last, your ducks need to eat a varied diet so they get a wide range of nutrients for healthy bodies. This includes vitamins and minerals, protein and carbohydrates in appropriate amounts and at different times during their lives.
What Do Ducks NEED To Eat?
Ducks have different needs throughout their lives. When they are young they need extra protein to grow strong bones and all those feathers.
When they are laying eggs, they need extra calcium and all the minerals necessary to produce healthy eggs and eggshells.
During molting season, they need extra protein again to produce fresh new feathers that will keep them warm all winter.
In the winter they can use extra carbohydrates to give them the fuel to stay warm, and in the summer, they need extra water and cool fruit like watermelon to help them stay cool and hydrated.
And all year long they need plenty of organic vegetables, grass, herbs, and weeds for the nutrients they provide.
How To Give Your Ducks What They Need To Eat?
But what if you live in a place where you can’t let your girls run freely? I get it.
You have to protect them from predators or you live in a neighborhood that doesn’t allow free-ranging, or you live where there is snow on the ground eight months out of the year. That’s ok. You can still provide well for your flock.
Whether you free-range or have your flock in a coop and run, you will probably want to provide them with a good quality, non-medicated chicken feed or waterfowl feed.
Don’t feed medicated food to ducks. They don’t need it, and since they eat more than chickens they can actually overdose on the medication. You can read all about feeding ducklings.
You will want to put their food in a feeder of some type. If you just throw it on the ground, most of it will be wasted.
Then you can supplement their feed with scraps. Table scraps and weeds from the garden, vegetables, herbs, and fruits you don’t need, and bugs you picked out of your garden, or worms you raise yourself. This helps round out your chicken’s diet and keeps them entertained at the same time.
You can also feed them treats like mealworms. Watermelon rinds and mealworms are my girl’s favorite treats. Warm oatmeal in the winter to warm them up and give them the extra carbs that they need to beat the cold will be something your flock will look forward to.
What To Feed Ducks On Your Backyard Homestead?
There are many thoughts about the feed you give your ducks.
Because it is so easy and available, most will opt for a premixed chicken feed crumble or pellet. Others will search out waterfowl feed. Some will want to soak or ferment the feed. This helps the food become more digestible, healthier and makes it stretch further, saving you money, but takes a bit more time and effort.
Here are a few food options to consider for your birds:
If you prefer a less processed grain feed You can try Scratch an Peck Feeds.
But whatever you feed your backyard flock it should be healthy, free of mold, and not too old as food loses nutrients the longer it sits around.
Another thing many homesteaders look for is non-GMO and organic. You want the healthiest food going into your egg making machines.
What Can Ducks Eat Besides Chicken Or Waterfowl Feed?
After you have the primary staple (bagged feed) taken care of, you are probably wondering what other foods you can feed your ducks. At least 10% of their food can be table scraps, veggies & fruits from the garden you are not going to eat, herb trimmings, and yes weeds. (non-sprayed of course)
This makes for cheap ways to feed ducks and reduces your food bill a lot, especially during the growing season.
Many people will grow plants just for ducks to eat. Free ranging your birds under a mulberry tree, or in a blackberry or raspberry patch will give the birds a chance to clean up all the berries that drop (and all that they can reach when they jump) but they will also clean up many bugs and pests all while fertilizing your tree or brambles. It’s probably best to pick all the berries you want before you let your ladies in though. They do love their berries.
Letting them into your garden at the end of the growing season will make less work for you to clean up and prepare your garden beds for winter and will help reduce the bug population that can otherwise over winter.
But be careful letting them in during the growing season as they love the veggies as much as you do. And those big feet will crush any seedling you have just started.
You may be wondering what are the best things to include in your ducks’ diet, and are there any things to avoid.
What Can Ducks Eat?
What to feed ducks can seem daunting. And even with all that, you may still have questions about some common foods, so here goes.
Can Ducks Eat Grapes?
Yes, grapes are very nutritious for your hens.
Can Ducks Eat Bananas?
Yes, and the peels too. These have a lot of potassium and most ducks love them.
Related>> 10 Best Reasons To Raise Ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Pineapples?
Yes, pineapple is full of Vitamin C and other nutrients that are good for them. But feed sparingly, they are very acidic.
Can Ducks Eat Apples?
Yes, your girls can eat apples freely. Just remember the apple seed does contain small amounts of cyanide. One or two won’t hurt them, but you don’t want that to be a regular part of their diet.
If you’re going to feed a lot of apples, remove the seeds. Remember, a duck can’t peck at hard fruit like a chicken can, so you will want to cut it up for them. Applesauce is a great choice too.
Can Ducks Eat Celery?
Yes, but because it is so fibrous it should be chopped. This is great in a summertime frozen treat and is very nutritious.
Can Ducks Eat Carrots?
Yes, but raw they would need to be chopped for your ducks eat them. (remember the no teeth thing). Carrot tops are good too and cooked carrots are the easiest to eat.
Related>> Do Ducks Need A Pond?
Can Ducks Eat Cucumber?
Yes, cucumber is a wonderful food for chickens and ducks. Besides plenty of nutrients, they contain a large amount of water which can help keep your girls hydrated on those hot summer days.
Can Ducks Eat Watermelon?
Absolutely! In fact, all melons are a favorite of both chickens and ducks. These are great for hydration. If you are giving them a whole one break it open for them, but they will be just as happy cleaning up all your rinds.
Can Ducks Eat Pumpkins And Other Squash?
Yes, the squash family is highly nutritious and the seeds are touted by many as being good at preventing parasites in your birds. Make sure you cut open the tough-skinned varieties so they can get to the insides.
Can Ducks Eat Greens? (Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce)
Yes, Yes, Yes! Greens are very good for your hens. They are full of nutrients. The main one to watch out for is spinach. Small amounts are not a real problem but don’t feed too much of it, as it can interfere with calcium absorption.
Related>> 30 Gift Ideas For Duck Lovers.
Can Ducks Eat Cabbage?
Yes, but unlike chickens who enjoy pecking one to death, a duck will need to have it cut into pieces. Cooked is good too. Cabbage is very high in Vitamin C.
Can Ducks Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Yes, these are very good for your ducks. Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. They will probably prefer them cooked because they are pretty hard.
The sweet potato vine is also very nutritious and much loved by chickens and ducks alike.
My ducks go crazy when they see me cutting sweet potato vine for them. You can take up to 1/3 of the vine without affecting the potato harvest. (sweet potato leaves are very good for you too!)
Can Ducks Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, they are very nutritious. After a rain, when my tomatoes would split, I would toss a handful of the split cherry tomatoes to my ducks and watch the mayhem ensue as they all tried to get one.
Can Ducks Eat Eggs?
Yes, but it’s better to cook them first so they don’t get the idea to eat their own. Scrambled eggs are a great cold day treat.
Can Ducks Eat Bugs?
Yes, yes, yes! Bugs are a wonderful, high protein snack. In fact, many gardeners are fond of saying, if your garden has too many bugs or slugs, you have too few ducks! If you don’t have enough bugs in your garden, (yeah, right) your ducks will love some dried mealworms.
Can Ducks Eat Stone Fruit? (Peaches, Apricots, Cherries)
Yes, but it is best to remove the pits.
Can Ducks Eat Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries?
Yes, and if allowed to free range around the bushes they will remove the pests at the same time.
As you can see, the list of things that ducks can eat is pretty extensive and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface. So, let’s delve into the list of things that it might be best to avoid.
What Should Ducks NOT Eat?
There are so many foods that ducks and chickens can eat, but there are a few that should be avoided or at least limited.
Can Ducks Eat Avocados?
Yes, and No, it’s best to avoid this one. The flesh is fine, but the skin, stone and leaves all contain pursin which is toxic to fowl. In small amounts it’s probably not a big deal, so don’t freak out if you have a tree in your yard and your girls’ free-range, but I wouldn’t feed it to them on a regular basis.
Can Ducks Eat Potatoes? (AKA: Irish, White, Idaho)
Yes and No, the potato is not a problem, though it is best if it is cooked. but if the skins are green or if they have started to sprout, those are bad. This contains a chemical called solanine and it is toxic. (to us too)
On that same subject, the one group of plants in your vegetable garden that ducks and chickens can’t eat the leaves of is the nightshade family. That includes white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
The fruit is ok on all of them, but all other parts of the plant are poisonous. (sweet potatoes are NOT in this family)
Can Ducks Eat Raisins?
Only in very small amounts. Large amounts have been thought to cause health problems.
Can Ducks Eat Bread?
No and Yes. Please don’t feed it to them in large quantities. Somewhere along the line, it became “the thing to do” to feed ducks bread. White, store-bought bread is full of empty calories with very little nutritional value. There are so many good choices to feed your ducks. Bread is not toxic, it is just not good for them.
If you are feeding the neighborhood ducks, pick up a head of romaine lettuce instead of the loaf of bread. It’s so much better for them and they love it just as much.
Can Ducks Eat Rice?
No and Yes, Same as above. This goes for all highly processed, sugary, or salty foods.
Can Ducks Eat Chocolate?
No. Seriously? Someone would actually waste their chocolate on a duck? I love my ducks, but I’m not sharing my chocolate with them!
Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to fowl. (so yes, you can keep it all for yourself)
Can Ducks Eat Moldy Food?
No, some molds might be just fine. Penicillin and blue cheese come to mind. But there are many toxic molds too and I know I don’t know the difference. When in doubt, throw it out. (or put it in the compost)
Can Ducks Eat Dry Beans?
No, when they are cooked as in refried beans or bean soup, they are fine, but in their dried form they contain a natural insecticide. Sprouting them also makes them fine to feed your ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Rhubarb?
No, the leaves of the rhubarb plant are very toxic to ducks. (to us too!)
Can Ducks Eat Onions?
No, onions contain a toxin that destroys red blood cells in birds. If they get too much it can cause them to become anemic. A little onion cooked in a dish of other good stuff is not a big deal, but don’t overdo it.
However, garlic is just fine and in fact beneficial.
What You Should Be Feeding Your Backyard Ducks.
If you have a backyard flock or a small homestead, you know you want to keep your birds as healthy as you can and one of the best things you can do is feed them right. High quality food will help ensure healthy ducks and healthy eggs.
Thank you for caring enough about your flock to check out what are the best things to feed your girls.
Now check out some more ways to keep your flock healthy and happy.
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