7 Healthy Things to Feed Ducks
And 6 Very Bad Things

Ducks are medium-sized birds that love to eat. To distinguish between healthy and bad food sources that can be fed to ducks, read below.

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Iñigo Navarro

July 18, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Ducks are found abundantly in many areas. People are seen feeding them in local parks or near ponds. Feeding birds has always been a topic of criticism since people cannot differentiate between healthy food for ducks to consume and food that can harm them.

If locals feed birds like ducks, swans, and geese, they will likely not migrate and permanently settle in local parks and other similar habitats. Too much feeding can cause problems for the bird and generate excess waste, polluting the environment.

People must be aware of what to feed and what to avoid feeding ducks. Some healthy options are oats, grains, cracked corn, birdseed, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Food items that should be avoided are bread, donuts, popcorn, and crackers.

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What Should We Know About Ducks?

Ducks, like many other animals, are a separate species. Their lifestyle may differ from the rest. To find out, read ahead.

Raising ducks can be a tough job. They have several different requirements with regards to their habitat, diet, or health. They prefer living in predator-free areas, away from the harsh weather conditions. Ducks typically tend to consume a properly balanced diet, and so on so forth.

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These creatures have a unique lifestyle of their own and demand proper care and attention. Let’s explore the things you need to keep in mind to provide a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment for your ducks.

FUN FACT

Ducks have waterproof feathers.

Diet

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Ducks depend on two primary nutrients to survive: protein and niacin. Ducklings tend to grow quickly and require niacin for healthy bone development.

Duck feed should be laid out in wide containers to feed these medium-sized birds without tipping over the container easily. Ducks are known to eat and poop a lot. A fully grown duck will usually eat 4 to 6 ounces of feed per day in normal conditions.

During the winter season, ducks eat more, and in the summer season, they eat less. You need to ensure that water is always provided near the feed for easy consumption.

Fresh leafy greens are an essential part of a duck’s diet. They enjoy feeding on corn, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, etc. Moreover, grit should be provided to the ducks as it aids in grinding and digesting the food via their gizzards.

Housing

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If we talk about domestic birds, most of them are fed more than wild birds, so they are unable to fly. They seek a safe and secure shelter on the ground to keep them protected from wild predators.

Ducks do no fear extreme cold. They can survive cold conditions and admire the existence of rain and snow. This is why these creatures mostly stay outdoors when awake. They require shelter only when they are laying eggs or sleeping.

The area provided to the ducks should be bedded with hay, wood shavings, or straws. They also prefer sources of clean water near their pen. If not a pond, a medium water tub will also do. Bathing in water is important for them for the preening process.

INTERESTING fact

Ducks are prone to be attacked by raccoons and foxes rather than hawks and other large birds.

What Should Ducks Be Fed?

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Ducks have different diets as they transition through different phases of their life.

Ducks are required to maintain a balanced diet, comprising of healthy vegetables and fruits. Ducklings need a protein-rich diet to help them grow and develop, while an adult duck is advised to rely on leafy greens, corns, worms, non-citrus fruits for all essential nutrients.

Research about the kinds of food you should feed your duck at every stage if you are unsure or inexperienced. Let’s look at the amount of nutrients a duck should consume from the time it is born.

PRO-TIP

Do not feed the ducks onions, avocado, or any kind of citrus fruits.

1 To 3 Weeks of Age

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At this stage, ducks should be fed a starter diet. Starter crumbles are high in nutrients and consist of approximately 18-20% of protein.

The pellets should be small enough for the ducklings to feed on. Chicken feed, however, should be avoided at this point as it does not cover all the essential nutrients that growing ducks require.

3 To 20 Weeks of Age

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The ducks can now be switched to a maintenance diet where good quality grower food can be provided to the birds.

The protein level for the ducks can be reduced to 15% at this stage.

20 Weeks and Counting

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The ducks, at this point, are fully grown and developed. They are ready to shift to better quality or breeder food as they need a source of calcium, too, along with protein.

Ducks need ample amounts of water to wash down their food. They are recommended to consume a balanced diet with fruits, mixed grains, vegetables, and grit.

PRO-TIP

Give ducks bread only as a treat. Excessive bread consumption can harm the ducks.

What Do Ducks Eat?

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Different habitats offer different food sources to the ducks.

Wild ducks have an omnivorous diet and are mostly found near watersides and parks. They eat whatever is available to them. In contrast, pet ducks tend to follow a more balanced diet to feed properly with sufficient nutrients.

Wild Ducks

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Ducks living in the wild eat whatever is available to them. They reside near ponds, parks, and streams and hunt for food sources there.

Wild ducks prefer to munch on small shrimps, fishes, frogs, beetle larvae, etc. They also rely on plant-based items such as greens, weeds, seeds, roots, nuts, grass, and berries.

Overall, wild ducks do not have a definite supply of food, so they depend on a wide variety of things to maintain their health throughout the year.

fun fact

Ducks can carry large fat reservoirs under their feathers.

Pet Ducks

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Duck owners focus highly on the growth and development of the ducks. To ensure that the ducks stay healthy, the owners need to provide a healthy diet with all the essential nutrients necessary.

Most pet ducks are kept under special observation from the time they are born. Ducklings are fed chick crumbles with an addition of yeast to fulfill the nutrient requirement.

As the ducklings get older, they should be provided with a good water source and fresh vegetables and fruits to improve the commercial diet. This may include vegetable peels, corn, peas, berries, etc. 

FUN FACT

An adult duck can drink up to half a gallon of water each day.

How Often Do Ducks Eat?

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The amount of food a duck consumes is similar to a chicken.

Ducks eat a lot. They should be free to eat what they like at the early stages, but they will be required to consume 0.3lb feed per day as they grow older.

When a duck is born when it turns four weeks old, the duckling should eat free-range. The ducks will roam around the garden and grasp on food items they prefer. You can also feed the ducks twice a day and then give them their favorite snacks as a treat.

When the duck falls into the 4 to 20 weeks bracket, they are required to consume approximately 0.25lb feed per day, and after the age of 20 weeks, they will increase their consumption to around 0.3lb per day.

INTERESTING FACT

The consumption pattern of each bird may vary with its size. Small ducks will eat less than large birds.

Types of Diet

Adult duck’s feeding pattern can be divided into three categories:

  1. Maintenance Diet: required in the late fall or winter season, when the duck is not breeding or laying eggs. The protein levels at this level can be 12% to 14%.

  2. Layer Diet: is for those ducks that are laying eggs. It consists of around 16% to 18% protein.

  3. Non-layer Diet: non-laying birds require to maintain a 14% protein diet to stay healthy.

Nutrients

Ducks need a certain level of vitamins and minerals to lead a healthy lifestyle. These minerals are calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. A decline in any of these minerals can cause bone problems for the ducks.

Niacin is also vital for a duck. If you keep your duck on chick feed when they are born, they might develop niacin deficiency within them, further deteriorating their health.

Insufficient niacin in a duck’s body can lead to bowed legs, seizures, neurological problems, shaking, and in some cases, death.

PRO-TIP

Add yeast powder to duck feed and water daily to ensure a good niacin supply for the ducks.

What Healthy Food Can You Feed a Duck?

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A list of healthy alternatives for the duck.

Healthy alternatives such as birdseed, vegetables, worms, and corn can be fed to ducks. These kinds of food help fulfill the nutrient requirement necessary for the growth and development of duck species.

When you plan to raise and feed a duck, you need to make sure that the diet you provide is healthy enough to support the laying of eggs in the bird. A high-protein diet, along with occasional treats, can serve as a balanced lifestyle for the bird.

If you are unsure about the healthiness of a particular food item, you can cross-check the list below.

1. Bugs

Ducks love to consume small insects like worms, nightcrawlers, mealworms, etc. If you leave the ducks around in your garden, then they will be able to dig for worms on their own.

The worms will not only support the nutrient requirement of the duck but also help fertilize the garden.

PRO-TIP

You can also raise your worms within your house.

2. Whole Grains

Another healthy option consists of whole grains. Ensure that the ducks are fed only whole grains; otherwise, they might put on too much weight.

Whole-grain snacks can also be provided, such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, wheat bread, etc. this will help them maintain a healthy diet with the food they love.

FUN FACT

Ducks can gain weight very quickly.

3. Fruits

Fruits are known to be beneficial for both humans and animals. They consist of many natural nutrients that help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Fruits that ducks highly enjoy are:

  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Seeded Fruits
  • Pit Fruits

INTERESTING FACT

Watching ducks eat fruit can be a good source of entertainment.

4. Vegetables

Alongside fruits, it is very beneficial to serve vegetables to the ducks. Vegetables can be fed to ducks all year round and can assist the development and growth process.

Vegetables advised to feed a duck are:

  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Zucchini

PRO-TIP

Plant vegetables in your garden to save extra expenses.

5. Edible Flowers

There are various kinds of flowers, some of which are edible. These edible flowers are nutritious for ducks. The types of flowers that can be fed to a duck are:

  • Marigolds
  • Violets
  • Echinacea
  • Clover
  • Bee Balm
  • Dandelions
  • Rose Petals

6. Protein Food

This food item might be rarely discussed when deciding on what to feed a duck. However, it is very high in protein.

This protein-rich food item is scrambled eggs. Yes, ducks love to feed on eggs, and it can help infuse protein and other healthy nutrients within a duck’s body.

Other protein food items that can be fed to a duck include:

  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Snakes
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp Shells
  • Slugs

PRO-TIP

Add grit or crumbles with the food as it helps the duck with digestion.

7. Oyster Shell

Even after your duck is feeding on a healthy balanced diet, there are chances that their eggs might come out pitted.

Adding oyster shells to the diet can be highly beneficial to the bird as it will provide them with added calcium. This calcium will then help to strengthen the shells of their babies.

The oyster shell can be purchased and added to the diet for the healthy production of solid eggs. 

What Should You NEVER Feed Your Duck?

A list of food items that should be avoided to protect ducks.

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If you want your duck to stay healthy, then you should never feed spinach, lettuce, white potatoes, eggplant, and dried beans to them. Ducks may feed on various food items, but it is essential to distinguish between right and wrong.

Here is a list of items you should never feed your duck. The reasons are discussed for further clarification.

1. Lettuce

Feeding ducks’ iceberg lettuce occasionally is delicate. However, if the quantity consumed increases, it can give the ducks diarrhea. This can make the ducks extremely sick and weak, so this food should be avoided or given with caution.

2. White Potatoes

White potatoes are different from regular ones. They consist of substances that can be highly toxic for a duck to consume.

3. Raw and Dried Beans

Fresh, sprouted beans can be good for a duck, but it may negatively impact their health if you feed them raw beans.

4. Green Tomatoes

Vegetables are healthy for ducks to consume. However, vegetables such as green tomatoes that are not grown fully can be toxic for the duck. The stems, leaves, and production of this plant are all toxic.

5.   Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits can distort the duck’s ability to absorb essential nutrients such as calcium. Lack of calcium can affect the eggs by leading to the production of thin-shelled eggs.

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interesting fact

A male duck is called a drake, and a female duck is called a hen.

Keep Reading!

It can get difficult to select the best feed specifically for ducks. Research is required to distinguish between the right and wrong food products that can be bought and given to ducks for a healthy diet. Once you get hold of the facts and figures, you become an expert in them!

Ducks are beautiful, delicate creatures that can bring with them many benefits for you. They can happily roam around your garden, killing bugs and pests that could be a potential threat to your plants.

Once you start reading about ducks, you will discover many more fascinating facts about them. If you want to look into other kinds of birds and what uniqueness they hold, you can explore this blog about pigeons and their mating habits. 

Do Pigeons Mate for Life? Birds True Love

Very few birds form monogamous, lifelong bonds. Pigeons are one of them! Keep reading to explore more about the endearing, strong bond of pigeons.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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