Ducks always seem to make you smile.
Their funny waddling walk and permanent smile on their beaks makes it hard to not give them treats.
Everyone can remember as children feeding ducks bread but is this good for them?
In the wild you have two types of ducks (divers and dabblers) and they each have their own unique diet.
Keep reading to learn what ducks eat in the wild, what snacks you can safely feed them and how to feed your pet duck…
Contents and Quick Navigation
- What Do Ducks Eat?
- What Do Wild Ducks Eat?
- What Do Pet Ducks Eat?
- When And How Often Do Ducks Eat?
- Duck Digestive System 101
- What Snack Can You Feed Wild Ducks?
- What Should Ducks Not Eat
- Pet Ducks Feeding Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Ducks Eat?
What Do Wild Ducks Eat?
Wild ducks can be loosely divided into two groups: divers and dabblers.
Divers such as Mergansers will dive down below the water to search for food such as small crustaceans and plants. They can hover over an area while they are feeding and can stay submerged for several minutes at a time.
Dabblers sit on the water and dabble in the reeds and pond margins. They often put their bottoms up in the air so they can reach the shallow bottom of the water and eat plants roots and small mud dwelling creatures. They will also venture onto land to find any tasty little treats such as berries or grains.
All ducks are omnivores so they will eat almost anything:
- Water plants
- Leaves and roots
- Fish eggs
- Small fish
- Slugs and tadpoles
To find food they will use their beaks as shovels to sift through the mud and muck. The water will run through the bristles while snails and crustaceans will remain in the mouth.
Ducks do not have teeth and instead they have a row of bristles around their bill to sift out tasty treats.
Their diet will change depending on what is in season and plentiful.
They will forage day and night to obtain enough food.
As the Winter can be harsh for wild ducks most will migrate to areas where the water does not freeze so they can survive through the winter.
However most dabbling ducks will stay put during the winter.
They are very well equipped to withstand the bitter cold weather as they have lots of fat and feathers. They will stay in an area that has unfrozen streams and ponds or areas where they can forage on land for their food.
If the water source freezes over they will fly to another location if they can.
They can survive quite some time before they actually need to eat but they will eat lots in the good months to prepare for winter. Ducks burn off their fat reserves and conserve energy then eat what they can find during winter months.
Unfortunately in severe winters many diving ducks die because the winter was too long and food was scarce.
What Do Pet Ducks Eat?
Compared to wild ducks, domestic ducks have a much more refined diet.
The majority have become used to duck or chicken feed as their main staple.
However if they are allowed they will forage for grass, slugs, bugs and tasty plant foliage to supplement their diet.
You can feed them any of the treats listed above for wild ducks (fruits, veggies, grains and berries) but avoid junk food like bread and pasta.
Interestingly there are some domestic ducks that actually work for a living by eating slugs and bugs. Several wineries employ Runner ducks to eat all the bugs they can find in the vineyards. These ducks are well cared for with secure accommodations and are fed grain at the end of the day.
When And How Often Do Ducks Eat?
Generally ducks eat the most during daylight hours.
They spend most of their day foraging for goodies in order to pack on fat for the winter.
In the summertime wild ducks can be seen foraging late into the night on lakes and water margins.
Divers can hunt up small fish and crustaceans through the night hours especially if the area has lots of small marine creatures.
Interestingly wild ducks will feed more at night during hunting season – a survival strategy no doubt.
Domestic ducks are usually locked up at night for their safety but if you do let them out you will likely see them hunting for their favorite snacks.
If you keep domestic ducks they will generally follow your schedule and eat when you take their feed to them. Also if you let them range they will pick up snacks throughout the day.
Duck Digestive System 101
A Duck’s digestive system is very similar to a chicken’s system but there are a couple of key differences.
First of all a duck does not have a true crop like chickens.
A chicken’s crop is rather like an expanding sack where food is held until it goes into the proventriculus.
Ducks do not have this sack but they do have an esophagus which can expand to hold a fairly large amount of food- a Mallard’s esophagus can hold around a ¼lb of grain!
The second interesting difference is the gizzard (ventriculus). Just like a chicken’s gizzard, a duck’s gizzard will hold small stones and grit to grind up food but a duck’s gizzard can expand and contract in size depending on the diet they are currently eating.
Large hard items such as acorns and some crustaceans require more grinding power so the esophagus can increase in size and strength.
Smaller items such as berries, grass and slugs do not require as much power so the gizzard can shrink down in size.
It is important to note that their diet must be consistent to increase or decrease the size of their gizzard. For example if the duck has been grazing on grass the gizzard will be smaller, but if the duck changes to a diet of crustaceans the gizzard will expand (just like a muscle that is used consistently).
What Snack Can You Feed Wild Ducks?
Wild ducks are omnivores so there are lots of snacks you can feed them.
Lettuce is a good snack for them – but it has to be fresh!
Grains and cracked corn are also good for them, as are frozen peas, oats, rice and whole corn.
Greens such as kale, collards and broccoli are great for them. Rip the leaves into small shreds that they can easily manage and toss them in the water to keep them fresh.
Fruits such as berries, banana, watermelon, peaches, apples and pears are also favorites (just make sure to remove the pits). All of these snacks should be in small bite sized pieces so that ducks can swallow them. When in season berries are a good nutritious treat for them too.
Other veggies such as cucumber, carrots, beets and even turnips can be fed to them. Some of these treats can be leftovers from your dinner (beets and carrots).
Just remember to chop them up into small pieces so they can be easily digested.
What Should Ducks Not Eat
The following items should never be fed to ducks:
- Treen Tomatoes
- Raw or dried beans
- Anything moldy
Many of these items can cause allergic reactions or are outright poisonous.
Also bread should not be fed to ducks as there is little nutritional value in it – it should be kept as an occasional treat.
Pet Ducks Feeding Guide
Domestic ducks vary from their wild cousins in their eating habits and choices because they have been domesticated and rely on what humans feed them.
Feed manufacturers do make a duck feed but it can be hard to come by so many folks use an all flock feed.
All flock feed is suitable for chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
However it usually does not have enough vitamin B for ducks.
This is simple to fix though you just need to add brewer’s yeast to their feed – add 1½ teaspoons per cup of feed. Once you have placed their feed in feeders just sprinkle the yeast ontop. Brewer’s yeast is rich in minerals and many B vitamins which ducks need. It is especially important in ducklings and maturing adults as deficiency can lead to leg, joint and neurological problems.
In addition to their regular feed they will need plenty of water. Ducks use water to soften their food, it also helps them absorb the nutrients from the food.
If you keep the water and feed slightly separated then the feed should not get too messy or soggy.
In addition to their feed you can feed them all the treats we mentioned above.
Fresh foods such as lettuce, kale collards, broccoli, peas , zucchini and cucumbers are all good. Fruits such as bananas, grapes, watermelon and peaches are all good too.
Remember these items are treats and therefore should not exceed 10% of the ducks total food intake for the day.
Allowing them to range over the yard will keep your grass trimmed and pesky bugs and slugs will disappear. They will devour bugs such as caterpillars, Japanese beetles and others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do ducks eat bread?
Ducks love to eat bread however it does not provide much in the way of vitamins, minerals and nutrition.
You should feed them bread sparingly, grains or greens are much better for them.
If ducklings eat too much bread they can develop angel wing – this is not treatable.
Do ducks eat grass?
Ducks will graze on grass as well as leafy greens such as lettuce and dandelions. All these greens are rich in vitamins and nutrients which will help to keep them healthy.
Do ducks eat fish?
Ducks love to eat small fish, tadpoles, crustaceans and insects when they can find them.
Do ducks eat chips?
Just like bread chips have no nutritional value so ducks should not eat them. Some chips even contain preservatives which can be harmful if eaten in large quantities.
Did you know that all ducks you meet are variations that derived from the Mallard duck – the only exception to this is the Muscovy.
Ducks are definitely useful animals to keep on your homestead.
They are very efficient at bug patrol and help to keep weeds down in you pond. They will also keep areas of your lawn fairly well trimmed.
As a farm bird ducks lay wonderfully rich eggs which are superb for baking.
They really are not any more trouble than chickens (just different to keep) – you can even keep chickens and ducks together. Now you should know exactly what do ducks eat and how to feed them.
Let us know in the comments section below if you are going to keep Ducks in your flock…
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 as a pet? ›
Ducks should be provided with suitable vegetables and fruits to supplement the commercial diet. Zucchini, peas, leafy greens, corn, vegetable peels, non-citrus fruit and worms are suitable. Check with your veterinarian and/or an experienced duck owner if you're unsure about the safety of a particular food stuff.What grains do ducks eat in the wild? ›
- 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)
Ducks are actually omnivores, meaning they eat mostly plants and a little meat. In the wild, they enjoy a varied diet of berries, fruits, nuts, tiny fish and amphibians, fish eggs, algae, worms, snails, and insects. Even if they've been domesticated, ducks should still eat a variety of foods.Can ducks eat cheerios? ›
Can You Feed Ducks Cheerios? Whether you're asking about original, honey nut, cinnamon, or multi grain Cheerios, it's best not to feed them to a duck, goose, or other bird because they include ingredients like sugar, brown sugar syrup, salt, and preservatives.Can ducks eat apples? ›
Yes, ducks love eating apples, primarily because they are sweet! In fact, wild ducks are beyond happy when they stumble upon an apple while looking for food.Will ducks eat lettuce? ›
Lettuce. As a nation we're guilty of throwing away a vast amount of lettuce, especially the bagged variety. Instead of consigning it to the bin, rip it into pieces and treat your local ducks. Rocket, kale and iceberg are all great choices.Can ducks eat bread? ›
DON'T: Feed ducks bread or junk food. Foods like bread and crackers have no nutritional value to ducks and can cause malnutrition and painful deformities if consumed too much. DO: Feed ducks cracked corn, oats, rice, birdseed, frozen peas, chopped lettuce, or sliced grapes.Do ducks eat bananas? ›
Ducks love to eat scraps, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be healthy for them. Potassium is abundant in bananas, which is very good for your duck's health. They are a wonderful addition to your pet's diet and offer a delightful, refreshing snack.What foods can ducks not eat? ›
- Bread. Although we all grew up feeding ducks bread, it is, in fact, not good for them at all. ...
- Raw Meat. ...
- Raw eggs. ...
- Avocado pits and skins. ...
- Fruit pits and seeds. ...
- Rhubarb & Rhubarb leaf. ...
- Garlic and onion. ...
- Raw potatoes and peels.
The most common items fed to ducks and waterfowl are also the least nutritious and most unhealthy. Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn and similar bread-type products and scraps are never best to feed birds.Can ducks eat raw rice? ›
It's also important to only give plain rice – never seasoned or fried rice. Giving lots of uncooked rice can give ducks a sore stomach because it reacts with water in their gut. Uncooked rice is perfectly safe in small doses though – in spite of what urban myths might tell you.What do wild ducks like to eat the most? ›
In the wild, Mallards are omnivorous and opportunistic. That means they take advantage of the best foods when they are most abundant: larvae of flies, midges, and dragonflies, plus other aquatic invertebrates like snails and freshwater shrimp in the summer when they are breeding.Can ducks eat hotdogs? ›
Hot dogs have dubious food value for humans but are clearly not good for birds. Birds eat fish, lizards and other bugs.Can ducks eat bacon? ›
As long as you can be sure the bacon is not salty, you can put it on your bird table. Since bacon can be too tough for many birds to tackle, chopping it finely will allow a wider variety of birds to eat it.Do ducks eat peanut butter? ›
Peanut butter is safe for ducks and often easier to manage than chunks of whole nuts. Creamy peanut butter is best, though most crunchy peanut butter is safe for mature ducks to consume. However, keep in mind that many popular peanut butter brands contain processed sugar and additives that can harm ducks.Can ducks eat french fries? ›
It's bad for them. Bread, popcorn, French fries and other human food fed to waterfowl can cause starvation, spread disease, cause deformities and result in overconcentration of birds.Can ducks have honey? ›
Birds will happily eat anything you offer in search of sweet, energy-rich foods to sustain themselves. That includes honey. But honey is bad for birds and can cause a range of health problems. So this is something that you should never feed them.What are the best treats for ducks? ›
- Dandelions & Clovers.
- Scrambled Eggs.
- Feeder Fish.
Some types of cheese are safe for ducks, but they must be chewed into small bite-size pieces so that they can eat them easily. It is not harmful to your feathered friend to consume a small amount of cheese. If you feed cheese to your pet, you must provide a reason for doing so as a responsible pet parent.
Ducks enjoy vegetables and fruits to supplement their pellet or grain diet. Below is a list of the vegetables and fruits safe for ducks to eat: cucumber. zucchini.Do ducks eat raw carrots? ›
If consumed in moderation, carrots are a healthy treat that can support a diet that is well-balanced for your ducks. Ducks can consume the entire carrot, including the leafy greens and the root, but you should prepare the carrot beforehand to reduce the chance that your ducks will choke.What plants are poisonous to ducks? ›
Common shrubs and bushes you may have in your yard that can be toxic include azalea, bleeding heart, boxwood, castor bean, clematis, honeysuckle, ivy, larkspur, mountain laurel, nightshade, oak trees, oleander, pokeweed, rhododendron, wisteria and yew.Can ducks eat raisins? ›
In fact, raisins might even be healthy for the duck because they contain potassium and iron, as well as other nutrients that help with growth and egg production. For these reasons, it's perfectly safe for ducks to eat raisins.Can ducks eat grapes? ›
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. Avoid: Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges) are thought to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to thin-shelled eggs.Is corn good for ducks? ›
Corn. Dried cracked corn, fresh corn cut from the cob, and frozen sweetcorn kernels are all ok to feed to ducks. Don't feed ducks corn at a pond which contains fish as they'll find it hard to digest if they eat it.Is it OK to feed wild ducks? ›
If you care about ducks and geese, do not feed them. They can live longer, healthier lives by relying on natural food sources such as aquatic plants, seeds, grasses, and insects rather than taking handouts from will-meaning humans.Do ducks get attached to humans? ›
Do ducks get attached to humans? Ducks can build bonds with humans like dogs can bond with their owners. And if the very first large moving object it sees after it hatches is you, it will imprint on you, follow you wherever you go, and bond with you more than its own flock.Can ducks eat pasta? ›
Pasta can be fed in moderation, and whole wheat or vegetable pastas are healthier for your ducks. Most grains other than rice can be fed raw or cooked. Ducks will enjoy them either way.Can ducks learn their name? ›
Ducks can learn beyond nature, eg nurture, through repetition, routine and resonance. The simplest training to start with is getting them to know their name. Through repetition of using their name, particularly from very young, they do come to understand it and know it refers to them. Like most animals.
Almost all fruits are healthy for ducks, fruits that should be avoided include any citrus fruit (too much acid for their digestive system) and avocados (all parts are toxic to birds). Watermelon is my duck's favorite treat on a hot summer day!Is Oatmeal good for ducks? ›
Vitamins– Oats provide lots of vitamins, mainly Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9, to ducks and boost their immune system, helping them fight several diseases. Vitamin B1 helps in maintaining the nervous system and brain functions in ducks.Can ducks eat coffee grounds? ›
Feeding garlic or onion to ducks is a bad idea. Anything containing caffeine is not recommended for waterfowl. This includes coffee, tea, matcha, and coffee grounds. Caffeine contains a toxin called methylxanthine which has adverse effects on waterfowl.What cereal can you feed ducks? ›
Oats – rolled oats and even instant porridge oats are fine to feed ducks. You could even feed them small pieces of flapjack, as long as there isn't too much added sugar. Seeds – bird seed or supermarket-bought seeds for human consumption are fine.Can ducks eat peanut kernels? ›
Yes, Ducks can eat peanuts, but you need to grind or make a paste before feeding your ducks. Otherwise, they might face difficulty ingesting large seeds. Peanuts are rich in proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Therefore they make a perfect snack for ducks but in moderation.Do ducks have teeth? ›
So, do ducks have teeth? No — in fact, no birds do! Hence the old saying “scarce as hen's teeth.” Bird mouths are very different from those of other vertebrates.Can ducks have raw potato? ›
Ducks can eat potatoes, but they should only be given to ducks that are not fully grown. They should never be fed to baby ducks because it can cause them to get too full and not want to eat their natural food such as bugs and worms, which will lead them to be malnourished.Will ducks eat raw corn? ›
Here are the best foods to feed ducks: Cracked Corn – Attract ducks with cracked corn. Sprinkle a few kernels in a dry place under a bird feeder. Look for cracked corn, not whole kernel corn; it's much easier for smaller birds to eat.Do ducks eat raw shrimp? ›
Mallard Ducks are omnivores eating a wide variety of food including seeds, aquatic vegetation, earthworms, snails and freshwater shrimp.Where do ducks sleep? ›
Ducks mostly sleep floating on water.
They are flexible when it comes to their choice of where to sleep. For example, a species of ducks known as mallards can sleep both on land and water. Another species known as Muscovy ducks can also roost (sleep) on the ground.
Ducks consume a wide range of water depending on age. Ducklings will drink about one-half gallon of water per week in their first few weeks. Once matured, an adult duck will drink up to one-half gallon of water each day. Make sure to empty and clean their waterers daily.How long do ducks live? ›
Depending on the breed, ducks can live anywhere from five to ten years on average, but they can live up to twenty years if properly cared for. In part, the lifespan of a duck is determined by its genetics. However, there are many human-controlled elements that can influence the outcome of their longevity.How hot is too hot for ducks outside? ›
In fact, ducks can thrive in sub-zero temperatures provided that they are given adequate protection from frostbite, which can damage their limbs. When it comes to high temperatures, try to keep them under temperatures of around 90 degrees.Can ducks eat ice cream? ›
Any dairy products like cheese cubes or ice cream—ducks cannot digest these properly. Any plants or foods from the nightshade family—this includes eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and some types of flowers and foliage. Parts of these plants can be highly toxic to ducks.Does it get too hot for ducks? ›
Ducks generally handle summertime heat fairly well, as long as they have plenty of shade and water.Do ducks eat scrambled eggs? ›
Yes, ducks can eat scrambled and boiled eggs. For adult ducks, you can include the eggshells (provides extra calcium). For ducklings, leave the eggshells out. They'll be too hard for your tiny pets to eat, and too much calcium can inhibit organ growth.Do ducks eat mosquitoes? ›
Many birds will eat mosquitoes. The more important among these are purple martins, swallows, waterfowl (geese, terns, ducks) and migratory songbirds. Bird predators usually eat both the adult and aquatic stages of mosquitoes.Are eggs safe for ducks? ›
Feeding your ducks egg shell is a good form of calcium and you can also feed them the egg, but make sure you feed it cooked so that they don't get a taste for raw egg.What do you feed a stray duck? ›
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 is the main predator of a duck? ›
Snakes are well documented wood-duck nest raiders, while snapping turtles, largemouth bass, northern pike and even bullfrogs pull plenty of ducklings below the surface. Feral cats, weasels, opossums and herons are also on the hunt for newborn ducks.
Flapjacks, rolled oats and even instant porridge oats will be a huge hit with ducks.Can you feed ducks popcorn? ›
The most common items fed to ducks and waterfowl are also the least nutritious and most unhealthy. Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn and similar bread-type products and scraps are never best to feed birds.Do ducks eat uncooked rice? ›
It's also important to only give plain rice – never seasoned or fried rice. Giving lots of uncooked rice can give ducks a sore stomach because it reacts with water in their gut. Uncooked rice is perfectly safe in small doses though – in spite of what urban myths might tell you.Do ducks have a favorite food? ›
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. Avoid: Ducks don't digest nuts and large seeds well.Can ducks live off grass? ›
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.Should I touch a wild duck? ›
Don't pick up or handle WILD ducks unless it's medically essential. Don't ever pick up or handle a wild duck unless one is injured and needs to be taken to a waterfowl/wildlife rescue. Related: We'd also generally advise against feeding wild ducks. Wild ducks need to maintain their fear of humans for their own safety.Are wild ducks friendly with humans? ›
Ducks are highly intelligent and emotional creatures. They can understand commands, play with toys, play games, give kisses, and beg for snuggles like other birds if you take the time to work with them. If handled frequently and gently from an early age, ducks will become quite sociable with people.What is the best animal to protect ducks? ›
Geese make great protectors of smaller flocks, such as chickens, ducks, and quail. They can also protect a building or your personal possessions. While they are excellent at sounding the alarm, be aware that they might succeed in chasing off only a few intruders.How long do ducks live for? ›
Raccoons will eat songbirds, ducks, chickens, and eggs. They will consume frogs, shrews, moles, mice, rats, and rabbits.