The Truth about What do Ducks Eat?
When asked, “What do ducks eat?”, many people’s first answer is “bread.” That’s because humans have taken to feeding ducks bread whenever they are at a park, a lake or other places where ducks are gathered and people go to have picnics. While it’s fun, the kids love it and the ducks look cute, it is not healthy for the ducks.
Ducks who eat bread or crackers on a regular basis have organs which become enlarged and fatty. That causes them to have health problems, such as heart and liver disease. Birds also have a little pouch called a crop on their esophagus where they store food on its way through their digestive system. Bread can get stuck in there and cause them to sick.
Most people who feed ducks think they are doing them a favor but just the opposite is the case. It is very poor nutrition as birds need protein, plus bread has a lot of additives that a bird’s system does not know how to deal with as it tries to digest the pieces. In places where ducks are just constantly fed people food, some of the birds become dependent on getting the food and forget how to fend for themselves in the wild. Ducks will often fight over bread scraps and those on the losing end (the young and the old) will often become injured or go hungry.
Also on the negative side, if food is not eaten and is left to rot, it can cause pollution which can make the birds sick. Too many birds expelling feces in the same spot can also cause illness among birds and people. If you decide that you really hate to give up feeding ducks, feed them healthy food instead. Something like dark, leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce) would be better for them.
So far, in our discussion of “What do ducks eat?” we have been talking about the feeding of wild ducks. In their natural habitat, they eat all kinds of veggies as well as crustaceans and bigger fish as well. They will occasionally eat grain from fields but not processed grain.
Domestic ducks, which are ducks raised by humans are another story. They are raised either to be eaten as food or to lay eggs. A domestic duck has no idea how to make it in the wild just as a wild duck would have no idea what to do in a pen. Unfortunately, many times people buy baby ducks or chicks at Easter because they are cute, and then when they figure out how much work it is to take care of a duck, they release them into the wild. These ducks either end up dead or if they are lucky, at a rescue shelter where they can live out their lives.
The long and the short of it is that domestic ducks should not be fed human food either. So, if domestic ducks don’t know how to find greens and fish in the wild, and they can’t eat human food, you might still be wondering “what do ducks eat?” The answer for domestic ducks is special food for waterfowl that is bought at a feed store. This food comes in the form of pellets and crumble and is nutritionally designed for ducks.
Baby ducklings need high protein, so they eat a special extra-high protein mixture of food for around the first month of life. This food should be in the neighborhood of 20% protein. They also need smaller pellets so feeding them a high protein adult food will not work. During the 5-14 week period of growth, ducks should get a maintenance food that is 14% protein. Non-egg-producing ducks should remain on this food, but if you have laying ducks, you will need to switch to a food especially for ducks who are laying eggs. This diet is usually in the 16-17% range for protein content and has higher calcium.
Ducks need grit (tiny stones) in their diet once a week. They will get this naturally if they have access to dirt. If they don’t, you will need to buy supplemental grit. Ducks do love treats just like all other birds and animals, so it is OK to give them occasional veggies, like corn, carrots, peas, greens, etc. Just make sure that these are once-in-a-while-treats and not a daily part of your duck’s diet.