Who here remembers going to the park to feed the ducks when they were a child? I know I do! It was something I always looked forward to. I still vividly remember one day after preschool tossing bread to the ducks and leaning so far over the edge I fell into the pond! I’m sure it scared my mom, but I was more upset I got my favorite Strawberry Shortcake dress all wet. Falling in the pond didn’t deter my love of ducks! Where was I going with this? Oh right – feeding ducks!
The wild ducks might love all those bits of stale bread, but they are definitely not good for them. It’s the equivalent of someone tossing potato chips at you – they might be tasty, but it’s all empty calories. What’s worse is, especially for ducks in the wild, all those empty calories make them fat, slowing them down when escaping predators. It also fills them up so they won’t eat the things they need to, like greens & bugs.
So we shouldn’t feed ducks things like bread, pasta, and crackers (salted crackers like Ritz especially are bad because ducks should not have salt) – what can we give them for treats? First remember that treats, are just that – treats. Quality duck feed should make up the majority of your duck’s diet. For tips on feeding your backyard ducks, click here. If you already keep chickens, many of these healthy treats will be familiar to you because ducks & chickens have similar diets.
Mealworms & Bugs
My duck’s absolute favorite treat is meal worms – high in protein, most types of insects are excellent treat for ducks. They also enjoy other freeze dried bugs like fly larvae and crickets which can be found at most feed stores. Another great source of protein your ducks will love is feeder goldfish or minnows. Add a few of these to their pond or water bowl and stand back because the water will be flying! Other protein snacks to try include plain yogurt and scrambled eggs.
The other treat mine go crazy for is Romaine lettuce. Most days I bring out a head of lettuce to feed the rabbits. The ducks have caught onto this routine and will follow me around while I do my morning chores quacking non stop at me, letting me know that it’s not just the rabbits that love lettuce. They are so cute, I always peel off a few leaves for them. Most types of lettuce are great for them, but avoid Iceberg lettuce as it has limited nutritional value.
You can grow lots of healthy treats for your ducks right in your garden. For information on gardening for your pets, click here
Greens, herbs & weeds
Tear up bits of wheat grass, dandelion greens, or fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil, mint, calendula, or parsley and float them in their water dish or pool. They will have a great time fishing their treats out. The only thing to be aware of is if you are picking things like dandelion greens out of your yard, make sure they have not been treated with any kind of weed killer or pesticide.
There are lots of fruits that your ducks will enjoy like tomatoes, chopped grapes, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, and bananas. 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!
Fresh veggies can be fed to your ducks daily, some favorites include corn, peas, beans, cucumber, cabbage, and broccoli. Almost all veggies are good for your ducks, but the ones that should be avoided include onions & spinach. Peas are a great natural source of niacin which is important especially when they are young.
Warm oatmeal makes a delicious treat on a cold winter morning. It is ok to give your ducks a special treat of whole wheat bread, rice, or cooked pasta occasionally, just don’t make it an everyday treat