Ducks

Treats your ducks will love!

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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 in 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 slow them down making it harder to escape 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.

My duck’s absolute favorite treat is meal worms – high in protein, most types of insects are excellent treat for ducks.  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 little 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 make great treats for ducks.  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.

Fruits – 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!

Vegetables – 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.

Grains – 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 pasta occasionally, just don’t make it an everyday treat


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55 Comments

  1. Annie says:

    Hi Liz: Just found your blog and I love it. I live in the suburbs of Mass with 10 ducks and have been a duck mama for 9 years. I wanted to share that I make a potpourri of dried herbs (mint, lavender, basil, thyme and oregano) to sprinkle in the duck house at night. I’ve heard flies do not like basil and even if that’s not true? it still smells so good.
    Annie

    1. Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by! That duck potpourri sounds awesome – I love using herbs around the coop too!

  2. Rita Ritchie says:

    I can’t get my ducks to eat anything you mentioned except mealworms. Any idea why?? Do you put the veggies etc in a little bit of water in a shallow pan maybe?? I’m at wits end. Any ideas will be appreciated

    1. I have definitely found that my ducks are much pickier about what they eat than my chickens (who will eat just about anything I put in front of them). I think a lot of it has to do with habits. I notice the treats that they grew up having often like lettuce, herbs & melon are meet with huge enthusiasm still. Treats that I introduced rarely or when they were adults they are more skeptical of. They sort of remind me of my kids lol. So just like kids, repeated exposure could be the key to expanding your picky ducks diet. My ducks do love when I chop up greens and float them in their water dish or pool, I have found that is a fun way to introduce new herbs. Treats are not a necessary part of their diet, as long as they as eating plenty of quality feed all their nutritional needs should be being met.

      1. Hello! I am new here and planning to do Duck breeding for education and conservation in Botswana, where to start with, how and what are the recommendations, i do have the land where to do the project quiet big and in a wildlife area?

        1. That is wonderful! First you will need to determine where you can obtain your breeding stock. I am sorry, I am not sure what is available in Botswana. I would ask at your local feed & grain store. You will want to set up different pens for the different breeds. For conservation purposes, you won’t want the different breeds mixing together. If the breeds you are looking at are domestic ducks they shouldn’t be able to fly so the barrier between breeds could be as easy as chicken wire fencing. If you are raising wild breeds, you will need to clip their wings or keep them in an aviary – unless your plan is to raise them to release into the wildlife area? A good ratio would be to start out with 6 females and 2 males at the very least. You may also want to check in with your local government and make sure there aren’t any type of restrictions on this activity. Good luck!

    2. ☽ ☆ Caroline Malone ☼ ☾ says:

      they don’t like house flies, only fruit flies. I recommend because I struggle with this on a personal level. Good luck.

      1. My ducks love standard green flies (the kind you often find in your home)! If we have flies gathering on manure on the ground they run at the pile with their head lowered and mouth open trying to catch the flies like Hungry Hungry Hippos lol. But I think ducks are like people, they have different ideas of what tastes good

    3. Steele says:

      Yes put in water most ducks will not eat it is not in water

    4. Shelley Woodroof says:

      Mine love thawed frozen peas!! They are cheap not canned peas…to much salt just the frozen ones and let them thaw first!

  3. Sandra Steyn says:

    Good Morning, thanks I Enjoy your information and comments on chickens, ducks and so forth. I have recently started feeding and enjoy watching the birds also free ranging all day. Greetings Sandra

  4. Shanen says:

    Hi Liz, we are getting ducks that are 3 months old… Love your help with the feeding… Any other tips would be great. My name is Shanen if you can email me that would be great with any extra tips… Or your blog info, also I will need help with the blog stuff, I’ve never blogged before… Thanks

    1. Congrats on your new additions! I would definitely recommend checking out my backyard ducks page, I have lots of articles that I bet you will find helpful! If you have any questions, you can also email me at info@thecapecoop.com

  5. joy says:

    Hello Liz. I’ve just became a beginner duck mom..laugh. They are great and your knowledge and know how gives me hope.They just turned three weeks old today. Love love how they greet me. Question when should I put them out side ? Right now they live in a wooden create in the house.

    1. Congratulations on your new additions! Ducklings are so much fun (so so messy, but so much fun!). You should wait until they are fully feathered around 6-7 weeks and the nighttime temperatures are solidly in the 50s for them to permanently move outside. But you can bring them out for short field trips to explore the yard with supervision on sunny days now.

  6. Liz says:

    Howdy Liz ( my name is Liz too btw ) and I’m so happy I found this page! I don’t currently own any ducks but I visit the same ones every day at the park. I see them so often I’m pretty sure they have accepted me as one of their own. I have been feeding them defrosted steam in bag corn and peas and the love them! But lately I have been thinking that these are a little boring and I might want to mix it up a little bit. I have tried lettuce but they are really picky and I couldn’t think of any other good foods to give them. Thanks for the help!

    1. Sounds like some lucky ducks! 🙂

      1. Pranitha says:

        What can ducks eat

        1. Domestic pet duck’s main food source should be a poultry layer feed. But they also enjoy foraging for a large amount of bugs and enjoy a large selection of fruit & vegetables as listed in this article. You can read more about feeding your ducks here: https://thecapecoop.com/feeding-your-backyard-ducks/

  7. Kathy aka momma duck says:

    My Mother’s Day gift was 7 fuzzy baby ducks any suggestions are welcomed what do I start with treats they were 3 days old when I got them they are a week old now

    1. How exciting! I would hold off for now with the treats. You don’t want to have them cutting back on their nutritious feed to have more snacks. I usually wait until they are about a month old for treats

  8. Kim McClendon says:

    Love your blog. Any advise on flies. Using traps but not really working

    1. Ugh we are also having an awful year with flies. I have never had such a hard time with them. We doubled the amount of the fly bags, are keeping the grass short (less places to hide and mate), and picking up poop twice a day. It seems to be helping but it’s quite a challenge this year!

  9. Lisa says:

    I am a new duck mom with four ducks. I have had them inside but they need to go out. I have a temporary pen and house but I need a feeder and waterer that will stay clean. Any suggestions on where to shop.

    1. sara E Parrish says:

      I use a muffin pan. But i rinse it out every feeding. I am yet to find something that i can keep clean for longer than 1 day

      1. that’s a great idea!

  10. Michelle says:

    Hi Liz, I have just one little (not so little) duckling. Not sure if it’s an Indian runner or Cayuga, waiting for adult feathers to determine. I believe it is 4 maybe 5 weeks old. Our baby is inside but likes to forage under the wrinkles in the floor covering. Is there any thing you can suggest to hide in places for foraging fun? Trying to find ways to keep “Charlie” entertained.
    Thanks for any help.

    1. Ducks love to use their bills to dig little holes looking for bugs so anything he could root around in would be great – sheets of newspaper or cardboard would work, or some pine shavings. You could sprinkle some dried mealworms in there as a “reward” for him to find-they LOVE mealworms!

  11. Jodi Puleo says:

    Help my ducks won’t eat anything but lettuce, peas and birdseed!! I tried feeding them my chicken feed and many other things but they will go hungry if I don’t give them those 3 things..

    1. They will not die of starvation if deprived of treats – they will definitely eat their feed rather than die! They could get sick from not having a well rounded diet however. Do they free range? Is it possible they are already getting bugs and greens while out free ranging? If I were you, I would cut out all treats entirely and only give them waterfowl or chicken feed for at least a month to help them reset. Will they complain? 100% yes lol. But trust me they will not starve themselves to death if you don’t give them treats. They are just like little kids with bad eating habits – of course they would rather have cookies than broccoli. Those little ducks know they have you wrapped around their little webbed feet and if they turn their bills up at chicken feed you will give in and give them treats. Once you get their appetites reset so that they are eating their feed without complaints you can start adding back treats occasionally

  12. Jodi Puleo says:

    Thankyou, I was really worried about them and will try what you suggested.
    They have a huge pen with grass and hay also..
    They will be very upset Lol!
    Appreciate your time…???

  13. Maya & Frankie says:

    Hello Liz,

    My daughter is gluten intolerant and so we are going to get our own ducklings, which we would like to feed a gluten-free diet. The ducklings are arriving in 2 weeks. We cannot find any store-bought food without gluten. Now we would like to make the food ourselves and were wondering if you can give us some tips. We thought about oatmeal, crashed mealworms, flax seeds, and barley. We want to make sure that they get all the nutrition without store bought food. Unless you would know a brand without gluten. After one week, we would start feeding the ducklings shredded veggies and fruits additional. Can you help us?

    1. That is a really interesting question! I have not gotten into making my own feed, a lot of what I have read on it though certainly consists of a mixture of different grains. I did a bit of research into the subject hoping to point you in the right direction but I can’t find much. Do you have a large area for them to free range in? If allowed to hunt for their own food in a large area that will certainly help supplement some of their dietary needs. I did find this company that makes wheat free chicken feed – this seems like it should be appropriate for ducks as well. Maybe shoot them an email to see if they have any tips? https://www.newcountryorganics.com/layer-feed-wheat-free-soy-free-50-pounds.html

  14. We have a duck that seems to not like to walk. She will lay at the water dish rather than stand like the others. If we try and walk them down to the water (which isn’t far) she takes 5-6 stops while the others take 1-2.
    When letting them out of their home to free range she is the last one out. They’re only a little over a month old.
    Any ideas or solutions?

    1. Have you been supplementing their diet with additional niacin? Because ducklings grow so fast they need additional niacin over what traditional chick starter provides. Niacin deficiency shows up as weakened leg strength. I would definitely recommend you start supplementing her immediately so the damage doesn’t become permanent. You can read more about it here; https://thecapecoop.com/ducklings-niacin/

  15. Megan says:

    My husband and I just got our first ducks a few weeks ago! We already adore them. They absolutely love kale, but I’m wondering about arugula? I’ve searched around and haven’t been able to find any specifics about whether it’s safe to feed or if it’s one more like spinach to try and avoid?

    1. Hi Megan, spinach is often listed on the list of foods to avoid with ducks because it has a high oxalic acid content, oxalic acid can interfere with calcium absorption in the body. Chickens & ducks need a lot of calcium as their body depletes it in the egg making process. So while spinach is a very healthy veggie for them to eat, too much of it can cause issues. Arugula is not high in oxalic acid so would not have the same issue. Nearly all dark leafy greens make excellent treats for your ducks!

  16. Kelly says:

    What age do ducklings need to be in order to feed them the food/treats you listed? Thanks!

    1. Ducklings can start eating treats right away as long as grit is offered to aid in digestion. If you only give them feed, they don’t need grit, but as soon as you give them other things you should have grit available

      1. Kelly says:

        Thanks! And do you happen to know if ducks will do ok near California pepper trees (they drop lots of leaves and pink pepper corns). I don’t see it on the lists of toxic plants for ducks that I have read.

        1. Hi Kelly, this is not a tree I am familiar with, but wikipedia says the fruit & leaves are poisonous to poultry so you’ll have to be careful if your ducks are in the area of the tree

  17. Jamie Miller says:

    I’m trying to find out what this means. We have muscovy ducks and hatched a few when momma duck abandoned them. Two of the ducks will lay back their wings in almost a wrapping fashion around us when we hold them. It’s not any of the wing issues like angel wing for example, but more like a hug. Is this a sign of affection? Have you encountered this before? Any information is appreciated.

    1. Hi Jamie, that is not something I have encountered but I think I would have to agree with you, it sounds affectionate. If it is just something you notice when you are holding them, then it wouldn’t be a wing issue, it would be a behavior. To spread their wings would be relaxing and not defensive so I think they may be just snuggling into you and/or protecting you! I have seen my mama ducks do something similar with their ducklings. So sweet 🙂

  18. Vannessa says:

    For my ducky, she hates melon which is weird and also is scared of bananas but is a sucker for eggs and zuchinni, red peppers without the seeds or stem, and also broccoli.

    1. They all have their own preferences, just like us! lol thinking of her with bananas though

  19. Melannie says:

    Hi, I love this! Thank you, this is very helpful. I have a little Cayuga duckling and he is always chirping, when he’s laying down, eating, etc. I’m not sure if that’s normal or if something is wrong. I have also noticed that he tends to peck at himself a lot.

    1. They do tend to chatter a lot. Is he alone or does he have a duck friend with him? If he is alone it’s possible he is just calling to you because he is lonely, they need pretty much constant companionship. The other possibility is that he is either too hot or too cold. If he still has a heat lamp on, does he try to sit as far as possible from the light with his mouth open and wings out? That would indicate he is too hot. If he was too cold he would hunker down in the bedding and just chirp a lot trying to get your attention. Beyond those things, it’s just possible you have a chatty duck lol. If he seems to be moving around ok, eating & drinking normally, and pooping a lot, he is probably just fine!

  20. Linda Kent says:

    We recently had a mag pie duck come to our house during a storm. I thought she would try to find her way home but, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have been scrambling for information on how to keep her safe and fed in the meantime… We. bought some good higher protein pellets. Which she seems to like. We are obviously in the thick of winter as, we live in central NY. I am worried about keeping her warm. We have a wood shed that she has found. I put a bunch of hay in there… Think it will keep her warm? We also have a creek and pond so, she has fresh water:). I am new to all of this:(

    1. That is so sweet of you to care of her! A wood shed with straw is the perfect home. If possible, keep her locked in there during the night to keep her safe from predators. Ducks are really cold hardy, my guys like hanging out in the snow and will still enjoy being outside even when it’s below zero. They have a thick layer of fat, then downy under feathers, then the top layer of feathers which are wind and water proof. Ducks should not be given feed when they don’t have access to water, they can choke on it. So if you have her locked in the shed at night, you should either take the food away or offer both food & water she can access. The biggest issue you have is that she is a solitary duck. Ducks are very social animals and get really stressed and depressed when living alone. If you plan to keep her, you should make plans to add another duck or two as soon as it is feasible. You will find lots of information on raising ducks on my duck page – https://thecapecoop.com/ducks/

  21. Hey i just found ur web and my duck buddy broke his leg and he wont eat any tips on why

    1. A common response to pain & stress is to withdraw and not eat. Is he being treated by a vet? They will likely have some good suggestions. But until he is healed up you might need to feed him with a syringe or spoon (you can mix his duck crumbles with some water to make a paste). High protein treats like mealworms are usually pretty irresistible and can often often perk up a slow appetite (and they are healthy). If he really won’t eat or drink anything, you are going to have to get him on iv fluids to make sure his body has what it needs to help it heal

  22. Demitra says:

    Hi Liz! Thank you for this super informative article. We just recently got two female Muscovy ducklings who turned a week old today, and we fall in love with them more every day. We currently have them set up in our guest bathtub with their water dish, food, radiant heater, and toys. I have a couple questions since we are brand-new to ducks, if you’re okay with that!
    1. Do you have any tips on getting the kiddos to bond with us more? I have purchased a few different types of bird/rodent toys for them to play with, which they seem to enjoy a lot. They are starting to come up to us when we stick our hands into the tub and nibble our hands (sometimes even grabbing any loose skin and shaking their heads like dogs with a ragdoll, lol!). But they don’t appear to appreciate touches on their backs or being picked up/cuddled. We are hoping to get them used to snuggles and physical affection, but I want to go about that in a way that is amenable for them and not traumatizing. (If they just don’t want to, I understand. We have quails that are very bothered by human contact. I just hope these lil ducks will change their minds!) I was also hoping to start introducing some treats to them soon as a way to ply their affections, but I’m not sure if they’re still too young for that (I was thinking mashed banana and small pieces of arugula?).
    2. Would you also have tips for integrating ducks into a household with dogs? I’m not too worried about the cats, since they’re big babies and run from my pet rat, but both of my dogs like to chase the wildlife and one in particular is very… enthusiastic. I don’t know that we’ll ever get to a point where the ducks and the dogs can co-exist physically without any sort of barrier, which I’m prepared to adjust for, but any advice to make this transition easier or even to help the ducks not feel so fearful around them would be greatly appreciated.
    3. When can we start letting the ducklings have some shallow dish swim time? I notice that they’re starting to dunk their heads a lot in their water dish and even hopping inside of it from time to time. I know they don’t have their proper feathers yet, but I’m a little shaky on knowing when the appropriate time would be.

    I’ll try not to harass you too much with my question! 😀 Thank you so much!

    1. Congrats on your new babies! Ducklings are so fun 🙂
      1) it sounds like you are doing great. You are already doing the best thing, which is to let them come to you on their terms. Putting your hand in the tub like you have is great. Lots of people rush into cuddling, picking them up and scaring them. They like to have their feet on the ground, when they are picked up and held 5 feet above the ground they are going to be nervous! I like to sit on the floor and let them climb around me. Put some treats like peas, mealworms, or shredded lettuce around you. Eventually they get brave and start jumping on your lap. Put some of their feed in your open hand on the ground and let them come eat out of your hand. Talk to them a lot, they do find it soothing! Another thing ducklings love is to burrow into your neck area. Once you have them in your arms, you will find they will make their way up to your neck area. If you have long hair that is down, they will burrow into the hair and fall asleep (I think it reminds them of their mom!). My teenagers have often worn a hoodie with the hood up and let the ducklings snuggle up behind their neck. Huge downside to this is don’t do it for too long – or just be prepared to shower and change your clothes – because as you know they won’t hesitate to poop on you! You can start offering them treats beyond their duck food anytime. You just have to provide grit for them when you start giving other foods. Poultry food is designed to dissolve without grit, otherwise they need grit to help break the food down in their gizzard (you can buy grit or use sand)
      2) I have a mixed breed border collie dog (and we just lost our elderly black lab mix). I didn’t think we would ever be able to let the dogs and birds be in the same space, but they got there eventually. I can now let the dogs run in the yard with the birds after training. The birds never grew to *like* having the dogs around, they always run if the dogs get too close, but the dogs did learn not to chase or hurt them. We started by just spending a lot of time in the bird area with the dogs on leashes. We use the word “friend” with them a lot when meeting strangers so while sitting with the birds we would repeat “friend” “nice” “chickens” “ducks””the chickens are our friends” a lot. With a hunting breed and a herding breed we weren’t sure we could trust them off leash, but after about 6 months of leash training near the birds, letting them get close to them often, we let them off leash but kept them in a close heel. They honestly didn’t pay any mind to the birds at that point. They accepted they were part of the family and knew they were not allowed to touch them. If your dog becomes gentle enough the ducks might grow to like her, but I’ve found that it can take a long time to train a dog to not chase the birds and by then the bird is an adult. If they could be friends when the ducks are young it is much more likely the ducks will like the dog.
      3) You can let them start swimming around 2 weeks. They will love it! Until they have their feathers in, you just want to keep the swim time short (15 minutes or so), supervised, and dry them off afterwards so they don’t get cold

      Good luck and feel free to ask questions, that is how we learn! You might be interested in checking out my duck page, with all my duck articles on it: https://thecapecoop.com/ducks/

  23. Laura Adams says:

    Good morning (at least it is here in Indiana). To my surprise a duck stopped by
    & layed her eggs here under a shrub! My husband was out watering and scared her out of the bush. What should I feed her? I assume she’ll be back to check on her eggs. Any info or.tips on how to help our new friends during their visit would be great!
    Thanks
    Laura

    1. Hi Laura, the mom will be fine if left to her own devices, but if you want to help out a bowl of fresh clean water is always nice. You could also try offering some shredded romaine lettuce or peas. Dried mealworms are also a great way to help her get some protein (you can usually find these with the birdseed)

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