Can Ducks Eat Spinach? Should They?

It’s no secret that ducks are primarily, though not entirely, herbivorous. Most of what they eat consists of plant matter of one kind or another, and some of their favorite foods both in the wild and in captivity are leafy greens.

ducks eating spinach leaves
two ducks eating spinach leaves

Ducks even eat certain kinds of leafy veggies that you and I might find in our own salad bowls. But not every bit of leafy veg is okay for ducks, even some of the most nutritious kinds around.

How about something like spinach? It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the very best. But is spinach okay for our ducks?

Yes, spinach is safe and nutritious for ducks as a small component of their usual diet. While packed with vitamins and minerals that ducks need, spinach has high levels of oxalic acid which can cause serious health problems if they get too much of it.

Spinach truly is one of those vegetables that, for ducks at least, exemplifies the risks of getting too much of a good thing.

Its nutrient content is nothing short of excellent, but it has a major drawback in its high concentrations of oxalic acid which can interfere with the absorption and use of nutrients in a duck’s body.

You don’t need to treat spinach like the plague for your birds, but you better not give it to them without a plan, either. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know…

Do Ducks Like Spinach?

Yes, they do. Spinach is something that most ducks will eat if given an opportunity. It isn’t necessarily their favorite food, but I’ve rarely seen a duck that won’t eat it.

Is Spinach Nutritious for Ducks?

Absolutely! If you don’t know by now spinach has an entirely deserved reputation as an extremely healthy, nutrient-dense food.

It’s a pretty good source of calories and protein for ducks, or at least it has a good amount of protein for a leafy vegetable, but it contains huge amounts of vitamins and minerals that can benefit them.

Examining the vitamin content first, we see that spinach is packed with vitamin A and beta carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, tons of folate, a great amount of vitamin C, and a good bit of vitamin E.

The most stellar vitamin that spinach has to offer is vitamin K, so it contains so much it can actually be problematic. More on that in a minute…

But the good news keeps on coming when we examine the minerals in spinach. Here we’ll find a great diversity and high amounts of iron, magnesium, and manganese, and somewhat smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.

This really is a remarkably good lineup of essential nutrients, and together they can improve almost every single facet of a duck’s health, from eyesight and nervous system maintenance to organ function, growth, healing, feathering, circulation, and so much more.

Spinach is remarkably good for them, but you’ll be making a mistake if you give them too much. We will talk about that issue in a few sections.

Is Raw Spinach Okay for Ducks?

Yes, raw spinach is fine for ducks. It is certainly easy for them to eat and digest, and we’re all spinach contains the best possible amount of nutrients which might otherwise be lost in the cooking process.

Is Cooked Spinach Okay for Ducks?

Yes, cooked spinach is okay for ducks though it is often a little less appealing for them. Cooking is going to reduce the vitamin and mineral content, meaning it’s less nutritious overall, but cooking will also reduce the levels of oxalic acid that spinach contains.

That compound is what makes spinach potentially so harmful, so it might be a worthwhile trade-off. I’ll tell you why just below.

Is Spinach Harmful or Toxic for Ducks in Any Way?

Yes, it can be. As to why, it is because spinach contains a huge amount of oxalic acid. It contains so much that getting a serving of spinach that is too large or getting too much spinach too often in their diet is enough to cause significant and escalating health problems.

That’s because oxalic acid prevents the absorption of calcium in the digestive tract, and it also interferes with the body’s ability to use calcium and iron. Obviously, ducks need calcium and iron in order to thrive, and they need it for various bodily processes.

At first, this will only lead to a deficit but as these resources are used up in the body and then unable to be put to use going forward several terrible side effects will manifest.

In growing ducks or any ducks that are healing from a significant injury, the inability to absorb calcium results in horrendous defects of the skeleton.

Laying hens will also immediately show major problems with their eggs, starting with thin, extra fragile eggshells and eventually passing eggs that don’t have a shell at all!

This will result in a blockage of the oviduct, infection, and subsequently death unless treated immediately and the outcome is not guaranteed.

The interference with iron in the body can lead to poor circulatory health and eventually a kind of anemia. That is severely debilitating for any animal, and can be fatal.

Suffice it to say that these health issues are serious and will get worse with more spinach that ducks get beyond a small amount every once in a while.

Now with all this being said, as frightening as it is, this should not deter you from giving spinach to your birds; it can certainly benefit them thanks to its abundant nutrients.

But you must be incredibly cautious to avoid giving them too much. Remember: too much of a good thing can be bad, simple as that!

How Often Can Ducks Eat Spinach?

So, the million-dollar question is this: how often should ducks get spinach?

For safety, I strongly recommend that you give them no more than one small serving of spinach every week.

This is more than adequate to give them a great shot of nutrition but not so much that you have to worry about any of the negative side effects discussed in detail above.

Also, I would advise against letting hens have any spinach at all if they are laying eggs. They need all the calcium they can get, and even the slightest hindrance might result in problems with the eggs themselves or complications for her.

Any major problems relating to her eggs or oviduct are highly likely to result in a health crisis, so it’s just not worth the risk.

Preparing Spinach for Your Ducks

Any spinach that you plan on serving to your flock should be washed and then roughly chopped so it’s easier for them to eat. That said, most ducks don’t have any trouble whatsoever tearing off bite-size pieces of spinach from intact leaves or heads.

As always, make sure they have water nearby to eat with.

Never Give Ducks Spinach if it is Rotting or Moldy

Your ducks should only ever get high-quality, clean, fresh spinach. Any spinach going slimy or, worse, showing signs of mold should be thrown in the trash and not fed to your flock. If it’s a little wilted, that’s fine, but any worse than that should be grounds for discarding it.

Just because ducks might have to eat all kinds of things in the wild does not mean they won’t get sick from substandard or contaminated food. They can, and they do. Accordingly, if you care about them, only give them unspoiled produce and that includes spinach.

Is Spinach Safe for Ducklings to Eat?

No. I don’t give my ducklings any spinach because this is simply too vulnerable and delicate a stage of life to risk any mishaps from its calcium-blocking properties.

They are growing so quickly that any significant disruption can result in developmental defects that can plague a duck for life.

As healthy as spinach is, it’s just not worth it. There are plenty of other safer, risk-free alternatives that they can start eating once they’re old enough to try whole foods. Leave the spinach for later on in their adult life; they won’t miss it, I promise.

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