Raising ducks in your backyard is a great way to get fresh eggs, entertainment, and quality compost. But, when it comes to a duck’s health, knowing WHAT to feed ducks, as well as what not to feed ducks is important.
Keeping your ducks healthy will result in longer life, better quality eggs, and MORE duck eggs being laid. Ducks that get sick or are malnourished tend to lay eggs less often, and they can be of poor quality when they do.
So, what exactly should you feed ducks as a treat? What do ducks eat?
Please keep in mind that regular duck feed is a must for all ducks in your flock. They need the nutrients from this on a daily basis. Fresh water constantly is also a MUST for your flock’s optimum health.
✅ Grit: Ducks that have access to dirt will pick up small stones on their own and don’t need supplemental grit offered. If your ducks are kept in enclosures without access to dirt, sprinkle a small amount of grit on their food once a week.
✅ Oyster Shell: Oyster shell is not usually necessary if your laying ducks are on a good quality-laying ration. If despite a good diet your ducks are laying pitted or thin-shelled eggs, you may choose to supplement for additional calcium with crushed oyster shells.
✅ Brewer’s Yeast: Lots of people supplement their duck’s diet with brewer’s yeast. This is best done until your ducks have reached about 20 weeks of age, which is the period of growth when they will need additional niacin.
Niacin helps encourage good overall health, and it can particularly be helpful in ducks with leg or foot injuries such as spraddle leg.
✅Gro-Gel: This is an important supplement for ducklings but should be stopped when your ducks become adults.
This product can be purchased from hatcheries or online and is most important during the first week of life. This powder is mixed with water to create a green gel, and it contains important nutrients and vitamins.
✅Apple Cider Vinegar: Many people supplement their ducks’ diets with raw apple cider vinegar. This can help improve mineral and vitamin absorption and also helps to kill bacteria.
You can mix it with a gallon of water to help when your ducks seem listless or are suffering from a lack of appetite.
✅ Lettuces– Especially ice burg, should be given in small quantities due to lower nutritional value. Other types include Romaine, Bib, Butter, Radicchio, etc.
✅ You can feed other greens, like kale, in unrestricted amounts. You can tear these up and throw them in the water dish to make a fun game for your ducks, too. Feeding large quantities of lettuce can loosen the stool of your ducks, so keep this in mind.
✅ Weeds – Your ducks will love eating weeds, so the next time you do your chores in the garden, make sure you save some for your ducks!
Just remember that if you are feeding your ducks weeds, you should make sure you are using weeds from a lawn that was not treated with any chemicals. Favorite weeds for ducks include clover, dandelions, and chickweed.
✅Cucumber– Feed this uncooked, peeled, or unpeeled. Chop up into small cubes.
✅Frozen Peas– Fresh or frozen/thawed are best. Canned peas tend to have too much salt for birds. Try keeping a bag of thawed peas in the fridge for treats, or to “train” your ducks to go to bed at night.
✅Green Beans– Cut into small pieces, or give them the ends and tips when you trim beans for yourself.
✅Pumpkin – Ducks LOVE pumpkin. You may need to crack the rind open for them, but otherwise, they will enjoy ripping apart pumpkins for their tasty seeds and flesh.
✅Root Vegetables – You can feed your ducks most root vegetables (besides potatoes, which we’ll get to in a moment).
Just keep in mind that certain root vegetables, like carrots and beets, contain dyes that may temporarily change the color and consistency of your ducks’ poop. Nothing to worry about!
✅Bell Peppers – Ducks love bell peppers, but you should feed them the flesh only. Remove the core, stem, and seeds, and chop the peppers up into fine pieces to remove a choking hazard.
✅Cabbage – Cabbage is a great choice for ducks. You can feed red or green cabbage, but you should dice or rip it into smaller pieces.
✅Turnips – Turnips can safely be fed to ducks, but it’s a good idea to cook them first to help soften them up.
✅Zucchini – Ducks love zucchini. You can shred and freeze zucchini for a tasty treat in the summertime, or you can feed it to them raw and unprepared. They can eat the peels, too – just make sure you cut them into small cubes.
✅Flowers – There are even certain flowers that ducks can eat. Good options include pansies, clover, and marigolds. Just make sure they haven’t been treated with any chemicals like pesticides.
You can also grow your own duck-specific crops like sunflowers, mustard, and white clover.
✅Tomatoes- All kinds, the flesh only, NO vines/leaves as they are toxic to birds. Cherry or grape tomatoes that have been cut in half are a favorite among our ducks.
✅Bananas – Bananas make great treats because they are soft and can be mashed. You can feed these in moderate quantities but you shouldn’t feed them to younger ducks. Do not feed the peel.
✅Peaches – Peaches make a great source of nutrients for ducks, as long as they are cut up into small pieces or mashed. Remember, ducks don’t have teeth!
✅Apples-Applesauce is a messy treat, but ducks love it. Try mixing it with other fruits or veggies to help contain the mess a bit.
Leave the seeds out, as even a small amount of apple seeds can be toxic. You can feed whole apples, but you will need to cut them into small pieces.
✅Grapes-Red or green, cut in half. You can also give them raisins.
✅Melons-Cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew are great cut into smaller pieces. Our ducks will eat the rinds of watermelon if it is cut up into smaller pieces.
✅Grapes – Just as you would if you were feeding grapes to a small child, you should cut them in half or quarter them if they are large before you feed them to ducks.
✅Berries – Ducks will eat just about any kind of berry. They particularly love strawberries but for whatever reason will often avoid the green tops. These are safe for ducks to eat, but they aren’t usually a preferred food.
✅ Cherries – Cherries are also perfectly safe for your ducks. Just make sure you remove the stones.
✅ Pineapple – Pineapple is perfectly safe for your ducks, but you should only feed it to them fresh and not canned, as this will have too much sugar.
✅ Mango – Mango can be fed to ducks, but you need to watch them as they try it for the first time. It can cause allergic reactions in some ducks, but it’s unclear what, exactly, causes this reaction.
Avoid mango if you don’t have the time to watch your ducks as they snack, but if you’re deadest on feeding this food to them, watch for reactions. If they seem fine, you’re probably safe with future feedings.
✅ Pomegranates – If you have extra pomegranates lying around, you can feed them to your ducks.
Remove the yellow fleshy part of the plant, but the fruit inside can safely be eaten, as can the seeds. Just limit the number of seeds you allow your ducks to eat as this can cause an impacted crop.
The main thing to remember with these treats is that you don’t want to go overboard. Although these foods are healthy, your ducks should be getting everything they need from their feed.
✅ Eggs- Scrambled or hardboiled, chopped with shells intact. Do NOT give them raw eggs, though. The shells are a good source of calcium, instead of buying oyster shells from the store.
✅ Dry cat food-Our ducks LOVE to eat the cat’s food, and will often skip their own pellets in favor of the salmon-flavored kitty chow. I do make sure they don’t get too much of this “treat”, so the cats actually get fed.
✅ Rice- As a once in a while treat, try adding soft cooked rice with some other veggies or fruits. Do not give them uncooked rice, as it can expand in their crop when they drink water.
✅ Seeds– Some seeds, like millet or sunflower, can be given to ducks as a limited, rare special treat. You can also feed milo seeds or bird seeds.
While seeds such as grit can be used, they do not digest well and can fill the crop with material that is not digested or passed. This can lead to serious digestive issues in ducks.
✅ Yogurt and cottage cheese – These foods contain lots of calcium and protein, which are great for your growing ducks. Whole milk plain Greek yogurt is a great way to add parasite-fighting probiotics to your ducks’ diets.
You can feed other types of cheese besides shredded cheese, too, but you must make sure it is shredded. This will make it easier for your ducks to swallow it. Keep in mind that dairy of any kind can cause your ducks to have stinkier poop!
✅ Bugs – Ducks especially love slugs – a bonus if you’re trying to get rid of some in your garden, as your ducks won’t scratch and ruin your plants quite as much as chickens will – but they will eat other bugs, too.
Some good options to consider include grubs and crickets. You can purchase live crickets at bait shops, pet stores, and feed supply stores.
✅ Earthworms and mealworms – You can feed these live, frozen, or dried. Your ducks may even find some on their own as they hang out outdoors! Mealworms are high in protein and your ducks will love them.
✅ Floating fish food – As long as you have ducks that are older than a week old, you can safely feed them floating fish food.
Usually, you will want to go for koi food, which has 30% protein as well as beneficial vitamins. This can be fed in ball or stick form, and it’s UV resistant so you can leave it outside. Catfish food is another viable option.
✅Shrimp – Ducks love eating dehydrated shrimp. They float easily in the water, making it easy for your ducks to find them, and they are also easily digested.
✅Herbs – There are certain herbs that your ducks will absolutely love. These can usually be fed in unrestricted amounts, but you should always do your research to make sure they are safe for ducks before allowing them unlimited access.
Some good herbs to consider feeding to your ducks include dill, sage, basil, parsley, oregano, mint, calendula, and marjoram.
✅Live fish – Okay, so this one may be harder to do if you don’t have a large pond for your ducks, but if you’re able to add a few feeder goldfish, minnows, or guppies t your duck’s swimming area, they will absolutely love you for it.
Not only are fish a great, natural source of protein for your ducks, but they’ll also get endless hours of entertainment out of searching for the fish in the waters.
✅Cooked Rice, Pasta, or Oatmeal – You need to be careful about how many carbohydrates you feed your ducks, but in general, small amounts of these foods are okay.
You should make sure they are fully cooked and try to only feed them to your ducks in the wintertime, which is when they will need the extra energy.
Whole wheat pasta and brown rice will always be better than the white varieties. If you’re feeding oatmeal, make sure it is unflavored.
✅Cracked corn – Cracked corn is safe to feed to ducks in moderation, as are wheat, barley, and grains. Some people feed their ducks whole-kernel corn, but there are a large group of people who, on the other side, advocate against this
There are benefits to both – while the corn is easier to digest if it is cracked, the oils on the outside of whole corn can benefit your ducks. Do what you think is best for your particular flock.
✅Nuts – You can feed nut pieces or hearts to your ducks. However, you should make sure that these do not have any flavorings, slats, or coatings.
You should also make sure these are very small so you don’t have to worry about your ducks choking. They are high in fat, so feed nuts sparingly.
✅Algae– Algae is a great natural food for ducks. It is nutrient-dense and contains a ton of amino acids that your ducks’ diets need to have healthy immune functioning and energy levels.
While the algae that grow on your duck’s pond will likely be eaten up quite quickly, you can also add algae pellets or tablets, too.
What Not To Feed Ducks
Here are some things that you shouldn’t feed ducklings, adult ducks, or wild ducks.
These can cause digestive issues, or be outright toxic to your ducks. If you have fed these to your ducks before without issues, you should consider yourself very lucky.
❌Bread, chips, crackers Packed with carbs that ducks don’t need, bread, though soft, can become dense in the stomachs of ducks. Ducks can also binge on this “tasty” treat and end up with an impacted crop. An impacted crop can result in death!
❌Onions– Sometimes they cause diarrhea or vomiting. It is best to avoid giving your ducks onions.
In severe cases – such as when your ducks are repeatedly fed onions – your ducks can develop a blood condition known as hemolytic anemia, which can lead to death.
❌Spinach -While most greens are not just safe, but extremely healthy, for your ducks to eat, you should try to steer clear of spinach.
Spinach can interfere with a duck’s ability to absorb calcium, which can cause egg binding and other issues with laying. Instead, feed dark greens like romaine or kale.
❌Avocados– All parts of the avocado, including flesh, pits, skin, and even parts of the tree are very toxic to ducks! Leave the guacamole out of their enclosures, please.
❌Raw Potatoes –Cooked potatoes can safely be fed to your ducks, but raw potatoes should be avoided. This is true of any animal you are feeding, but raw potatoes contain solanine, which can be deadly.
The same theory applies to foods like green tomatoes and eggplant. They also cannot be fed the leaves or stems of these fruits.
❌Citrus fruits – Your duck may not necessarily show any adverse reactions to eating citrus, but it might reject citrus in favor of other foods. Citrus is very acidic and often a duck’s delicate digestive system simply cannot handle it.
❌Chocolate – Chocolate is a definite no-no when it comes to your duck. It can affect your bird’s digestive system, leading to diarrhea and vomiting. It can later cause seizures and death.
❌Dried beans – While cooked or sprouted beans are perfectly safe for your ducks to eat, you should avoid feeding them uncooked or dried beans. As with other animals, this can be toxic.
❌Sugary, Salty, High Fat Foods- If it isn’t healthy for a human to eat, neither is it healthy for your ducks. Even small amounts of these foods will have a negative impact on your duck’s health.
Anything fried contains far too much oil/fat for your duck. Canned veggies contain too much salt. Canned or in-juice fruits contain too much sugar.
❌Anything you wouldn’t eat yourself – As a corollary to the point above, you should never feed your duck anything that you wouldn’t feel safe eating yourself. If it’s spoiled, moldy, or stinky, don’t feed it to your duck!
Not only can it harm the growth of your ducks, but it can also attract pests like rodents – or worse, predators who will later go after your duck. Moldy bread in particular can be dangerous, as it can cause aspergillosis – a fatal lung infection.
Ducks who consume these foods can become overweight and have other health issues, and they will typically die at younger ages. These are just plain NOT HEALTHY.
This list gives you some ideas of what you should feed your ducks as treats and what you should avoid giving them. Did any of these items surprise you? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
14 thoughts on “What Can You Feed Ducks Besides Duck Feed?”
Love it, Heather! Thank you!! We are planning on adding ducks this spring and I need all the help I can get!
That’s so exciting! I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!!
I have a couple of Muscovy hens in with my chickens and they are on a really good layer feed along with cracked corn. I am a backyard chicken/duck farmer. I have found that mine LOVE a little cooked spaghetti, cooked Al Dente’ . This is just a special treat for them. I also save all of my skin, and excess pulp when canning tomatoes, bag it, freeze it. Then, even in the winter they love to eat them. I grow small of amounts of wheat in containers in the house for them so they have some greens in the winter. They are very spoiled Ducks. They haven’t started laying yet, they are still young, but I can’t wait for the eggs!
the eggs are SO delicious! Let me know how you like them!
We too have added Khaki Campbell’s to our group of animals, 5 at 1st ( a drake and 4 hens) and about 6 weeks later 4 more hens. They also are pretty spoiled and missing their favorite fruit, watermelon. They go nuts for it and act like starving Piranha’s. No eggs yet either, must be a winter thing.
Hi Heather I live on a river, I raised my 2 ducks from babies. I’d love to let them roam the backyard but I’m afraid if they go in the river they may not come back. Our river never freezes so we feed the wild ducks all winter I’d just like to keep my ducks from turning wild. What do you advice?
For my experience, ducks tend to stick close to where they know they are safe. Personally however ,I would keep my ducks away from the open river, more for their own protection than worry about them leaving.
I had giant clover volunteer itself in the garden. I let it grow out and then feed it to the chickens and ducks. They loved it!
I live in Bali and have 9 adult ducks and 2 ducklings.
One of the ducks is a good mom … she lays her eggs in the coop and tends to her babies. But the other female lays her eggs in a nest OUTSIDE the cool, and last night they got soaked in the rain. My husband took the eggs, saying as they were wet they would no longer hatch. Is that true? And if a momma duck lay her eggs in the open and does not ‘sit on them, does that mean she does not intend to have babies?
Are black grapes okay? Black grapes are always on sale here in Texas lol.
I have pet ducks (3) they are 6 months old and I feed them chicken scratch grain and was wondering if they could eat that EVERY day?
Informative article! One very important thing to mention, that isn’t really well known, is that many feeder fish, (like goldfish or minnows) contain the enzyme thiaminase. It makes it hard (or impossible, depending on the amount) for animals to take in thiamine, which is a critically important type of vitamin B. (B12.) Just look up thiamine deficiencies in ducks and you’ll see what I mean.
Thiaminase destroys thiamine. Kinda confusing, I know.
Anyways! Most people probably aren’t going to be buying feeder fish for their ducks, but this applies to plenty of other animals as well. I actually learned this from the reptile community, but it most certainly applies to ducks and other poultry. Even there, it’s something mostly unknown, and I know many people have lost their animals because no one knew that it was a B12 deficiancy.
hi im andrew and i live in alabama and i have 1 muscovy hen 1 golden 300 hybrid hen 1 mallard drake 1 pekin drake and 1 pekin hen and a goose so this info is usefull even tho ive been duck farming for 2 years now i still learn things to this day!
Can ducks eat red pepper flakes like chickens can? I’m trying to figure out if I need to separate my ducks from my chickens, they are all getting along but don’t want to add the red pepper flakes to their feed if ducks can’t handle it,