Ducks are naturally omnivorous foragers. They dig, pick and dip for their food and are open to eating almost anything. Although ducks would try to eat anything they came across, they have fairly specific diets, so what can ducks eat?
Wild Duck diets vary based on where their habitat is but overall they flourish on a healthy mix of algae, plants, insects, fish, crustacea, worms, seeds and fruits. It is ideal to try and replicate this for ducks in your care and provide a nutritionally balanced diet. This will allow for good timely growth, healthy ducklings and longer life spans. It is ideal that you also try to replicate a natural environment for your ducks so that they can continue to forage in and around ponds for insects, weeds and small fish.
The best and easiest food for your duck is a commercial duck specific food that includes a balanced mix of ingredients that lend to a ducks required nutrients such as protein, calcium and phosphorus. These mixtures also include grit which are hard pieces of shell, rock or pebbles that help them crush their food more efficiently as they have no teeth. This type of food will aid growth and also fertility. However, a commercial diet should always be supplemented with fresh vegetable scraps such as sweet potato, corn, kale, peas, cabbage, tomatoes and strawberries which are a duck favorite, to ensure they are also getting enough vitamins.
Another alternative to feeding adult ducks involves the use of more human food scraps but incorporating seeds such as flax seed or chia seeds, grains such as rice and corn and leftover meat/fish scraps along with the veggies recommended above.
Vegetables and fruits alone will not suffice as ducks require more protein rich foods. Therefore it is crucial that bits of meat or fish are also provided. Ducks who have access to dirt, ponds and foliage will also be able to forage their own food to supplement what is given to them.
It goes without saying that fresh water should always be available for ducks but something that may not be common knowledge is that bread is actually quite harmful to ducks and should be avoided at all costs. The National Geographic website states that bread is “junk food that offers little-to-no nutritional benefit to the ducks. “White bread in particular has no real nutritional value, so while birds may find it tasty, the danger is that they will fill up on it instead of other foods that could be more beneficial to them,” says a spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds”.
What do Baby Ducks Eat?
It is important to note that ducklings require a different food to adults and will not thrive on the same diet as an adult duck. A duckling requires a protein rich diet to help them develop properly. So what can baby ducks eat?
The best food for ducklings to be on is a commercial ‘duckling specific’ food. A duckling requires food that is easy and small enough to ingest and has a minimum of 18-20% of protein in it. The Purina Flock Raiser Crumble is a perfect diet to keep ducklings on until they are between 15-20 weeks old, when they can be put onto a lower protein commercial diet. It is crucial that they do not stay on the high protein diet for much longer than the 15-20 weeks as it can cause developmental defects.
A duckling can also be raised on chick (baby chicken) food but this can be slightly more complicated as it lacks some of the nutrients specific to Duck development therefore you have to supplement with more complicated mixtures. It is highly recommended that a duckling that is human raised sticks to a commercial ‘duckling specific’ mixture until they are between 15-20 weeks where they can then start to eat the same types of foods as the adult ducks.
Ducks are omnivorous foragers and will try to eat anything that crosses their paths so it is very important to provide your ducks with a balanced diet full of plant based ingredients and animal proteins. A diet that closely resembles their wild diet is ideal for a healthy, longer living adult duck.