I am a duck breeder who relocated from urban life in Tampa, FL, to a rural mountainous area outside of Radford, VA.
Ducks are omnivores, and they forage anything that will fit into their mouths. If you have a pet duck, you will notice that they are social creatures that love attention and treats! There is a lot of conflicting information out there about which foods to use as treats, so I am here to help.
Ducks require amino acids to produce the protein that is needed for their feathers and muscles. Much like other poultry, they do not require a lot of actual protein, just the amino acids contained within them. Too much protein causes "angel wings," a condition in which the bones grow faster than they are supposed to. Ducks shouldn’t eat bread or other carbohydrates because it leads to malnutrition and being overweight. In general, they should not have too many treats. No more than 10% of their diet should consist of snacks.
From my experience, ducks will eat anything new or anything that they don't get all the time as a treat. The good news is that they typically know when they're full, so they do not overeat. We stray from fatty snacks and stick with the healthier ones, and our ducks love them. In fact, you can share everything on this list with your little-feathered friends.
What Do Ducks Eat in the Wild?
- Insects, including worms, grubs, mosquitoes, wasps, spiders, or any bug that they can grab.
- Frogs, salamanders, newts, and other amphibians
- Fish, snails, mollusks, and crustaceans
- Berries, nuts, fruits, seeds, grain, and oats
- Dandelions, grass, weeds, and clovers
10 Healthy Duck Treats
4. Dandelions & Clovers
5. Scrambled Eggs
8. Feeder Fish
Algae is a very easy snack to eat, and it is considered a superfood. In fact, it is one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet. Algae contains vitamins, proteins, nutrients, and amino acids, so it makes for a tasty and healthy treat.
People who use algae in their own diet boast about its ability to strengthen the immune system and boost energy levels. They also claim it improves cardiovascular, brain, and eye health. An article by the National Institute of Health about the health benefits of blue-green algae supports these claims.
I gather the algae from my pond with a colander and give it to my ducks in a water bowl. They go absolutely nuts over it! You can also feed them tablets, but they prefer fresh algae.
Ducks love strawberries. You can freeze-dry them and place them in a water bowl for feeding. Better yet, just feed it to them fresh. Strawberries contain high levels of antioxidants and minerals, and they offer plenty of vitamin C. The only thing that tops watching ducks devour strawberries is watching them dive into a melon, but that's a story for a later time.
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They may be gross, but mealworms are easy to produce and are easier to handle than earthworms. More importantly, they are high in protein and fiber. My ducks go absolutely crazy for these creepy little things (maybe it's the texture that they like). They all shake their little tails when I feed them these treats. My ducks seem to prefer the live worms more than the freeze-dried ones.
4. Dandelions & Clovers
Dandelions help bones fight against age-related damage. They also protect against cancers, help the liver and bladder, increase blood quality, and stop constipation.1 Who knew there was so much packed into this weed?
Clovers are great for the blood system in general. They decrease hypertension, lower cholesterol, increase the immune system, and are great for the heart. That being said, you should only feed ducks clovers in moderation because they act as a blood thinner and could be toxic if given in excessive amounts.2
These two weeds take over my yard every year, so I'm glad my ducks snack on these with delight.
5. Scrambled Eggs
Chicken eggs contain a lot of amino acids and nutrients that your ducks need. In fact, nine of the amino acids contained in eggs cannot be produced by the body. Eggs also contain the highest-quality protein of any food and a highly absorbable form of iron. They also help improve eyesight, brain health, and memory retention. My ducks prefer them scrambled.
I love watching ducks eat crickets. Set a few in the middle of your flock and wait for them to spot the crickets. Watching them chasing the crickets is quite entertaining. Aside from that, crickets are a complete source of protein and also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other nutrients.
Kale is full of folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, sulfur, and more! Kale is actually considered a vegetarian's "beef." It helps with blood health, as well as with vision and lung problems. It also promotes bone strength and cartilage flexibility and boosts the immune system, metabolism, and hydration.
Kale is quickly becoming a very popular human food due to its health benefits and nutritional value. Cut some up for your ducks and watch them dig in.
8. Feeder Fish
Fish come with many nutritional and entertainment benefits. I really enjoy introducing fish into my pond and watching my ducks fight for them. It's quite a comical sight seeing fish tails hanging out of their mouths. One of my ducks was scared of the fish at first, but after my favorite girl plucked one from the water and ate the fish, they all joined in, and it became an insane feeding frenzy.
We also use frogs and newts because there is a nice supply of them in the stock pond. Did you know a duck can eat frogs as big as the size of its head. It's amazing!
Considering that these are the most common foods for ducks in the wild, it seemed like common sense to provide them in their diet. The only downfall is the cost of these fish.
Like grub worms, these slimy little suckers contain many vitamins and nutrients. I find them on my way to feed the ducks in the morning. Just the simple mention of “wormies” can get the attention of an entire flush of ducks.
With earthworms in hand, you will be surrounded by little feathery, tail-wagging quackers in no time. The National Institute of Health has an article in the Library of Medicine documenting the health benefits of earthworms. Keep in mind that worms used for fishing are different from farmed worms and can contain a lot of chemicals and pesticides.
I actually wish my ducks liked these a little more. Marigolds work as an antibiotic. They also help prevent diseases, heal wounds, slow aging, and prevent eye disease, cancers, and ulcers.3 Preparing marigolds is a lot like prepping dandelions, and, as far as I know, there are no known side effects for humans or animals. Interestingly, ducks that consume marigold will produce a more brilliant yellow yolk in their eggs. I am surprised that not many chicken foods contain marigold, especially in the layer pellets.
The Research Process
There's plenty of information out there regarding what you can and cannot feed ducks, but I had to test everything out myself.
I started my research by looking at what they eat in the wild and looking at the nutritional value of each food. Then, I tried comparing the food's nutritional value to a duck's nutritional needs. This was a daunting task, so I didn't really finish it.
Instead, I conducted a test. I fed 30 Peking ducks various, readily-available foods from the list of things that ducks eat in the wild, including many fruits, vegetables, and some junk food. Then, I observed to see what they preferred eating. What a scientific approach, right? Don’t fret, I still managed to put together a list of healthy snacks that they love. I was surprised to learn that much of what ducks snack on in the wild are also on the list of healthy human foods.
It isn't a big surprise, but, like most species, they preferred the junk food, especially if it was easy to eat, like bread or crackers. With the exception of strawberries, it seemed the easier the food was to eat, the more they preferred it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2017 Drake Runner
Dale on November 16, 2018:
Most people don't mention not to buy fish from fish stores that use chemicals to keep fish healthy some are not meant for human consumption and are bad for us I'd suggest buying minnows from bait shops or catching yourself
Drake Runner (author) from Virginia on June 11, 2017:
If you ever get a chance to watch white ducks eat strawberries, Noa, it;s quite a site too. It's kinda creepy they way their mouths turn red, but watching them eat like little piranhas is quite amusing.
Noa Keshet from Israel on June 10, 2017:
I liked the video of the duckling eating a watermelon. So cute! The army of 900 ducks is impressive, it does seem like they are highly motivated to eat slugs and snails.