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Healthy Treats for Backyard Ducks

Although ducks enjoy many of the same treats as chickens, over the years I have watched to see the foods that seem to be their favorites. And surprisingly, ducks do prefer slightly different treats than chickens do. 

They definitely seem to prefer anything green - leafy greens, dandelion greens or especially fresh peas floating in their water are a particular favorite - but providing your ducks a variety of healthy, nutritious treats not only keeps them healthy and well-fed, but helps you clean out your refrigerator on occasion!





Healthy Treats for Backyard Ducks

Ducks can eat a wide variety of fresh, raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, whole grains and meat/fish, and a varied diet not only makes life more interesting for them, it makes their diet healthier, and allows you to not let anything go to waste. 

Like for chickens, treats for ducks should be limited to no more than 10% of a duck's daily diet, although things such as herbs, weeds, cut grass, or leafy greens like kale, chards, etc. can be fed in unlimited amounts.

Vegetables and Leafy Greens

Leafy greens can be fed daily as a treat; however it’s best to limit the amount of other vegetables like corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. and only feed those treats once the ducks have filled up on their regular feed.

Lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, spinach and cabbage can all be fed raw and either given whole or chopped. Ducks can eat both the stalks and tops of Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower either raw or cooked.

Chopped grass and weeds simply added to a tub of water will make your ducks very happy. All kinds of weeds and grasses make healthy treats for ducks that they will love. Ducklings can also eat anything on this list as long as the treat can be cut into very small pieces or is soft or mushy to prevent choking.

Although ducks do a pretty good job of ripping larger pieces of food apart - I give mine whole vegetables raw and uncooked - they have an easier time with things like beets, squash, melons, etc. if they are cooked or chopped up. 

You either want to feed them very large pieces they can work on over time, or pieces small enough that they won't choke on them. And like chickens, ducks can suffer from impacted crops from eating long lengths of fibrous materials, so grasses and such should be cut into short pieces before feeding.

Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables are fine, however dried beans are toxic, so beans must be cooked or sprouted before feeding to ducks. Fresh beans from the garden are fine. It's the dried beans that are a problem.

Corn can be fed raw, cooked or on the cob. Ducks love broccoli raw or cooked and will eat the florets, leaves and stalks. I usually grate the raw stalks for them for easier eating.

I know tomatoes are technically a fruit, but I put them here on this list with our ducks' favorite veggies, along with cucumbers, peas, broccoli and corn. Cucumbers can be fed sliced, halved or diced, skins and all. I usually cut tomatoes in half for our ducks, but you can also slice them for easy eating. 


Here's a list of vegetables your ducks might enjoy:

Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Cucumber
Green beans
Kale
Lettuce
Parsnips
Peas
Pumpkin
Radishes
Squash
Sweet potato
Turnips

Fruits

I don't feed fruit to my ducks as often as vegetables. They're usually not daily treats. Fruits aren't quite as nutritious and also contain lots of sugars. But many fruits do have beneficial nutrients for ducks and they do love them. My ducks enjoy many different types of fruits, but our ducks' three favorites are strawberries, blueberries and watermelon. 


Ducks will eat strawberries whole or sliced, tops and all. I like to cut blueberries in half or just squash them to prevent choking. Watermelon can be served cut in half, sliced or in cubes. If you chop up the rind small enough they will eat that too.


 

Here's a list of fruits your ducks might enjoy:


Apples - cored first, apple seeds contain cyanide
Bananas
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cantaloupe
Cherries - pitted first, cherry pits contain cyanide
Honeydew
Pears
Peaches
Strawberries
Watermelon



Edible Flowers

Lots of flowers are edible and nutritious for ducks.

Some edible flowers your ducks might eat include:

Bee Balm
Clover
Dandelions
Echinacea
Marigolds
Nasturtium
Rose petals
Violets



Grains


Whole grains are very nutritious for ducks. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, and all rice should be cooked first.  Our ducks love raw or cooked old-fashioned oats. 

Ducks also will eat mixed scratch grains. Pasta can be fed in moderation, and whole wheat or vegetable pastas are healthier for your ducks. Most grains  other than rice can be fed raw or cooked. Ducks will enjoy them either way.

Other grains your ducks might enjoy include:


Barley
Bulger
Millet
Oats
Quinoa
Rye
Wheat

Protein

Ducks, like chickens, eat a variety of foods. Although ducks aren't quite the omnivores that chickens are, they do enjoy eating various types of proteins. 

Most of these the ducks will run across while they're out foraging, although they will appreciate dried mealworms or grubs in the winter when they can't be out in the grass finding their own.

Some types of protein that your ducks might enjoy include:

Crickets
Grasshoppers
Earthworms
Eggs - cooked or raw, shells included
Fish
Frogs
Grubs
Lobster
Mealworms
Shrimp shells
Slugs
Snakes

(For a complete list of healthy treats for chickens that can also be given to ducks read HERE.)

Feeding Ducklings Treats

The sooner you introduce baby ducks to a variety of foods, the more accepting they will be and the more apt to try new treats.

I find that ducks in general will be more likely to eat foods that are cut up, so I usually grate, dice or puree anything I give to them. 


Of course when feeding anything to a duckling or grown duck, be sure they have access to plenty of fresh drinking water and they need grit (coarse dirt, pebbles or stones) to help them digest their food.

Adult ducks need grit as well, but if they are allowed to free range for at least part of the time, they will pick up all the small stones and pebbles they need.

Toxic Treats

The foods listed below can be hazardous or toxic to your ducks in large enough amounts. They can cause severe health problems or death.


If you have given your ducks any of these treats and did not have a bad reaction, then you were lucky. 


Remember that ducks are prey animals and therefore instinctively hide symptoms of illness and you may not see any problems until a duck dies for no apparent reason, so best to steer clear of anything potentially dangerous. 


Some of these foods are only toxic in large amounts, others might not be toxic to all ducks, or only sometimes kill a duck, others can kill or cause health problems after repeated feedings.


Bottom line, none are healthy for ducks and therefore should be avoided. (For a list of potentially toxic foods I compiled for chicken keepers that also applies to ducks, read HERE.)

The following foods can be dangerous for ducks:

Avocados are toxic to most types of birds.

Crackers or any other salty, sugar-laden or fatty foods are bad for ducks, who gain weight easily. Added weight puts too much strain on their legs and can lead to problems walking. Ducks can also easily die of salt overdoses.



Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges) are thought to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to thin-shelled eggs. Citrus fruits can also cause acid reflux and stomach pain in ducks.
Bread can not only make your duck overweight if fed in large quantities, but can also lead to impacted crops which can be fatal. In limited amounts, whole grain breads are okay.


Mangoes can make ducks' throats itchy, as it does in some humans. If you do feed your ducks mango, watch them for any reaction. If they seem fine and enjoy it, then it's okay to feed to them.



Spinach
interferes with calcium absorption and can reduce the amount absorbed by a duck's body, thereby causing egg binding in females, or soft-shelled eggs. Spinach is extremely nutritious but should be fed in limited amounts only.


Also limit the iceberg lettuce you feed your ducks since it has very little nutritional value and can cause diarrhea in large amounts. Far better choices are leafy greens such as cabbage, kale and collards.
 


For a more complete list of toxic treats for chickens and ducks read HERE.


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