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What Do Ducks Eat? How-To and Tips for Domestic and Wild Ducks

What do ducks eat? Here is your list of what to feed the ducks in your flock and what to feed the wild ducks at the pond. And there is also a list of what to NOT feed your ducks as well. Tips right here to help keep you and your ducks safe while feeding them. 

What Do Ducks Eat?

I’m a sucker for ducks.

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There is nothing like the waddle of ducks all in a row, happy as can be, poking holes in the grass in a rainstorm looking for worms.

Oh, and baby ducklings. There is nothing like a duckling…fuzzy, yellow…oh so cute! Am I right?

If you couldn’t resist the ducklings at the feed store, and now you have grown ducks to care for, then you need to know what to feed them!

Or maybe you love your walks at the park and would like to know what ducks eat and what you can feed them.

This past winter…winter in Montana that is, where the snow covers the ground the majority of the year…I wintered 13, THIRTEEN!, ducks. And they ate me out of house and home!

You can find a lot of articles here on A Life of Heritage that will teach you a lot about poultry and be sure to check out DUCK DOUGH: Profitable Poultry Bundle–It’s FULL of to-do lists, checklists, record keeping sheets, and resource pages that will keep your flock healthy and YOU organized!

There isn’t any foraging in the winter. No rainstorms to bring up the worms. No bugs. Just frozen ground. It’s important to know that ducks do eat more than chickens.

In fact, they eat 6-7 ounces of food a day compared to a chicken who eats about 4 ounces a day. That’s a big difference!

Raising Ducks and a complete guide how to raise them

In those winter months, your ducks will love it if you provide them some treats. Here is your “What can ducks eat list”:

But during those wonderful spring and summer months, when the sun shines warm and bright, ducks are also great foragers. That may be the saving grace of a duck’s eating habits and your wallet.

What do ducks love to forage for?

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Seeds and grass
  • Worms
  • Dandelions
  • Grass
  • Mealworms
  • Berries
  • Insects
  • Slugs

And thankfully, ducks aren’t as destructive in the garden as a chicken can be. If you do let your ducks into your garden, it’s best to wait until your plants are well established.

Although they don’t scratch like a chicken, they don’t pay attention to where they place their large, webbed feet and can trample precious plants to smithereens. Even established plants can become victims of a group of ducks standing on them.

Kept with chickens or not, ducks can be fed the same diet as a chicken if duck feed isn’t available. However, feeding them duck feed will give them the proper nutrients in the proper proportions.

And their main source of nutrients, their complete nutrients, should come from pellets. Keep in mind that feeding crumbles can become a choking hazard for ducks.

What do ducks eat? Duck upside down in water foraging for food

Here are some tips for feeding domestic ducks:

  1. Store Feed Properly. Did you know, rodents (like 2 rats) can eat and contaminate up to 100 pounds in one year?? And if you have goats, they have their smellers turned on for any open door or an open container of grain to get into. The grain needs to be stored properly and securely to keep out rodents, goats, moisture, and insects.
  2. Use Promptly. Did you know that the nutrition quality of feed goes down drastically after only 3 weeks? And sooner if the weather is really hot.
  3. Keep Dry. Ducks are very sensitive to mold toxins. And excess moisture can cause mold and spoilage. “For example, ducks are sensitive to as little as 30 of ppb aflatoxin. Mold toxins can cause damage to the ducks’ digestive organs, liver, kidneys, muscles, and plumage, and can also reduce growth and/or reproductive performance.” ~Source 
  4. Keep Out of Sunlight and Heat. Keep feed out of heat and sunlight, which decreases the vitamin and mineral content drastically.
  5. Proper Placement. Hang or place feeders at the height of the duck’s lower neck. Placing the feeder any lower will result in a lot more feed waste. Keep the feed undercover so that moisture can’t spoil any feed.

Interested in our free resource page to print off over 50 free resources? It’s worth checking into!

Free Resource Page for Gardeners, Goat and Animal Lovers, Beekeepers and Homesteaders 

And a really big question to answer: can and do ducks eat bread?

Yes, ducks can and do eat bread. In fact, they love it. But it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. The bread, especially white bread, is not giving the duck what it needs nutritionally. And too much bread will fill them up and keep them from eating high-quality food that will give them their daily needed values. Anything less can cause lameness, and allow them to become fat.

Besides bread, what food should not be fed to ducks?

  • Donuts
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Scraps
  • Any bread type products

What do ducks eat? Mallard eating and foraging for food

What should you feed ducks instead of bread and snacks?

Keep in mind that feeding domestic or wild ducks too much of or anything other than pellets, can cause them to not get their daily rations of vitamins and minerals. As noted above, there are a lot of foods that ducks can eat. So when you head out to the duck pond you can bring a bag of healthy treats to your ducks. Here are some ideas.

  • Worms
  • Mealworms
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Grapes (cut into smaller pieces)
  • Peas and corn (fresh or frozen)
  • Cracked Corn
  • Salad greens chopped up
  • Veggie trimmings and peels (chop smaller pieces)
  • Grains like barley, wheat, or cracked corn
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Birdseed
  • Milo Seed

Feeding snacks and treats is definitely a balance, so keep that in mind when heading out to the ducks!

But what do ducks eat in the wild?

There is a lot of food available for a wild duck. They forage for food items like this:

  • Insect larvae
  • Earthworms
  • Acorns
  • Aquatic invertebrates
  • Seeds
  • Bulrushes
  • March Smartweed
  • Sedges
  • Grains: corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, and barley
  • Pondweeds
  • Slugs


Be sure to check out DUCK DOUGH: Profitable Poultry Bundle–It’s FULL of to-do lists, checklists, record keeping sheets, and resource pages that will keep your flock healthy and YOU organized!

Here are some tips for feeding ducks in the wild:

  1. Check the laws first. Is it even legal to feed them?
  2. Don’t chase the birds. Ever. Dogs, children, and the strutting boyfriend should be warned ahead of time that chasing the birds is not allowed.
  3. Feed them the healthy treats mentioned above.
  4. But don’t feed them so much that there is a lot of wasted food lying around. Remember the damage that a pair of rats can do? You don’t want to be the reason that a bunch of rodents move into the area.
  5. Feed the treats in small, very bit-sized pieces. You wouldn’t want to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a poor little duck, now would you?
  6. And as you would anywhere else, clean up any litter. Don’t leave any bags, strings, bottles or anything laying around that could harm the birds.
  7. And remember, ducks, geese, swans, etc can be aggressive. Remember, they are wild birds! Be aware and keep young children at a distance to prevent any scares.

Be wise and treat them well and you all will enjoy a great day at the park!

What do ducks eat? Little duckling eating bread

What do ducklings eat?

This is a quick overview of what ducklings eat. Find out more about duckling care and their food needs here: Ducklings

Ducklings can be fed chick starter but it should be sprinkled with brewer’s yeast to give them their adequate niacin requirements.

After two weeks they can be fed a few treats. But offer them grit when the treats begin to help them digest their food properly. And water should always, always be available for ducks. Offering food without water can cause unnecessary problems.

  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Herbs
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Mealworms
  • Worms
  • Chopped Grass
  • Dandelions
  • Moistened Oatmeal
  • Finely Chopped Fruits

After you start to give the “extras”, begin giving grit as well. The ducklings will need this to help them digest their food properly.

What is a duck’s favorite food?

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Robin Kugley

Monday 11th of September 2023

At city park me and housemates have been feeding wild ducks bird seeds now last week there was a sign up saying not to feed ducks why????? Just wild bird seeds is all we were feeding them I think it’s crap we can’t feed them

Delci Plouffe

Wednesday 29th of November 2023

I wonder if they worry that some people would feed them the wrong thing or too much of something that could harm them without knowing the difference. And animals that are accustomed to being fed sometimes become less able to fend for themselves. Or maybe they are worried that the ducks would become too friendly and harass people for treats? I don't know the exact details of that situation though.


Saturday 17th of June 2023

I’ve recently inherited two drakes. They are still growing their adult feathers. I’ve built a cage and the love it. I’m in the process of building a duck run. I do let them out every day and they enjoy it as you know ducks do. My problem is they are not friendly at all, one will eat out of my hand but he moves away quickly. I’ve picked them up and given them many treats to help them get use to it but they haven’t yet. I sit down in the pin and try to encourage them with treats but they just run away peeping and quaking as if I’m going to hurt them, it makes me sad. They get fresh food and plenty of fresh water. I keep the cage clean of poop and spilled food. I bought worms for them today but they weren’t to interested. They love eggs . And mealworms as long as I throw them in water. They don’t like the rain at all but they will get in their water to sit and play unless I get close, then they jump out and run. These ducks were petted a lot and picked up by the little girl that had them and plenty of school kids . I’ve read that ducks imprint on people when they are ducklings. I’m at a loss as to what I should do to at least let me pet them but I’m beginning to think there’s no hope. Can you give me any advice?

Thank you !

Delci Plouffe

Wednesday 29th of November 2023

I've found that ducks and guinea hens are very hard to be friendly if they aren't imprinted on quickly after they hatch. Without a lot of time and patience, they may just remain like they are. But don't give up! keep working with them!

Sherri robinson

Saturday 23rd of April 2022

I work at Walmart we have wild ducks lay eggs every year in our out side garden center love reading what you have very helpful we have wildlife come and help out, we love our ducks


Friday 4th of February 2022

Our little ducks also love garlic powder. I grow and dry it myself and add a little to their food. I also have one duck that loves aspragus, I have yet to get any out of our garden since we got them, little bugger beats me to them!

Delci Plouffe

Friday 18th of March 2022

Little stinker lol


Saturday 13th of June 2020

Hello I just saw a wild duck 🦆 with ducklings in my yard but I have a outdoor cat what do I need to do