What do ducks eat? Ducks are omnivores who love to eat insects, grass, seeds, worms, and greens to give them a balanced diet to keep them healthy and strong.
Years and years ago when my oldest child was a toddler, we would take a weekly trip to the library. Oftentimes we would stop and feed the wild ducks on the greenway stream just outside the library. And we made the same mistake a lot of people make- we took a bag of stale, white bread with us. The ducks seemed to love it. The kids loved it. What’s the harm?
But….you really shouldn’t feed ducks white bread.
Now that I am raising my own backyard ducks, I know a little bit better about their diets. So what do ducks eat? Let’s talk about that.
What Do Ducks Eat?
Ducks LOVE to Forage
First. Ducks LOVE to forage. And they will eat a lot!
They absolutely love to roam as far and wide as you will let them searching for just the right bite to eat. What kinds of forage will ducks eat? Let’s look:
Insects. Ducks will eat just about any insect or bug. We don’t let them into the garden, but we do throw them the potato bugs and horn worms from the plants. It’s also quite funny to watch a flock of ducks jump and run after the many June bugs we have in our field!
Worms. Give a duck a rainy day and she will be a happy duck! Most livestock don’t care for the rain, but for ducks it’s the best! Mostly because it brings the worms closer to the surface where they can snatch them up!
Weeds/Grass. Ducks love greens- grass, weeds, seed heads. They will rake their beak through to find anything tasty!
Berries. Our ducks love to jump at the wild blackberries that grow along our property line.
Fish/Eggs. If you have a pond for your ducks they will catch small fish as well as eat the fish eggs.
Basically anything they can find on your property!
Related Reading: How to Raise Ducks for Beginners
Feed and Seeds for Ducks
Like chickens, domestic ducks eat a variety of grains. What do ducks eat as far as grain?
Layer Pellets– These are the same as what you would use for chicken feed. Choose pellets over crumble. Crumbles can cause choking.
If you are feeding young ducks, start with chick starter and gradually move to layer pellets as they grow.
Sunflower Seeds– We keep a lot of black oil sun flower seeds, but any will do! This shouldn’t be a main source of feed- but a treat-like supplement.
Cracked Corn– Corn and other scratch grains are LOVED by ducks.
Birdseed (all types)– Our ducks like to hang out under the feeders and clean up the mess made by the wild birds! And they loved the bag of birdseed we fed them (after it was infected by grain moths!) Again- not as their main source of feed, but as a treat or in a pinch.
Whole Grains– Oats, wheat, barley, etc. Just make sure they are whole grain.
We raise ducks for eggs, so layer pellets are an integral part of their diet to keep their egg laying production up.
Treats and Extras for Ducks
What else do ducks eat? They are not a picky bunch, but if you’d like to give them a little extra. Here are some good options for treats:
Meal worms– We used meal worms to help train our ducks when they were younger. And they go crazy for them. They still love the color red because that was the color of the meal worm bag!
Fruits and Veggies– Put that compost to good use! Ducks love most fruits and veggies including cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon rind, apple cores, etc. If you have too much produce to handle from the garden, put in back into your homestead by feeding it to your ducks! Just no raw potatoes, spinach, citrus, or avocados.
Eggs- Sometimes in the summer we get overrun with eggs. Since we don’t sell at the market anymore we don’t have as many regular customers. A tray of eggs baked in the oven until hard boiled consistency and cracked and tossed in the yard is a wonderful treat. They get protein from the eggs and calcium from the shells!
Brewer’s Yeast- Brewer’s yeast is a great thing to add to your ducks’ food. It is high in niacin and can help prevent deficiencies and keep them healthy.
Related Reading: How to Create a Self-Supporting Homestead
How to Feed Ducks
The most important thing to remember when feeding ducks is to make sure they have a lot of fresh water available at all times. They need this water to help them swallow their food and to clean the nostrils- which can get clogged with mud and dust from raking and searching for food.
Ducks drink a lot! So make sure you have a few waterers or pools and check them often.Check out my article on recycled barrel projects to get some quick and inexpensive ways to use barrels with livestock like ducks.
You can feed your ducks in a feeder like chickens. Or simply scatter it on the ground for them to hunt for themselves.
That’s it! Ducks are pretty easy and self sufficient if you can let them free range as much a possible.
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Three adult ducks (including one female with 3 babies) have moved into my yard, and apparently now live here. I’ve been giving them cracked corn, but am glad to see the alternatives. BUT…what about the babies? Do they eat the same as the adults?
Are these wild ducks? If they are the mom should be able to care for them and get them what they need.
Can ducks have food in front of them at all times like automatic feeder for chickens? Or do they eat themselves to death?
as long as they have water they can have food
We were just gifted a flock of 6 runner ducks. Right now we have them in the coop with the chickens. I wanted to start free ranging the chickens in a week, but I am afraid that the ducks won’t come back to the coop. We have a small lake that we share with neighbors, and I’m concerned they’ll take up residency there and I’ll never find the eggs.
Do you you have issues putting your ducks up at night?
I have Muscovies that I free range. After watching different videos I found that feeding at dusk is a great way to get them back in the coop. We have a small pond on close to the back of our property that we showed them. Now they walk themselves down there during the day and hang out whenever they want. If they haven’t come back up by dusk we go down with some of their food and call them. It was a little difficult at first, had to use high demand treats to get them to follow and my husband had to follow behind to keep them moving. But now with just small amounts of their food thrown they come running to follow me to their coop.
I bought a duck call to train my ducklings. I blew the call and then gave them a special treat like meal worms or mixed salad. I too was afraid that once they found the pond, I would never get them back into the coup at night. All I have to do is blow the call and they come running
I have chickens and ducks but I separated them and that was because the Ducks were making such a mess with the water that I separated them. It was the best thing I did. Because where ever the food is the ducks are. So what I’m getting at is keep your ducks in for a few days to two weeks. But you need to make sure that the food is in their house for at least two weeks and make sure they have no free range access in that time. They should come back but after the two weeks pick one day that you are available and let them out to free range, and stay with them. This would be your test run.
I don’t, cuz I had 2 baby chicks at the time and they started heading for the coop and the ducks followed them, perfect huh?
Hi, we live in Mesa Arizona and have a backyard in-ground swimming pool. Well, we now have a female duck nesting under a palm tree in a small area by our pool. My wife looked at her nest and there are `10 eggs in it, and the momma duck is sitting on them for about 3 weeks now. She comes out from under the tree and goes into the pool every day at about 6: oo pm. We have not fed her and wonder if we should? Also, our pool is a salt water pool and we see her drinking the water while she floats around. Can you give us any suggestions as to what if anything we should or shouldn’t be doing? We really do not want to have 11 ducks swimming in our pool, so someday we will have to take them to a nearby lake. We need advice about that as well! Thank You!
Hi! I am 10 years old and I am getting two ducks do you have some advice for duck toys? The article is very helpful for me and I will be good at having ducks now!🦆😄😁👍🤎
We have three ducks and nice big pond and they are free ranged but we’d like to have eggs we’d like to know how much laying pellets to feed them. Thank you for any info you can give us.
I know i’m probably just being dumb, but when I first had Indian runner ducks, our grass seemed to improve?!!!? Do ducks actually help maintain fresh grass (eat the moss) or have I just imagined it?
Thanks 4 the help….
Very educative. Now can i feed my duckling with medicated feeds?
No ducks should not be fed medicated feed
Most often we use a little kiddie pool for the ducks. I love your idea of recycling barrels though. We’ve recycled many things we’ve found laying around. Love your ideas!
We just got 4 Pekin ducks, 1 of them is a Drake. We have about 3/4 of an acre that they can forage in (fenced) and so far I haven’t put them in a pen at night. Do I need to also feed them pellets to supplement their diet or is foraging all day enough? They are 5 months old and just started laying eggs.
My ducks a couple of them have feathers that are missing. The culprit I thought was the goose that grew up with them but here lately it’s the chickens too. Is there something causing them to do this? It’s bad … like their entire bottom is bleeding
When and at what age is it safe to let the ducks free range unsupervised.
is it okay to get only 1 duck?
What kind of sunflower seeds, out of the shell or either