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What To Feed Ducks Instead Of Bread

If you’re like me, you grew up feeding ducks bread. It was the thing to do with a stale bag! I assumed it was fine to eat, especially since it fluffed up nicely in the water appearing easy to digest. Well, to my surprise as an adult, we really shouldn’t feed ducks bread! I’ll explain why, and what to feed ducks instead of bread.

Don’t worry, you probably have half the things on this list already tucked away in your fridge or pantry.

Ducks floating in a pond eating duck food scraps of fruits and vegetables and grains.

Why bread isn’t good for ducks, especially in large quantities

Bread tends to be very limited in nutrition for ducks.

When they eat it often, such as at public parks, they are replacing their high nutrient regular foraging food for low nutrition bread. Instead of worms and bugs and plants, they’ll eat the easy to get bread tossed their way. Makes sense, right?

So in places where ducks are commonly visited and fed often (like parks), it’s a bigger deal to their wellbeing than a random duck that rarely gets fed by humans.

A sign at a park saying "Thank you for not feeding bread to the ducks" with a picture of a mallard duck on the front.

Bread diets can cause ducks to have wing deformities

High bread diets lacking in plant nutrients have also been found to cause something called “angel wing“.

What Is Angel Wing Syndrome

This is a wing deformity that can leave birds unable to fly permanently. So sad! I had no idea this could be caused by high calorie low nutrient diets common in a lot of duck parks.

So now that you know the truth about bread being bad for ducks and bad for ponds…here’s what to feed ducks instead!

A loaf of honey wheat bread with text saying "Why bread is harmful for ducks."

More nature study posts

Here’s how we began to do nature study in our home. Here are more posts for you to enjoy as well:

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What To Feed Ducks Instead Of Bread

Ducks diets change throughout the year depending on their needs. They tend to have higher protein diets in the spring when they need it for making eggs, and higher carbohydrate diets in the fall when they are plumping up for the winter.

You can bring ducks so many nutritious foods besides bread! Here’s a few.

Fruits ducks can eat

In general, ducks love fruit! It’s sweet, and they like that. Apparently too much fruit can fatten them up as it’s high in sugar, and even give them some diarrhea. However, it’s a treat for them!

strawberry tops and carrot peelings in a plastic fruit clam shell used to feed the ducks.
  • Strawberries (even just the tops you’d toss)
  • peaches (no pit)
  • apricots (no pit)
  • plums (no pit)
  • cherries (no pit)
  • berries
  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • pumpkin
  • apples (we chop up any bruised apples I’d normally toss, and remove the core and seeds)

If you are feeding a duck fruit with a pit or seed, you’ll want to remove the pits or seeds. Apple seeds, for example, are not good for ducks as they have cyanide which is poisonous to them.

Vegetable scraps ducks can eat

Ducks love vegetables! They’re eating grasses and plants in nature, so this makes sense.

You can feed them:

  • carrot peelings
  • peas (thawed)
  • snap peas
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • corn from the cob
  • cracked corn
  • almost any veggie hiding in your house if it’s able to be cut up into small bits.

On the day our nature group was visiting a duck pond, I was happy to be able to feed them some veggies in my fridge that had slightly frozen or started to wilt. It was awesome to get to feed them the parts of our lunch I’d normally toss, like strawberry tops and carrot peelings.

frozen peas, chopped snap peas, and chopped green beans on a cutting board.

Bird seed and rolled oats or quick oats are duck favorites

Bird seed is a great food for the ducks! So is dry oatmeal.

We tossed both of these in the water and the oats seemed to be their preference. They also stayed on top of the water longer.

Two clear sandwich bags: one filled with rolled oats and the other filled with bird seed.

What seeds are safe to feed ducks?

So many seeds are nutrient rich for both humans and ducks! While apple seeds are poisonous to ducks due to cyanide, most seeds are not. Here’s a few good ones you can feed them:

  • bird seed
  • pumpkin seed
  • unsalted sunflower seeds (with or without the shell)
  • chia seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • flax seeds
  • hemp seeds

Here’s a great post that goes into the nutritional benefits of the seeds I mention for the ducks.

Can ducks eat rice?

I grew up thinking ducks shouldn’t eat rice (like at weddings) because it could expand in their stomach too much. Apparently, that’s just not true. Rice, while shouldn’t the staple part of a duck’s diet is a fine food to have and they love it.

In fact, it’s something ducks eat wild in many parts of the world!

Are there any foods to AVOID feeding ducks?

Yes, there are a few it turns out! We’ve already touched on apple seeds. A few other bad ones are:

  • citrus fruits
  • avocados
  • popcorn
  • nuts
  • chocolate
Strawberry tops, carrot peelings, bird seed, peas, beans, and lettuce on a cutting board as food for ducks.

What a park ranger said that surprised me

We took our homeschool nature co-op to a pond for spring pond study, and when I was done doing the lesson and letting the kids feed the ducks, a park ranger came my way. Boy was I nervous! I THOUGHT I’d be in trouble for feeding the ducks.

Instead this is what he said:

“How did you know what to feed them? That’s so great. Most people don’t know and just bring bread. How can we get the word out better?”

He was just so surprised that we knew what to feed the ducks and wanted to know HOW we came about that knowledge. I told him until this year I didn’t know…It was only by preparing a lesson on ducks that I ran across this information online.

It was a proud teacher moment for me because instead of getting a warning, he was so happy our kids were feeding the ducks fruits and veggie scarps, bird seed and oats.

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