Ducks Eating Dirt, Meat, Chicken Feed? What’s OK And What’s Not

ducks in the snow, Pekins and a Saxony drake

Ducks are adventurous eaters, they seem to be willing to give most anything a try! What do ducks eat, naturally?

What is okay as a snack and what are the foods they should not be eating, at all?

Ducks are biologically designed to eat both aquatic and land plants, small animals (like smaller fish and crustaceans) and nearly any kind of insect, adult or larvae.

Ducks have a huge range of foods that they are willing to eat, since, like people, they are omnivores.

For anyone raising ducks, the question becomes, what should they be eating?

How Cold Is Too Cold For Ducks? goes over the needs of your ducks and when they can go outside, even in the winter.

Here’s a list of the potential duck foods that we are going to cover:

  • Dirt/Mud
  • Grass
  • Tap Water (not food, but still consumed)
  • Chicken feed
  • Duck feed
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Whole grains
  • Processed foods made for people
  • Meat

Ducks eating dirt and/or mud

Is this a healthy duck food? Yes.

Ducks are not actually eating the mud or dirt, they are sifting through it for bugs, maggots and little bits of plant material.

Really, whatever they fancy might be in there, they are game. Just like the any flavor jelly beans from the Harry Potter books and movies, it’s a surprise!

You may look at sifting through mud for mystery snacks to be a bit gross, I know I wouldn’t want to get my dinner that way!

But remember, this isn’t about what you or I want or would do, it’s about what is good for your duck.

Sifting around through mud is a very duck thing to do.

Ducks eating grass or other plants

Is this a healthy duck food? Yes.

Ducks will eat grass and other plant material. Nothing really long, or course, though. They like the smaller, more tender pieces.

Any small plants, like in your yard, that a chicken would eat a duck will be interested in, as well.

This is where algae really shines, as far as a duck is concerned. It’s already wet (so easy to swallow), found where they love to be (on the water) and just waiting to be gobbled up by waterfowl.

This last part is particularly applicable to ducks (and other waterfowl) since anything on or in the water reduces competition from other birds that don’t want to get wet, like chickens.

Please note: that while ducks can eat plants, they must have other food sources to get enough nutrients to thrive.

Only ruminants, like cattle, can live on plants alone. Non ruminants, like ducks, must have more calories than plant material can provide them.

Ducks drinking tap water

Is this a healthy duck food? Maybe.

If your tap water has chlorine in it, you”ll need to set the water aside for a day or so the chlorine will evaporate out. Then it will be fine for the ducks.

Off-gassingIf you water contains only chlorine and not chloramine, you can let it sit for 24 hours and the chlorine will dissipate into the environment.homebrew.stackexchange.com › questions › what-are-the-various-ways-…
What are the various ways to remove chlorine/chloramine from tap …


If your tap water does not have chlorine in it, do you drink it? If so, it should also be fine for your ducks.

If you do not drink your tap water, consider getting another water source for your ducks.

I want to be a bit more specific here: if you are avoiding your tap water because of taste only, then try it for the ducks.

As we went into in the section on your ducks eating mud, they clearly have different taste preferences than we do!

Ducks are not shy when it comes to water, they’ll zoom right over and try a few sips. If they keep drinking, it’s fine.

If they don’t seem to be enjoying the water, ducks always love water, then get some from another source.

Ducks can be real water guzzlers. If they aren’t using the water you have out for them, something is up-check into it!

Muscovy ducks, these are chocolate and white
A few of our chocolate and white Muscovy ducks. You can tell they are Muscovy ducks by the long body and the red, bumpy skin around their eyes.

Ducks eating chicken food

Is this a healthy duck food? Maybe.

The maybe on chicken feed for ducks is the possibility of getting medicated feed. Medicated feed is not for ducks!

As long as you are feeding a non medicated chicken feed to your ducks, it’s fine. We do this all the time.

Actually, we never use duck feed. It’s always chicken feed that we adjust for the growth rate of the ducklings.

For fast growing ducklings, this is mandatory! Adult maintenance feed will not give them the energy they need.

Fast growing ducklings, like Pekins, need to be on a ration that is high in protein like a broiler feed-non medicated, of course!

Check out my article about raising Pekin Duckings For Meat, if you want to get the details and a breakdown of the costs.

If you are feeding adult ducks, then a maintenance chicken feed is fine.

If your ducks are laying, or it’s early spring and you’d like the adult females to start laying, buy layer mash instead of regular chicken feed.

The layer mash has more calcium to help with forming strong egg shells.

We have noticed that switching to layer mash for the laying age ducks will increase egg production.

In the spring, you’ll notice the change quickly, just a few days.

Ducks eating duck feed

Is this a healthy duck food? Yes.

This may seem obvious, of course, ducks can eat duck feed!

I put this section in to get you thinking about what you’re buying and looking into saving some money on feed costs.

Just because the label says duck, does not mean it’s the only acceptable duck feed at the store.

You have to read to see what’s inside the bag, that’s what matters.

If the brand name bag and the generic bag are both suitable, you have an opportunity to save some money.

Read the labels and see if the chicken feed at the store and the duck feed have the same ingredients with the same amounts.

If so, feed the less expensive one-remember, non medicated!

Another option is poultry feed, I saw this recently at our local farm store. The bag I saw had waterfowl pictured on it.

Read the ingredients and see if it will work for you.

See above for feeding fast growing ducklings, like Pekins. They have higher nutritional needs, so you need to be right on with their feed.

Are Ducks Friendlier Than Chickens? goes over some of the differences between keeping ducks and chickens.

Ducks eating kitchen scraps

Is this a healthy duck food? Maybe.

What’s with the maybe on this one? That’s easy, it depends upon what the scraps are.

If you are giving them peelings of vegetables, super. If you are giving them stuff you really shouldn’t have been eating either, like fast food leftovers, no.

Think of it this way, if the duck could get a hold of this food source naturally, then it is okay to feed.

For instance, bits of vegetables or greens, those are likely to show up in a normal duck day.

However, things like burgers from the drive-thru, not normal duck day happenings.

Additionally, make sure that your ducks have other feed options than the kitchen scraps.

If you give them something they don’t want, or will only eat a little of, then they need more calories for the day to stay healthy.

Ducks eating whole grains

Is this a healthy duck food? Yes.

By whole grains, I mean the grain just like it came off of the plant, so kernels of corn, whole oats, the mixed grains in birdseed, etc.

I do not mean processed parts of grain that started out whole, like instant oatmeal or whole wheat flour, eat those yourself.

Whole grains to young ducks

When ducks are young, they will have a hard time with whole grains because of the size of the kernel. It’s too big for them to swallow.

Young ducks need ground feed or crumbles made for growing ducks.

Supplementing older ducks with whole grains is fine, young ones need smaller pieces and the appropriate diet to keep up with their growth and development.

Ducks eating processed foods

Is this a healthy duck food? No.

As mentioned before, ducks are omnivores and adventurous eaters, so they will try new foods.

That does not mean they are garbage disposals for the low nutrition, highly processed foods you bought last night in the drive-thru.

If you are confused about what is or is not a processed food for ducks, ask yourself: where does this particular food grow in nature?

If the answer is on a plant (like grain or vegetables) or by a pond (like bugs), then it’s okay.

If it is man made, it’s a no go.

For example: if you are stumped as to where a tortilla chip grows or what shrub is the french fry bush, let me save you the time looking it up-those are processed foods. Don’t give them to your ducks!

All jokes aside, if a wild duck wouldn’t normally eat it, then your ducks should not either.

Ducks eating meat

Is this a healthy duck food? Yes, within reason.

Here’s one that might surprise you, ducks do eat meat. Ducks love fish, shrimp, snails, slugs, maggots, grubs, and so on.

Ducks don’t eat the same large animal meat that you or I would, like a steak, but they do love animal protein.

Our Muscovy ducks even like to nibble on the scraps from butchering, like eating the small bits of meat still on the bones and sorting around through the offal (intestines and other innards).

We haven’t seen other breeds of ducks do this, only the Muscovies.

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