What Ducks Can and Can’t Eat: The Ultimate List

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What can, will, or should your ducks eat? Ducks love getting treats, leftovers, kitchen scraps, and supplemental foods, as well as eating a wide variety of plants and animals they find while foraging.

This is an ultimate list of what ducks can and can’t eat. The information in this guide is based on personal anecdotes from duck and chicken owners, scientific research, and, to some degree, my personal experience.

There’s a lot of misinformation on the web about what’s safe for ducks to eat and what’s not. Disclaimer: I cannot guarantee there are no mistakes, falsehoods, or inaccuracies in the following charts. However, I’ve tried to do my best, and I hope this guide is helpful.

You might also want to check out this article:

How to Give Your Ducks Treats Safely


Fruits are a tasty addition to your ducks’ diet, but they are more of a snack than a staple.

Many fruits are high in sugar and carbohydrates and contain little to no protein or fat. They must be fed in moderation: not every day, and not in large quantities. They should not comprise more than perhaps 5% of your ducks’ diet.

They can, however, be beneficial. Many fruits are also high in essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Berries are one of the best types of fruits to feed ducks. They are great sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals, and ducks can and will eat nearly any type of berry. Blueberries, strawberries, and mulberries, in particular, are favorites with ducks.

Papaya is an excellent supplement. The fruit and its seeds have antibacterial, antcoccidial, antifungal, antiviral, and anthelmintic properties. Papaya is also extremely high in vitamin C, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and various vitamins.

Pumpkins and squashes are great for ducks and useful as winter fodder.

Other fruits ducks love include apples, bananas, cucumbers, grapes, melons, plantains, tomatoes, and watermelons.

Do not feed canned fruits with added sugar.

Dried fruits can be fed to ducks, but are high in concentrated sugar, so they are best avoided.

Some fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, plums, and apricots, have pits or seeds that are mildly toxic, containing small amounts of cyanide. However, it would take a lot of seeds to cause a problem, and many seeds will pass through birds whole without being digested, so they may not present any risk to begin with. Your ducks won’t even try to eat larger pits and seeds. You may want to err on the side of caution and remove pits and seeds from these fruits before feeding them to your ducks, but it’s only a minor concern. If your ducks are eating windfall fruit, you probably don’t need to worry about it.

Some fruits, such as apples, bananas and cucumbers, have peels that are technically safe for ducks to eat, but may contain pesticide residues. Unless they were organically grown, it may be best to avoid feeding your ducks the peels.

Citrus fruits are somewhat controversial. See Citrus for more on whether you can feed your ducks citrus fruits.

FoodYes or NoNotes
AppleYesPeels are fine. Unsweetened applesauce is also fine. Best to avoid feeding the seeds as they are mildly toxic.
ApricotYesAvoid feeding the pit.
AvocadoBest to avoidAll parts of the avocado tree and fruit contain persin and are toxic, but the flesh has much lower levels of persin. The flesh should be safe to feed to ducks in small quantities, but some people recommend avoiding it nonetheless.
BananaYesBanana peels are also fine if they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Many ducks won’t eat them but some will.
BlackberryYesCan cause dark/black droppings.
BlueberryYesA favorite with ducks! Can cause dark/black droppings.
Carambola / StarfruitYesHigh in oxalic acid.
CherryYesBest to remove the pit first. Do not feed maraschino cherries.
CitrusIn moderationVery acidic.
CoconutYesCoconut meat is probably best fed shredded or finely chopped. Unsweetened milk and cream are okay. Oil is fine in small amounts. Coconut water is also fine.
CucumberYesA favorite!
DateYesHigh in sugar, feed small amounts only.
Dragonfruit / PitayaYes
Eggplant / AubergineYesCan be fed raw or cooked. Leaves and stems are toxic.
ElderberryYesCan cause diarrhea in large amounts. Leaves and other parts of the elderberry plant are toxic.
FigYesHigh in sugar, feed small amounts only.
GrapeYesA favorite! Chop them in halves before feeding as whole grapes may be a choking hazard. The seeds are fine.
GrapefruitIn moderation
Hawthorn berriesYesLeaves and berries are fine.
KumquatIn moderation
LemonIn moderation
LimeIn moderation
Lychee / LitchiYes
MandarinIn moderation
MangoYesHigh in sugar. The peel is also fine but may contain pesticides.
MelonYesA favorite! All types of melon are fine. Seeds and rinds are fine. Great treat for hot days.
MulberryYesA favorite!
NectarineYesBest to remove the pit first.
OkraYesPods, seeds, leaves, and stems are safe.
OliveIn moderationCured olives are overly salty and fatty but okay in small amounts.
OrangeIn moderation
PapayaYesSeeds are safe and healthy. Has numerous health benefits.
PassionfruitYesLeaves and seeds are fine.
PeachYesBest to remove the pit first.
PearYesBest to remove the seeds before feeding.
Pepper, bellYesSeeds and core are fine. Do not feed leaves or stems.
Pepper, hotIn moderationBirds cannot taste the hotness (capsaicin). May stimulate egg production. Has many health benefits. Do not feed leaves or stems.
PineappleYesAvoid canned pineapple.
PlumYesBest to remove the pit first.
PomegranateYesSeeds are okay.
PumpkinYesSeeds, rind, pulp, and leaves are all fine. Raw pumpkin is fine, but your ducks might prefer it cooked.
QuinceYesBest to remove the seeds before feeding.
RaisinsIn moderationHigh in concentrated sugar, feed as an occasional treat only.
SquashYesSeeds, rind, pulp, and leaves are all fine. Raw squash is fine, but your ducks might prefer it cooked.
StrawberryYesA favorite!
TangerineIn moderation
TomatoYesA favorite! Do not feed leaves, vines, or underripe fruit.
WatermelonYesGreat treat during hot weather.
Zucchini / CourgetteYesPeels are fine.

Vegetables & Herbs

Everyone needs to eat more greens, right? Vegetables and greens are an important part of a duck’s natural diet, and they should be a part of any domestic duck’s diet, too.

It’s easy to see how strong a duck’s urge to eat green foods is. If confined to a small run, ducks will destroy most, if not all, of the grass and plants they have access to. When freely foraging, ducks will eat a wide variety of plant and animal foods, including many types of grasses, weeds, and leaves.

Although commercial poultry diets are fortified with vitamins and antioxidants (usually minimum amounts), many of these nutrients degrade or break down quickly after milling with exposure to heat, light, and/or oxygen. Your ducks will be healthier if they are able to forage, are given fresh, whole vitamin-rich greens as a supplement, or both.

You can feed your ducks vegetables every day, but as with everything else, only in moderation. Most vegetables are low in protein, so the more vegetables you feed your ducks, the lower their overall protein intake will be.

Ducks love leafy greens such as bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, kale, lettuce, and Swiss chard.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are nutritious and a great energy source, able to partly or even entirely replace corn in poultry diets.

Herbs such as fennel, turmeric, cilantro, and even the controversial garlic can also be beneficial to your flock.

Some vegetables are high in oxalic acid. Read more about oxalic acid and whether you should be concerned about it here.

FoodYes or NoNotes
AsparagusYesAsparagus can be tough to eat, so you may want to cook and/or chop it. Can change the flavor of eggs.
Beet greensYes
BeetrootYesCooked or raw is fine.
Bok choyYes
BroccoliYesLeaves, head, and stalk are all fine.
Brussels sproutsYes
CabbageYesA favorite!
CarrotYesMost ducks don’t like carrots. Carrot tops are also edible.
CeleryYesMost ducks don’t like celery. Best to chop it or remove the strings. Celery leaves are fine.
ChivesBest to avoidContains toxic thiosulfate. Small amounts may be okay.
Cilantro / CorianderYes
Collard greensYes
FennelYesFennel is a laying stimulant. Bulbs, fronds, and seeds are all fine.
GarlicIn moderation onlyContains toxic thiosulfate. Not as dangerous as onions. Garlic has many health benefits and can be safely fed to poultry in small amounts, according to dozens of anecdotes and research studies.
GingerYesIn small amounts
Green onions / ScallionsBest to avoidContains toxic thiosulfate. Small amounts may be okay.
Jerusalem artichokeYes
KaleYesA favorite!
KohlrabiYesAll parts of the plant are fine.
LeekBest to avoidContains toxic thiosulfate. Small amounts may be okay.
Lemon balmYes
LettuceYesA favorite! Iceberg lettuce is low in nutrition and should be fed sparingly, or not at all.
MushroomMaybeMushrooms that are safe for humans are safe for poultry as well. If there are mushrooms growing where your ducks forage and you’re not sure if they’re poisonous, it may be best to remove them, although your ducks most likely will know better than to eat poisonous mushrooms.
Mustard greensYes
OnionBest to avoidContains toxic thiosulfate. Small amounts are not deadly, but large amounts or prolonged consumption may cause hemolytic anemia and death. Can also alter the taste of eggs.
ParsleyYesParsley is supposed to be a laying stimulant.
ParsnipYesEasier for your ducks to eat if they’re cooked, chopped, or grated. Leaves may be best avoided.
PotatoYesCooked only. Best to remove eyes and peels. Do not feed any green parts, sprouts, or any parts of plant. Can potentially be fed at up to 40% of the diet as a replacement for corn.
RadishYesEasier for your ducks to eat if they’re cooked, chopped, or grated. Leaves are fine.
RhubarbIn moderation onlyHigh in oxalic acid. Prolonged or excess consumption may be deadly. If you have rhubarb plants and your ducks are eating them, remove their access to the plants.
RutabagaYesPeel first if store-bought. Easier for your ducks to eat if they’re cooked, chopped, or grated. Leaves are fine.
SpinachIn moderation onlyHigh in oxalic acid, which hinders calcium absorption
Summer savoryYes
Sweet potatoYesRaw or cooked is fine. Plant leaves and stems are also safe. Can potentially be fed at up to 40% of the diet as a replacement for corn.
Swiss chardYes
TurmericYesA healthy supplement in small amounts
TurnipYesRaw or cooked is fine. Greens and peels are fine.
YamYesCooked and peeled only.

Legumes & Grains

Legumes and grains are the base of most poultry diets. They are not a complete duck feed by themselves, but they are the primary energy source and also provide much of the fat and protein in most feeds.

Dave Holderread, a renowned waterfowl expert, says in his book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, that if ducks have access to high-quality forage or waterways, then their dietary needs may be sufficiently met with a grain supplement, omitting commercial feed entirely.

I can attest to this—my ducks have a large area in which to free-range, and they have done well when I have fed them nothing but plain sorghum. Egg production may have been lower, however.

If your ducks primarily eat premixed feed, adding grains to their diet is not necessary or beneficial. Grains are mostly carbohydrates, so while they’re necessary for energy, too much of them will dilute the amount of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals your ducks are getting. Hence, whole grains, espeically those that are low in protein, should only be added to a duck’s diet in small amounts, at least unless this addition is offset with the addition of protein-rich and vitamin-rich foods as well.

All legumes are high in lectins and should be cooked or heat treated before feeding. Sprouting and soaking is also helpful and may be sufficient, especially if you are only feeding them occasionally or in small amounts. The exception is green beans and peas, which are fine to feed raw because they are generally harvested and eaten immature. Mature dry peas or green beans should be cooked.

Processed “human” versions of various grains, such as fried rice, baked beans, or oatmeal should not be fed, or only if they do not contain added sugar or oil and fats.

FoodYes or NoNotes
AlfalfaYesFresh alfalfa as well as hay, cubes, pellets, and sprouts are all fine. However, alfalfa is very fibrous and cannot be fed to ducks in very large quantities. High in protein.
AmaranthYesLeaves are also edible. Amaranth is high in protein, but also contains various antinutrients, so is best cooked before feeding.
BarleyYesHigh in fiber. Not as digestible as corn and other grains; should not exceed 20% of the diet. May be best to soak or germinate this grain.
BeansYesDry, uncooked beans contain hemagglutinin, which is toxic. Beans should only be fed cooked. Soaked and sprouted beans can also be fed in small amounts.
Black-eyed peasYesHigh in phytic acid and other antinutrients, so should be soaked, fermented, or cooked before feeding. Can be fed at up to 30% of the diet.
BuckwheatYesA great forage crop as ducks love eating it right off the plant.
Chickpeas / Garbanzo beansYesShould only be fed cooked.
CornYesThe staple of most ducks’ diets. Adding whole corn to a pre-mixed diet is usually not beneficial. Ducks may also eat small amounts of corn husks and silks.
Cowpeas / Field peasYesCan partly replace soybeans in poultry diets. Best to cook before feeding.
EdamameYesCooked only.
Green beansYesCan be fed raw. Chop into small pieces before feeding.
LentilsYesShould be cooked or sprouted before feeding.
LupinsYesShould be soaked and/or cooked. Sweet lupins are better for poultry.
MilletYesCan replace corn in duck diets. May work as a self-harvesting forage crop.
Mung beansYesCan be fed raw, but may be better soaked or cooked. Can be fed at up to 30% of the diet.
OatsYesCan be fed raw or cooked. Whole oats are high in fiber and should not comprise more than 15% of the diet; dehulled oats can comprise 40% of the diet. Processed oats are okay. Oats are one of the best grains for poultry.
PeanutsYesUnsalted only. Can be fed raw or cooked, but cooked is better.
PeasYesDucks love peas. Cooked, raw, or frozen peas are all fine, but some types of peas are best cooked. Great source of protein; can comprise up to 30% of the diet.
QuinoaYesShould be rinsed and possibly cooked before feeding.
RiceYesCan be fed raw or cooked.
RyeMaybeNot recommended for growing birds as it contains growth inhibitors. Be careful that it is not contaminated with ergot (a fungi). Not a great feed source for poultry, but could comprise up to 40% of the diet in adult birds.
SorghumYesCan replace corn or even be the only grain in a duck’s diet.
SoybeansYesMust be cooked before feeding. Used as the main source of protein in most poultry feeds.
TriticaleYesHigh in protein. Can partly replace corn and soybeans in poultry diets.
WheatYesCan be fed at up to 60% of the diet.

Nuts & Seeds

In the wild, ducks will eat many types of seeds, especially grass seeds. Many types of seeds can be a healthy, nutritious supplement for your ducks’ diet.

Nuts are very high in fat and not generally a part of a duck’s natural diet, so if you decide to feed your ducks any nuts, only feed them in small amounts.

Since many nuts are large and hard and since ducks swallow their food whole, there is a risk of nuts causing choking or crop impaction if fed whole. It’s best to chop nuts into small pieces before feeding them to your ducks.

Do not feed your ducks salted nuts, or rinse them off first.

Birdseed mixes are not an appropriate replacement for poultry feed and should not be fed to ducks in large amounts, but they’re okay as an occasional snack or treat.

FoodYes or NoNotes
AcornsMaybeWild ducks eat large amounts of acorns during winter. However, acorns are also very high in tannins and could be toxic.
AlmondsYesHigh in fat, but okay in small amounts as an occasional treat. Chop almonds before feeding as whole almonds may cause choking or crop impaction. Almond butter is okay if unsalted and unsweetened.
Brazil nutsYesShould be okay in small amounts. Chop before feeding.
Canola seedYes
CashewsYesOkay in small amounts. Only feed chopped and unsalted cashews.
ChestnutsMaybeHorse chestnuts are toxic. Raw edible chestnuts are high in tannins and may be best cooked, although wild birds, including ducks, do eat them.
Chia seedsYesSoak chia seeds before feeding, or at least make sure your ducks have plentiful water available.
Flax seedsYesGreat source of omega-3; don’t allow to get wet
Grass seedsYesDucks will eat the seeds of many types of grasses.
HazelnutsYesOkay in small amounts. Ducks can also eat hazel tree leaves.
Hemp seedsYes
Hickory nutsYes
Macadamia nutsYesOkay in small amounts. Only feed chopped, shelled, and unsalted.
PecansYesOkay in small amounts. Chop before feeding.
Pine nutsYes
PistachiosYesOkay in small amounts. Only feed chopped, shelled, and unsalted.
Poppy seedsBest to avoidPoppy seeds are toxic to poultry, even in small amounts, as they contain traces of opiates.
Pumpkin seedsYes
Safflower seedsYes
Sesame seedsYesTahini would also be okay in small amounts.
Sunflower seedsYesCan be fed shelled or unshelled, but shelled is probably better.
WalnutsYesOkay in small amounts. Chop before feeding.

Insects & Animals

Ducks are omnivores, so insects and small creatures are not only an important part of their diet but also one of their favorite parts.

If you offer your ducks supplementary foods, it’s best to always make sure some part of what you offer is high in protein. Although some grains and other non-animal foods are high in protein, their amino acid profile is often lacking. You can buy various dried insects and bugs for high-protein treats for your ducks, and you can even grow and raise them yourself.

There are many animal foods your ducks will find and eat while foraging. Ducks love small creatures such as worms, crickets, grubs, slugs, small fish, various winged insects, and snails. Your ducks may also try to eat small frogs, lizards, snakes, and even things like mice, baby gophers, or baby birds. In general, you do not have to worry about whether what they’re eating is okay or not; they will generally stay away from things they should not eat.

However, I remember one time when I noticed one of my ducks, Kiwi, running around with something large in her mouth. When I got close enough to determine that it was a frog, it was already halfway down her throat, with its long, slimy legs still dangling from her bill. She was eagerly trying to gobble it down, but it seemed too large for her to actually swallow. After a few minutes of watching her, she didn’t seem to have made any progress. I ended up pulling the frog out of her mouth, afraid she would choke on it.

Slugs, snails, and worms can be an intermediate host for gapeworm. However, the chance of your ducks getting gapeworm is very low, and these creatures are a natural part of their diet and something they tremendously enjoy, so I would not worry about it.

FoodYes or NoNotes
AntsMaybeDucks can eat ants, but in general they won’t.
AphidsYesDucks can eat aphid-riddled leaves, but they won’t pick off aphids by themselves.
BeesYesDucks like eating bees, but may occasionally be stung by them.
ButterfliesMaybeDucks might eat small butterflies.
Cabbage wormsYes
CaterpillarsMaybeSome caterpillars are toxic. Ducks should know which caterpillars they can eat.
CockroachesYesSome people raise dubia roaches or other types of roaches to feed their poultry.
Crayfish / Crawfish / CrawdadMaybeI have only heard of diving ducks eating crayfish.
CricketsYesSome people raise crickets to feed their poultry.
Feeder fishYesDucks love minnows, goldfish, guppies, and other small fish.
Japanese beetlesYes
June bugsYes
MaggotsMaybeThere is a risk of maggots causing botulism in your ducks.
MealwormsYesSome people raise mealworms to feed their poultry.
MosquitoesYesDucks also like mosquito larvae.
Night crawlersYes
Potato bugs / Roly polies / Pillbugs / WoodliceYes
Red earthwormsYesSome people raise earthworms to feed their poultry. They have a nearly perfect amino acid profile for ducks.
SlugsYesDucks love slugs, even large ones such as banana slugs, and can effectively control them in gardens.
SnakesMaybeDucks may eat small snakes, such as garter snakes.
Soldier fly larvaeYesSome people raise soldier fly larvae to feed their poultry.
SpidersMaybeDucks may eat grass spiders, and possibly other types of spiders.
Stink bugsMaybeDucks can probably eat stink bugs, but they are not known to like them.
Squash bugsYes
Super wormsYes
TicksMaybeMuscovies may eat ticks but don’t seem effective at controlling them; other ducks don’t usually eat ticks.
Tomato hornwormsYes
WaspsMaybeMany ducks love yellow jackets. Ducks may also eat wasp larvae. They may be stung while trying to eat them, however.

Meats & Animal Products

Meat, eggs, and dairy—your ducks won’t find them foraging, exactly, but you might wonder if your ducks can have them as a treat or supplement, or if it’s safe to give them leftovers and scraps containing various animal products.


Meat, in general, is fine for ducks. You can give your ducks cooked beef, chicken, or even duck meat. Fish is also great for ducks, but too much can give your ducks’ eggs a fishy taste. Try to avoid fishes that may be high in mercury. Other seafoods such as shrimp, lobster, and oysters are also fine.

Processed meats should be avoided, however. They are extremely unhealthy for ducks, containing additives, preservatives, and/or too much salt. Don’t feed your ducks bacon, sausage, ham, salami, pepperoni, pastrami, or suchlike. Small amounts won’t kill your ducks, but it’s best to avoid them.

Meat can be fed raw, as ducks are well-equipped to handle raw meat. However, you may cook it if you are concerned about potential pathogens in raw meat.


Eggs are high in protein and a complete source of nutrition for ducks. If you have excess eggs, boil them and feed them back to your ducks. Eggs are also a good treat for ducklings. Always boil eggs before feeding them to your ducks. Raw eggs can cause a biotin deficiency and may lead to your ducks learning to eat their own eggs. Chicken eggs, duck eggs, or any other kind of egg are all fine.


There’s some debate over whether ducks can or should eat dairy. Ducks are not designed to eat dairy; it’s not a natural food for them. Birds, in general, are lactose intolerant. However, there does seem to be a lot of anecdotal evidence of ducks and chickens doing well when fed a lot of dairy.

Cultured or fermented dairy products contain less lactose and are more digestible. Farmers used to fatten meat birds on buttermilk, and many people give their birds yogurt as a probiotic. Some people think ducks won’t be able to utilize the probiotics in yogurt, but I don’t think that’s true.

Some say that they’ve given their ducks or chickens milk frequently for years with no visible ill effects.

FoodYes or NoNotes
ButterBest to avoidButter is much too fatty for ducks. However, if you want to feed your ducks, say, scrambled eggs cooked with a small amount of butter, that would probably be fine.
ButtermilkIn moderation onlyFarmers used to fatten meat birds on buttermilk.
CheeseIn moderation onlyLower in lactose than many other dairy products.
Chicken meatYesIt seems “wrong” to some people, but there’s nothing wrong with it from your ducks’ point of view.
CreamIn moderation onlySour cream is more easily digestible than cream.
Cream cheeseIn moderation only
Cured meatBest to avoidHam, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, bologna, salami, pepperoni, pastrami, and suchlike are not healthy for ducks.
Duck meatYesIt seems “wrong” to some people, but there’s nothing wrong with it from your ducks’ point of view.
EggsYesCooked eggs are a nutritious treat for your ducks and make a good temporary feed for ducklings if you don’t have feed. Raw eggs are not dangerous but could encourage your ducks to eat their own eggs.
EggshellsYesCrushed eggshells are a good calcium supplement and can replace purchased oyster shell.
FishYesGood for ducks, but too much could cause a fishy taste in eggs.
KefirIn moderation only
LiverYesVery nutrient-dense; nutritious but don’t feed large amounts at once.
MilkIn moderation onlyCan cause diarrhea and digestive problems. Raw milk may be fine.
ShrimpYesShells and tails are fine.
WheyIn moderation only
YogurtIn moderation onlyCan be useful as a probiotic, protein, and calcium supplement.

Other Foods

Like giving your ducks snacks and treats? It’s best to stick to healthy treats, primarily fruits and vegetables. However, if you’re still wondering if your ducks can have a little peanut butter or bread, or if they can clean up leftover pasta or other food scraps, in general, the answer is that small amounts of most foods would not be imminently dangerous, but habitual feeding of processed foods or “people foods” is unnecessary and a bad idea.

In general, don’t feed your ducks anything fatty, sugary, salty, or highly processed.

Chocolate, anything with caffeine, carbonated beverages, and alcohol are absolute no-nos for ducks. Xylitol is also a no.

FoodYes or NoNotes
Apple cider vinegarYesACV in your ducks’ water can be beneficial.
BirdseedYesNot a replacement for duck/chicken food as it’s not an appropriate diet for ducks, but can be a healthy treat in small amounts.
BreadIn moderation onlyAvoid white bread, sugary bread, and any highly processed bread with preservatives. Sourdough bread, rye bread, and other healthy breads are all right, but still should not be fed often. Bread is high in carbohydrates and will fill ducks up without giving them essential nutrients, possibly leading to malnutrition, obesity, or crop impaction.
Breakfast cerealsIn moderation onlyNot a healthy or nutritious treat. Only feed nonsugary cereals.
Carbonated beveragesNoCan kill birds.
CarobYesDoes not appear to be dangerous.
Cat foodIn moderation onlyHigh in protein, so some people feed it to their ducks in small amounts while they are molting. However, it’s not healthy for ducks and much too high in methionine for them.
ChipsBest to avoidUsually too high in salt and fat and other unhealthy substances.
ChocolateNoContains caffeine and theobromine, both of which are toxic to birds. Even small amounts of chocolate could be fatal.
Coffee / CaffeineNoCaffeine is toxic to ducks.
CrackersBest to avoidMost crackers are not a healthy treat, as they contain vegetable oil, salt, and potentially other ingredients your ducks shouldn’t have much of.
Dog foodIn moderation onlyHigh in protein, but not healthy for ducks. Okay in very small amounts.
ErythritolMaybeAppears to be safe for dogs, so may be okay for poultry as well.
Fatty foodsBest to avoidDucks require very little fat in their diet.
Fish food / Koi foodYesA good high-protein treat for ducks.
FlourIn moderation onlyGot flour with bugs in it? You can feed it to your ducks, but be sure to wet it, and don’t feed much at one time.
Fried foodsBest to avoidNot healthy
Fruit juiceBest to avoidOnly feed if it doesn’t have added sugar. However, fruit in its natural form is better.
High fructose corn syrupBest to avoidI would not recommend feeding your ducks anything containing high fructose corn syrup.
HoneyIn moderation onlyHigh in sugar and not a natural food for ducks, but not dangerous.
IceYesYou can put ice in your ducks’ water in hot weather.
Jam / JellyBest to avoidJam is usually very high in sugar. Very small amounts would not be dangerous.
Maple syrupBest to avoidVery high in sugar. Small amounts would not be dangerous.
MargarineBest to avoidVery unhealthy
MolassesIn moderation onlyHealthy in small amounts, but too much will cause diarrhea.
OatmealIn moderation onlyOnly non-sugary and non-flavored. Usually contains milk, which ducks should not have except in small amounts.
OilsBest to avoidCoconut oil and olive oil in small quantities is not dangerous; avoid oily foods and especially vegetable oil.
Peanut butterIn moderation onlyNatural peanut butter without sugar or much added salt is okay in small amounts.
PopcornBest to avoidEven without added salt and fat, popcorn is a choking hazard.
Salty foodsBest to avoidSalt is necessary, but your ducks’ diet already has enough salt for them and excess salt is toxic.
Sheep / Goat / Cow feedIn moderation onlySmall amounts would not be dangerous, but not a replacement for poultry feed.
SpaghettiIn moderation onlyOkay to feed occasionally
SteviaYesStevia seems to be safe for animals.
Sucralose / SplendaBest to avoidNot toxic, but very unhealthy
Sugary foodsNoAvoid any and all high-sugar foods; best to avoid even low-sugar foods.
TapiocaYesOnly feed after cooking in water
TeaMaybeNoncaffeinated tea would probably be safe.
XylitolNoAppears to be toxic to birds.


Ducks will eat many types of plants. This, obviously, isn’t an exhaustive list of plants. Mainly, it’s a list of plants ducks will readily eat and/or that are useful as fodder or forage. I’ve included some toxic plants, but there are others. If there are any plants you think I should add, contact me and let me know!

Never feed your ducks or give them access to grass or plants that have been sprayed or treated with chemicals.

FoodYes or NoNotes
Acai berryYes
Aloe veraYes
Autumn oliveYesFruit and leaves are both edible.
AzaleaNoToxic, although your ducks will probably avoid it on their own as long as it is not the only greenery around.
Azolla fernYesHigh in protein and easy to grow in shallow ponds.
Bee balmYes
Birdsfoot trefoilYes
Black locustNoAll parts of the tree are toxic. There have been recorded instances of chickens being poisoned by consuming black locust leaves.
BoxwoodNoKnown to be toxic, but your ducks are not likely to try to eat it.
BulrushYesDucks will eat the seeds.
ButtercupsBest to avoidAll plants in the buttercup family are toxic. Creeping buttercup is only mildly toxic and poultry may eat small amounts of it.
CassavaMaybeCassava tuber, skin, and leaves contain cyanide and are highly toxic. The tubers are a good supplement for poultry, but must be soaked and cooked first.
Castor beanNoHighly toxic and has caused poisoning in many ducks. Do not give your ducks access to this plant.
ChokecherryMaybeSeeds are toxic, but are probably eliminated intact
ComfreyIn moderationContains toxic substances that could cause liver damage, so best not to feed large amounts.
Creeping buttercupMaybeKnown to be mildly toxic to ruminants. Ducks and other poultry will eat it without apparent ill effect, although it may still be toxic in large amounts.
Creeping charlie / Ground ivyMaybeKnown to be mildly toxic to horses and cattle. Poultry may or may not eat it. May be toxic in large quantities, but its effect on birds seems to be unknown.
DandelionYesDucks love dandelion greens.
DuckweedYesDucks love duckweed and it’s high in protein and great for them.
Echinacea / ConeflowerYes
Firethorn berriesYes
FoxgloveNoToxic and has caused poisoning in backyard poultry. It may be best to remove any foxglove plants your ducks have access to.
Goji berry / WolfberryYesLeaves and unripe fruit are toxic.
GooseberryMaybeDucks will eat it, although the fruit is high in oxalic acid and the leaves are potentially toxic.
GrassYesDucks are not grazers, but will eat small to moderate amounts of many types of grasses. Do not give them access to grass that has been treated or sprayed with chemicals, including fertilizers. Grass clippings are fine.
Ground cherryYesFruits are fine. Leaves are toxic.
GroundselMaybeContains toxic alkaloids, but poultry will readily eat it.
Hardy kiwi / Kiwi berryYes
HemlockNoWater hemlock and poison hemlock are both highly toxic.
HoneylocustYesPods are edible.
HoneysuckleMaybeSome varieties are toxic.
HydrangeaNoKnown to be toxic, but ducks are not likely to try to eat it.
Juniper berriesYes
Lamb’s quarters / Fat hen / GoosefootYesAs its name “fat hen” suggests, it has been used to fatten poultry.
MesquiteYesPods can partially replace corn in poultry diets.
MilkweedNoBirds are less susceptible to milkweed poisoning than mammals, but if your ducks have limited access to foraging, it would be best to ensure they annot access milkweed plants.
NightshadeNoThere are reports of ducks eating nightshade without issues, but also reports of ducks dying from nightshade poisoning.
Pigeon peaYesHigh in protein.
PokeweedBest to avoidDucks are unlikely to eat enough pokeweed to poison themselves, but it is known to be toxic to poultry. However, there are many anecdotes of ducks and chickens eating pokeberries without ill effect. The seeds are poisonous, but birds eliminate them whole and intact.
Purple deadnettleYes
RhododendronNoKnown to be toxic, but ducks are not likely to try to eat it.
RoseYesRose hips, leaves, and petals are both edible and safe as long as they have not been sprayed.
Rowan berry / Mountain ash berryYesNot safe for humans to eat raw, but birds don’t seem to have a problem with it.
Saskatoon berry / Juneberry / Service berryYes
Sea buckthornYesLeaves and berries are both great feed for ducks and high in protein.
Siberian pea shrub / CaraganaYesHigh in protein. Has been used historically as winter fodder for chickens.
Stinging nettleYes
Tagasaste / Tree lucerneYesSeeds, leaves, and flowers are all edible. Also good for providing shade and shelter for your ducks.
VetchMaybeSome types of vetch may be toxic; common vetch is safe in moderation.
Water hyacinthYesVery good for ducks.
Water liliesYesDucks may or may not eat/destroy water lilies in ponds.
WisteriaMaybeMay be mildly toxic but not likely to be a cause for concern.
Wood sorrel / OxalisIn moderation onlyVery high in oxalic acid, but ducks will eat it.
Yellow DockYesHigh in oxalic acid, but ducks will not likely eat more than they should.
YewNoVery toxic.


Do ducks know what’s good for them?

You might see your ducks eating tomato leaves. That’s not good for them! Tomato leaves contain solanine, which is toxic.

Or you might see your ducks eating windfall apples—including the seeds, which contain a compound that turns into cyanide once digested!

So how much do they know about what they should and shouldn’t eat?

I believe they have some sense. A few tomato leaves won’t hurt them. I have never heard of a duck gorging on tomato leaves or even eating enough to hurt them. As for apple seeds, they should pass through your ducks’ system whole and entire, and even if they were digested, it would take a lot of apple seeds to harm them.

If given options, ducks will, for the most part, avoid what’s bad for them. There are many, many anecdotes of ducks and chickens being allowed to free-range in an area containing toxic plants and never touching them. Known exceptions include castor beans and foxglove.

On our property, we have a lot of tropical milkweed, which is toxic. We used to pull them up whenever we saw them, but we never got rid of all of them and they kept coming back. I have never seen any of our animals touch them. Also, our chickens have access to our compost pile, which contains avocado seeds and peels, onion peels, and of course rotten and spoiled food. The chickens love the compost pile, but they ignore the avocado and onion. They’ve never gotten sick.

However, if your ducks are in a small run where they’ve devoured all the available greenery and the only sources of green food remaining are tomato plants, rhododendron, and rhubarb, that’s when problems might occur.

If your ducks have a large area, there’s no need to be paranoid or go to great pains to remove everything that might possibly be toxic. They have some sense.

Even so, don’t trust them to always know what’s best.

Chickens have been known to gorge on styrofoam pellets. Ducks are also attracted to shiny things and may gladly gobble up earrings, beads, screws, and suchlike. Maybe they think such objects are beetles or bugs. There are also stories of ducks or other poultry being poisoned from things they ate. I have heard of ducks that died from gorging on avocado.

Be aware of what your ducks have access to, and remove things that could be toxic if you can, particularly if your ducks are in a confined area.

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is an organic compound found in many plants and foods. Because it binds with calcium, consuming too much of it can cause a calcium deficiency. For laying ducks, who need large amounts of calcium to form eggshells, this could potentially be dangerous. The more oxalic acid your ducks consume, the more calcium they will need.

Oxalic acid is found in most plant or plant-based foods. As such, it isn’t something to be avoided, as most foods containing oxalic acid are otherwise very healthy. However, there are some foods that are very high in oxalic acid, and it may be best to avoid feeding them to your ducks or only feed them occasionally. A free-choice calcium supplement may help or even negate the risk, but no one knows for sure.

Here are some of the foods with the highest levels of oxalic acid:

  • Almonds
  • Amaranth
  • Beet greens
  • Carrots
  • Cashews
  • Cassava
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Navy beans
  • Okra
  • Parsley
  • Peanuts
  • Potatoes
  • Purslane
  • Radish
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Rutabaga
  • Snap beans
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Various factors affect the oxalate content of each food, but in general, spinach, rhubarb, and tea leaves contain the highest levels of oxalates. Amaranth, cassava, chives, parsley, purslane, and Swiss chard are also extremely high in oxalic acid. These are the foods I would be careful with. Some people will tell you not to feed your ducks spinach at all, but it’s still nutritious and healthy, and ducks love it, so while it should be limited, I don’t think it’s necessary to avoid it entirely.

Almost all plant foods have oxalic acid, so beyond that short list above, I don’t think it’s worrying about oxalic acid in your ducks’ diet, although I could be wrong.


The Solanaceae family, also known as nightshades, are a family of plants contanining compounds called alkaloids. One alkaloid, solanine, is toxic and is found in several garden vegetables and plants:

  • Potato
  • Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Tomatillo
  • Ground cherry
  • Goji berry

In potato plants, the leaves and stems contain the highest concentrations of solanine and should never be fed to ducks. As for the potatoes themselves, any green parts are toxic and should not be fed to your ducks. The peel contains 3 to 10 times more solanine than the flesh, but it would take a very large amount of potato peels to cause issues. The eyes are also higher in solanine and are best removed. The flesh of potatoes contains low amounts of solanine, but likely not enough to present any risk. Boiling causes a slight but insignificant reduction in solanine levels. Since potatoes also contain lectins (although the levels are low compared to legumes), which are destroyed by cooking, potatoes are best cooked before being given to your ducks.

Peppers (including all types of bell peppers and hot peppers) are safe for ducks to eat, containing only low levels of solanine. Pepper plant leaves, stems, and flowers are relatively high in solanine. I was not able to find any credible information on how much they contain. They are not as toxic as potato leaves and stems. My ducks recently decimated the leaves of a potted pepper plant, and there are many other anecdotes of poultry readily eating pepper leaves, so they are likely not very dangerous. Solanine is bitter-tasting because it’s a natural defense mechanism to protect a plant from being eaten, so if the birds are happy to eat them, we can perhaps infer that they don’t taste that bad and hence don’t contain much solanine. I would not recommend giving your ducks access to large amounts of pepper leaves if they don’t have other greens to choose from, but there is no reason to worry if your ducks nibble on occasional pepper leaves.

The same is true of eggplants and tomato plants: the fruit is fine, the rest of the plant is at least mildly toxic. I cannot find any information on how much your ducks would need to ingest to cause an issue. There are many anecdotes of ducks and chickens happily devouring tomato plants without problems, and also anecdotes of ducks and chickens avoiding tomato plants or only barely nibbling them. Unripe tomatoes are also high in solanine and should not be fed to your ducks.

Ground cherries, goji berries, and tamarillos are also nightshades, and the foliage and unripe fruit are toxic. If you have these plants and your ducks can access them, I doubt you need to worry about your ducks poisoning themselves. The aforementioned bad taste of solanine should deter your ducks from consuming a toxic quantity. But if you don’t want to take the risk, you may prefer to remove your ducks’ access to any nightshade plants, especially if your ducks’ run or yard is small and their greenery choices are limited.


There are rumors that citrus can cause off-tasting eggs, interfere with calcium absorption, and cause digestive upsets. It’s often stated that poultry should not be given citrus fruits.

It’s a myth that citrus interferes with calcium absorption and causes soft-shelled eggs. On the contrary, studies have found that citrus improves calcium bioavailability and increases calcium absorption.

The other claims may be partly untrue as well. The inclusion of citrus pulp and citrus peels in poultry feed has been studied. At levels of 5-15% of the diet, it appears to be safe, not affecting egg weight, production, or quality. However, it did not seem to have any benefits and reduced feed efficiency at higher rates of inclusion. Dave Holderread briefly mentions that ducks can eat peeled citrus fruits in his book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks.

Nevertheless, ducks don’t usually like citrus fruits. In our orchard, parrots and other wild birds absolutely love obliterating our oranges and grapefruits, but I haven’t seen my ducks or chickens eating fallen citrus. Citrus is very acidic, so there could be some truth to the digestive issues claims, if your ducks eat them in large amounts. If your ducks do like any citrus fruits, they should be fine in small quantities. The peels may also be okay in small amounts.


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