I’m not a whole-hearted fan of feeding wildlife, including ducks, as it can impact heavily on our native fauna and their habitats. If done the right way, however, there are benefits to feeding animals – especially for young children who want to connect with nature.
Activities like feeding ducks creates an important bond between a child and the natural world that stays with them long after the activity is over. Many people have fond memories of feeding ducks at their local pond as kids; it really is a wonderful and exciting opportunity for children.
So, let’s find a safe way to feed the ducks, shall we?
Why you shouldn’t feed ducks bread
Watching the poor little birds at our local park being fed copious amounts of bread makes me cringe.
Even though it’s a great experience for children, it makes the the ducks quite ill. They can’t receive all their nutritional needs from bread alone, and in parks where that’s their main source of food, it can cause abnormalities and shorter lifespans.
In addition to this, ducklings growing up in this environment won’t learn to forage for food naturally. Their growth and development can suffer dramatically.
Easy wild duck food alternatives
Try feeding your ducks:
- Chopped grapes
- Chopped apple
- Grated Carrot
After our family tried these alternatives, I found that the ducks just weren’t interested. They had developed an addiction to white bread that floated delicately on top the water.
So, I set out to develop a nutritious alternative to bread that wild ducks would eat!
Healthy Wild Duck Food Recipe
This recipe was created with advice from a zookeeper.
- 1 cup Brown Rice
- Greens (I used broccoli, carrot and apple)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs (with shells)
- 2 tablespoons of wholemeal flour
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
- Cook the rice, either in a rice cooker or as per the instructions on the back of the packet.
- Finely chop the broccoli.
- Grate carrot and apple.
- Smash eggs and ensure they are crushed and/or chopped well. The egg shells need to be very small.
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Roll the mixture into small marble-sized balls and place onto an oven-proof tray.
- Cook in the oven for 10-13 minutes.
The mixture should come out soft and a little crumbly but still hold its shape.
Feeding wildlife ducks
It’s important to never overfeed ducks. Your meal should be given in small portions. Read more about the positives and negatives of feeding wildlife.
This recipe makes enough for three visits to feed the ducks. A nutritional snack containing carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, calcium and protein – all the things a growing native duck needs. It looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it?!
No, don’t include BBQ sauce. It was just for the photo!
Here are the results!
Help spread the word about healthy wild duck food alternatives and encourage others to stop feeding bread to ducks.
Susan Stephenson says
I heard about the problems with abnormalities up at Girraween in Qld. For them it was the magpies – bread had caused beak abnormalities. It really bothered me, because like you, I see kids interaction in a respectful way with wildlife as hugely important. I just love this duck food idea!!!!!
I’m glad you like it Susan. I know feeding the ducks bread is the easy option but it’s so important they get thier nutritional need met. We had just as much fun making the food as it was feeding the ducks… ok, almost as much!
I knew that feeding ducks bread was bad but had no idea why. Now I know exactly what to say to my girls when they are wanting to share our picnic. Thx lovely!
You can always take a little bit of fruit along and see if the ducks will eat it. The more they are introduced to other foods the more they will like it. It’s so sad that they recognise bread as a food source but not fruits and vegies.
Grace Titioka says
Gee, Bridget…it had never occurred to me ! And I was hoping to take the boys to our local park to feed ducks shortly…This post is great ! I’ll be sure to make this instead of giving them bread.
The more I read your stuff, the more impressed I am. We need to get your blog even more out there !
Grace Titioka says
Awmigawd ! Penny ! I called you Bridget – another blogger buddy !!! My bad !! I am so tired…I need to go to bed…
Bwahh ha ha. You can call me anything you want Grace, especially when it comes with such positive feedback (that was meant for me, right?). I do draw the line at being called bob though.
Jacqui (CRAP Mamma) says
You’re a clever little duckling, that’s great advice and it’s so bloody sad that they don’t recognise fruit and veg as a food source! Love the blog-do. It’s really clean and easy to follow! Looking forward to lunch tomorrow…….ahh, today…..xx
Im so glad for this post! 4 year old step daughter went with her dadda to the park last week and when they returned she was telling me about how they fed the ducks. I asked what they fed them and suggested that it probably wouldn’t have been bread because bread isn’t that healthy for ducks (we don’t even eat bread ourselves). She glared at me like i was an idiot and said “derrr of course we fed them bread. What else would ducks eat?!”
Now I have an answer for that!! (before I suggested grass, plants and insects but actually had no idea)
Thanks Alex! These are the comments that make my day!
I think the best part of this post is that it adds another activity with your kids before you go to the park. If you don’t have time, you can grate some carrot and apple. The ducks at my park didn’t take to it at first but because I do it regularly now, they have started to eat the healthy stuff I also go in the morning, to fill thier little tummies with good food before the bread feeders come.
Joyce @Dinosaurs And Octopuses says
I am guilty of feeding ducks bread! I’m kind of embarrassed that I had no idea how bad it was for them. Obviously I knew that they don’t eat bread out in the wild, but really didn’t stop to think about it. I’m so glad I came across this post. We will definitely be making some of your duck food and learning a bit more about ducks. Thanks for the post!
Mama (Karen) Carmody says
Instead of bread we buy kernel corn at the bird feed store. We get cracked corn too if there are ducklings around. The ducks usually prefer the corn to the bread. I look forward to trying your recipe as a special treat for the ducks.
Earl beard says
What do I do when they follow me home? Wake up and 1 duck in pool, next day 2 ducks in pool , and I’m not feeding anything anytime, their drinking poolwater, next day brought a third friend, I got cat and two dogs watching…and now a duck pond? Not far from Lake Balboa, what do I do?
HI Earl, that would be quite a messy pool I’d day! You’re doing the right thing by not feeding them.
Ducks can be creatures of habit so they may have liked your place and decided it was the place to be. I have a few suggestions that may help.
*Scare them off everytime you see them, soon they’ll get the picture they are not wanted around.
* Make cardboard cut outs of their predators and put them on the pool e.g. Pythons and birds of prey
* Learn to live with them and instead enjoy their visits, they might eventually leave on their own. In the mean time, enjoy watching them. It’s a great learning experience for you and your children/grandchildren.
I hope some of these ideas help Earl and goodluck!
Earl Beard says
They stayed for a almost a week, named em Gene n Eugene, oh so pretty blue sheen, and then they got in a fight and took off, left their friend for a day, now he’s gone, oh well. Didn’t make much mess, poolside wash down.
Might even make a Stained Glass window dedicated to Lake Balboa Duck Pond- throw in the pretty blue sheen of their feathers. Have a good day all.
Great news Earl and I love the names for the ducks! It sounds like you became very fond of them. Hopefully one day they’ll return for a visit.
El Que says
Except in the case of extreme environmental disruptions, don’t feed wild animals. They don’t need the food. Stop feeding the ducks and other water birds, and watch them up close as they feed on insects and grasses on the margin of a pond, lagoon, canal, etc.
Hi El Que,
Thank you for commenting on Wildlife Fun 4 Kids. I agree. I’ve written a post ( and response) in regards to your comment. http://www.wildlifefun4kids.com/2012/07/19/to-feed-or-not-to-feed-that-is-the-question/
I didn’t realise bread wasn’t great for them, although if I stopped to think about how much they get it isn’t very surprising. I love that you worked on a recipe that they could eat – I will be letting people know! And thanks for sharing on Happy lil ❤’s are baking!!
Well that is something I didn’t know! Thanks for the great tips.
What a great post. I will have to remember this. Our family has a small pond where a local wildlife rescue center releases young ducks. We feed them “chicken scratch” but this is fun idea.
[email protected] says
Thank you for this Penny. Our kids love feeding ducks and I have heard that bread isn’t the best thing for them. Thank you so much for these ideas. xoxo P
Kate_Laughing Kids Learn says
I had absolutely NO IDEA about how bad it was to feed ducks bread and the problems it causes are so obvious. Thanks again for teaching me something Penny. I’ll be sure to remember for the future and make your wonderful alternative.
I work at a wild bird rehabilitation center in Alaska. A lot of people feed the wild ducks here in the city, and we’re now seeing a lot of our migratory ducks staying with us throughout the winter. Cues to migrate include daylight and food supply! If there is plenty of food/bread available, they will delay or forgo migration. Then in Dec-Jan when no one (not even hardy Alaskans) are out in the parks feeding the ducks, the poor things start to starve. We see many of them come into our clinic during the winter very emaciated.
While I commend you for trying to come up with a healthier alternative (although the rice and flour in your recipe is still not good for them, it is healthier than bread alone), by far the best solution would be to not feed wild animals at all.
There are a lot of places where you can take your kids to feed captive animals and provide them with a similar experience, without doing harm to our wild bird populations.
Penny Whitehouse says
I completely understand your argument and thank you for sharing it. I wrote a post on the pros and cons of feeding wildlife and I do agree with you. In that post (you can find it here if you haven’t already read it http://www.wildlifefun4kids.com/2012/07/19/to-feed-or-not-to-feed-that-is-the-question/ ) I mention lots of ways you can interact with animals without feeding them. I also mention wildlife parks as a way of interacting with animals in that section too.
In a perfect world we’d all enjoy animals by just watching them in their natural environment. I’ve learnt the hard way that we can’t always change people’s behaviours, so I was hoping this post would encourage them to at least feed nutritious food to the ducks instead of just bread.
In Europe you’ll get a large fee if you feed birds IN the water. It causes botulism which is fatal for them. Since a few years in our city it is also forbidden to feed them on the grass or on the streets, because they get too much and they feed the rats at night. I still see people feed birds several breads at a time. Luckely not in the water anymore.
Do these treats freeze?
I’m not sure Maile, we haven’t tried. I can’t see any reason why not though.
Astrid K. says
Someone needs to tell our ducks and geese that they are supposed to like this food. I made it – granted minus the broccoli – and they wanted nothing to do with it. It didn’t help that the marble-sized bites sank to the bottom so fast, they could barely get them, but even on land, there was very little interest. I was really hoping that this would work because we love feeding our resident fowl.
I’m so sorry Astrid. I must admit, it did take a little time for them to warm up to it. The texture is quite different from bread. We have started using peas and cut grapes. These seem to be a hit and let effort.
Esther Felix says
How long does this recipe keep for? And hoe to store after making it?
Hi Ester, I wouldn’t feed them to ducks if they’re any more than five days old, however, you can freeze them. Please make sure they are thawed well before feeding to the ducks.