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Why Bread is Bad for Ducks & What to Feed Them Instead

sliced white bread

When was the last time you prepared to go to the park and grabbed the stale loaf of bread from your kitchen counter? After all, the ducks seem to love getting bread as a tasty treat. Oftentimes, they’ll start coming out of the woodwork when they see someone approaching with a bag of bread. Have you ever wondered if bread is actually good for ducks, though? Well, bread really isn’t good for ducks, but the good news is that there are lots of great treats you can offer to ducks.

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Why Shouldn’t I Feed Bread to Ducks?

Bread is not a nutrient-dense food, so it contains very little nutritional value for ducks. If you’ve ever stayed for more than a few minutes after tossing bread into the water at the park, then you’ve noticed that bread begins to expand when wet. What this means is that it also expands inside the stomach of the ducks that are eating it, which leads to fullness without an adequate amount of nutrition. If the ducks feel too full from eating bread, then they may eat less overall, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition.

Due to the high carb content in bread, it can lead to an increase in the amount of stool that the ducks produce. When they poop more, the risk of diseases spread through feces, like parasites and bacterial infections, increases. These diseases can be spread among the ducks, geese, and other pond life, and can also be transmitted to humans and domestic pets in some cases. If the ducks don’t eat the bread you’ve offered to them, it will rot, which can lead to pests. These pests can themselves be dangerous to the ducks and park visitors through disease spread.

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Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Bread Can Harm the Ducks and the Ecosystem

Sometimes, people take their moldy bread to offer to the ducks. Whether you take moldy bread to the ducks or you leave bread behind that becomes moldy before being eaten, it can lead to the death of ducks. Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that impacts the lungs that ducks can acquire from moldy feed, including bread. Although it isn’t contagious, it is deadly, and ducks that come into contact with the aspergillosis spores are susceptible to the infection.

Another big reason to skip the bread and find better alternatives is because bread can foul the water and environment as a whole, leading to disease and stress for the birds and other animals. Bread that rots in the water can increase the nutrients circulating in the water, leading to algae blooms. Some types of algae can be dangerous to plants and animals, including dogs and other domestic pets that may come into contact with the water. Anything that is damaging to plant life can directly impact the ducks by decreasing their natural food sources.

Moderation is Necessary

As with all things, moderation is key. Ducks can eat bread from time to time, but if the ducks you’re feeding are in a public place, then you have no way to monitor how much they are being fed. Even if you’re only taking bread to the ducks every few days, they still may be being fed bread multiple times per day. There are healthier treat options for the ducks, but always remember to feed them in moderation. If you’re feeding a dozen ducks, then you don’t need to offer them half of a loaf of bread or you may end up leaving lots of rotting food behind.

Another big concern with overfeeding anything to ducks is that they can become dependent on being fed. This is an especially high risk for ducklings and juveniles. If the ducks get used to people bringing them food multiple times per day every day, then they may begin searching for food less. By not foraging, they are missing out on a nutrient-dense, varied diet that ensures all nutritional needs are met. It also means that if the weather turns or people are visiting the area less for some reason, the ducks are missing out on meals and may not be sure how to forage properly for food. Not only that, but they are no longer impacting the plant life in their environment, which can lead to ecological imbalances and overgrowth of certain plants.

duck eating bread
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

What Can I Feed Ducks Instead of Bread?

Better snack options for ducks include halved grapes, oats, cracked corn, birdseed, barley, and cooked peas and corn. When feeding peas and corn, they can be thawed frozen, canned, or freshly cooked veggies. If offering canned, it’s important to make sure there are no salt or spices added to the can. If preparing veggies from fresh, don’t season them. You can also offer commercial waterfowl food or pellets.

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In Conclusion

Whatever you decide to offer to your local ducks, don’t overfeed them. It can be easy to offer too much food, so only take what you plan to feed them with you. If you take an entire loaf of bread or bag of grapes, you’re more likely to overfeed, leading to pests, fouled water, and disease. Feeding the ducks can be a nice way to enjoy your time at the local park, but keep in mind that you’re likely not the only person feeding the ducks, so portion out treats accordingly. The ducks should still be responsible for foraging for the majority of their food to keep them from becoming overly reliant on people feeding them.


Featured Image Credit: Gamzova Olga, Shutterstock

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