What is best for feeding ducks? 7 alternative ideas to bread

Feeding ducks is one of those traditional activities we like to do with kids and let’s face it – they really enjoy doing it.  I remember as a kid myself getting to take the end of a loaf of bread to a pond and feeding it to the ducks, geese and swans near us.  In recent years it’s been highlighted that feeding ducks bread is really bad for them so what can we feed them?

Oats, sweetcorn, peas and seeds are some of the alternatives that are a bit healthier for ducks.  You might find that at parks and reserves they also sell their own duck food which is great as you know it’s going to be good for them.

Here are some other ideas that might be good next time you go on a visit to a duck pond:

  • oats
  • maize
  • duck pellets
  • leftover rice
  • sweetcorn or peas
  • barley
  • bird seed

Make sure that anything that you feed the birds is fresh and not mouldy.

You could always make up your own bags of duck food to take along if your kids really enjoy doing it often and I find that if you explain to kids about why you’re not feeding them bread they can be really receptive as they often just really want to do the best for the animals.


Some cafes nearby duck ponds or reserve centres may have some duck pellets or food bags that you can buy and I recommend you do this to not only help feed the ducks what is good for them but also to support the local reserve.  If you don’t have anywhere selling the duck food then either try a pet food shop or check out items like this on Amazon.




Why can’t we feed bread to ducks?

Bread isn’t very nutritional for ducks but they’ll eat it and fill up their bellies quite happily – a bit like us sometimes.  That does mean that they aren’t out and feeding on the food that is better for them and they are at risk of malnutrition.  So a small feed of some bread once in a while might not be too harmful for them, getting it constantly isn’t great.

If you’ve ever been to a duck pond and watched family after family throw entire loaves of bread to the ducks you’ll see that this is quite a big problem and one which needs to be curbed for the wildlife’s sake.


Should we be feeding the ducks at all?

There is a case that we shouldn’t be feeding ducks at all – after all they are wild animals and we shouldn’t really get them to be reliant on humans to eat.

That said I think it will take quite a lot of effort to change people’s minds about feeding the ducks and pondlife – personally I think the first step is to make sure we’re feeding them well.  It’s difficult to get people to change this habit, especially when they have fond memories of doing it themselves so education is really key

One more thing – if there’s a ‘do not feed the ducks’ sign, please respect that.  For some areas it can be problematic to have leftover food on the ground – it might be attracting vermin.


Tips for feeding the ducks

I don’t want to discourage families from trying to make walks more enjoyable and to see ducks at wildlife ponds because for some kids it’s the first interaction with some wild birds and you never know, you could foster a great love of nature from this simple act of visiting the duck pond.

  • DON’T overfeed the ducks.  A small amount is better for them than too much, especially if it’s a busy pond with many people feeding.
  • DON’T get too close to the water
  • DON’T try to touch the birds – they might attack!
  • DO be gentle – the birds can seem fearless but they won’t appreciate you being too loud.
  • DO respect any signs about feeding
  • DO take note of what you’re seeing – bring a bird ID book for kids to learn what come to be fed.
  • DO enjoy the day!