Anyone who owns animals always wants to give them the best. We’ve all heard time and time again which foods we can’t feed ducks at the pond, so it’s good to be cautious about what you’re offering—or what your own ducks are allowed to get into!
Do ducks eat slugs and snails?
Yes! Ducks are excellent slug-hunters, and many gardeners and hobby farmers recommend using ducks as a pest control method.
Snails, slugs, and other insects are also a great source of nutrients (especially protein) for your ducks and help them to grow.
So if you’ve got a nasty slug infestation in your garden or you want to give your ducks a more natural diet, keep reading to find out more information on ducks, their eating habits, and other benefits they can bring to your garden or farm.
Benefits of Eating Slugs and Snails
Though it may seem a little gross to you, snails are a great source of nutrition for ducks. Here’s a snapshot of the nutritional value of a snail:
- High protein content. Snails are a great source of protein. The protein content of a snail is quite similar to beef or pork.
- Low fat content. You don’t have to worry about your ducks gorging too much on snails because they’re also low in fat.
- Iron. Iron helps your duck’s red blood cells stay healthy and carry oxygen through their blood.
- Calcium. This is especially beneficial to laying ducks because the formation of eggs requires a lot of calcium. Not only that, but calcium benefits a duck’s bones, wings, and muscle formation.
- Vitamin A. Snails are an excellent source of vitamin A. This vitamin has several important functions for your ducks, including strengthening the immune system, developing and maintaining vision, and manufacturing red blood cells.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. This essential fatty acid is a building block of cell membranes and can help reduce inflammation.
- Minerals. Snails contain other minerals such as magnesium and selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, and magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties.
Risks of Eating Slugs and Snails
Snails and slugs can benefit ducks, but are there any risks?
If you’ve been using pesticides on your garden to keep away slugs and snails, don’t let your ducks get into it. These chemicals can also hurt your animals if they ingest snails or slugs that have been exposed to the pesticide.
If you want to let your ducks into your garden, go pesticide-free. Ducks are so efficient at catching slugs and snails that you won’t need them anyway. But, if you’re interested in implementing ducks as a pest-control method, keep reading.
Snails and slugs can serve as the intermediate host for parasites that can infect your ducks, such as the gapeworm. The gapeworm infects the tracheas of birds and obstructs the airway. In severe cases, this can even cause asphyxiation.
If you want your ducks to have access to slugs and snails in your garden, you can reduce the risk of gapeworm by tilling the soil in your duck’s pen to reduce residual infection and administering a dewormer to your ducks every 15-30 days.
Are Certain Slugs Dangerous For Ducks to Eat?
Slugs may become dangerous for ducks to consume if they are very large.
Since slugs produce a sticky, mucousy coating, a slug that is too large for your duck could become stuck in its throat. So use caution when letting your ducks loose, and keep an eye on the size of those slugs.
What Other Insects Can Ducks Eat?
Ducks love slugs and snails, but they can eat many other kinds of insects, too.
- Earthworms. Ducks love snatching worms from the dirt on a rainy day.
- Potato Beetles. These tiny beetles can make quick work of your garden by devouring your plants, but ducks love to eat them.
- Grasshoppers. Another pest that ducks can help you get rid of.
- Mosquitoes. Ducks don’t eat the adult mosquito, but they do consume the water-dwelling pupa stage, preventing adults from developing in the first place.
- Grubs. Like the mosquito pupa, ducks also love snacking on all kinds of beetle larva.
Can Ducks Digest Snail Shells?
Yes! If you’ve ever watched a duck eat, you know that they aren’t too discriminating with what and how fast they swallow their food—all without chewing anything. So what happens to the shells?
Ducks, like other birds, swallow rocks and grit to help them crush food items like seeds or shells. These rocks are stored in their gizzard and, with the help of their powerful muscles, crush the shells so they can be digested.
Using Ducks as Pest Control
Letting your ducks into your garden is a popular method of pest control. As we’ve seen above, ducks love eating common garden pests like slugs, snails, and other insects.
So what other benefits do they offer? Are there any risks to using ducks as a pest control method?
It’s All Natural
Ducks can get rid of pests without pesticides, which makes this method of pest control safe and eco-friendly. Ducks also provide excellent fertilizer for your garden with their droppings, so it’s a two-for-one deal!
When they aren’t foraging for pests, ducks will graze on your lawn, endlessly foraging to sate their neverending appetites. Due to their help, you won’t have to mow your lawn as often.
Obliterating an entire population of slugs or snails can have a bit of an opposite effect. If all the slugs are gone from an area, their predators will also move on to greener pastures. Due to the lack of predators, the slug population explodes. Ducks will keep the population low enough without eliminating it completely, avoiding this issue.
What Not to Feed Your Ducks
Now that you know all the benefits of slugs and snails, are there any foods you should avoid feeding to your ducks?
A few foods of concern are listed below, but you can find a more comprehensive list here.
- Bread. Even though ducks love to eat them, staple human foods like bread and crackers aren’t a good choice. These offer no nutritional value to ducks and can cause malnutrition if they consume too much.
- Citrus Fruit. These fruits interfere with your duck’s ability to absorb calcium, which is a critical nutrient. If ducks don’t have sufficient calcium, they’ll produce very thinly shelled eggs.
- Raw, Dried Beans. These are toxic to ducks! Canned beans should also be avoided due to their high sodium content.
- Onions. They are toxic to ducks and can cause hemolytic anemia in birds.
- Avocados. The skin, leaves, and the pit of avocados are highly toxic to ducks, but the whole fruit should be avoided in general.
If you are ever in doubt about what to feed your duck, or you think your duck may have ingested something toxic, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.