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What to Feed Ducks in Winter

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Did you know that ducks need extra nutrition during wintertime? The cold climate means fewer available natural food sources to sustain them. Therefore, if you are a duck owner or have wild ducks in your backyard, you should feed them to support them during freezing temperatures.

But what foods are suitable for ducks in the winter?

Toddler in green winter suit feeding the ducks in a lake

This article has put together a list of 8 essential food sources to help keep your ducks well-nourished throughout the winter. Please keep reading to find out more!

1. Feeding Ducks Grains

Ducks can eat grains in their raw, unprocessed form, not ground into flour and baked into bread.

Grains add high carbohydrate levels to the ducks’ diet. And this helps provide the extra energy ducks need to keep warm in colder temperatures. 

When offering grains to your backyard ducks, ensure they’re fresh or lightly cooked to retain their nutritional value. Some of the essential grains you can feed ducks include:


bowl of uncooked corn grains with wooden spoon and wooden board

Ducks can safely eat corn, but only after they are four weeks old. Corn provides high fat, soluble vitamins A and E, zinc, and potassium to support overall health in freezing weather conditions

However, your ducks’ diet shouldn’t consist solely of corn. Feed your ducks cracked corn rather than whole kernels because it is easier for the birds to digest.


wheat grains in a wooden bowl

Wheat is a lightweight grain full of carbohydrates and protein. Thus, it is an ideal meal for energy throughout the colder season.

While a small amount of wheat won’t hurt them, it should never form the bulk of their diet because it can cause digestive problems. 

Keep wheat dry so it doesn’t get too wet and start to deteriorate or mold.


Whole grain oats with ears on white wooden table

Soaked oats are ducks’ favorite! Ducks frequently consume them alone or in combination with other grains.

These grains contain essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that promote healthy growth. They help fight against diseases and improve overall health. 

Oats also contain fiber and soluble carbohydrates that help regulate the digestive system.


organic barley grains over rustic wood table

Barley has a high amount of dietary fiber, which ducks need to help maintain a healthy gut. Barley is also high in nutrient density; this makes it an ideal wintertime snack for ducks. 

In addition to its nutritional value, barley has a nutty and mildly sweet flavor. Many ducks find it irresistible.

2. Feeding Ducks Vegetables

Vegetables are beneficial additions to a duck’s winter diet. They provide additional nutrition that ducks may not otherwise find when temperatures drop. 

Among the duck-friendly vegetables are cucumbers, zucchinis, broccoli, and peas. Other vegetables that are good for ducks include:


Fresh potatoes in a canvas bag on light background

Potatoes contain complex carbs, which help keep birds warm during colder temperatures. These carbs provide more energy throughout the day. 

Remember to feed your birds raw potatoes in moderation. Raw potatoes may contain a compound known as solanine, which can be toxic if consumed by a duck in large amounts.

Cooking potatoes destroys this compound.


Slices of carrots in a glass bowl on rustic background

Carrots’ vitamin A can increase the growth rate of ducks, as well as their egg and antibody production. Additionally, it can support eye health. 

However, carrots should only make up about 5 to 10% of the duck’s diet because they don’t have all the required nutrients. In other words, you should regard carrots as a treat rather than a regular food source for ducks.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Fresh kale in a wooden bowl and kale leave on white background

Green vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and lettuce are rich in vitamins and minerals. And they can supplement a duck’s diet. Wash and chop up the leafy greens before feeding them to the ducks. 

Avoid giving the ducks spinach; it contains oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium uptake.

3. Feeding Ducks Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds provide high-energy fatty acids. These nutrients help the ducks to remain healthy in cold weather. 

Additionally, their unique taste makes them an enjoyable treat for most ducks. The birds will happily gobble up these nutritious nuts and seeds:

Sunflower Seeds

peeled and unpeeled sunflower seeds in bowls on the table

Vitamin B3 in sunflower seeds promotes healthy joints and muscle function in ducks. A deficiency in this vitamin in a duck’s diet could impair the aquatic bird’s ability to walk and swim. 

Also, they contain vitamin B6, which helps maintain nerve function and red blood cells.

Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds in a glass bowl on wooden board

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, low in fat, and contain nutrients like vitamin A and iron. They are also high in amino acids, which provide energy to your duck’s muscles.


Peanuts are rich in vitamins B-6, thiamine, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. Unfortunately, due to their high oil content, peanuts are not a staple part of the ducks’ diet.


Almond in white bowl on wooden table

Almonds have a similar nutritional profile. Moreover, they contain high levels of vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids. Thus, they can help reduce cholesterol levels.

4. Feeding Ducks Insects and Worms

Ducks cannot find aquatic plants such as algae or vegetation during winter. The frozen water blocks their access. Therefore, they may turn to insects and worms as substitutes. Insects and worms live in the soil, and you can still find them in the winter. 

Here are a few examples:


Dried mealworms on a wooden spoon on wooden table

Mealworms are a valuable supplement for ducks, especially during the winter. You can find them in pet stores, garden centers, and online retailers. 

It is best to purchase freeze-dried mealworms. They contain more nutrients than cooked or boiled ones.


Earthworms contain high levels of protein and fat that help support feather growth. They also supply vitamin B-12, which enhances metabolism in ducklings.


Giant cricket insects on wooden board

Crickets are another great meal for ducks. About 65% of the weight of this insect is protein, which makes it very important for the duck’s health.

In addition to protein, crickets contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and fiber. 

Ordering them online is a great way to get fresh, live crickets during winter.

5. Feeding Ducks Fresh and Frozen Fruits

Fresh and frozen fruits are also great treats for ducks over winter.

The sugars in fruit can provide a good energy source during the cold months.


A lot of red apple fruit in brown basket on table

Apples are an excellent choice as they contain vitamin C and dietary fiber. They help support digestion while also providing carbohydrates for energy in cold temperatures. Additionally, apples have pectin–a soluble fiber that helps support digestive health.


Berries are another excellent option for feeding your backyard ducks during winter. They contain essential vitamins such as vitamin C. Vitamins are vital for developing a robust immune system in ducks.


peeled, sliced and whole bananas on gray wooden background

Bananas contain high levels of vitamin B6, which helps support ducks’ immune systems. The potassium in bananas helps regulate fluid balance within their bodies. 

6. Feeding Ducks Protein-Rich Foods

In winter, proteins are essential in building fat reserves for insulation against the cold. Proteins also play a crucial role in egg maturation, molting, and duckling growth.

Some good protein sources for ducks include:

Boiled Eggs

Boiled eggs on wooden plate on wooden background

Boiled eggs are an ideal source of protein. But ensure you cook them thoroughly before feeding them to the ducks. Partially cooked eggs may cause bacterial contamination that could harm your flock. 

Also, it is crucial to watch out for overfeeding. Too much protein can lead to obesity or other health issues in ducks.


Frozen shrimp in supermarket

Shrimp is rich in protein and other essential nutrients. And they are an ideal supplement to a balanced diet of seeds, grains, grasses, and insects. 

When choosing what type of shrimp to feed your duck, opt for smaller varieties, such as krill or brine shrimp. These varieties provide higher protein levels with minimal fat content.

7. Feeding Ducks Special Treats

Giving ducks crackers, bread, pasta, or chips can lead to malnutrition and bad behavior. So, what can we give them for treats? 

Any of the above-discussed foods could make a healthier treat for ducks. You can offer them anything that they love eating and is nutritious, such as:

Whole and sliced watermelon on wooden table

8. Pellets and Grit

White american pekin ducks eating pellets

Pellets and grit are essential to ducks in any weather and should form part of their daily staple diet. Pellets provide a balanced diet, whereas grit helps improve their digestive health.

Purchase only pellets made explicitly for ducks. Generic bird pellets may have only some of the necessary nutritional requirements for ducks. Also, remember to monitor your duck’s consumption of pellets. Overfeeding can lead to health problems such as obesity.

Ducklings should be at least three weeks old before you start giving them grit.


Over the winter months, ducks require a well-balanced supplementary diet. Grains provide essential carbohydrates and proteins for energy. At the same time, vegetables offer vital vitamins and minerals, supporting overall health.

Fruits provide birds with antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals in cells. Always consult a vet to know the safety of specific diets for the ducks.

These tips will help your feathered friends stay healthy throughout brutal winter weather.


I wrote this article from my experience raising ducks and the following sources: