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Duck keeping has grown in popularity massively over the last 10 or 15 years. Ducks are great for providing both meat and eggs. One question that I am being asked frequently when I give talks and workshops on duck keeping is, can ducks eat grass?
Ducks, much like geese, can and frequently do eat grass. Although grass does not contain enough nutrients to form a staple diet, grass does provide a duck with essential vitamins and minerals and ducks will consume grass as part of a balanced diet. Caution should be exercised to ensure ducks never eat grass that has been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides as the consequences may be fatal.
What do ducks eat?
Ducks are omnivores. As such their diet is wide and varied and they need that variety to get the full range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to grow strong and remain healthy.
Ducks will eat a wide variety of foods including aquatic vegetation, such as duckweed, seeds, worms, slugs, and waterborne crustaceans. Ducks will also eat insects, bugs and water snails given the chance.
Over the years I have also found it extremely important to make sure my ducks have access to commercially prepared duck food as well as a good quality vitamin supplement like this one that I usually order from Amazon.com. I never leave my ducks to survive simply on what they can forage.
As mentioned above, grass will often make up an important part of a duck’s diet. Ducks that have access to fresh grass will usually consume it daily. How much grass an individual duck consumes will usually depend on their particular tastes as well as the availability of other foods.
Eating a well-balanced diet is essential to keep ducks laying on a regular basis, and a poor diet can be a major cause of ducks not laying eggs.
What Types of Grass Can A Duck Eat?
Essentially, ducks can eat just about any grass that’s growing in their vicinity. Ducks will often consume grass around the edges of their pond, and they will happily eat any of the common weeds we find growing in our lawns or around our ponds.
Whilst ducks are well known to be greedy, in my experience, they do seem to have an inbuilt knowledge of what plants they can and can’t eat.
Fresh, young grass tips and shoots are typically more nutritious for ducks than old, tough blades of grass. I tend to mow around my duck ponds on a regular basis, and my ducks seem to relish the fresh new growth that follows a few days after mowing.
Can Ducks Eat Grass Clippings?
I would advise avoiding feeding ducks’ grass clippings. When I mow my duck pens, I always collect the clippings and add them to my compost heap.
Typically, within an hour or two of cutting the grass, the clippings tend to break down very quickly. This is due to the high concentrations of nitrogen contained within the grass. In hot weather, the clippings also dry out quickly and any nutrients contained within the blades are quickly lost.
If one of my ducks was to start eating the clipping shortly after mowing, I wouldn’t stop them, but there is no advantage to them eating old, dry clippings, so just rake them up after cutting and add them to the compost pile.
Can Ducks Eat Too Much Grass?
Ducks have evolved to fend for themselves and they seem to know what to eat and how much to consume. I can’t think of an occasion one of my ducks has eaten too much grass.
With that said, eating too much of anything can be bad for ducks, and there is the risk that a duck that eats too much grass suffers from crop impaction, a problem that can have serious consequences.
If you find one of your ducks is continually eating grass, take a look at what other foods are available and make adjustments as required.
Will Ducks Damage my Lawn?
Simple answer, yes! It will only take a small flock of ducks a few days to a couple of weeks to completely destroy a lawn.
They will eat the grass, pull tufts out and churn the whole thing up very quickly, especially if conditions are wet. If you are hoping to keep ducks in a garden, I strongly recommend keeping them restricted to one area, rather than allowing them to free roam.
Apart from your lawn, ducks will happily destroy your flower beds too, so definitely do not consider them garden-friendly birds!
Can Ducks Eat Hay?
Hay is simply dried grass. I have never witnessed any of my ducks eating hay, or straw for that matter.
I would imagine that if a duck were to eat hay, they would struggle to digest it. Ducks do not have the ability to chew the grass as a cow would. They need to swallow their food and allow their gizzard to do the chewing.
I would strongly dissuade anyone from intentionally feeding their ducks hay, and if you own a duck that seems hell-bent on eating hay, I would move the hay out of their reach!
Will Ducks Eat Other Plants In The Garden?
Ducks will happily munch on a wide variety of plants in the garden, especially those that might be growing in your vegetable patch.
Lettuce, peas, and sweetcorn seem to be a favorite with my ducks, as do potatoes and just about every soft fruit I grow.
If you don’t want your ducks to eat their way through your entire vegetable plot I strongly suggest you consider either penning in your ducks or protecting your vegetable plot.
In the past, when I have only need to protect a single plant or a couple of plants from my ducks, I have used these plants guards which I had delivered from Amazon. They are not cheap, but they do a great job!