Can Ducks Eat Apples?
Like most birds, ducks are omnivorous and can eat a variety of plant and animal matter. While this might lead us to believe that ducks can eat anything, this is not true and some foods that they will happily eat can actually harm them. Whether you are heading to the park to feed ducks or wondering what kinds of treats to give your own barnyard friends, it is important to know what ducks can and cannot eat.
Can ducks eat apples? Ducks can eat apples, and they will do so happily. As is the case with almost all supplemental food and treats, moderation is key. Apples contain a significant amount of sugar, which is not healthy in excess for any animal. Apples also contain several vitamins and minerals that can benefit your duck’s health. When given as a treat, apples are fine to give to ducks.
If you are thinking about providing apples as a treat to your ducks, it’s a good idea to read up on the benefits that they offer, as well as the associated risks. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of feeding your ducks apples and how to do so safely.
Health Benefits For Ducks Eating Apples
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – there is a reason this saying has been passed down for generations. Apples contain a wealth of vital nutrients that are necessary for good health – for both humans and ducks alike. These vitamins and minerals include:
- Vitamin A: Not only is Vitamin A important for proper bone development, it plays a vital role in supporting eyesight. A duck’s vision is one of its greatest assets, and ducks are known to be able to see 2-3 times farther than humans. Vitamin A helps protect one of the duck’s greatest senses.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important player for the immune system and acts as a powerful antioxidant. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy skin and bones.
- Niacin: One of the biggest culprits of vitamin deficiency in ducklings is niacin deficiency. Ducks need approximately 10 mg of Niacin per day, and there are 15 mg in one large apple. Niacin deficiency in ducks will lead to growth abnormalities and can ultimately be lethal.
- Fiber: Apples have a significant amount of fiber in them, and ducks (like us) need fiber for proper growth and gut health.
- Calcium, Phosphorus, & Magnesium: Apples can provide a boost of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium to ducks, which all work together to support healthy bones and strong feathers.
- Potassium: The potassium in apples helps to support the duck’s central nervous system and muscle development.
Apples Should Be Given To Ducks In Moderation
As is the case with most foods (especially sweets), there is such a thing as too much. There are around 15 grams of sugar in a single large apple. As far as the sugar content is concerned, this is about the same as what is in a 6-pack of Oreos.
Ducks are prone to gaining weight easily and storing excess fat. Obesity is not healthy in any animal, and ducks are no exception – an obese duck will have a much shorter lifespan and is at risk of developing leg problems.
Feeding Apples Safely To Ducks
Feeding large chunks of apples to your duck can be a choking hazard. Apples are not particularly soft fruits, and slices or wedges can easily become stuck in the esophagus. Fortunately, there are multiple ways that you can safely feed them to your ducks.
- (Duck) Bite-Sized Apple Chunks – Safely feeding apples to your ducks can be as easy as cutting them into smaller pieces. Start by cutting your apple into thin slices, and cut each slice into smaller pieces. While a duck’s esophagus can stretch to accommodate a wide variety of food sizes, it is best to cut their apples into the size you might use for a toddler.
- Shredded Apples – Your duck will love the treat of a shredded apple. You can easily shred apples, with or without peels, with either a food processor or a simple cheese grater. Not only is it nearly impossible to choke on a shredded apple, but the shreds have the added bonus of being similar in appearance to a small worm or caterpillar.
- Apple Peels – Feeding your duck apple peels is a great way to avoid waste while giving your ducks a treat. If you are peeling apples for your own dessert (or kids), save the peels to feed your ducks. Just make sure to cut them into manageable pieces if they are long peels.
- Applesauce – You can also feed your ducks applesauce. Start by boiling your sliced apples. Once they are softened, you can strain them from the water and use a potato masher or a blender to turn them into applesauce. Just make sure they are cooled before offering them to your ducks. Applesauce is meant to be made from peeled apples – however, as stated above, you can feed the peels to the ducks separately.
In addition to making sure that you don’t feed slices to your ducks that they can choke on, you would also be wise to avoid offering them the apple core. Apple seeds contain amygdalin, which turns into hydrogen cyanide as it is metabolized in your body. While a small number of apple seeds are not considered dangerous, it is best to leave the seeds in the trash (or better yet, the compost pile).
Do Ducks Like Apples?
Ducks love to eat most fruits, including apples. While ducks in the wild have a diet consisting mainly of plant matter, bugs, and fish, they are suckers for sweets as well. Ducks have been found to have approximately 400 taste buds around the inside of their bills.
This is compared to the 9,000 or so taste buds that are on a human’s tongue. The more taste buds you have, the easier it is for you to distinguish between tastes. While a duck won’t be able to taste as many flavors as we can, they do show a preference for some foods over others.
Interestingly, one flavor that ducks (and other waterfowl) seem to avoid is grape soda and bubblegum. Both of these flavors have been used successfully as duck and geese repellents.
Other Tasty Treats For Your Ducks
Apples are one of the many tasty, nutritious treats that you can offer your ducks. Other healthy options include:
- Grapes (while ducks are apparently repelled by the smell of grapes, they do love the taste of grapes)
- Greens (collard greens, kale, swiss chard, romaine, bok choy)
- Scrambled Eggs
- Cooked Fish
- Other protein leftovers including beef, chicken, and pork
The benefits of being able to feed ducks a variety of foods is twofold. One benefit is for the ducks – not only are they getting a variety of nutrients from different fruits and vegetables, they are getting enjoyment out of the supplemental treats. Ducks, like most birds, spend the majority of their days looking for food. Getting nutritious, colorful treats are exciting and engaging for pet ducks.
The other benefit is for our environment. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 30-40% of our food supply ends up in the trash. We have all had apples (and other produce) that ripen too fast for us to eat in our homes. When this happens, so long as the food is not molded or rancid, we can offer what would otherwise be considered waste to our ducks.
Treats Not Suitable For Ducks
While we can feed most of our kitchen scraps to our ducks, there is a list of foods that we should avoid feeding them for a variety of reasons.
Some foods will interfere with calcium absorption and can affect eggshell quality if fed to laying ducks. The two best-known culprits of this issue are citrus fruits and spinach. Citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes. As for spinach, avoid feeding it to your ducks in both cooked and raw form.
Other foods can be toxic to ducks. These include vegetables in the nightshade family (green tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, etc.) and raw beans. You can feed your duck cooked and sprouted beans, but raw beans can be toxic.
And finally, some foods offer only empty calories and stomach upset to your ducks. This includes junk food, bread, crackers, and iceberg lettuce. In fact, crackers and chips can cause a sodium disruption in ducks, as they are highly susceptible to salt overdose.
Apples: A Tasty And Nutritious Snack For Ducks
Apples are incredibly nutritious for ducks, and there is a good reason that they have been touted as an illness preventative for decades. Apples have a multitude of vitamins and minerals that are essential to the care and maintenance of our bodies, and they naturally boost our immune systems with antioxidants and vitamin C. If fed in moderation and in a safe manner, your ducks will thank you for this healthy treat.