Need ideas to encourage your children to love animals?
One of the first nature encounters that many children experience is feeding bread to the ducks. It’s a brilliant way to spark their interest in birds, nature and wildlife, and you don’t need to live in the country.
The joy of duck feeding! Muscovys at Hackthorne, Lincolnshire
But did you know that bread is bad for birds and the water they live in? (we’re feeding seed from paper bags in these photos..)
Having fed bread to ducks all my life I first learnt that, in large quantities, bread can be bad for ducks, and the watercourses they inhabit, at Hartsholme Country Park in Lincoln (see main photo, 2011. Caroline is under two!)
Is Bread Really Bad for Ducks?
Hartsholme‘s visitor centre sold wild bird seed in paper bags, with ‘No Bread-Feeding’ signs around the lake. It seemed like a money-making ploy but on investigation proved correct and a worthy conservation exercise on behalf of the park.
So yes, bread really is bad for ducks, geese, swans, watercourses and all wild birds.
Why is Bread Bad for Ducks?
The sign says it all.
- Bread, particularly white bread, offers unbalanced nutrition and insufficient calories in winter
- It may make birds feel full when they haven’t actually eaten enough causing malnourishment
- It may affect their behaviour, reducing natural foraging for the right food
- Overfeeding can result in rotten bread creating bacteria and algae that pollute the water, poisoning birds and aquatic life
What To Feed Ducks Responsibly
If your local park doesn’t sell seed, what can ducks eat safely instead of bread?
The Canal and River Trust recommend these foods for wild ducks: –
- Sweetcorn, tinned, fresh or frozen (defrosted first)
- Lettuce, ripped up
- Frozen peas, defrosted
- Oats, flapjacks and instant porridge oats
- Seeds from the pet shop or supermarket
- Rice, cooked or uncooked
- QuackSnacks – responsible, convenient wild duck pellets
NB Seeds don’t always float so scatter on the ground or in shallow water within swans’ reach.
For more information download their duck guide and see links at the bottom of the page on what food to buy.
Environmentally Friendly QuackSnacks
Another great option is Quacksnacks. I recently discovered them through The Canal and River Trust and love their child-sized packs of wild duck pellets, delivered direct to your door.
QuackSnacks provide balanced nutrition combining wheat, maize, soya, fish meal, vegetable oil, vitamins & minerals which ducks and geese seem to love.
Reduce Plastic Waste
Even better, Quacksnacks are attempting to reduce plastic waste with new packaging. Kids of the Wild got to try them out first!
Their new packets are made from 100% recyclable pure pine wood cellulose (similar to greaseproof paper) with cardboard delivery boxes using a 60% bio-based packing tape.
We water-and-duck-tested the pellets with wild kids of all ages and the conclusion is:-
- Ducks love them
- Kids love them too!
Try Quacksnacks or any of the other food options above but whatever you do, please don’t feed bread to ducks.
Wild wishes for fun family encounters when you take the children to feed the ducks!
To find out what you need to know about feeding and caring for wild birds in the garden read my year-round garden bird feeding guide
Encourage garden birds by making this easy coconut bird feeder.
Learn how to hang a nestbox to attract birds to nest in your garden.
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Buy Duck Food
Click on the images to purchase on Amazon.