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.

Image of sign showing male mallard and writing asking that ducks be fed healthy food and not bread with grass and trees behind

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

This link from QuackSnacks gives more detail, and Shropshire Wildlife Trust have a great ‘breaducation’ article, especially if you’ve fed bread to ducks for years.

Image of yellow and black fluufy mallard duckiling standing on wooden plank in stream with bankside plants in background

Image of girl in purple fleeces and pink trousers bending with hands on knees to meet pair of swans and cygnet on grass in front of trees

Image of girl in blue coat with hood up squatting on mud next to river feeding seed to juvenile mallard ducks

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.

Image of cardboard packet with small packets of pellets, a hessian pouch with Quacksnacks and Canal Trust written on plus blue marketing sheet for Quacksnacks

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:-

  1. Ducks love them
  2. 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.

Image of male and female mallard ducks on grass

Wild wishes for fun family encounters when you take the children to feed the ducks!

More inspiration

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.

Follow Kids of the Wild

For up to date outdoor activity ideas don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and sign up to the website to receive the latest posts to your inbox.

Buy Duck Food

Click on the images to purchase on Amazon.

Children’s i-Spy birds book

QuackSnacks 6 pack

Swan and Duck food

13kg bag floating swan and duck food

Bird identification guide