13 Good Seeds for Ducks (and 2 to Avoid)

Ducks enjoy many different kinds of seeds, but there are also some seeds that they shouldn’t be fed. If you keep ducks it’s important to know which seeds they can be fed and which they can’t. Even of the kinds of seeds that ducks can be fed, the quantity of seeds fed is important. Overfeeding of seeds can cause serious health problems in ducks.

So what kind of seeds can ducks eat? Ducks eat most edible varieties of seeds such as:

  • Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Pomegranate
  • Sesame
  • Pumpkin
  • Chia
  • Hemp
  • Watermelon
  • Milo
  • Birdseed
  • Rice

While ducks can eat many seeds, ducks cannot eat stone fruit pits such as cherry or peach pits and should not be fed apple seeds. 

Knowing how to successfully integrate seeds into a duck’s diet can be the difference between a duck with healthy variety in its meals versus a duck that ends up malnourished or diseased. Read on to find out more about seeds that can be incorporated into duck feed and how to do it. 

Can Ducks Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are a popular additive to many mixes of birdseed and feed, so it is a reasonable question to ask whether they are suitable for ducks to eat. The answer is yes—sunflower seeds can be fed to ducks in small amounts as part of their normal feed, provided that there is no salt added to the seeds. 

Sunflower seeds (like these you can get on Amazon) can be either roasted or raw and can be served to ducks either with or without their shells, but it is most important that they are served unsalted. Sunflowers are quite easy to grow, so a patch of sunflowers in the yard is a great way to help stretch your duck feed over the course of the growing season. 

Poultry can suffer from salt intoxication if exposed to large doses of salt without adequate drinking water, and some ducks that are exposed to high levels of salt have been shown to have arterial hypotension (low blood pressure) over extended periods. 

Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and selenium, so in small amounts they are a good choice to mix into duck feed as a guard against selenium-vitamin E deficiency, a malnutrition disorder that can cause anorexia, diarrhea, leg weakness, and death in ducks. Seeds like sunflowers should be regarded as a treat and shouldn’t make up more than ten percent of a duck’s total diet

Can Ducks Eat Sesame Seeds?

Sesame seeds are seeds that come from a plant called Sesamum indicum and can be found in a variety of colors. Sesame seeds are quite oily (they are the original source of sesame oil) and the amount of fat in them means that they should only be fed to ducks sparingly as part of a larger, more balanced diet. 

A better way to serve ducks sesame seeds than serving them the seeds plain or roasted from the store is to serve sprouted sesame seeds. This is because the sprouting process both increases the nutritional profile of the sesame seed and reduces the amount of fat present in it, since this fat is what is expended to generate the seedling.

Serving ducks sesame seeds with the hull also increases their intake of vital calcium and fiber, which can aid in maintaining the smooth function of their digestive systems. Laying ducks especially need supplemental calcium in order to produce eggs with a strong shell. 

Organic sesame seeds from a grocery store can be quite expensive to be served up to a backyard poultry flock, which is another reason besides their nutritional profile why sesame seeds should only be offered to ducks sparingly. Ducks have strong appetites, and a flock of ducks can go through a pound of sesame seeds in the blink of an eye if they aren’t rationed out.  

Can Ducks Eat Pumpkin Seeds?

Ducks will happily eat both raw pumpkin and pumpkin seeds if allowed, and they should—not only are these seeds good for them as part of a balanced, varied diet, pumpkin seeds are also known to act as a natural antiparasitic supplement for poultry. 

However, be mindful that to act as an effective dewormer, pumpkin seeds must be converted into a tincture or oil as described in this article at The Fewell Homestead

Outside of their medicinal properties, pumpkin seeds are a good source of many trace minerals that ducks need to stay healthy. They also provide plenty of carbohydrates and calories. That means that pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are a good feed supplement for colder fall and winter months, when ducks will expend more energy trying to keep themselves warm outdoors. 

Can Ducks Eat Chia Seeds? 

Chia seeds aren’t as popular as a supplemental seed for ducks as some other seeds due to their relatively high price, but they can be fed to ducks as a high-nutrient supplement. Since chia seeds are so small, it’s more efficient to mix them into a wider variety of seeds to stretch them in a feed mix. 

Chia seeds can absorb up to twelve times their own weight in water, so it’s important when you serve ducks chia seeds that you make sure to either soak them prior to offering them or ensure the ducks have lots of access to drinking water while eating them to prevent dehydration. 

Can Ducks Eat Hemp Seeds?

As shown in this article from Poultry World, hemp seed is becoming increasingly popular as a supplemental feed for poultry. This is because the seeds have been shown to be highly digestible and can positively enhance eggs. Eggs laid by poultry that is fed hemp seed have increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids, making them more nutritious for human consumption. 

Like other fatty seeds, hemp seeds should only be feed in small amounts as part of a larger grain mix or as a once-a-week treat. Inclusion of hemp seeds into the diet of your ducks can lead to glossier feathers and more nutritious eggs, but oily seeds should not be fed in large amounts to avoid fatty liver and other medical problems related to overfeeding. 

Meat ducks that are fed on hemp seed cakes have also been shown to produce a higher quality meat for commercial market

Can Ducks Eat Watermelon Seeds?

Ducks can eat any kind of melon seeds, including watermelon seeds. In fact, there is nothing ducks like better in the summer than to eat a watermelon whole down from the flesh and seeds all the way to the hardest, greenest part of the rind.

Seeded watermelons are a good choice for supplementing duck feed in the summer because they tend to be less expensive than seedless varieties that are geared towards people. In hot weather regions, serving chilled broken watermelons to ducks and other livestock can be a good way to help keep animals comfortable while also providing enrichment and variety to their daily diet. 

Because many larger watermelon seeds are big and have a hard hull, care should be taken not to overfeed watermelon seeds to prevent a duck from ingesting more than it can process in its crop at a time. When feeding hulled seeds, it’s also a good idea to make sure there is grit available to help ducks break down the more fibrous parts of the seed. 

Here’s an article explaining what other food ducks can eat.

Can Ducks Eat Safflower Seeds?

Safflower seeds are seeds from safflowers, an annual thistle-like flower that is cultivated for vegetable oil. Safflower seeds are commonly found as part of birdseed mixes and are similar to sunflower seeds in that they are an oily, shelled seed type. While safflower seeds are nutritional in small doses, like all fatty seeds they should only make up a small percentage of duck diets to avoid nutritional problems. 

As part of a balanced feed mix, safflower seeds can help provide protein, fiber, and fat to duck feed. This, in turn, allows you to grow large, energetic ducks with stronger muscles and glossier feathers. 

Other Seeds Ducks Can Eat

Along with the seeds listed above, there are also other types of seeds that can be successfully integrated into duck feed to help give them a more diverse diet. Here are some of the other kinds of seeds you can safely feed your ducks: 

  • Pomegranate seeds: Like other fruits, ducks will enthusiastically eat pomegranates seeds and all. These fruits are high in antioxidants as well as a good source of both vitamin E and magnesium. Pomegranates are also popularly served with duck meat as a compote or sauce for those who raise ducks for meat purposes.
  • Squash and cucumber seeds: Ducks love eating chopped raw squash and cucumbers as a part of their feed, so luckily the seeds contained in these vegetables won’t hurt them either. Squash and cucumbers can be a good way to stretch duck feed since these vegetables are easily grown in the backyard garden.
  • Milo seed: Milo seed (also known as sorghum) is a type of grass seed that is safe to feed to ducks and is commonly found as a part of birdseed mixes.
  • Birdseed: Commercial birdseed mixes sold for songbirds are also edible to ducks when fed in small amounts as a treat or a supplement to duck feed. These seed mixes contain a variety of seeds such as milo, sunflower, and safflower that are safe for ducks to consume as part of a balanced diet. 
  • Rice (cooked and uncooked): Ducks can eat both cooked and uncooked rice, and in fact ducks will happily eat any kind of rice as long as it doesn’t have mold on it. (Moldy feed should never be fed to poultry to avoid aspergillosis and other fungus-related illnesses.) In fact, some species of wild ducks often forage in rice fields for a bulk of their diet. 

Supplemental seeds can be added into duck feed by either mixing dry seeds up with commercial crumble or pellet feed, serving more oily seeds in the form of mixed seed cakes, or by mixing seeds into wet treats like chopped fruits or yogurt. 

Overall, there are many different kinds of seeds that can be added to a duck feed to give your ducks more food options to choose from. However, there are a few types of seeds that ducks shouldn’t be fed.

Seeds That Ducks Shouldn’t Eat

While most seeds are perfectly safe for ducks to eat in small amounts as a treat or a nutritional supplement, there are some kinds of seeds that are not safe for poultry. Here are the types of seeds you should avoid when feeding your ducks: 

  • Stone fruit pits: Stone fruit pits such as cherry pits and peach pits contain cyanide which can be bad for ducks and other poultry. Another issue with these pits is that if eaten in large amounts, they can cause crop impaction that can severely sicken a duck or even kill it. Feeding peaches and cored cherries is okay for ducks but keep the pits out of the mix. 
  • Apple seeds: Like stone fruit pits, apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide that can be harmful for ducks even in small amounts. Ducks will happily eat chopped apples but be sure to core the apples and remove the seeds before serving the apples to them. 

As long as these two types of seeds are avoided, most other edible seeds commonly found in grocery or feed stores can safely be integrated into duck feed without too much worry. 

Feeding Seeds and Fatty Liver Disease

One of the main concerns with feeding ducks too many edible seeds is that most types of seeds are high in both calories and fat content. These higher fat levels can contribute to the duck becoming overweight. While this might not seem like a big deal in a household pet, in poultry excess weight can lead to leg problems and even a fatty liver. 

Fatty liver disease in ducks is the result of excess caloric intake, especially in laying ducks. Fatty liver is also induced in meat ducks to produce foie gras. The symptoms of fatty liver disease in ducks are as follows: 

  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Large or distended abdomen
  • Brittle eggshells
  • Sudden death due to internal bleeding (especially when laying)

To prevent fatty liver disease when feeding seeds, care should be taken to make sure that the seeds provided only make up a small percentage (10% or less) of a duck’s overall diet. 

The majority of a duck’s diet should be made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein along with an all-purpose commercial flock feed. Oil-based seeds should be seen as an occasional treat or a nutritional supplement to a wider feed mix, not a staple.

Feeding Seeds and Crop Impaction

Another reason that seed ingestion should be limited in ducks (especially with hulled seeds) is that too many seeds at once can lead to crop impaction—this is when the duck’s crop becomes overfilled with indigestible materials such as seed hulls. 

An impacted crop can be a serious medical problem in domestic ducks because it can eventually progress to the point that the duck cannot eat or pass stool, after which death by starvation is usually quick to follow. 

Most milder cases of crop impaction can be cured by withholding all food from the duck for 24-48 hours while only offering water, but crop impactions are better avoided entirely. More severe cases must be corrected by manually emptying the crop, but this can be dangerous to the bird as it can cause the bird to choke and aspirate the contents of its crop. 

Symptoms of a crop impaction that may occur as a result of overfeeding hulled sunflower seeds or other hulled seeds include the following: 

  • Enlarged crop
  • Reduced droppings passed
  • Neck twisting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting strong-smelling, watery vomit (inability to pass food) 

To prevent seeds from contributing to an impacted crop, you can increase the intake of probiotics through feeding yogurt to help cultivate strong gut flora. 

When feeding seeds, you can reduce or eliminate the number of hulled seeds that are fed at a time to your ducks to ensure that seeds don’t have the chance to build up undigested in the crop. Making sure that ducks have adequate access to grit and plenty of fresh drinking water is also crucial when it comes to preventing crop problems. 

Feeding Seeds to Ducks is Fine in Small Doses

Almost all kinds of edible seeds are fine for ducks to munch on—on the whole, ducks aren’t that picky. But because of that, it’s important for people who keep ducks to make sure they don’t get into eating something that will be dangerous to them. Otherwise, they often don’t have the good sense to avoid eating foods that will hurt them or make them sick. 

Seeds are a great addition to your duck feed mix as long as you keep them in proportion with other types of food, seeds are one of the best ways you can introduce healthy fats and digestible proteins to your ducks’ diet.

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