Duck, Goose & Chicken Hatchery

Foods Ducks Should Never Eat

Monday, January 30, 2023
Some items are just not good for your ducks to ingest. We are sending out this PSA so that you can be aware of these toxic foods. To make things easy, we’ve made a list of some of the top food culprits. Ducks should avoid the following foods for the sake of their general health. Here are the top contenders:


Onions are toxic to ducks due to the presence of an inorganic compound called thiosulfate which is difficult for ducks to digest, and which can lead to several health issues when overfed to waterfowl. Thiosulfate can destroy the red blood cells in birds and cause them to become anemic.


Like onions, Garlic also contains thiosulfate and therefore is equally unsafe for ducks. Feeding garlic or onion to ducks is a bad idea.


Anything containing caffeine is not recommended for waterfowl. This includes coffee, tea, matcha, and coffee grounds. Caffeine contains a toxin called methylxanthine which has adverse effects on waterfowl. Caffeine has been shown to cause lung and heart-related deaths in ducks.


Just like your dog should not eat chocolate, neither should your duck. Chocolate also contains caffeine as well as a chemical called theobromine. Chocolate Toxicosis is the syndrome resulting from ingesting an excessive amount of methylxanthine-containing chocolate products. Clinical effects include agitation and hyperthermia to name a few. Severe cases result in seizures.


Junk food is never a good idea for waterfowl. Junk food for people is bad and it is likewise bad for ducks. Crackers and other salty, sugar-laden fatty foods cause ducks to gain weight too quickly. This rapid accumulation of weight will cause a duck to develop leg problems because too much added strain is placed on their legs. Additionally, ducks can easily die of a salt overdose. Junk food in general will result in the poor health of your bird.


Avocados contain a toxin called persin which can be fatal to ducks. The ingestion of persin can cause weakness, heart problems, respiratory difficulties, and sudden death in ducks. All parts of an avocado should be avoided – the flesh, the skin as well as the pit. Keep your ducks clear of avocados!


Citrus fruits like grapefruit, limes, oranges, and lemons will interfere with calcium absorption in ducks and this can lead to brittle bones and subsequent poor health conditions later in life. Additionally, if ducks do not have proper calcium absorption, their eggshells become thin resulting in poor hatchability and a low quality eggs for eating.


Spinach is another food like citrus that can block calcium absorption in ducks thus resulting in a sick bird and an eggshell that is thin and undesirable.

Nightshade is a family of plants that include green tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, and eggplants. Generally speaking, ducks should avoid eating Nightshade vegetables because all parts of these plants (stock, leaves, stems and fruit) are toxic to ducks. For example, tomatoes that are not fully ripe contain solanine which is lethal to waterfowl if ingested in large amounts. Similarly, rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid or oxalates that are toxic to ducks. Be very suspect of Nightshade vegetables.


Ducks + dairy products are a bad match. Ducks are lactose intolerant. They do not have the necessary enzymes to break down the lactose in milk, so they are ill equipped to digest dairy products properly. The ingestion of large amounts of dairy can lead to painful and uncomfortable digestion problems in waterfowl.

All that being said, don’t worry! There are plenty of good, food options to feed your waterfowl. Here is a link to another of our blog topics that addresses this topic. Learn about Duck Treats your Waterfowl will Love!


Thanks. Great article. I knew about onions\citrus but spinach and nightshades? Avocados? I had no idea. I recently read about lactose intolerance in chickens but, naturally, this extends to ducks who do not nurse on mother's milk.
Cynthia, Friday, February 3, 2023
thanks i did not know this
Keith Patterson, Friday, February 3, 2023
Wow, I had no idea avocado was not good for ducks. I've been feeding them to my chickens. I need to find out it they r good for chickens, so I can avoid health Risks in the future
S kings, Monday, February 27, 2023
Thank you for sharing information about ducks...I am a new duck mommy..
Koleen.Thompson, Thursday, May 25, 2023
Thank you for all the great information you share with us Duck owners. The health, safety and welfare of our feathered friends is of our upmost concern.
Carolyn, Thursday, August 10, 2023
You read so much conflicting information it can be tricky to make the right choice. This information is clear and easy to understand thank you. No garlic for my ducks
Jane Burns, Monday, January 22, 2024
Our ducks 4 weeks old love Roman lettuce chopped super fine and put in a bowl of water.
Carolyn, Saturday, January 27, 2024