How to get ducks to forage for their own food?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 9, 2010
NW Arkansas - Huntsville
I have 8 Mallard ducks - ranging in age from
2 1/2 months to one month in age...

they have been kept in a protected area with
a coop and have been fed water fowl grower
and an assortment of veggies on a regular basis...

as in, every time they quacked, I brought more
food ;)

I am now walking them out to our very large
pond (about 200+ feet across)....

they will waddle about the shore line and dunk
their heads... maybe swim for a wee bit....then,
lie in the grass on the shoreline - preening - and
waddle back up to the gate to be let back in...

One day, they spent the entire day at the pond...

Most days, it's 3-5 trips up and back... and, I
usually feed them when they return....

I'm wanting to encourage them to forage and
I feel guilty - especially for the youngest ones -
if I don't feed them....

so, to get them to look for their own food, do I
just stop feeding them in their run?

Only feed them at night?

Only feed them a wee bit?

I will greatly appreciate the expertise of other
duck owners... I'm brand new at this... only a
couple of months and am LOVING IT!!!!!

Ducks are hilarious

thank you
We never taught our ducks to forage--they just seem to do it naturally once they're allowed outside. We have 4 acres, mostly just a lawn but they dig their bills right into the grass and any place they want really. They especially go crazy when we pour out their little kiddie pool. When we put out our ducklings this summer, they did the same thing, as did our mallard and blue swede this spring. We feed all the ducks a little in the morning and a little at night. During the winter, they can't forage since we get tons of snow, but during late spring to late fall they seem to be able to fill their tummies quite well all on their own.
I think you might have a couple of things going on here. If they've been penned since hatching until now, they might just think the pen is where they're supposed to be, especially the older ones. I think your main problem is that you're feeding them both too much and too often. If you give them something to eat every time they quack, they're going to keep taking advantage of that. Don't ever let anyone tell you ducks are dumb. You'll find out soon enough that's not true if you haven't already. What you've been doing is basically equivalent to a new mother who sticks a bottle in the baby's mouth every time it cries "just in case it's hungry," even if it just finished eating.

We do as Sunny does, feeding just a little in the morning, but a bit more at night since they'll be going all night in the pen without foraging. If you're keeping their little tummies full all the time, they really have no reason to forage since they get breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed, and it sounds like quite a few snacks in between.

I think you're going to have to bite the bullet and cut down on the food, even if it makes you feel bad for a while. Overfeeding can affect their health and activity levels, and they'll enjoy foraging once they discover it. You could try making them mud puddles to dabble in. Ducks love mud puddles, and they might venture beyond the puddles into the grass once they already have their bills stuck in the ground. When we dump the small pool we have to clean and refill it, our ducks spend the next few hours playing in the mud it made. Also, if you have any friends who have a grown hen that they can bring over, she'd probably forage around your yard, and they might pick it up from seeing her do it.

Let us know how things go!
I used to have to turn rocks over for the goodies underneath; these days all my birds know how to forage for themselves. Once one duck picks it up the rest will soon learn from them.
I used to have to turn rocks over for the goodies underneath; these days all my birds know how to forage for themselves. Once one duck picks it up the rest will soon learn from them.

Great idea! I didn't think of that one. We do that as well.

kstavert, you really should give this one a try. See if you can find a good sized rock and flip it over. Chances are there will be worms and bugs underneath. Once they see that, especially the worms, I have to think nature will take over because ducks love worms.
Thank all of you soooooooo very much...

I have about 40 chickens and some roos and have
begun letting all of them out together in the back

the ducks do not seem to be very happy with this
since the chickens are much faster at getting
the veggies, etc.that I throw around for everyone...

before I began taking the ducks up to the pond,
I'd take the garden hose - probably 4-6 times per
day - and make a big puddle for them... I discovered
this joy one day when I was emptying their swimming
pool and some of the water backed up into their run...

Mud flying EVERYWHERE... :)

they do go into the water at the edge of the pond
and push their bills into the mud.... I rather expected
to see them snacking on a bunch of weeds along
the edge and some water plants but...not!

OK.... I will bite the bullet and cut back on their

I just thought that they were like chicklettes and
needed an endless supply of feed... though, they
are certainly waaaayyyyyyyyyyyy larger at 2 months
than the chicks are...

I have 5 dogs and 10 cats/kittens and they all hang
out in the yard with the ducks and chickens... it's
quite a wonderful site....

great suggestion about moving rocks - there are
a great many around... I moved one in their run
and found a teaming mass of black soldier fly
larvae ;) Yummmmm!!!

Hugs to all
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Reading your post made my day. It made me think back to my first duckling, one that my grandfather brought home for an Easter present when I was ten. I had no idea how to take care of a duck, and neither did he. He made the duckling a pen, put a water dish in it and some duckling feed, and that was it. From there, I was on my own. I think a lot of people who get their first duck(s) really don't know much about them, and it's a lot of fun to learn and to watch the antics of your very own first duck.

That duck became my best friend. He was a solitary duckling, so he imprinted and followed me everywhere like a puppy. He also followed the two dogs, and chihuahua and a toy poodle, everywhere like a puppy when I wasn't around, which they didn't appreciate. They ran from him and he'd run after them and nip their tails to try to get them to play, and they appreciated that even less. I don't think he ever made any duck noises after the first week. He barked like a dog because the dogs barked at him so much, and he even came to imitate something like a dog growling.

I wouldn't let him walk on rocks because I was afraid they'd hurt his feet, I stopped him from eating weeds because I thought they would poison him, I wouldn't let him walk up and down the steep hill in our backyard because I was afraid he'd go tumbling down and break his neck, on and on, yet I fed him horribly. Much of what I ate, he was welcome to eat as well if he liked it.

I usually ate on our back deck where I'd lie down on my stomach and read a book while I was eating. He ate right along with me, off the same dishes. He'd stick his bill in my cereal bowl and help me eat my coco krispies, froot loops, apple jacks, whatever. He'd eat the creamed peas and creamed corn off my dinner plate, which I appreciated since I hated both and my grandmother was none the wiser. He'd nibble on my cornbread, salmon croquettes, fried fish filets, pick the celery out of the potato salad, snatch the lettuce and tomatos off my cheeseburgers and tacos, and he loved my grandmothers apple pie.

Needless to say, this was all a terrible idea, but I didn't know any better. It's a wonder he even lived. Then it all came to a head one night when I had a big bowl of chili that I wasn't letting him eat, and I went back in the house to get some more milk. I came back out less than a minute later and he was sitting in my bowl of chili eating it as fast as he could get it down. I started screaming because I was afraid chili would kill him (she made chili really hot) and my grandmother ran outside and saw what had happened and scooped him out of my bowl and ran to the kitchen sink with him. He still had a chili bean clenched in his bill when she sat him down in the sink. It took us hours to get most of the chili out of his feathers, and he had an orange tint for two weeks afterward.

Man, those were really the days.
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