Ducks eat a little bit of everything. They eat a little bit of animal protein in the form of insects, slugs and other critters, and also plenty of plants and even fruits and vegetables.
They typically only get the latter when they’re kept in captivity, but they do form an important part of your average duck’s diet.
That being said ducks cannot eat quite just anything, including some nutritious foods that you’d think they could. Let’s look at apples, for instance. Can ducks eat apples?
Yes, ducks can eat apples safely. However, the apples should be cut up into small bites that are easy for them to swallow. Apples are a good source of energy for ducks, and contain beneficial nutrients, but the seeds must be discarded because they’re poisonous to them.
When you start thinking about it, it’s easy to see why ducks would never really eat apples in the wild: the shape is all wrong, they are quite firm and ducks don’t have teeth.
But for our domestic ducks this is no impediment because we, of course, will diligently prepare their food for them.
Apples can make a great treat or occasional dietary supplement for your birds, but there’s more you’ll need to know before you start feeding them. Keep reading and I’ll tell you about it.
Are Apples Good for Ducks?
Yes, they are! Apples are a great treat or occasional supplemental item for your ducks and ducks will get plenty of benefit from them.
Although apples aren’t as nutritionally dense as most people believe, and they are quite sugary, they still are a great source of energy for ducks and an important source of vitamins and minerals they need.
The nutrients present in apples will help with a duck’s skeletal health, improve the formation and healing of connective tissue, enhance feathering and improve all sorts of other processes in their body, from cellular health to organ function.
And, most importantly for some of us, ducks seem to absolutely love them and they will rarely fail to come running when they see you bringing out that treat bucket!
Nutritional Profile of Apples
Apples are a healthy snack, but they are not the nutritious superfood that our grade school teachers might have had us believe.
That said, there is no situation when an apple isn’t a healthy and generally wholesome food.
As mentioned above apples are pretty sugary. That’s what makes them sweet, of course, and though these are natural sugars and a great source of quick energy for ducks they shouldn’t get too much in their diet.
But apples also contain vitamins and minerals to offset this, specifically a smattering of B complex vitamins in the form of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and folate, along with a little bit of vitamins A, E, and K.
Surprisingly, apples don’t have as many minerals as you might think, and contain a little shot each of iron and calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
All of the above are things that ducks need in their diet on the regular, and they can definitely digest apples well enough to get those nutrients.
That being said, apples aren’t massively nutritious and so should be treated as exactly that – a treat.
Can Ducks Eat Apples Raw?
They sure can. Giving raw apples to your ducks is the best way overall to serve them. Raw apples contain the maximum amount of nutrition, and they are certainly digestible by ducks.
The trick is you cannot let your ducks try to eat a large slice of apple, or worse, a half or a whole apple!
That is a recipe for disaster because they can easily choke on it. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you how to prepare apples properly for your ducks a little later.
Can Ducks Eat Apple Cores?
They really shouldn’t. Although the hard, fibrous core of an apple is probably digestible by ducks if you were to chop it up well enough, you don’t want to serve them this inedible and nutritionally barren part of the apple.
Plus, apple cores are where the seeds are, and as we will learn ducks shouldn’t eat those.
Can Ducks Eat Apple Skin?
Yes. Ducks can eat apple skin, and are highly likely to eat it so long as it’s still attached to a small, bite-sized piece of apple.
That being said, your ducks are just as likely to steer clear of the fibrous, slippery apple skin if they have peeled chunks of apple to eat.
My advice? Leave the skin on the pieces. The skin is the primary source of several nutrients that apples contain, so your ducks will get more nutrition if they eat it.
What About Apple Seeds? Can Ducks Eat Those?
No, they cannot, although they might if they have access to them so be careful. What you’ve probably heard about apple seeds containing cyanide is no urban legend.
Actually, they don’t contain cyanide proper but they do contain a chemical compound that is basically a precursor to cyanide when it is digested.
One, two or a few apple seeds are unlikely to harm your ducks, but if they eat a bunch of them or if they eat them regularly, you might be setting the stage for disaster.
For this reason, you should never deliberately serve apple seeds to ducks, and make it a point to carefully core and clean any apples you’re going to feed them, discarding the seeds.
Can Ducks Eat Apples When They are Cooked?
Yes, ducks can eat cooked apples as long as they don’t have any extra sugar, butter or other added ingredients. I’ll talk more about that health hazard a little later.
Also, there is no reason to cook apples for giving them to your ducks because all this will do is reduce the nutrients.
Yes, it will make the apples softer and somewhat easier for ducks to eat, but considering you need to chop them up anyway, it’s sort of a moot point.
Can Ducklings Have Apples, Also?
Yes, ducklings can have apples. But they should only be given a few tidbits of apple as a treat once they are several weeks old and starting to eat solid foods, or rather, whole foods.
And keep in mind; apples really are just a treat for ducklings. They are high in sugar, which ducklings don’t need very much of, and they don’t have enough nutrients to really make it worth their while.
Ducklings should stick to their nutritionally balanced starter feed until they grow up for the most part.
Never Give Apples to Ducks if They’re Made with Harmful Foods
Apples are a fixture in all sorts of delicious desserts, from pies and cobblers to ice cream sundaes and a lot more.
Apples themselves are also regularly prepared with cinnamon and a whole lot of sugar. Delicious, yes, but only for us. Don’t give any of this stuff to your ducks.
I know it’s kind to share, but you won’t be doing them a favor because all of those ingredients and especially the massive amount of sugar can easily cause serious health problems for them. Stick to plain, fresh apples only.
How Often Can Ducks Eat Apples?
Apples are definitely a healthy snack or treat option for ducks, and so long as you give them small servings, they can have a few per week, say no more than three.
How Can You Serve Apples to Your Ducks?
Preparing apples for your ducks is a little bit more involved than giving them bananas or berries, but it is still quite simple.
The first thing you need to do is thoroughly wash the apple. After that, remove the stem and core it, making sure to get rid of each and every seed in there.
Once that is done, cut the apple up into eights and then chop those slices into irregular cubes or bits that are anywhere from a ¼” wide to ⅜” of an inch wide.
This will make it much easier for your ducks to handle and swallow each bite without the risk of choking.
Once that’s done, your ducks are ready to dig in. Just remember to mind the quantity!
Don’t Leave Moldy, Spoiled Apples Where Ducks Can Get Them
Your ducks will be more than happy to eat up all the apples you give them, but in case they do leave some scraps behind, make it a point to pick those up and get rid of them.
They will spoil and rot quickly, and any duck that comes back around to nibble on that bad apple could get sick.
Also, apples are sweet and will easily attract insects and other pests that you don’t want around your ducks’ living space.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.