For most people, feeding ducks will bring back some pretty happy childhood memories.
It used to be the case that a loaf of bread would do, but we now know that bread is certainly not the best thing to feed to a duck, either wild or domestic.
So what other options are there for a healthy duck snack.
Can ducks eat sunflower seeds? And if so, how many sunflower seeds should a duck eat?
And of course, will sunflower seeds float on water or can ducks only eat them on land?
Ducks can eat sunflower seeds. Ducks are omnivores, which means they can eat a variety of food from both plant and animal origin. Sunflower seeds make a great treat for a duck and have plenty of health benefits too.
Sunflower seeds are a much better food to feed to a duck than bread, which effectively is a food with empty calories and little nutritional value.
First, let’s take a look at some of the main health benefits of sunflower seeds for ducks.
Then I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about ducks and sunflower seeds.
Health benefits of sunflower seeds for ducks
The main reason sunflower seeds are a great choice to feed to ducks is that they are packed with vitamins and minerals
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to neutralize ‘free radicals’, these are atoms that can cause harm to other cells in the body.
It also aids in keeping a well functioning immune system and good skin health.
A trace mineral, Selenium is essential for the proper function of the thyroid gland and immune system.
It has also been credited with a range of other benefits such as acting as an antioxidant and improving joint health.
This vitamin helps maintain red blood cell generation and good nervous system function, as well as keeping a strong immune response.
Manganese helps to form antioxidants. These, in turn, can help to rid the body of harmful ‘free radicals’.
Free radicals are isolated atoms that bind themselves to cells in the body. The body then treats this cell as an invader and it is damaged or destroyed.
That can lead to a whole host of health issues and even cancer.
Manganese also helps to support good bone health, working with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.
Magnesium is an essential macro-mineral.
It helps to maintain good nerve and muscle function, supporting the immune system, keeping bones nice and strong and maintaining a steady heartbeat.
Phenolic acids and flavonoids
These plant compounds function as an antioxidant, reducing the formation of free radicals in the body.
This has long term beneficial effects on the body by reducing the risk of certain diseases.
Health risks of sunflower seeds for ducks
For all their good, sunflower seeds do still pose a risk to ducks if consumed in excess.
That’s why they should be considered as a treat, not as a standard daily diet.
That’s more important if you’re feeding domestic ducks, but also if you’re feeding wild ducks on a daily basis you should vary the foods you give them.
You shouldn’t feed ducks sunflower seeds every day as it can lead to the following health risks.
Sunflower seeds are relatively high in calories.
That’s not always a bad thing. Ducks need a good amount of calories as they are an active species.
Calories provide ducks with energy, they need energy for all the paddling, flying (and quacking!).
But if they consume more calories than their activity requires then the excess will be turned into fat.
A daily diet of sunflower seeds could lead to an overweight duck, which can cause lots of health issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Many sunflower seeds that you can buy will have added salt (also called sodium).
Ducks don’t need much salt in their diet so you shouldn’t feed them foods with added salt.
The salt will usually coat the shell or husk, so you can either remove the shell from the seeds and only feed the seed to the ducks (which will be a bit of a pain), or you can thoroughly rinse the whole thing with water to remove all the salt.
Sunflower seeds contain quite a lot of cadmium, it’s a heavy metal that sunflowers absorb from the soil.
In small quantities, cadmium is fine and doesn’t pose a risk, but large amounts of cadmium have been shown to contribute to kidney damage.
Constipation as a result of eating sunflower seeds is a known problem in humans.
I can’t find evidence to back it up as an issue in ducks but it’s quite rare for things like this to have dedicated scientific studies anyway so it’s worth mentioning.
Again, this only generally occurs when sunflower seeds are eaten to excess.
How many sunflower seeds should a duck eat
Sunflower seeds have lots of health benefits, but like most things, they can harm ducks if given in excess.
I would recommend feeding three ducks no more than a handful of sunflower seeds every four days or so.
That’s the same for wild or domestic ducks.
Can ducks eat shelled sunflower seeds
Ducks are perfectly able to eat the whole sunflower seed, including the shell (sometimes known as the husk).
However, the shell is high in fiber and much more difficult to digest than the seeds, so if you can it’s generally better to just feed the seeds.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter that much whether you feed your ducks sunflower seeds with or without the shell as ducks should only have sunflower seeds occasionally anyway.
Both would be fine, but deshelled seeds are just a bit easier on the digestive system.
Can ducks eat salted sunflower seeds
Ducks should not eat sunflower seeds that have added salt.
Ducks don’t need much salt in their diet and feeding them seeds with added salt could harm their health.
It’s easy enough to remove the salt though.
Usually, the shell of the seeds will just be coated so you can rinse them under some water thoroughly to remove the salt before feeding your ducks.
Do sunflower seeds float
This is especially important if you’re feeding wild ducks as they are probably paddling around on a lake.
It wouldn’t be much good to feed them seeds that just instantly sink to the bottom!
Luckily, sunflower seeds with the shell still on do tend to float as there will be a little bit of air trapped within the shell.
However, if you’re feeding ducks sunflower seeds without the shell then these will sink straight to the bottom, so only feed ducks shell-less seeds on land, otherwise, they’ll be quite disappointed!
All ducks are different so always monitor them
Just like any animal, ducks will react to certain foods differently.
Some ducks will find it more difficult to digest sunflower seeds.
Some might develop the health risks I’ve mentioned more quickly than others, such as weight gain.
It’s really individual to the duck. So if you are feeding a domestic duck any new food you should always do it one at a time and then monitor them for the next day or so.
Make sure their activity levels are normal and there is nothing unusual about their poop.
It’s much easier to do this if you haven’t introduced them to multiple new foods at the same time which is why you should do it one at a time.
Of course, if you notice anything suspicious it may be best to try an alternative treat as sunflower seeds just might not agree with their digestive system.
Since ducks are omnivores they can eat most foods, so finding an alternative to sunflower seeds shouldn’t be too difficult.