There are a few plants that can be poisonous to ducks that we need to watch out for. Our livestock animals are pretty good at avoiding toxic plants instinctively. However, it’s good to know what not to throw to your ducks just to be safe!
I made a list but it’s closer to the bottom of the post. In between that there are a bunch of individual questions answered.
What Plants Are Poisonous To Ducks?
Plants With Solanine/glycoalkaloids can be poisonous to Ducks
First we will talk about the dreaded nightshade family. Pepper plants, eggplant, tomato, tomatillo, tamarillo, gooseberry, ground cherry, pepino, goji berry, garden huckleberry, and potato (excluding sweet potatoes) are all in the nightshade family.
Leaves, stems, and unripened fruit can contain toxic levels of solanine. Solanine is toxic not only to our livestock but to us humans too.
I want to be clear. I’m not a vet or a doctor of any kind. However, there are many sources that say livestock can’t eat anything in the nightshade family. However, I disagree.
The toxin, solanine levels that are found in unripened fruit, leaves, and stems are high, but as the fruit ripens the solanine levels dissipate. That is how humans are able to eat things like tomato, eggplant, and potatoes. However, there are more rules than that. Such as, don’t eat green potatoes and we cut the eyes of the potato out too. BUT WHY? Because that’s a sign of high solanine.
I’m going to talk about some of these individually, but for the overall picture… people and animals should avoid the leaves, stems, and unripened fruit of the nightshade family, since they are toxic.
A good rule of thumb is everything in moderation. So don’t feed yourself or your livestock too much of one thing. Especially, nightshade foods.
Can My Ducks Eat Tomatoes?
This question is asked a lot!
Answer: Yes, ducks can have red ripe tomatoes. However, they cannot eat green tomatoes, tomatoes stems or leaves. These contain higher levels of solanine which could be toxic to many birds including ducks and chickens.
Do ducks even like tomatoes?
I’ve had chickens that wouldn’t eat tomatoes and others that love them. My ducks like them okay. I wouldn’t say they are a favorite snack though…
Can My Ducks Eat Eggplant?
I can’t seem to find any official sources say yea or nay on this question. Just a whole bunch of sources saying no because it’s part of the nightshade family.
Answer: I imagine they could eat it raw or cooked with little ill effects at least in moderation. But with no professional sources, I can’t say for sure. Make sure to avoid leaves and stems of the plant as those most likely contain too much solanine.
Will ducks eat eggplant?
Can they eat it? Maybe, but the bigger question is will they eat eggplant. Knowing the cravings of my ducks and chickens, I just don’t see them being interested in this weird fruit. I read some forums where people said their ducks weren’t really interested. They pecked a couple of times, but didn’t have much interest, and it’s worth mentioning no ill effects were reported.
Can Ducks Eat Potatoes?
Potatoes can contain an exceptional amount of the toxin solanine and other versions of this toxin.
Have you ever seen a green potato? Some potatoes that have been exposed to too much light, may grow extra solanine. These should not be eaten by livestock of humans.
The reason why we cut out the “eyes” of the potato is because those eyes contain more solanine too. For this reason, before giving your chickens potatoes you should cut out the eyes.
Also, make sure you don’t give them green potatoes, potatoes that are sprouting, leaves, or stems of the potato plant.
Interestingly enough, sweet potatoes are not part of the nightshade family and ducks and chickens can eat them no problem.
Answer: Since potatoes can have high amounts of solanine, I suggest if you are going to give your animals potatoes, that you give them small amounts of boiled potatoes with the eyes removed, and make sure they have NO hint of green on the skin or flesh. Don’t over do it. Just a little may be okay, but they are still fairly high in solanine. So be careful giving ducks potatoes…
Will ducks eat potatoes?
Absolutely they will. They love cooked potatoes and you can add herbs and spice that can keep their immune system strong.
COMPOSTING: If you have livestock do not compost green potatoes or the leaves and stems of the nightshade family members, if your animals can access the compost pile. Throw them away instead. So they don’t get sickened by these plants.
Can Ducks Eat Okra?
Although it’s not considered a member of the nightshade family it does contain solanine.
Answer: In moderation ducks can eat okra. The leaves and stems will contain the highest amounts of the toxin so don’t allow ducks to eat the leaves or stems.
Can Ducks Eat Rhubarb?
According to one resource I found says this plant can contain high amounts of toxins. Oxalic acid and tannins, just to name a couple. The oxalic acid will join calcium in the blood and makes insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These can build up in the kidneys where they can cause acute renal failure.
I read about ducks being around the rhubarb plant in some poultry forums. Some of the commenters said their ducks nibbled at the leaves with no ill effect. Most said the ducks weren’t interested in eating it but seeking refuge under it.
Answer: I only found one resource that had information on this plant. I think it’s best not to allow any poultry to eat it if possible.
Plants With Tannins can be Poisonous To Ducks
There’s a little bit of controversy over ducks eating tannins. One source notes that the diet of mallards in the winter consists mainly of acorns. This article about Tannin Myth Busters says that not all tannins are created equal. It also says that tannins can have beneficial implications, and that they are not all bad when it comes to livestock eating them.
I read a post on a chicken forum, with a lady who’s duck egg yolk had turned grey. She said acorns “are raining down right now”. So that could be the culprit.
Some examples of foods with tannins can include: Coffee, tea, wine, grapes, cranberries, apples, apricots, barley, peaches, dry fruits, legumes, pomegranate, persimmon, berries, nuts, barely, sorghum, squash, rhubarb, and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, cloves, and vanilla.
Dark grey or greenish eggs yolks may be a result of eating something high in tannins such as acorns.
From all the research I did it seems that the mythbusters seems to be correct some tannins are good and some are bad. I can’t tell you which are good and which are bad because there just isn’t’ enough research. However, please let us know if you find a bad one! Tell us in the comments!
Answer: Many people feed chickens and ducks berries and other foods that have tannins with no ill effects reported. It seems that some tannins are problematic. If you notice egg yolks turning a funny color, check your duck’s diet and around their pen for possible food or plants with tannins like acorns. Then maybe you want to remove them or cut down the tree, or possibly move their coop and pen away from the tree. If it’s in their diet, like say you served them food high in tannins, just stop giving them that food. And leave me a comment below, if you’ve run into this issue. Feedback is always helpful to us livestock keepers!
Plants With lectin/hemagglutinin Can Be Poisonous For Ducks
Dry Beans & Other Legumes: I found many unofficial resources of people saying that dry beans aren’t good for ducks. I can’t seem to find any official sources. However, many beans contain lectin until they are properly cooked. This is toxic to people and animals. It help the plant deter predators from eating the beans before they are ready. It’s a natural defense system that many other plants have…
Plants With thiosulfate Can Be Poisonous To Ducks
Onion, Garlic, Shallot, and Leeks
Onions especially can be toxic to ducks if ingested more than 0.5% of their body weight. That’s a pretty small amount.
Don’t feed to dogs or ducks! They don’t digest onions well, and it can lead to tummy problems, like diarrhea, vomiting, and even a blood condition called hemolytic anemia, which could cause death.
All types of onions, yellow, white, sweet, green, and spring onions in every form are toxic to ducks because of a toxin called thiosulfate. Whether, dehydrated, raw, cooked, or powder are all bad for ducks.
Cooking onions doesn’t reduce the amount of thiosulfate. Adding salt actually makes it worse according to some sources.
Ducks who had prolonged exposure of onions in their diets may experience ruptured blood vessels, major digestive issues, anemia, tachycardia, respiratory issues and more.
Can Ducks Eat Bread?
This is such a hot topic, since people for years have been feeding wild ducks at the park bread. Do you remember going to the park with a loaf of bread? Anyhow, I wrote a whole post about this. You can see the answer at Can Ducks Eat Bread.
Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?
Absolutely! However, it is suggest that you don’t feed baby ducklings medicated chick feed (starter/grower).
Many people say that the medication in this feed builds up in their bodies since they don’t need it and it causes them harm. However, I found this article in a chicken forum that says it’s all nonsense. She does link to an article of a conservatory that did some research. However, the research is limited. So it is best to keep ducklings on non-medicated chick feed.
We feed our chickens a mixed flock feed, Purina calls their “flock raiser“. This give a more robust nutrient and protein dense feed that’s good for several types of livestock. If you have a mixed flock of geese, ducks, chickens, and others you may choose this type of feed also. You can find mixed flock feed at most feed stores.
Can Ducks Eat Dog Food?
Ducks can eat a little dog food here and there, reportedly. However, dog food is super high in protein and if they eat too much it can cause something called “angel wing” in ducks.
Angel wing or sometimes referred to as “airplane wing” causes the wing to stick out because the last joint in the wing is contorted or bent. The wing will sort of stick out from the body instead of laying flat as it normally does. Which can prevent the duck from flying, if it is a flying breed.
Can Ducks Eat Beef and Pork?
Ducks are omnivores, meaning they eat meat, plants, and fish! So yes, they can in fact eat beef and pork. HOWEVER, many beef and pork meant for human consumption has a ton of salt and fat in it. A healthy diet for humans and ducks does not have high salt and fat content. So, if you give them beef or pork do so in small portions!
Can Ducks Eat Citrus?
Citrus can interfere with calcium absorption. It’s said that it may also cause some tummy problems because of the acid. Ducks don’t really seem to be interested in eating citrus anyway.
Are Mushrooms Poisonous To Ducks?
You already know some mushrooms are not fit to eat. However, some of the mushrooms that we eat like white button mushrooms some sources say are okay for ducks to eat. However, will they eat them? Like eggplant, I don’t think they’ll be interested…
List of Poisonous Plants For Ducks
- Bread – Let’s face it ducks love bread. Kinda like I do. But bread has a lot of carbs yet devoid of other nutritional value. Basically, it’s junk food! You don’t want a fat duck with health problems…
- Tomato: Ducks can eat ripe red tomatoes but avoid leaves, stems, unripened fruit, green tomatoes
- Potatoes: Ducks can eat cooked white potatoes in moderation, but avoid leaves, stems, “eyes”or sprouts, green potatoes, unripened potatoes
- Eggplant: Ripe fruit may be okay to eat in moderation but avoid leaves and stems
- Okra: Ripe fruit okay in moderation but avoid leaves and stems
- Medicated Chick starter – Contains medication unneeded by ducks and could cause problems.
- Mango – Just like in humans, sometimes mango can cause an allergic reaction. So they can have mango if they don’t have a bad reaction to it.
- Apple seeds should be avoided – Ripe apple fruit is okay for ducks to eat.
- Apricot seeds and young leaves should be avoided – Ripe apricot fruit is okay for ducks to eat
- Peach seeds and young leaves should be avoided – Ripe peach fruit is okay for ducks to eat
- Plum pits – contain cyanide and should be avoided. Fruit is okay to eat in moderation
- Apricot seed – contain cyanide and should be avoided. Fruit is okay to eat in moderation
- Cherry pits – contain cyanide and should be avoided. Fruit is okay to eat in moderation
- Citrus plants – Can cause tummy pain and issues. It’s also said that it disrupts their ability to absorb calcium. Which would make the eggs really unhealthy.
- Spinach – Can lower calcium absorption. Which can lead to unhealthy eggs.
- Onion – Don’t feed to dogs or ducks! They don’t digest onions well, and it can lead to tummy problems, like diarrhea, vomiting, and even a blood condition called hemolytic anemia, which could cause death. All types of onions, yellow, white, sweet, green, and spring onions in every form are toxic to ducks because of a toxin called thiosulfate. Whether, dehydrated, raw, cooked, or powder are all bad for ducks.
- Garlic – These contain the same toxin found in onions, reportedly and can cause a number of issues.
- Shallot – These contain the same toxin found in onions, reportedly and can cause a number of issues.
- Leek – These contain the same toxin found in onions, reportedly and can cause a number of issues.
- Avocado – Can lead to cardiac distress, heart failure, and even death.
- Rhubarb – Reportedly, this plant contains high amounts of toxins and should be avoided.
- Dry Beans & other legumes – Due to a toxin found in undercooked beans called hemagglutinin. Properly cooked beans are okay to eat.
- Popcorn – While most corn products are loved by ducks and chickens alike, the kernels of popcorn can cause an obstruction in their esophagus.
- Chocolate – Can be fatal if enough is ingested.
- Nuts – Can be a choking hazard, and hard to digest. They can eat some nuts in moderation is crushed in small pieces.
Other Common and uncommon Plants Poisonous To Ducks
- Box Weed
- Elephant Ears
- Ground Cherries
- Carolina jasmine
- Castor bean
- Christmas rose
- Climbing lily
- Coffee Husk
- Coffee senna
- Corn Cockle
- Crape ginger
- Creeping indigo
- Crown flower
- Curly dock
- Day jessamine
- Jamaican nettletree
- Japanese pieris
- Japanese privet
- Longstalk spring Parsley
- Madagascar periwinkle
- Meadow saffron
- Paradoxa grass
- Paterson’s curse
- Peace lily
- Pride of Barbados
- Sabi star
- sacred bamboo
- Sago palms
- Sandbox tree
- scarlet pimpernel
- Sea mango
- showy rattlebox
- Skunk cabbage
- Spanish gold
- Spring parsley
- Star of Bethlehem
- Sudan grass
- Summer pheasant’s eye
- Sweet pea
- Calla lily
- Lily of the valley
- Sweet Peas
- Poison hemlock
- St. John’s Wort
- Virginia creeper
- Angel wings
- Angel’s Trumpet
- Bearded tongue
- Bitter gourd
- Bitter Root
- Black bean tree
- Black locust
- Bouncing bet
- California holly
- Death camas
- Dog hobble
- Dumb cane
- European spindletree
- Flamingo flower
- Fly poison
- Golden chain tree
- Green cestrum
- Ground Mexican poppy
- Hairy vetch
- Hemp dogbane
- Horse chestnut
- Hounds tongue
- Imperial crown
- Indian Mustard
- Milk vetch
- Mountain laurel
- Mountain pomegranate
- oriental bittersweet
- Rangers button
- Rosary bean
- Rubber vine
- Tassel flower
- Tung tree
- Water arum
- Water hemlock
- Wild radish
- Winter aconite
- Wormseed mustard
- Yellow starthistle
- Yesterday, today, tomorrow flowers
List Of Other Things Ducks Should Not Eat
- Carbonated Beverages– Since birds don’t burp or fart, the gasses could build up in the esophagus and in their tummies. This can lead to death believe it or not.
- Dairy Products – There’s a craze going around the last couple of years…Giving yogurt to chickens. I’m no veterinarian, but poultry do not have nipples, and they don’t produce milk. Milk products are typically not easy to digest. However, I don’t believe poultry should be given dairy products, since there is very little research on it. Fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt may be easier to digest. However, Do what you want with your birds, but mine will not be eating dairy.
- Junk food – Ducks can be junk food junkies. If allowed your ducks and kids can pig out on junk food, but it’s not good for them in the slightest!
- Alcohol – I can’t imagine anyone actually offering alcohol to their animals, but if they accidentally consume alcohol, they could easily get alcohol poisoning. Alcohol depresses the organ systems of birds and it can kill them.
- Coffee grounds – Ducks should not have caffeine.
- Nicotine – Tobacco plants are of the nightshade family too!
- Sugary, salty, high carbs, or fatty foods – Ducks can become overweight and give them health problems, and possibly die young.
- Mold or rotten foods – There are not many animals that can eat moldy food and get away without a tummy ache. Best to give fresh food only.
Foods Ducks Should Only Eat In Moderation
Foods high in tannins: Grapes, cranberries, apples, apricots, barley, peaches, dry fruits, legumes, pomegranate, persimmon, berries, nuts, barely, sorghum, squash, rhubarb, and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, cloves, and vanilla.
All Junk Food – Yes, ducks can eat crackers, bread, chips, fries. However, these aren’t good for them. You want good healthy eggs? Then feed your ducks a healthy snack instead!
Foods From The Nightshade Family: I think it would be smart to limit the amount of foods from this group. Ducks and chickens have such smaller bodies. Scientists have not done much research on the effects of toxins on ducks. I think it’s smart to limit their intake amounts. A little here and there may not hurt, but don’t give them too much nightshade foods in their diet.
Beef and Pork: These often are fatty and contain high amounts of salt. These are both no-nos for ducks and chickens alike. If you must, only give in small amounts.
Dog Food and Other Animal Foods: Dog food doesn’t contain the correct amount of nutrients and too much can cause big health problems in ducks. So if they eat out of the dog’s bowl one day, it might not be a big deal, but if they do it everyday it could become a problem.
I’d love To Know what you think!… Leave me a comment!
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Elkin RG, Rogler JC, Sullivan TW. Comparative effects of dietary tannins in ducks, chicks, and rats. Poult Sci. 1990 Oct;69(10):1685-93. doi: 10.3382/ps.0691685. PMID: 2263544.