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Sfd (Safe for ducks)

  • Cracked corn
  • Wheat, barley or similar grains
  • Oats
  • Rice (cooked or uncooked)
  • Birdseed (any type or mix)
  • Grapes (cut in half)
  • Frozen peas or corn (defrosted, no need to cook)
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms
  • Chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes
  • Chopped vegetable trimmings or peels
  • Duck pellets

What is the Best Type of Bread to Feed Birds?

The best types of bread to feed birds are the ones that have grains, seeds, high fat and protein levels.  Check the ingredients label for seeds, nuts and grains before you buy it.

Multi-grain loaves of bread are high in fibre and are ideal for a bird’s digestive tract. For chicken owners, fibre can reduce feather pecking as this often happens due to a shortage of fibre.

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How bad can it be?

For starters, bread is essentially just junk food. It fills birds up, but it doesn’t carry much nutritional value. That means pretty much the same thing it means for humans: baby birds are more likely to end up malnourished, without the plant nutrients they need to grow properly. A high-calorie, low-nutrient diet can cause waterfowl to develop a condition known as “angel wing”, an incurable wing deformity that usually renders birds flightless. It’s sad as heck, y’all. And then there’s the fact that the constant availability of human-supplied junk food keeps ducklings from learning how to forage healthy food for themselves. Meanwhile, grown-up birds who gorge on carbs are more likely to get fat and sick.

So yeah, we’re basically raising ducks to live on a never-ending candy buffet. That abundance of food, bad as it may be, can cause populations to surge—which means that even if ducks are smart enough to keep eating healthy food amidst the deluge of bread, they’ll have less of it to go around.

Even the bread that birds don’t eat is bad for them: Rotting bread can grow mold that makes ducks sick, contribute to the growth of algae—which can kill loads of animals—and attract vermin that spread disease to birds and humans alike.

Leftover bread is also bad for them

If a bird lives in a pond or lake where they are commonly fed bread, other issues may arise. Bread that doesn’t get snapped up by clever beaks doesn’t just evaporate into the air. There’s no clean up crew. It settles into the water; the CWF also mentions that this can lead to a build up of algae in their environment. ABC Radio Perth reported on an even grimmer circumstance in which the higher nutrient level in the water created a bacteria in the soil that lead to avian botulism:

Nicole Davey, environmental coordinator at Belmont Council, said feeding bread to birds contributes to higher nutrient levels in the water, which in turn leads to an increase in the soil bacteria that causes avian botulism.

“So when the birds eat snails and worms that are in the mud, they become infected with the bacteria, when releases a toxin that causes them to become paralysed, and eventually they die,” she said.

You’re not just messing with the bird’s diet—you’re messing with their whole eco-system, and the other creatures great and small who are living there, too.

Sandwich Foods to Avoid

Under no circumstances should some common human sandwich items be offered to birds. Processed lunch meat, sugar-free or low-sugar spreads, soft cheeses, and bacon may make great sandwiches for humans, but none of these items are great for birds. They contain greater quantities of salt and other chemicals that can be even more unhealthy or outright dangerous for birds, even if only offered very rarely. Similarly, no items that are overly stale, moldy, or spoiled should ever be fed to birds.

2. Free Food Isn’t All It’s Quacked Up to Be

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

In addition to the nutritional issues posed by abundant bread, too many handouts of any kind raise a wide range of problems for waterfowl. These include:

Overcrowding

Ducks and geese naturally find habitats that offer enough food, but handouts can lure large crowds to areas that wouldn't normally support them. Natural foods are also widely scattered, letting birds eat in relative privacy, while competition is often fierce and stressful at artificial feeding sites.

Disease

Too many birds means too many droppings. That’s a health risk, both in water and on land. Plus, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation points out, “diseases generally not transmissible in a wild setting find overcrowded and unsanitary conditions very favorable.”

Delayed Migration

Artificial feeding has been known to shorten or even eliminate migration patterns of waterfowl. They may be reluctant to leave a reliable food source despite the onset of winter, and then struggle to survive as temperatures fall — especially if the cold discourages their human feeders.

Expectations

Our gifts may also spur a few other negative changes in birds' behavior. When adult ducks become obsessed with free bread, for example, they may fail to give their ducklings a sufficient education in foraging, thus committing them to a life as beggars. Once birds are dependent on handouts, they tend to lose their fear of humans and behave more aggressively.

How to Give Birds Food

It’s also important to pay attention to how you feed birds. You can simply sprinkle nuts and seeds around your garden but this isn’t a good idea. Not only will the birds damage your lawn when they eat, but the food can attract unwanted visitors.

There are a number of different feeders you can get.

  • Some people like a flat top bird table. The food is placed on the top, and birds can sit on the top to feed. This is a simple way to feed birds, but food can be pushed off the edge if the table doesn’t have a rim.
  • If you want to give birds nuts and seeds, get a proper feeder which holds them. These can be hung from branches so the birds feel safe eating, and they also hold the food in place so it doesn’t spill.
  • Nectar feeding birds will need a proper nectar feeder. These are designed to hold the nectar safely in side and have special feeding slots for long beaks.
  • If you put out fat balls or suet blocks you will need the right size and shape of feeder. The blocks should slot in so that the birds can get to them, but they won’t fall out.

If you have more than one feeder, space them out around the garden. You will find more birds will come to eat if they have more room.

What you should feed them instead

There are some birds that are already trained to expect food from humans; they’re not flying south for winter, even though they’re supposed to. Or maybe you just think the ritual of feeding wildlife is something you can’t give up, even though almost all wildlife foundations say you should.

In that case, you can feed water birds food bought at an actual pet store, like duck pellets. You can also give them whole corn kernels or oats, if you want to fatten them up, or defrosted carrots and peas. If you have leftover greens, like lettuce, those will be a hit if chopped into bird-mouth-manageable pieces. But please, consider the circumstance of the animals first. You might think you’re just one person meditatively feeding an animal, but there’s a long line behind you.

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