Bread: is it okay or wrong to feed it to ducks and swans?

Quack Snacks Mallard Duck

Firstly, can we just say that whilst we do sell duck food, we’re not a giant pet food or animal feed company, just a very small team doing our bit because many organisations and experts say that bread is bad for ducks.

However, you may have seen news or posts on the likes of Facebook where there’s a photo of what’s said to be an underweight cynet and claims such as the local swan population being bigger than the natural sources of food can support and that they relied on bread from people to exist.

Such is the way with the internet that a single post becomes a battle flag for those who believe it was always harmless to feed ducks and swans with bread anyway. The people who claim it’s just an excuse to sell you an alternative, even when one of the largest no-bread campaigns was launched by the Canal & River Trust, who don’t sell duck food.

So who is right? What should you do?

An expert from the RSPB told the Daily Telegraph:

“A little bit of bread doesn’t do them any harm but we would encourage people to use porridge oats and frozen peas. It’s like with humans, it’s not nutritionally dense but it fills you up, so you don’t fancy anything healthy.

“As with all things it’s in moderation. Feeding swans nothing but bread won’t be good for them, but feeding them a little bit, along with other things will be fine”

Note, the RSPB doesn’t sell frozen peas or porridge oats, so they’ve really nothing to gain financially from that advice. Furthermore, on the RSPB’s website, they offer this advice about bread and birds in general:

“Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.”

The “problem” with bread has never been that if you give swans or ducks bread it will immediately poison them, the problem is the same as if you only ate bread! You wouldn’t be as healthy as you ought to be, since you wouldn’t be getting all the nutrients you really need.

Particularly in popular duck feeding spots, the ready and easy supply of bread means ducks may eat little else. That’s partly because of the number of people feeding the ducks and partly because people don’t just offer a single slice of bread, they bring whole loaves of bread to offer the ducks!

What the ducks don’t or can’t eat is left to rot in the water, a problem that was a major reason behind the Canal & River Trust’s no bread campaign.

It’s for those reasons (and others!) the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust recommend that “ducks, swans and geese be fed with vegetables, grain or specialist food where possible. That way, you can be as sure as possible that you are helping the birds rather than inadvertently causing any problems for them.”

So, if you were to share a single slice of bread with some ducks or swans – and you could guarantee that nobody else would be along later that day doing the same – then you’re not likely to do them any lasting harm.

But can you guarantee that you’re the only one feeding that light snack of bread? And, is “doing no harm” really the best we can do for our feathered quacking friends?

A pack of supermarket value-brand porridge oats can cost as little as 75 pence. Cheaper than a loaf of bread.

Similarly, a pack of supermarket own brand frozen peas can cost under £1.

What reason is there to feed bread to ducks, when nutritionally better alternatives exist at the same price of a loaf of bread?

If peas and porridge oats are so readily available, why do we sell Quack Snacks?

Well, porridge oats can be messy, particularly on a windy day. Decanting peas from the freezer is also an extra little task that can be a step too far when folk are already attempting to get the right wellies and coats on the right little people. Plus, we and others have found ducks sometimes less than willing to give those healthy little green balls a try.  

Quack Snacks are designed to be better for ducks than bread – and just as convenient for duck feeders. Our pellets are specially formulated to provide ducks and swans with essential vitamins and minerals, whilst also floating for long enough for you to enjoy seeing the ducks eat them. Food that sinks quickly means you’ll mostly just see a load of upended duck bottoms – or the feared “is that the best you can do?” look from a puzzled duck!

Plus, Quack Snacks are packed in small 40g bags so they fit easily into bags and pockets and help you to only offer small amounts – “Quack Snacks”. This should help to avoid ducks being overfed, so they’re still hungry enough to do what they naturally should be doing – foraging for their own natural food.

You benefit from interacting with them, they gain a nutritious snack, with minimal risk of you interfering negatively with their lives. And because you only offered a small snack, it’s much less troublesome if someone else follows you later in the day with another small snack.

There are better alternatives to bread at all price points – and we believe that ducks and swans deserve something that’s better for them and avoids the problems many experts associate with bread. Do you?

Further Reading >

Scroll to Top