We’ve all been there. While walking by a pond you see a group of ducks swimming out from some grasses. Maybe you’re even with a child and the temptation to toss some break our crackers to the paddling birds is too hard to resist. Don’t do it. While they’re happy to snap up your offerings, this age-old and entertaining practice just isn’t the best for the birds.

Bread Is A Poor Replacement For Their Natural Diets

Why would break be a problem for ducks to eat? For starters, it just isn’t their natural diet. They need a lot more to grow and thrive than one of the most basic carbs available. They naturally feed on grasses, insects, seeds, small fishes and other things that are a lot more nutritious for them. If they fill up on bread, they won’t pursue these other tasty treats.

Feeding Creates Bad Wildlife Habits

Another reason to avoid feeding ducks concerns the risk that they will start to develop habits that could seriously undermine their health and well being. For starters, fed ducks are likely to become too habituated to humans and will lose their foraging instincts. After all, why should they work for food when they know that humans can give them plenty of what they want with minimal effort?

In addition, hand-feeding ducks may have another effect on them–it discourages their natural migration patterns. If ducks are used to being fed year round, there’s just no reason for them to go anywhere else when cold weather sets in.

A third effect that is encouraged by duck-feeding is the habit of the birds gathering in large groups. As they flock together to go after whatever humans are feeding them, they become used to being with each other. Living in these kinds of close quarters isn’t what they’re designed for and it isn’t good for them. In addition, it makes for a lot more poop intensity and the possibility for disease.

It Brings Bacteria And Disease

The poopy mess left behind by higher concentrations of ducks isn’t the only way that feeding bread can lead to disease. The bread can more directly cause bacteria if it is left in the water, uneaten, by the already-overfed birds. Moldy bread can contaminate the water and it isn’t something that ducks, or any other species in the water habitat, should be exposed to.

Tossing bread to the ducks can also lead to overfeeding them which can play havoc with their weight and lead to a condition called Angel Wing disease. The proteins and carbohydrates in the bread cause the joint in the duck’s wing to become twisted. It is painful, it keeps them from flying, and it is eventually fatal. While it is possibly curable in younger ducks, older ducks can’t recover if they have the disease.

Other Animal Feeding Concerns

Now that you know to stop feeding bread to ducks, you may be wondering if you should be giving more thought to what you feed other animals. The answer is likely, yes. Chocolate is notoriously bad for dogs, but also for cats and birds because the stimulant properties for chocolate are too much for the animals to handle. Some pet parents also give their animals sips of alcohol from time to time, but while this can be funny to watch, it can harm their brain and liver function. Sugar-free gum with Xylitol can also have dramatically harmful effects on dog and cat liver function. If your pet comes into contact with any of these things, you may want to consult your vet as soon as you possibly can.