Do NOT Feed Bread to Ducks and Geese
Why does eating bread hurt the birds?
Birds need calcium and protein as well as other vital nutrients, and when they forage naturally for food they are eating constantly and also eating tiny rocks and pieces of shell as well as natural foods containing calcium and protein, which bread has very little if any. If a bird is filling up on bread (keep in mind intake of water makes the bread also bloat, further filling the bird) they may not continue eating. Since grass contains small amounts of calcium and protein, the birds have to continuously eat grass, insects, water plants and other natural foods to get their required calcium and protein as well as other vital nutrients. Even if a bird’s bones are healthy when it begins to ingest bread, the body’s need for calcium to the organs will take priority over calcium to the bones and the body will leach calcium from the bones to provide the organs and soft tissues. The bird can also potentially starve to death from lack of protein.
Will every bird that eats bread wind up with this disease?
No, it depends on the birds that eat it. How much bread do they consume vs. how much natural foods will they still eat. Your more aggressive birds who eat the most have the highest risk of problems, as well as the young, large and elderly, all having a higher need for calcium and protein.
Can feeding bread affect the health of the offspring?
Absolutely! Calcium is needed to form egg shell so lack of it can cause “Rubber Eggs” or thin shelled eggs which will break easily. Everything a baby needs to develop is inside the egg when it is created, so a lack of calcium can prevent an embryo from developing or can cause a baby to develop with signs of metabolic bone disease such as “Angel Wing”. Ongoing consumption of bread to a ducking or gosling will absolutely hamper growth and development.
Can the problem be reversed?
Yes in most cases. If the bird is on its feet and can forage for food, the chances of it gaining ground for nutrition are very high. If the bird is unable to stand or walk, it need help and needs to go to a rescue.
Does climate have anything to do with risk?
Yes. Birds who live year round in areas where most of their food dies off in winter or banks become snow and ice covered are more dependent on hand feeding and have less options for nutritious natural foods. Migratory birds such as Canada geese and mallard ducks are supposed to migrate, but often do not if an area has a regular source of food. Ceasing the hand feeding for food dependent birds can starve them over winter so the solution is to ensure that healthy, nutritious foods are being fed instead of bread, especially during winter.
Well then, now I feel terrible for feeding bread, what can I do?
The best thing is to never feed wild birds at all so they will migrate as nature intended for them, but some birds have become completely dependent and may not be fit for migration due to issues from eating improper foods, or in the case of most ponds and lake parks, are populated with domestic ducks, geese and swans who are flightless. I recommend any feed that is suitable for poultry. In winter if natural foods have died off or are snow covered, poultry pellets that have complete nutritional content for ducks and geese, along with chopped alfalfa (chopped dried grass) will get them through. We ad egg shells to everything for our birds. Its the most digestible form of calcium for them because what their body manufactures itself is the easiest to break down and use. During months where they have plenty of natural foods, and feeding is for fun not necessity, chopped corn (feed store) is cheap (under $10 for 50 lbs) and wont hurt them. Even wild bird seed is better than bread. Anything designed for birds is better than bread.
How can I help the poor bread ducks at my local pond the most?
For birds who are showing signs of deficiencies, (limping birds, birds with tattered feathers, birds with swollen joints or angel wing) Feeding egg shell (after egg is opened, rinse goo off and allow to dry, then crush into bite size pieces) as well as nutritious poultry pellets or feeds designed for ducks and geese. That will help them replenish what they have lost from a high bread diet.
POST SIGNS AROUND YOUR AREA PONDS AND LAKES!!! The more we know, the better choices we can make for them. Help educate the people who are killing them with kindness. No one means to hurt them. Thank you for caring enough about the animals you enjoy to change bad habits!
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