Why Do Ducks Eat Mud? (Answered)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

I never knew ducks were messy and liked playing in the mud.

So it came as a huge surprise when I saw my darling little duck, face down in muddy water digging through.

Should I be concerned and if so what do I do?

Why do ducks eat mud? Ducks sift through mud looking for things they can feed on. It is something called drilling. So they put their beaks in the mud looking for bugs, maggots and little bits of plant material that they can feed on. It is totally natural behavior for them and one of the favorites if you ask me.

What are ducks eating in the mud?

Photo by Sippakorn Yamkasikorn on Pexels.com

Ducks will be ducks and dabbling in the mud is normal behaviour for them.

But while they sift through the mud looking for food, here are some of the things that they actually find.

1. Bugs

This is probably the main reason why ducks will sift through mud.

They are looking for bugs because they love picking them out and feeding on them

You really cannot blame them because bugs found there are a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals that the birds need to grow.

Bugs in mud are usually the mud wasp or dirt dauber that build their nests in the mud and as such are easy prey for the long beaks of your birds.

2. Maggots

These are another very common food that ducks feed on in the mud

Maggots are usually the larva of flies and they mostly breed and reproduce in muds

Ducks love eating maggots because research has revealed that maggots contain 47.1% protein, 25.3% fat, 7.5% fibre and 6.25% ash at dry matter level of 92.7%. 

It also has essential acids and amino acids that boost strong growth and bones in birds

This is the reason why ducks will muddy themselves looking for maggots to feed on.

3. Crawfish

Crawfish is packed with high quality protein that ducks love and enjoy.

They look like tiny lobsters and are typically between 3 to 6 inches long

They can be found in muddy waters and this is the reason why your ducks will go digging in to find them

Crawfish are very rich in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorus.

Here is a detailed article I wrote on what do ducks eat

4. Shrimps

Another very delicious and nutritious animal that ducks enjoy feeding on in mud is shrimps

This is because shrimps are a rich source of protein, calories, fats and carbs for ducks

It also contains a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.

Shrimp is also rich in selenium, choline and vitamin B12 which is ideal for the healthy growth of your birds.

With a rich source of nutrients and vitamins like this, now you know why ducks will go digging in mud looking for them

5. Plant based materials

Ducks will also look for and feed on plant based materials such as eeds, greens, weeds, water plants and roots.

These are all foods that have lots of nutrients and minerals that will ensure that your birds grow up to be healthy and strong.

Basically ducks sifting through mud is very normal and is nothing to be worried about

Like all other animals, they are looking or what to eat and this is how they go about it.

Tips to be aware of when your ducks are feeding in the mud?

I know I said this is a very normal behaviour for duck, but there are something that you need to take in consideration

And this is especially true if you are keeping them as pets or rearing in your backyard

  • First you want to check and test the acidity of your soil. Sometimes your soil might have a high amount of clay and iron in it and if your birds should ingest this, it will be fatal for them. Metal poisoning is also something you need to be aware of as this is very bad for birds. So ensure that your soil is not acidic and poisonous to your birds.
  • When your birds have finished feeding in the mud, they come back to their coop or worse your house and mess up everywhere. To avoid this you want to ensure that you have straw bedding in their coop. And make sure you constantly change this every week.
  • Provide a kiddie pool for them with clean fresh water. This will enable them to bathe and wash off the mud from their bodies before coming to you for hugs.
  • Have a water hose to hose down their coop from time to time. I think you have an idea now that ducks are messy birds and will forage and make a mess everywhere they go. So it is ideal you get a long hose that you can use to wash down and spray their coop so it remains clean. Here is my personal recommendation which you can get from Amazon.com – Flexi Hose with 8 Function Nozzle

Why are ducks so dirty?

Ducks are dirty and messy birds and this is because they are always foraging and sifting through mud looking for food

A duck will continue digging and foraging in muddy water looking for small animals, bugs and maggots to feed on

Also ducks love to splash and bathe in water and will splash in any type of water they find just to have a bath and have fun.

This is all normal behaviour for them and there is nothing you or I can do to change it

Another thing is water and like I said ducks love water, need it, want it and they mostly make a mess out of it

So without a constant source of water ducks will get dirty and might even be prone to external parasites like lice and mites.

What diseases do ducks carry?

This is a very important question seeing that while ducks are feeding in the mud, they are bound to pick up a few diseases.

According to this CDC article I found online, ducks and other backyard poultry can Salmonella germs in their guts.

This Salmonella germs can cause diarrhea in people who come in contact with them and this can be mild or life threatening depending on the severity.

So you want to make sure that you keep your birds always clean

Provide them with clean fresh water that they can bath in and clean themselves  before coming close to you or members of your family.


Ducks will dig and sift through mud looking for food and things to eat.

They usually enjoy doing it and will find lots of things to feed on like bugs, maggots, and green plants. 

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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