Understanding Backyard Duck Behavior

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Part of the reason ducks are so fun to keep as pets is they have such fun personalities! Check out my guide to understanding your duck's behavior

Ducks are very intelligent animals with complex social relationships.  This is part of what makes keeping ducks so interesting and so rewarding!

Imprinting – Young ducklings imprint on whatever and whoever they spend time with in those first few precious hours of life.  It’s often their mother or siblings, but if you are hatching ducklings in an incubator it could be you!  When a duck imprints on you, she will want to follow you around and be with you all the time.  This is something you might want to give some thought to – while it sounds amazing to have a duck imprint on you, if this duck is destined to live outside you might want to have it co-imprint on a sibling that she can hang out with later in life.  Will she get over it when you kick her out of the house when she gets older and you can’t be with her all day?  Yes, but she will be sad and no one wants a sad duck!  It’s best to raise ducklings in at least pairs.

Should you get ducks?

Eating & Drinking – It’s no secret that ducks loves water, but did you know they shouldn’t have food without water?  You might notice that your ducks like to grab a bill full of food and then dunk it in the water, going back & forth between the two.  They aren’t just doing it to make a big mess or to waste food.  Ducks need to dip their food in water to digest it.  If they were to down a bunch of feed without having water to go with it, the feed will sit in their crop and when they drink again, the food will swell up and possibly choke them.

Duck Behavior

Flirting – Ducks are very flirty!  Drakes will rise up out of the water shaking their tail and head, flick water or play nip (like a grade schooler poking at the girl he likes on the playground!) or swimming with their neck outstretched.  Both males and females will bob their heads up and down at each other to flirt.  Ducks mate in the water, females will flatten their bodies on the surface of the water to make a flat surface for the male to stand on.  Females will assume this pose around males to flirt with ones they are interested in.

Duck Behavior

Mating – Speaking of mating, while all this duck courting & flirting seems sweet & romantic, the process of duck mating can be pretty harsh.  Ducks will usually mate in water, it is easier on the female’s legs & back and minimizes the chances of her getting hurt.  The female flattens out like a surfboard and the male climbs on her back.  He grabs the back of her head with his bill to help him balance.  Ducks are one of the few birds that actually have an external phallus, long and corkscrew shaped to fit inside the female’s twisting and turning vaginal canal.  The complex chamber actually allows the female to reject sperm from unwanted mating, only allowing through the sperm from her chosen mate.

Duck Behavior

Why does my duck………

Tilt their head?  Ducks can give you a mean side eye, but why are they staring you down??  Duck eyes are actually fixed in the socket, meaning to see in different directions they have to actually tilt & move their head around.  So they aren’t giving you a side eye, they just want to get a better look!

Walk in a line?  This is related to their eye placement.  With the lead duck keeping an eye to the front, the ducks behind can be scanning from side to side allowing them all to stay safer from predators.  When my ducks are crossing the yard 9 times out of 10 they are walking in line.

Duck Behavior

Wag their tail?  If your duck has just taken a swim, they will give themselves a shake to dry off usually ending with a good tail shake.  But I have also seen ducks shaking their tails when they are excited, like when I am filling up their pool or they are waiting for a tasty treat from the garden.  It reminds me of my dog when she is super happy and excited!

Blow bubbles in their water?  This always cracks me up!  Sometimes you will see a duck dip their head in the water and forcibly breath out, blowing bubbles into the water.  They are cleaning out any dirt, feed, feathers, etc that might be stuck in their nostrils.

Duck Behavior

Dig holes in puddles?  Ducks are pretty easy on the garden, unlike chickens who like to scratch and make a mess.  The exception is if there is a standing puddle or water.  They muck around in the puddles using their bill to dig small holes foraging for bugs.  After the puddle has dried up, you’ll have a bunch of little holes to fill in!

Duck Behavior

Sleep with one eye open?  Have you watched your duck sleep?  You will find that often their head will be tucked in their wing, one eye closed, one eye opened.  Believe it or not, they are actually asleep.  Duck’s brains are split in half with one half controlling one eye and the other half controlling the other eye.  So it is entirely possible for them to “turn off” half their brain to rest it while the other half remains alert for predators.  Ducks will usually only fully rest both halves if they are in a large group where others can be on the look out.

Preen after swimming?  After swimming, ducks engage in an elaborate preening of their feathers.  You’ll see them rubbing their heads all over their body.  What they are doing is distributing natural oils on their feathers that helps keep them waterproofed.  At the base of the tail is a small preening gland that they stimulate to release the oils.  It helps the water roll off like “water on a duck’s back”

Duck BehaviorDuck Behavior

Bob their head up & down when they see me?  They love you!  As we discussed earlier head bobbing is a form of flirting, but it is used for much more than that.  Ducks bob their heads up and down, often excitedly quacking when they are happy – when they see a duck friend they haven’t seen in a while (like a whole 15 minutes), when they get some tasty treats, when their pool is fresh and clean, when they have a pool party with all their friends…..if you see a lot of head bobbing going on, you have a happy duck on your hands!

Bob their head over to the side?  This is a different kind of bobbing, not the happy up and down bobbing, but a grumpier looking front to back bob back towards her tail, usually with her head lowered.  This is more of a reprimand and it’s usually done by one of the top female ducks.  She might be reprimanding a lower duck for wandering off, but often it’s a warning to other females that this male is hers and you guys better back off my boyfriend.  For most breeds, a drake will mate with multiple females, but females will choose their favorite males and can often be a little possessive!

 

 


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107 comments

  1. Amanda says:

    Hi!
    I recently was given a pair of ducks the male has come around a lot in the week I have had them but the female does a weird movent almost grabbing her feet anytime I walk around the yard..she gets vocal and becomes distant..thus causing the male to be distant..
    Is this normal what can I do to make her comfortable with me?
    I feel they where chased a lot..
    But as it stands they get a small treat every time I cluck to them the male has caught on and even ate from my hand all while the female gabbed on doing the head motion.

    • Liz says:

      You are right that head movement is her defending her space and saying stay away. It sounds like she might take some time to come around. Try gaining both their trust by sitting quietly on the ground and putting treats a few feet from you (mealworms are pretty irresistible!). After a week or so you can try moving the treats closer and closer until hopefully she will feel safe eating out of your hand. It’s helpful that the male is friendly, hopefully she will take some cues from him!

  2. Qpeter haase says:

    Why are my two ducks i have raised as chicks 3 months ago still very shy , until now you cant go near them i’ve always tried to be around them but they s till always run away.?

    • Liz says:

      Sounds like your ducks imprinted on each other instead of you, which is really common. With patience you can win their trust though. Try sitting quietly on the ground and let them come to you. Ducks are really curious creatures. If you have some treats (my ducks go CRAZY for lettuce or mealworms), put a pile of treats near you. Let them check it out, but don’t move to try and interact. In the coming days move the pile closer, until eventually they feel comfortable taking the food from your hands. Their eyes don’t move in the eye socket, so I have found sudden movements really startle them, and they are fairly slow runners so being chased really stresses them out. Calm & quiet is the way to go!

  3. Pamela Cropper says:

    I work at an apartment community and we have a lake. I have been here for 17 years and feed all the duck. Most come and go but I have a group of 7 older ducks (none of them fly) and they have ALWAYS hung together until recently. They have always eaten together, swim in the lake together, sleep together, just always together. Now the group is shunning one of their own and I do not know why. When the shunned duck tries to join the group they run her off. Especially a large male mallard duck. I feel so bad for the shunned duck, it hangs out near the other 6 ducks but if it gets to close they chase it off. When I feed them they chase it off. I have been looking on the internet to see if I could find out why but I have not been able to find anything. So I was wondering if maybe you might be able to tell me something about this. I would greatly appreciate it very much. These ducks are VERY special to me and I hate seeing one of them being shunned when I know how social they are and I have watched and cared for them ALL for many years and it makes me so sad to see one of them left out. Thanks you for your help!!

    • Liz says:

      Aww that is so sad! Ducks are very social creatures and definitely like to be together. If they are all older, it’s probably not a mating or territory issue. Do you know if the shunned one is a male (males usually have a curly feather on their tail)? Between two males it could be a competition thing. It’s only a guess, but maybe the shunned duck is ill and the large male is trying to protect the others? Poor thing, whatever the issue, I hope they let him back in soon!

      • KENNETH S VANCE says:

        I have Khaki Campbell ducks 6 hens and one Drake. The Drake beets up one of the hens all the time and keeps her separated from the other hens all the time. What’s up with that ?

        • Liz says:

          so sad! It’s just a personality thing, maybe he thinks his harem is big enough without her (unlikely) or maybe he just for some reason doesn’t like her. Are your sure that one is a female? Hopefully he will settle down and let the her back in the group!

    • Erica Sell says:

      We have the exact same problem at my property. It is so sad and we are searching for solutions as we speak. I think we are planning to purchase more ducks.

  4. lindsey says:

    We have 2 adult ducks almost a year old, and just bought more to add to them for more eggs. We have a black indian runner duck that absolutely LOVES my husband its the cutest relationship. she does all the flirting you described and she lays down and lets him pet her and pick her up and she loves to have her but scratched like a cat.

  5. Maci says:

    I have a very young duckling (a few days old) and she has recently been fussing over the feathers near the base of her legs, and I don’t know if it’s the feathers she’s messing with or the skin, or anything else. She’s a very happy duck so I don’t think she’s sick, but I could use your expertise on the matter. Thank you!

    • Liz says:

      The first thing I would check for is mites. Get in a spot with good lighting and part her feathers so you can see down to the skin. Look closely, mites are very small (about 1/2 a grain rice size) and are white or light pink (as they drink blood they get pinker). Ducks generally don’t have many problems with mites because they spend a lot of time in the water, but young ducklings aren’t usually swimming around much yet. If you don’t see mites, it is possible she is just itchy. As their baby fluff falls out and starts to get replaced by feather shafts it can be irritating to some birds.

  6. Heidi G says:

    There has been just one mallard that sits alone on the rooftop of my neighbors house. No other ducks seem to be around. Might he be looking for his family or is he just an odd duck?

  7. Amber Sweet says:

    I have 2 ducks male & female they were raised with my cat and two dogs and they all got along great for the past 1year and 3 months. However Frankis (male ducky) started to bullie my boston terrier(Noodle bug) but not the bird dog. Is this due to Noodle being about the same size as Frankie or something else.

    • Liz says:

      It could be that Frankis has decided he wants to move up in his place in the flock and decided the terrier was easier to pass than the larger dog

  8. Frances Shuttleworth says:

    My duck is mounting my chickens.
    He was given to me because he was fighting with the other ducks and suposably was happy living with chickens, I have had him approx 2 years and this behavior has just started.

    • Liz says:

      That is pretty normal, especially in the spring when hormones are going crazy. Do you have any female ducks for him? You should definitely keep an eye on it though because drakes, unlike roosters, actually have an external phallus and could injure your hen. I would scare him off the hens when you catch him doing it. Other than locking him up until he calms down, getting female ducks for him, or getting a rooster to protect the hens there isn’t much you can do to stop him unfortunately.

      • Frances Shuttleworth says:

        Thank you for your response. I do not have any female ducks for him, I was under the impression he didn’t like other ducks when I got him. This didn’t happen last year, will it calm down ? So far I have seen him kill 1 chicken and possibly another. I am not allowed a rooster, bylaw.i guess I lock him up, he will not be happy, but I guess the hens will be.
        Maybe my egg production will go up, hopefully.

  9. Betty says:

    I have a female Moscovy duck that was the “neighborhood” duck until something attacked her. We took her in for some major surgery and did well, but cannot fly and has become our family duck. She has always been very friendly and social and would follow me around the yard like one of the dogs and use our pool. We could pet her and she liked to have her neck scratched. She was producing eggs for about a month and then stopped. She now stays in her house on her nest and rarely comes out, except to eat, poop and dunk herself in her basin. When I get near her, she hides her beak on her back under a wing. This really is totally different behavior. I tried wooden eggs to see if this would help her “broodiness,” but no luck. She eats well and other than missing feathers and down that she is using in her nest, she looks fine. Anything I can do for her?

    • Liz says:

      She is definitely broody and guarding her nest. It doesn’t matter to her if the nest is empty or full of eggs, her instincts are telling her to protect it. You have two options – let her be broody and in a couple weeks she will likely give it up. Or you can try to break her of it. Broodies like quiet, dark, warm places. To break her you need to give her the opposite. Don’t let her near the nesting area. Do not give her fake eggs and be sure to collect any real eggs often because seeing a clutch of eggs will only reinforce it. Whenever you see her on the nest, shoo her away. If she is really persistent, you can put her in a broody-breaker. Any wire bottom cage (like a dog crate) will work as a broody breaker. Put her in there with food & water but don’t give her any nesting materials. In a day or two she will hopefully have given up her broody ways!

  10. JJ Webb says:

    I am new to ducks, just having taken one with two chickens yesterday, Trying to find out what is going on but he keeps bobbing his butt up and down and his phallus is hanging out. Couldn’t find ANYTHING on line about this. Any clues?

    • Liz says:

      That is very strange – and definitely does not sound normal. It sounds like something is stopping his phallus from being able to retract, and the bobbing is him trying to get it back in. His phallus could end up “falling off” which is actually something that occurs fairly often if there is a problem, and it will grow back. But if it doesn’t retract or fall off in the next day or two, you might want to take him to the vet.

  11. Katie says:

    I have a pair of female khaki Campbells that I raised from ducklings. They turned a year this March and are a really sweet bonded pair. One of them has started refusing to leave the coop this week and has not been laying. She comes out to eat and drink but then heads back to the nest. Do ducks stop laying when they are broody?

  12. Stephanie says:

    Hello! Thanks for this post, it’s lovely :o). 2 Quick questions for you: I have a pair of pekins, male and female that are a year old. They are obviously extremely close seeing as it’s just the pair of them. The male comes to me and plays w me but the other (whom we got at 6wks) is much more wild. We now have a 3 wk old Cayuga and I still don’t know what gender it is. It stays in house w us but during the day, I have a separate little outdoor enclosure I keep it in so that it’s around the other 2 but safe in case of rejection. When I sit on the ground w it, the other two come around and the male does this quick move by outstretching his neck sorta like lunging up my arm. He does it to the baby also… the female will also do it to me sometimes but not to the baby. Is this like an attack? A domination action? Is he trying to protect the baby from me or me from it? I’m trying to understand the behaviour to help me integrate the baby. It would be such a shame if they couldn’t get along cause I feel bad that my little on doesn’t have a sibling. Thanks again for your bolg and whatever information or knowledge you can share w me :o)
    Stephanie

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Stephanie! When ducks are feeling angry or protective and want to chase someone or something off they will stretch out their neck and run off the intruder. While female ducks are generally pretty chill about welcoming new ducks to the flock, when you have a drake it can throw everything off. Not only will the drake be less welcoming, but it could make the female feel like she needs to protect her man from competition. I would keep introducing them under supervision and hopefully in a month or so they will be one big happy duck family 🙂

  13. Sherry says:

    I have 2 ducks I got at TSC as ducklings. My drake is now poking me harder and harder all the time with his beak and I notice his head shakes while he does it like he’s angry with me. It’s mostly while I’m sitting outside with him and I put my legs on the other chair to relax a minute or he comes from behind? I don’t get it. He’s always been so sweet and nice. I also notice he is doing that bobbing of the head with her now just this month and it doesn’t just have to be in the water. She’s not happy when it’s happening either and I’ve also notice right after she’ll jump in the pool for a quick cleansing. So is he like being extra protective of her? or is he angry with me for some reason?

    • Liz says:

      It’s likely just hormones – drakes will try to mate all year, but it kicks into super high gear in the spring. More mating, more protectiveness, more showing off. Hopefully he will settle down soon!

  14. Mad says:

    I loved reading this article 🙂 I found it after I tried searching why do ducks put their legs in the back like stretched while resting, some of them do. It’s like they align it to the south pointing, sort of. Maybe it’s relaxing orjust that, no idea. Either way, good post share 🙂

    • João Esquivel says:

      All birds need to strech their legs, one at the time. They need to do it otherwise they can get cramps. 🙂

  15. João Esquivel says:

    I have a drake and a hen mute-ducks. I always provide extra soaked feed. They’re happy. She nested and 14 ducklings were born May 25th. A couple of days later there was a huge storm with wind and hard rain and unfortunately one of them died. Fortunately we were able to save the rest. One month after they are fine. Before they were born I “built” tank for them to swim. They do swim. Watching it is better them youtubing! I have them on my lawn and I have to clean it often. We can distinguish the first hatched from the last. The last are smaller, but fine. In the beginning had to hair dry a couple of the youngest because they got soaking wet (compared to their brothers and sisters) and were shaking like crazy from cold. Screamers they were but got quiet when returned to mother. Now they run around dispersing from mother catching flies and gnats. Las week 4 chickens hatched a grand total of 31 pips. Have not lost one yet. Lawn is crowded thought. Some territorial disputes have happened but otherwise fine. “Aunt Laura” is a tough mom and even attacks the drake. Everything is quacking away. If you care to watch link in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMOhAXvUBZo

  16. Jess says:

    Why are my ducks not laying ? I have had 4 drakes going on 2 yrs and 6 hens for same and then less time. I am lucky to get an egg a week from them. Last year my one hen layed 11 eggs and produced 6 babies. This year she won’t next or lay. What is going on.

    • Liz says:

      That is very strange, you definitely should be getting more than 1 egg a week from 6 hens! Have you switched feed recently? Feed quality is usually the reason for a drop in egg production. Other possible reasons could be parasites (mites, lice, worms) or molting (ducks usually do have a light early summer molt).

  17. J.R. Whitten III says:

    Hello Liz … I just came across your site and I love it and hopefully you can help me out with my ducks behavior issues… A year ago I hatched out three drakes one mallard and two pekings,,, so about two weeks ago I rescued two Peking hens thinking my drakes would be happy to finally have a couple of ladies around but that doesn’t seem to be the case.. since I’ve introduced them the males have chased them off, don’t let them eat or play in the pond. So I built another pond across the yard and added another food bowl by pond for the ladies but the drakes have ran them out from there too… so at night instead of being able to sleep in the duck home I made for them they are forced to sleep under a patio table on the hard cement…. finally I just separated them into their own enclosure which I am bummed cause I was hoping to get fertile eggs in hopes a duck would go Brodie …. My rooster on the other hand would have loved it if I did that for them LOL!!! … hope you can help Thank You!!!

    • Liz says:

      That is really strange! I am surprised your boys are not more excited about some lady friends. My advice would be to keep trying, maybe the boys are just showing off, trying to claim the pond for themselves? Hopefully in a few weeks they will all be one happy duck family!

  18. Cindy says:

    My drake Pieking is running off 4 hens and keeps them shunned . He won’t let them swim or be around him or the other ducks. I do not understand why.

    • Liz says:

      Are the 4 hens new to the group? Sometimes it takes awhile for drakes to adjust to newcomers. And then some drakes are just jerks who have their favorite hens and they just want to protect the resources for them. Could you maybe add a second little pool for the hens? Hopefully the drake will settle down with time and accept all his ladies

  19. Jenn says:

    What does it mean when a duck comes close for treats and starts to “shiver” it’s head and then runs its head and neck up your arm? Is it friendly or a warning/territory message?

    • Liz says:

      I don’t think I have seen my ducks do that, but it sounds friendly. I know when my ducks are super happy and excited (usually when treats are involved) their little tails can start wagging so fast it sort of vibrates their whole body.

    • Beth Waller says:

      Some of my ducks do the same thing. It’s only my Pekin hens that do it and always when I give them mealworms. I choose bto think of it as a “duck hug”.

  20. Jennifer V says:

    I had 6 mallard ducks that we’re just turning 10 weeks old and a weasle got to them and killed all but one. Do you think the one remaining one will fly off and be independent?

    • Liz says:

      That is so sad! He could fly off, as ducks do enjoy the company of other ducks. I would worry where he is so young about his ability to survive on his own. Could you get him a friend to entice him to stay?

  21. Barb says:

    I have two Rouen ducks, not sure of their sex yet. One has a neck that is concerning me. There are several groves/lines running up and down the length of the neck only on the underside. Can you tell me what this might be? I have pictures but cannot attach here. Thank you in advance

    • Liz says:

      I am sorry but I am not sure what that could be! I know wry neck is something that needs to be watched for in ducklings, does he have a hard time moving his neck or does he seem to be in pain? It sounds like they are young still, could it just be that his neck hasn’t filled out yet and the groves you are seeing are the empty spaces between muscles? I wish I could help!

  22. Tanya Settel says:

    I have a question about duck Behavior. There is a duck that last season had many ducklings none of which survived and she was so sad she sat on her nest for a week afterwards with no ducklings. She is back but there is another duck fighting for her same nest and eggs. I don’t know how to stop them from fighting over the nest. As I do not know whos eggs they are.!! I suspect that it is the original founder of the nest…😢 the original founder of the nest like I said was very depressed after she lost all her ducklings. I don’t think the other Duckwood even know how to find this Nest. I am very concerned

    • Liz says:

      awww so sad! I would say let the original nest builder keep the nest. Is there a way you can separate her with chicken wire so the other duck can’t disturb her? Maybe you can take one or two of the eggs to give to the other mom, but it sounds like you will have to separate them.

  23. Kendra says:

    I have a pekin duck. while sitting next to me and somone comes over to greet us the duck puts its neck out and takes beak and and puts head down. Is that a push away? Being protective? Also the duck shakes as if its cold or nervous at times when holding (but clearly wants to be) or is the duck cold? Somtimes happends after a swim.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Kendra, the shaking can mean a couple things. Ducks have definitely been known to shake with excitement, like when they get treats or swimming. Sometimes when they are really content they will vibrate and almost purr. But shaking can also be a nervous thing. It can mean they are stressed or agitated. Putting their neck out and head down is definitely a warning. I would say sometimes your duck is being protective & anxious (when the new people approach) and sometimes it’s a happy purring (when he’s being held)

  24. Karen says:

    This is an AWESOME reference for me – as a new duck Mom! It’s so difficult to find information regarding duck behavior…. And I truly want to understand my new pets! We brought home 2 ducklings from TSC on April 1st. We now believe we have a male & a female. Jordyn & Jaydon. I see some questions regarding the ducks ‘running their neck up your arm’ . Jordyn has begun to do this to me…? He seems very excited, because I am usually bringing them treats! (They love watermelon!) But Iit seems to be an ‘aggressive’ behavior when Jaydon does it to our dog (when the dog gets on her nerves). I just can’t understand why he would do this as an act of aggression, when he is otherwise so happy to have the treat? And so laid back in general?

    • Liz says:

      Generally if a duck is rubbing your arm with it’s neck it would be an indication he is happy and trusts you. Are you sure that is what Jaydon is doing to your dog? Could she be swinging her neck at the dog? When my ducks are annoyed they do a sort of grumpy looking side head bob, swinging their neck, meant to intimidate (but kinda just looks silly lol). You will also find that ducks are individuals so maybe one of your ducks just expresses him/herself differently? It sounds like you are already getting a pretty good read on their emotions, the more time you spend with them, the clearer their “language” will be to you 🙂

      • Karen says:

        HI Liz – thanks so much for your reply! Jaydon is a very ‘snarky’ duck (which I love about her!). She will go after the dog when the dog’s back is turned – she puts her head down (like a torpedo) and will pointedly march after her and throw her neck up and over the dog’s hind quarters! I think Jordyn is just figuring out what it means to be a ‘boy’ duck. He has always been much more passive than Jaydon, but now when we first open the coop door in the mornings, he marches out, pecks at our shoes, pulls at our pant leg, and as we try to leave the enclosure, he runs to cut us off and consistently get in front of us? It doesn’t SEEM like he’s trying to hurt us, but I don’t know what he is so insistent to convey to us? Him running his neck up my arm also seems like he’s desperately trying to tell me something? It’s only when I squat down to his level, then it’s a sudden neck extension- up and over my shoulder? This is why I likened it to Jaydon’s behavior…. Thanks for your patience! I’m dying to understand everything about my beloved feathered babies!! 😍

  25. Kali says:

    Hello I rescued baby ducklings about a month ago when their mother was hit by a car I’ve been noticing that when I open up their crate to get them that the feathers or fur on their faces is ruffled, I’ve read online that this can mean they are sick but I’m not one hundred percent sure if they are sick or as they are getting older they are going through changes do you know what it could be?

    • Liz says:

      Do they have plenty of water to dip their beaks in? Little chick waterers are not the best for ducks because they need to be able to dip their heads in the water to clear their sinuses. Other than that, it could just be that their baby fluff is falling out as their grown up feathers come in. They can look pretty funky for a little while during their “teenage” in between phase!

      • Kali says:

        Yes I have a little bowl of water for them that is big enough for them to dip their heads in is there any way to tell if they are sick for future reference?

  26. Kali says:

    Over the course of the month I’ve fed them chicken feed starter, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and mealworms and they’ve gotten plenty of exercise I don’t see how they could’ve gotten sick but I am no expert😀

  27. Toni Summers says:

    Hello. I have a 3 yr old jumbo pekin, and two nine month olds one is a khaki Campbell, the other a buff duck. The older one, (Sunny, 3yrs) used to be extremely aggressive toward me but I finally got him to calm it down after three years. Well, after the other two got old enough I put them all together and they all seem socialble with each other and seem to get along pretty well. Well since I made this change, Sunny is now biting and attacking again, along with one of the babies. All three are males. I just don’t know what’s going on! Both will run up, trying to attack your toes and bite them and grip them, or your hands legs whatever is in their reach but feet and toes are their favorite, then they’ll bite down hard, spread their feathers, and kinda shift back and fourth no letting go. Even when I discipline them by tapping their beaks or pushing them back or prying their beaks off, they run right back angrily. When the barrier is up they pace back and fourth the fence staring at your feet trying to get ahold of them. The third one just kinda hangs out. I don’t know what to do anymore! Anything I can do to fix it and make them lovIng again?

    • Liz says:

      oh no! I am sorry, I don’t have a ton of experience with aggressive ducks. We have been lucky ours have been pretty tame. Your younger ducks are just reaching their sexual maturity so it’s not unusual for him to be acting up, showing off and being protective. My guess is with another drake around that is trying to be top dog, Sunny is going back into aggressive, protective mode, and it sounds like the third duck is just content being at the bottom of the heap and hopefully will stay chill. You need to make sure they know you are lead duck. Like I said I haven’t dealt with aggressive ducks, but with aggressive roosters you need to stand your ground and not back down or run. Tapping their bills and saying no like you are is good too. With roosters, it’s also good to pick them up and carry them around under your arm. Good luck!

  28. Chrissy johnson says:

    I am a new duck mom! I have 3 ducks, 2 I believed were females by how loud they are. I’ve begun to question myself as I only see the drake (blue Swedish ) mating with one of them(khaki Campbell) The other (Pekin) seems to be the 3rd wheel now and is quieter than before. It Is he/she not allowing him to mate with her or is she a he? I’m so confused!

    • Liz says:

      While most domestic duck breeds are not monogamous, drakes do usually have their favorite hen. We have three girls and our drake definitely has a favorite he follows around and mates with often. The other two he will mate with but not like with his favorite gal. I would expect there to be some fighting if your Pekin was also a male.

  29. Karen says:

    Hello great article! I just had 18 duck delivered this past Wednesday. Today is Saturday. I am brooding them in a bathtub in the house. I guess they are about two weeks old. I brought them outside today and let them have a swim and sat in a baby corral with then. Most of them will happily take a little bit of smashed peas out of my hand and get pretty close to me. A few hours in if I set my hand o the ground they come and bite my hand. I’d that aggressive behavior or playful behavior? If it’s aggressive how do I correct it? Thanks for any advice

    • Liz says:

      That sounds like playful behavior – or them just testing out to see if your hand is food lol. My ducks definitely nibbled my fingers when they were little

  30. Fischer says:

    Hello i have 4 mallard ducks 2 full grown ones that are a male and female and 2 half grown ones that are male and female the full grown drake always chases them off and bites at them when they get close to the female do you think this will ever stop??

    • Liz says:

      It really depends on the personality of the drakes. If the younger one shows interest in being in charge or tries to woo the older hen, the older drake will feel threatened. He likely will settle down after awhile and let the new couple join the flock (but he will probably always be pretty territorial during high mating season). But he could also just continue to see the younger drake as a threat and continue to guard his lady, and maybe even try to “steal” away the younger hen. I hope he calms down for you though!

  31. Debbie Ledesma says:

    My two I’ve raised which are big now..I see & talk to them daily however the male duck now will attack my feet so started wearing shoe will still attach my feet..however since can’t get to my feet will bite my ankles..why? he loves to be patted or touch..now he attacks everyone’s feet and will running & keep after them and me why???

    • Liz says:

      Sounds like he is suddenly feeling protective of his environment. I know you said they are big, but is he still under one year old? When they come into full maturity, drakes can sometimes want to assert their dominance. When he does that you need to firm grasp his bill and say no. He should get the hint eventually that you are top duck and will hopefully settle back into his old, friendly self

      • Debbie Ledesma says:

        He’s a white male so still be very aggressive..female is brown/black with a beautiful blue /white color wing very sweet not sure why male (white) one wants to be so angry…he loves being touched or use to now all he want is to bite-runs at you until he’s attacking you-won’t stop even when he gets you crazy! afraid he may hurt my granddaughters all under age 11.
        Not sure if best to keep him now..??
        cONFUSED

        • Liz says:

          Unfortunately, sometimes males can just take their protective duties too far. Ducks are usually more mild mannered than chickens, we had a rooster once we just couldn’t keep anymore because he was so crazy protective of the yard and I was worried about my kids getting hurt. Keep working with him and hopefully he will fall in line. Good luck!

  32. Chris Williams says:

    Hello, it’s nice to find an active website on ducks.
    Six weeks ago, my dog found a mother duck (mallard) along with 11 ducklings under a bush in our backyard! We do have a koi pond, so we decided to do everything we can to help them survive. They have been so much fun to watch, but we’ve kept our distance as they are wild and we don’t want to get too friendly with them. The problem is one of the ducklings has been chased from the group. He keeps his distance but is always close by. The mother duck was not with them at the time he was chased. When she returned the ducklings ran to her including the “outcast”, but was quickly chased away by the others. The next morning, however, the mother and “outcast” were together swimming, while the others went out foraging. And later when I was approaching “outcast” mother duck got in front of him in a protective manner and quacked at me as she always has. Any thoughts on what’s going on here? I feel so sorry for “outcast” as I know ducks are very social and mother duck has been spending less and less time with them.

    • Liz says:

      What a cool discovery! It sounds like the mother is still accepting the outcast but it’s siblings are the ones chasing it away? It’s hard to say why they might be doing that. It could be that this duckling is the runt or has a defect – or just that it is too docile – and it’s siblings are taking advantage of her. As the ducklings get older, they will naturally compete for top duck and will practice skills they will use the rest of their life. Some ducklings are calm and quiet while others will be aggressive and pushy. Unfortunately, the calm ones can get picked on. The upside is it can help them learn to survive. It’s good news the mom is at least still on her side and keeping her safe.

      • Chris Williams says:

        Thanks for your answer. We noticed early on that one of the ducklings seemed to be the first to follow the mother, jump in the water, stand watch, whatever she was were doing he was right with her. He also continued doing it when she was gone. So he’s been working on top duck for awhile! I’ve also noticed a #2 duck now that seems to back him up when it comes to our little outcast. Watching our little outcast she does seem a bit smaller than the rest. When she’s swimming she looks really sweet. I have noticed that when she’s out of the water she seems to puff up. I’m assuming she does that to appear bigger to the others and any would-be predators since she’s on her own. Or could it be an indication of a problem?

        • Liz says:

          I wouldn’t take that as a problem, she could be trying to look bigger. I have seen the feathers along my duck’s bodies stand up when they are trying to scare the chickens away from a treat. If she hasn’t grown in her adult feathers yet, she could also just be trying to dry off her fluff. Either way nothing to worry about 🙂

          • Chris Williams says:

            Thought I’d update you on our duck summer. It does appear that “Outcast” was the runt and was growing slower than the rest of the ducks. I even started leaving food for her away from the rest to make sure she was getting enough to eat. She kept as close to the others as she could without being chased away. In fact, when they started practicing flying in the pond they would run around and flap their wings, she would go in the top of the waterfall and do the same. That’s when it was very noticeable that her wings were much smaller than the others. From 8 1/2 wks to 9 wks the ducks flew away, leaving Outcast alone. We did notice that she seemed to be growing and her wings were getting bigger and longer. After a couple of days another duck flew into our pond. We’re not sure if it was mother duck, sibling duck, or a new duck, but it was nice to see Outcast had a friend. Mystery Duck would leave in the evening, but come back every morning. After about a week Mystery Duck and Outcast were flapping their wings in the water and doing the things the other ducks did before they flew away. At 11 wks Outcast and Mystery Duck flew off together. What a great summer!

          • Liz says:

            That is amazing!! Thank you so much for the update and I am so happy to hear it all turned out happy in the end for the little outcast 🙂

  33. Debra says:

    Thank you for this lovely page!
    My brother is adult special ed. He was on his patio near a river feeding ducks and little birds. Suddenly a duckling who was being chased by large ducks ran into his apt. Gil went in and found the duckling and gave it over to the older ducks thinking one was it’s mother. The ducks started pecking at the duckling. Gil picked it up and brought it inside and nursed it to a good state. He’s taken great care of the duck, even made a velcro collar and leash for walking and running. Now someone turned him in and he can’t keep the duck inside. He’s had it for about 3 wks. Having it on the patio is hard…the duck gets too hot and Gil has to keep bringing it into the tub to cool it off. I can’t take it, I have cats. So my friend’s friend has a pound and ducks and we are going to try to have it live there. But can you advise us on how to make the transition? Will those ducks also attack “Lucky”? He’s still small, but he can run and swim very well Thank you.

    • Liz says:

      That was sweet of your brother to step in and help this little guy. Do you know if your friend keeps any male ducks? Female ducks are much more likely to accept a newcomer. Sometimes males can get territorial. I would advise putting the new duckling in a wire pen or dog crate (with food, water & shelter) in the area of the current ducks for about a week during the day (take it in at night so it’s safe from predators – in a garage or shed would be fine. This way they can see & smell the new guy. Hopefully when the duckling is released with the other ducks everything will go smoothly, but especially if there is a male, there could be some chasing. Most human raised domesticated ducks are bred to be too large to fly, but as Lucky is a wild duck, it is very possible that once he can fly he might just fly off and find his own flock. Good luck!

  34. Mark says:

    hi there,
    I have 1 male and 3 female Peking ducks but the male won’t let one of the females eat. We have to put extra food in in different places to make sure she eats as well.
    Is this common or do I have a problem
    Any comments gladly welcome

    • Liz says:

      Drakes can do strange things sometimes. For some reason yours has decided this one female isn’t welcome in the group. He might be trying to conserve resources for him & his favorite ladies. My drake does this with our Cayuga female sometimes. I would say half the time he is cool with her, but the other half he is chasing her away. Sounds like you are doing a good job keeping the poor outcast happy. Hopefully he will settle down soon!

  35. Bronwen says:

    I have three ducks raised from babies and together. They’re about 12 weeks old. One for sure is a hen (khaki) and very quiet/laid back. The other two are Cayuga’s and I have NO idea gender other than their quacks are very different so I’m crossing my FINGERS I have one of each. My one Cayuga, Roger, has always been more curious more brave more bold even as a duckling…I am certain they all imprinted on each other BUT a fair amount of mandatory snuggle time was had with Roger haha! So now when I hold the ducks, the other two are peaceful and subdued. They’re ready to be put down but they are comfortable. ROGER nibbles all OVER me – my shirt – pinching pretty hard at times. Is she/he ticked off? The other two have NEVER done that so what’s up w that? And it’s ONLY when I hold him – which with the right neck scratches will put him to sleep…hmm.

  36. Bronwen says:

    Also, Roger is bigger and more beautifully colored than the other Cayuga so I assumed Roger was a DRAKE. Roger is the one who YELLS at me when I pull into the driveway and quacks LOUDLY compared to his clutch mate, Franklin (the other Cayuga). Franklin is very muffled and soft… My khaki hen and Franklin are both pretty quiet quackers…and no drake feathers yet. What ‘cha think on loud Roger – hen?

    • Liz says:

      Unlike rooster, drakes are the quiet ones compared to hens. Drakes have a low, raspy sounding quack where as females have a loud, crisp, distinctly quack sound so it could be that Franklin is the drake. Time will tell – it should be any time now that their little drake curl will pop out! The nibbling could just be duckling exploration, but he/she could also be testing out who is head duck. You want that to be you! When he does that, hold his bill and firmly say no.

  37. Bronwen says:

    Wellll isn’t the gender reveal always just a surprise… I have TWO drakes and ONE female ☹️👎!! I thought it was the other way around — so — Andi, my “khaki hen” is a DRAKE and probably a Orpington drake at that… unless he magically grows a green head while he’s tricking me! So am I doomed with this backwards ratio? Cayuga pair (Roger is definitely the girl you were right!) and the smaller brown surprise drake…you know I wondered when Andi and Franklin quacked the same!! And you were right Franklins drake feathers weren’t far behind my last post! So when they showed up I was completely confused bc I thought for certain Andi was a khaki hen!! NOPE! Does it ever work to have two drakes and a hen — they’re NOT free ranged either.

    • Liz says:

      haha! They always keep you on your toes! I wouldn’t say right off the bat that you are doomed. You might end up with one dominant drake and one that is content to just lay back and chill. 2 drakes and 1 hen isn’t ideal though, as the boys come into maturity they could “bother” the one hen so much she doesn’t get any peace and she could become withdrawn and skittish. The boys could also want to fight each other over breeding rights. You will probably be fine through the winter, but if I had to guess sometime around early spring when breeding season gets in full swing those hormonal teenage boys might start to cause problems. See how it goes, but you might have to add another hen or two (or rehome one of the drakes). Thanks for the update!

  38. Ariel says:

    I have 2 ducks, that are exactly 22 weeks old today. They are an Indian Runner, and a Buff Orpington. I have noticed a few bizarre behaviours with my Buff. She often flattens herself out on the ground, and will assume this pose for up to 30 seconds. This is seemingly random. Another weird problem is that she has trouble getting up a ramp. When my ducks are in their enclosure, they’re at ground level, but their food and pond are on a raised surface (seeing as I can’t dig a hole in the ground). The Indian runner is always fine to bolt up the ramp, getting its food and swim etc. whenever it needs. The Buff, on the other hand, never goes up the ramp, unless it’s bought onto the ramp by human help. The ramp is about 15 centimetres wide, and 2.5 metres long. Once on the ramp, she seems fine, and waddles up, to get her food. It’s just a matter of choosing to get up on the ramp. Both of these ducks are females, to the best of my knowledge. My Buff seems very willing to be held by humans, whereas my Indian Runner is very skittish, and is a bit more of a challenge to keep. (I’m just assuming this is their temperament, and this is just the way they are?). The Buff also seems a bit overweight compared to other Buff’s I’ve seen. They both relate to each other fine, and seem to be reasonably normal apart from the issues I’ve had. Why would this be happening?

    • Liz says:

      The Buff’s flattening out on the ground is a pose she would assume when getting ready for mating – as she is now fully mature it is not surprising that she is doing this. Even when there isn’t a male around, she could also be using this pose as a sign of submission to either the Runner hen or to you. You mentioned she likes being held, so that is another sign she is willing to accept you as head duck. Runner ducks, in general, are known to be skittish so it’s also pretty normal that your Runner doesn’t love being held. Runners are also more nimble than naturally fat, round Buffs so that could explain the ramp issue. Is there a step to get onto the ramp, or is the ramp too steep for the Buff? Is there a way you could extend the ramp to make the incline easier for her? You could also try adding outdoor mats to the ramp so they have something to grip as they climb up. Buffs are generally pretty “fat”, but she could also be bulking up for the coming winter, or just have a little baby pudge leftover, so I wouldn’t worry about her being overweight just yet. Sounds like you have two healthy, normal ducks!

      • Ariel says:

        Thank you! The incline seems very shallow. The ‘step’ onto the ramp is only an inch above the ground. Once she’s on the ramp, she doesn’t have any trouble getting up – it seems to be lacking the motivation to even try it. We live in Australia, so she’s just coming off winter now, would that explain the bulk? The ramp’s angle is only 12.5 degrees, so I wouldn’t have guessed it to be a problem. Thank you once again for your help! 🙂

        • Liz says:

          I agree a 12 degree incline should not pose a problem for her. I’m not sure what her issue could be, does she also have food on the lower level? Maybe she is going up when you aren’t watching? Sounds like she isn’t missing any meals anyway lol

          • Ariel says:

            haha, no, she doesn’t sound like she’s missing any meals. The food is on the upper level, along with most of the stuff she’d desire (pond, etc.). We often home to find the Indian runner with water on her chest, and the Buff dry. We’ve tried taking the Indian runner out, and leaving the Buff by itself, and this is to no avail

  39. Rachel says:

    Hi Liz, my Hen just starting laying for the first time about 6 days ago. I have only gotten 3 eggs. Are they inconsistent in the beginning?

    • Liz says:

      Yes, the first few months they are laying can be a little hit or miss. We are also coming into winter when the days start to shorten and that can mess with their egg laying schedule also.

  40. Nicole w. says:

    I have a Cayuga drake that was given to me as a rescue. He has been a really good duck up until a few days ago. He has attacked my husband and has also attacked my little boy twice for no reason. Both times my little boy was just standing there. No provoking, chasing. Nothing! He has never done this before and he doesn’t do it to me or my little boys twin sister. So I don’t understand what could be be causing this behavior. To be honest I would think if he was to attack anyone it would be my little girl because she is the one always trying to grab and hold him and “chasing” the other duck around. Any thoughts on why this has started happening and how to make him stop?!

    • Nicole w. says:

      *ducks* not duck. He lives with 2 blue Swedish females and 1 blue Swedish drake, 2 Welsh harlarquins females, 1 welsh drake and 1 we think is a female but is still a kind of a unknown.

      • Liz says:

        That is too bad! I hope he didn’t seriously hurt anyone! Is he just coming into maturity (16-20 weeks-ish)? He could be testing the waters to see where he is going to fit into this flock (and sees the humans as part of this new flock). Especially with the other drakes around, he might feel like he needs to prove something. Definitely let him know the humans are the top ducks. When he gets aggressive or uppity, firmly grab his bill and say no loudly. You definitely want to stop this behavior before it gets out of hand

  41. Amy says:

    We got a pair of Rouens and a pair of Pekins from TSC in spring. Then June 2 we rescued an orphan Black Swedish. The other ducks just hate her. Grabbed and shook her neck every chance. So I found her a male Black Swedish and am keeping them together in a pen right next to the other ducks’ pen. The others are trying to get the Swedes constantly. What can we do to facilitate this ‘flocking together’ thing? I just want them to all be out of their pens at the same time and not try to kill each other.

    • Liz says:

      That is so great that you were able to get her a friend, that is definitely going to help. Sometimes for no apparent reason, ducks will just ostracize one duck from the group. The original four are definitely feeling territorial. With winter coming, you might find they are more agreeable to sharing space now that the hormones of mating season are behind them. If they are all full grown at this point, it might just be time to let them work it out. Let them all out to free range together. Start with a half hour of supervised time and give out lots of treats for everyone. The next day let them out together for an hour, gradually lengthen the time together. There will probably be some chasing, but hopefully nothing worse than that. I would allow the chasing, but if they are actually trying to hurt them, I would intervene. When she was a lone duck before it made her more of a target, but now she has a friend it shouldn’t be as bad. It will likely take them a few weeks before they accept the Swedish ducks are here to stay and let them in the group.

  42. Brianna says:

    I have 2 Crested male ducks that I’ve had for about almost 2 years one of them always attacks and bites down the other male from time to time but mainly when I go to the backyard, it’s always after me & even runs to attack me and bite my feet but it chases after me when I am giving him my back. I also have 1 female moscovy duck and she’s about 6 months or more and the mean crested duck is always chasing her biting her wings and pulling on her skin. I thought they would be happy when I brought a female but instead they are just chasing it, I don’t know what it is.

    • Liz says:

      The mean duck sounds like he is just really protective of his area and wants everyone to know he is in charge. He especially wants you to know (why he chases you and why he picks on the other duck when you are around, he wants you to see how tough he is). You should try to reassert yourself as duck leader. Stand up to him. If he nips at you, grab his bill and say no. If you are consistent, hopefully in a couple weeks he will at least respect your position and leave you alone. The other ducks might be trickier to fix. Did you just add the female to the flock? He could be trying to show off by picking on the other male more, and “putting her in her place” by picking on her. Short of separating him (which I would definitely do at least temporarily if he is injuring the other ducks) there isn’t much you can do to make them get along. I would put him in a time out area by himself when he acts up, as a punishment to him but also so the other ducks can get some peace. Make sure everyone has plenty of food & water so they at least aren’t fighting over resources.

  43. Brianna says:

    There was a time for about a week where the mean one didn’t bug the female at all and it started again. I introduced the female when she was about 3 months. I do grab him and tell him no but he gets even meaner and I do put him in time out and after I let him out he gets worse and attacks her and the other male like if he’s saying he didn’t get to fight them for a couple of hours and now he’s getting that revenge.

    • Liz says:

      Yikes! He sounds like quite a bully! If he were my duck, I might consider re-homing him if he didn’t shape up. I wish I had something to magically help him!

  44. Erika Saul says:

    My duck lays eggs all over the yard and not in a nest, nor does she sit on them. Why? It drives me crazy cause I don’t know if I should just leave them or not. It’s very hot out and I don’t want a bunch of rotten eggs.

    • Liz says:

      I feel you there. Ducks are not like chickens who even when free ranging will *usually* return to a safe nest box to lay. My ducks will lay eggs all over the place. They have a few hidey places around the yard that I try to check daily. I also find if I keep them locked in the run until about 9 AM they have usually all laid by that point and they are at least in the run instead of around the yard. A good way to check for egg freshness is to put the egg in a pot of water. If it stays flat on the bottom, it is fresh. If it is starting to stand up it is still good to eat but do it soon. If they stand straight up I scramble them and feed them to the animals. If they float, I toss them in the compost heap. As the egg ages, more and more air enters through the pores in the shell. The more air in the egg, the more buoyant it becomes

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