Trying to figure out how to get your ducks to like you? Here are three tips/tricks you can use to raise tame and friendly backyard ducks.
In fact, our ducks are the primary reason our friends and family never see us anymore – unless they come to our home to visit. Have you ever tried to find a reliable duck sitter who can carefully follow five pages of printed instructions including the proper size to cut duck tomatoes and the specific types of garden greens that ducks prefer?
Yes, our ducks like us, but we might be enslaved by our ducks…
Yes, we’re enslaved by ducks. The weird thing is, we like it.
Given our duck obsession, we have quite a few people reach out to us with questions about ducks. One common question people email us a lot is, “how do I get my ducks to like me?”
In our opinion, if you’re going to devote the majority of your life to slavishly meeting the peculiar demands of your feathered overlords, then the least they can do is tolerate an occasional cuddling. Seems like a fair tradeoff, right?
Well, if you’re a duck, the answer might be “absolutely not.”
Rather than answer the same question 100 times, we thought we’d put together a list of tips to help other duck slaves figure out how to get their ducks to like them, too. (We also have an article and comparison chart explaining why we chose ducks over chickens in the first place.)
What are our credentials?
We’ve been duck slaves since 2013 and we’ve read every available duck education book out there (including some veterinary texts). Oh, and our favorite duck, Svetlana, sleeps on my wife’s back at night. (That’s a pretty tame duck.)
Yes, that means we know a thing or two about how to get your ducks to like you.
3 Tips To Get Your Ducks To Like You
Here are three tips you can use to raise friendly, tame ducks, aka get your ducks to like you:
Tip #1. Carefully consider duck breed selection.
There are dozens of breeds of domesticated ducks (and countless hybrids between them). There is wide variability between the breeds: different colors, shapes, and sizes.
Something you might not know: each duck breed also has a slightly different baseline temperament.
It’s important to note that the environment in which a duck is raised can drastically influence their base temperament as much if not more than their genetics. (Just like a pitbull can be the most loving peaceful animal in the world if raised correctly.)
When deciding which breed of ducks we wanted to get, we evaluated a lot of criteria, including:
1. Size – We didn’t want huge birds since we have no intention of eating our pets.
2. Flying ability – We didn’t want them to be able to fly out of their fenced back yard.
3. Foraging ability – We wanted ducks that were good foragers.
4. Egg laying ability – We wanted girls that would produce a lot of eggs each year.
5. Mothering ability – We wanted calm birds who would make good moms if we ever decided to raise ducklings.
6. Conservation status – Like many heritage breed animals, quite a few duck breeds are either endangered or critically endangered. We wanted a breed that was in a *high risk category, so that we could be a small help in keeping them from going extinct. (*Welsh Harlequins are no longer in a high risk category.)
Perhaps most importantly, we also knew we wanted animals that would serve the additional function of “pet.”
We wanted fowl we could walk with, pick up, pet, and put on our lap. This desire wasn’t just for our own pleasure, it is also for practical reasons…
If you’ve ever had sick or injured animals, it’s very helpful for those animals to be tame when you’re evaluating or caring for them.
Likewise, if you ever need to give your ducks medication, having them be calm while you medicate them is very helpful as well. (See our article how to give your duck oral medication via pill or syringe.)
What are the friendliest duck breeds (best temperament)?
Which are the most calm and sociable breed of ducks? In our article How to choose the best duck breeds for you, we provide a detailed analysis of various duck breeds, including which breeds have the potential to make the best pets based on the baseline calmness of the breed. The top five breeds (including their scores):
- Saxony – 9.0
- Muscovy – 9.0
- Silver Appleyard – 8.8
- Welsh Harlequin – 8.7
- Black Swedish – 7.7
Based on the criteria detailed above, we ended up choosing Welsh Harlequin ducks. Does this mean that a typically nervous Black Runner can’t be a sweet lap duck? Nope.
Does it mean that a typically calm Saxony can’t think humans are giant scary monsters out to kill them? Nope.
There are temperament variations within individuals in a particular breed, and environment plays a huge role in how their temperament ultimately develops.
However, if you want really tame waterfowl and/or you want a better chance that you can get your ducks to like you, selecting a very calm breed will almost certainly help.
Now, let’s talk about what you can do to optimize the sociability of your ducks, no matter what breed you select, e.g. how to get your ducks to like you!
Tip #2. Employ “forced” loving + treats from a young age.
Have you ever known any adult human whose temperament changed from grumpy to nice or vice versa? Neither have we. Ducks aren’t so different.
At a certain age, their temperaments are fairly well-etched into their tiny duck brains. (Side note: we’ve been surprised by how smart ducks are despite their brain size, as have research scientists.)
Ideally, you can either hatch your ducks yourself or get them delivered from a breeder within 1-2 days of their hatching. The sooner (and more frequently) they are around people, the better chance you’re going to get them to like you.
When you hold and pet your ducks, give them treats such as dried mealworms, small pieces of tomato, lettuce, kale — whatever their favorite healthy treats are. No duck junk food or bread!
They might scream in disgust and terror when you begin handling them or take them away from their feathered flock mates. However, with repeated holding + treats they’ll warm to your affections — or at a minimum, tolerate you.
Ducks are very social animals…
We should also note here that if you’re going to have ducks, you need to plan to actually get ducks (plural). At least two or more. They’re incredibly social animals and they want to be around another animal(s) constantly, or they get really lonely and stressed.
With that said, you’ll want to tame all of your ducks from as early an age as possible using the holding/cuddling + treat technique. If one duck in your flock thinks you’re absolutely terrifying, his/her fear response towards you can be contagious to the others.
Last point here: you don’t have to get your ducks as eggs or ducklings… There are waterfowl rescue operations around the country full of incredibly sweet, sociable pet waterfowl that have been given up or abandoned for various reasons. They need good homes too.
Tip #3. Continue with regular affection into duck adulthood.
As your ducklings rapidly grow into adult ducks (ours doubled in weight every week), you’ll eventually put them outside where they’ll become much more autonomous.
If you want to continue to have “pet” ducks, this can be a risky period for you since your ducks can very quickly revert to more wild, independent animals.
Thankfully for us, The Tyrant is very dedicated to holding, petting, and treat-feeding our ducks on a regular basis, a minimum of at least once every few days for each flock member.
Do all of them enjoy it? Not necessarily. But they at least tolerate it while we coo and pet their soft, fluffy bodies because they know they’re going to get a treat if they can just endure a few minutes of affection.
The Tyrant’s favorite duck, Svetlana, gets at least an hour of active cuddling at night when we’re winding down for the evening. As mentioned earlier, Svetlana also sleeps on top of The Tyrant in bed, but that’s not technically active cuddling since both creatures are unconscious during this time period.
Warning: Sometimes odd things happen when your life gets taken over by ducks.
Frequently asked question about how to get your ducks to like you:
We’ve received this question enough times that we’re adding it here: “Should I keep my ducklings separate from each other so they’ll bond with me and become more tame?”
Short answer to this question: no, we would not recommend separating your ducklings. Ducks are highly social animals, and especially as young ducklings, will be very frightened and traumatized being socially isolated.
Socializing them individually to you only would also be an enormous time burden, and likely wouldn’t be that effective in the long run. Instead, we’d recommend picking them up at the same time (or 2-3 of them up at the same time) and holding them at the same time while giving them whatever treats (or food) that they love.
By being with each other when you handle them, they’ll be less stressed. And the food will help them form a positive association with you/being handled (Pavlovian response). Rinse and repeat. (You may literally have to rinse because of poo!)
Remember: you’re trying to raise tame ducks, NOT ducks who think they’re humans.
Whether you want to become a new duck slave or you’re trying to figure out how to get your ducks to like you, we hope these three tips help!
For additional reading, be sure to check out our other duck articles that cover everything from where to buy duck feed to the nutritional differences between duck and chicken eggs. We also highly recommend the following books, which we reference regularly:
If you have any duck questions, ask away in the comments section! Also, be sure to check out the video/Google Web Story version of this article!
Related duck articles that will quack you up:
- How to raise ducklings, a step-by-step guide
- How to diaper a duck (with video!)
- 9 tips and tricks for keeping indoor pet ducks
- 17 tips to keep your ducks safe from predators
- and more duck articles by Tyrant Farms!