Ducks

How to get your ducks to like you: 3 tips

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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. 


If you’ve read our duck articles or follow us on Instagram, you know that we’re smitten with ducks. They’re absurdly cute, highly entertaining creatures who’ve completely upended our life.

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?

Not easy.

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?”

Svetlana the duck on a day trip to swim in the mountain streams at Poinsett Bridge, near Greenville, SC. How to get your ducks to like you.

Svetlana the duck on a day trip to swim in the mountain streams at Poinsett Bridge, near Greenville, SC.

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.

Our bedroom has a slight duck infestation. Svetlana would like The Tyrant to wake up now since it's tomato:30 in the morning.

Our bedroom has a slight duck infestation. Svetlana would like The Tyrant to wake up now since it’s tomato:30 in the morning.


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.)

Poppy the duck foraging a patch of dianthus flowers. -How to get your ducks to like you

Poppy the duck foraging a patch of dianthus flowers.

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.)

Svetlana and Susan getting ready to facetime with Svetlana's aunt Lisa. / How to get your ducks to like you

Svetlana and Susan getting ready to facetime with Svetlana’s aunt Lisa.

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):

  1. Saxony – 9.0
  2. Muscovy – 9.0
  3. Silver Appleyard – 8.8
  4. Welsh Harlequin – 8.7
  5. 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! 

Susan's sister and niece helping us train our girls that a palm with something in it means a treat. In this case, the treat was an unripe groundcherry. / Tips: How to get your ducks to like you.

Susan’s sister and niece helping us train our barely adult ducklings years back. We wanted our ducks to think “palm with something in it = treat.” In this case, the treat was an unripe ground cherry (not a big hit unless they’re ripe). See our top rated garden plants your ducks will love.

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.

(Watch a quick video of The Tyrant taming Svetlana when she was a duckling.)

We let our most maternal hen, Jackson, raise ducklings in 2016. She's also a very tame animal. If you breed ducks and the mother is afraid of people, she'll teach her ducklings to fear you too. Tips for getting your ducks to like you.

We let our most maternal hen, Jackson, raise ducklings in 2016. She’s also a very tame animal. If you breed ducks and the mother is very afraid of you, her ducklings are also likely to be very fearful of 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.

Building your ducks a 1200 gallon, self-cleaning in-ground pool with two waterfalls is not going to make them like you any more. They just expect it.

Building your ducks a 1200 gallon, self-cleaning in-ground pool with two waterfalls is not going to make them like you any more. They just expect it.

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.

Susan's niece making sure Winston, our drake, gets lots of hands-on cuddle time. / How to get your ducks to like you

Susan’s niece making sure Sir Winston Duckbill, our drake, gets lots of hands-on cuddle time.

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.

If you're going to occasionally bring your ducks indoors or have pet indoor ducks, you're going to need to learn how to diaper a duck. Marigold the duck (one of our most tame ducks) is not terribly happy about being put on her back, but her diaper is snazzy. How to get your ducks to like you.

If you’re going to occasionally bring your ducks indoors or have pet indoor ducks, you’re going to need to learn how to diaper a duck. Marigold the duck (one of our most tame ducks) is not terribly happy about being put on her back, but her diaper is snazzy.

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.

Additional recommendations: 

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!

 

3 Tips: How to get your ducks to like you. #duck #petduck #poultry #homestead #raisingducks #hosueduck #tyrantfarms

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57 Comments

  • Reply
    Tiffany
    April 2, 2022 at 8:03 am

    I absolutely adore my ducks. I groom dogs for a living and one of my clients decided to move on with their lives and start traveling so they searched for someone to take 25 of of their ducks and 10 of their chickens. I grew up on a farm and my fiancé who can never say no to me decided we should start a small backyard farm on our 4 acres. Best decision ever!! I adopt everything I can and give them all the love they desire. I even have a Canadian goose who refuses to leave me. I love it! I spoil my babies however they want with fresh fruits and veggies, heck I even dig in the dirt for worms for them. They have me trained well hahaha.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 4, 2022 at 7:46 am

      Wow, that’s a lot of ducks and chickens to adopt! Thanks for taking such good care of them. Were they relatively friendly when you adopted them or did you have to train them to be sociable with you?

  • Reply
    Ilana
    December 3, 2021 at 12:00 am

    I am so grateful to find this article! I got 4 ducklings from Metzer farms (Welsh Harlequin, Silver Appleyard, Buff, and Khaki Campbell) and have been slowly trying to socialize them, but I easily get discouraged. Two are 3 weeks old, and the other two are 2 weeks old (two didn’t make the journey and were replaced :(). They’ve really warmed up to us lately, and associate us with treats, but only one tolerates being held right now, and only for a short time. This article makes me hopeful that we’ll get there eventually! I do need to spend more time sitting in small spaces with them.
    They’re currently in a teenage-duck brooder set up in our unfinished basement, but I’m already wondering how we’re going to manage it when they’re bigger in a few weeks. We’re in Portland, OR, so our winter is somewhat mild, but it gets a little cold. Do we need to wait until they’re 8 weeks old to have them outside full-time? I hope to have them outside some during the day leading up to it, but it’s going to be a lot if they’re in our basement for 6 more weeks!

    Thanks again for this amazing resource- I can tell I’ll be spending a lot of time here.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      December 3, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Llana! First, thanks for your kind words.

      Your ducklings will get better at keeping warm the older they get, especially as they start getting some true feathers. It is important for them to get outside for health reasons as much as you’re able to manage it (safely). Sunlight, foraging, grit, playing, microbiome development, etc – all good things for growing ducklings that are available in abundance outside. Your ducklings will also huddle together to generate warmth so even if it’s a bit cold out they can still do fine. You just wouldn’t want to leave them outside for prolonged periods if it’s cool and wet. Other than cold, the highest outdoor risk to mitigate is keeping them safe from predators (including neighborhood cats) any time they’re outside.

      Long answer short: no, you don’t need to keep your ducklings in your basement for the next 6 weeks. Put them out as often as possible during the day and strongly consider bringing them in at night until they have their first set of full feathers, which doesn’t take long (~6-8 weeks from hatching). If you haven’t already, it might also be helpful to read our article about raising ducklings here: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-raise-ducklings-a-step-by-step-guide/

      Hope this helps and let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Reply
    Jenny Young
    September 29, 2021 at 4:06 am

    Well unfortunately I did not realize Cayuga ducks are low on the friendly score. I have raised one of my boys from a hatchling and another was adopted a few weeks later. Kenny has been held frequently from a small guy but does he ever not appreciate being picked up. I have to coral him and then do a ninja move to pick him up. Once he is on my lap he doesn’t mind terrible. I am wondering if I am breaking his trust everyone time I chase and pick him up? I am going to try and do some positive reinforcement and see if I can get them to enjoy pets more. They certainly love to hang out with me but not to be touched so much. I love them regardless but would love to train them to sit on my lap and get some love.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 29, 2021 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Jenny! Yep, duck breed does make a big difference in how well they tolerate being picked up and handled. Even then, it varies by individual duck, regardless of how they were raised and breed. All of our ducks are Welsh Harlequins, which are a very social breed. Due to having a baby and not having as much time to spend with our ducks over the past two years, our Welsh Harlequins have gotten acclimated to not being picked up and handled nearly as much. We not-so-jokingly say that some of them have gone feral. Some run from us when we try to pick them up and others still tolerate it ok. Like you said, it’s the initial catching them that tends to get them agitated, not so much the being held part (the instinctual woes of being a prey animal to so many different types of predators). By providing treats each time you pick them up + repeating the process regularly, you can definitely get some positive associations formed and hopefully get to where you don’t have to utilize your ninja skills. Best of luck!

      • Reply
        Jenny Young
        September 29, 2021 at 10:33 pm

        Thank you for the reassurance! I will keep at it and hopefully they will start to enjoy it more. I am planning on bringing them in more too as the weather turns colder here in good old Canada. Now for the next adventure of getting them to not hate the diapers. lol.

        • Aaron von Frank
          September 30, 2021 at 12:43 pm

          Ha! Ducks will adjust to being diapered, but they’re never going to be thrilled about it. Adventure indeed. 😛

  • Reply
    Katie
    July 1, 2021 at 12:22 am

    Hi! I have two 8 wk old Cayuga hens that completely hate me. They free range in a large back yard with 5 very friendly chickens who love me. I had my ducklings shipped over and handled them immediately and they never warmed up to it. Now that they are outside, they won’t let us near them, refuse to use the 110 gallon pond we made for them, or sleep in their duck house. What on earth are we doing wrong? The company I bought them from said it’s a teenager phase and they will grow out of it. I’m convinced they’ve been traumatized because they are completely inseparable. Like 4 inches is too far.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 1, 2021 at 7:06 am

      Hi Katie! Sorry to hear about your misanthropic ducks! Technically, yes, your ducks are in their “teen” period and are going to be less sociable due to hormones and other factors. Also, a bit of bad news: Cayuguas tend to be among the least sociable duck breeds, as you can read about here: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-choose-the-best-duck-breed-or-breeds-for-you/. (They score 1.2 out of 10 on our sociability ranking.) This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel on trying to make them more gregarious towards you. Continue giving them their favorite treats and trying to get those positive associations formed. The fastest way to a duck’s heart is through their gizzard.

      A couple of other things from your comment: it’s very surprising that ducks wouldn’t use their pond. Do they have another water source they’re using instead? The reason I ask is because one day our ducks suddenly stopped using their pond and just stood on the edge looking in and occasionally alarm-quacking. Turned out, a small snapping turtle had somehow gotten into our fenced yard and into their pond. Once the invader was netted and relocated, our ducks were right back in to their pond. Is it possible another critter has turned the pond into its home?

      As for trauma: it’s possible that something may have happened to make your two ducks highly bonded to each other yet fearful of everything else. Are they afraid of your chickens as well? In their duck brains, they may view the chickens as a persistent mortal threat. As far as they know, there are only two ducks in the world, and everything else is out to get them.

      Getting our ducks into their coop at night would be impossible if not for herding sticks, which ducks seem to instinctively respond to. Here’s how we herd our ducks and how you can too: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-herd-your-ducks-aka-get-your-ducks-in-a-row/.

      Hope this info helps and please check back as your ducks age to let us know if they mellow? Hopefully, by their one year birthday, they’ve settled in better and begin to calm.

      • Reply
        Katie
        July 8, 2021 at 1:14 pm

        Thank you Aaron! I should have done more research because the feed store and company I ordered from assured me that these were a fun and friendly breed. They were their #1 recommendation for a kid friendly duck. We needed them cold hardy so maybe that limited our options. We lost all but one chicken and bought 5 new pullets. The ducks like the older hen but are now out for blood with the younger ones. We will continue to try to tame them. Thank you for the advice. No critters in the pond but someone did suggest that it could be the wood ramp we built. We are going to try a dirt ramp. So far we have invested countless hours and money into to these ducks so we are losing steam pretty quick

  • Reply
    Marissa
    May 13, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Hi! I LOVED your article! I am a middle-school writing teacher, so I admired how well-written it was. Quick question: I have been raising ducklings in my classroom, then have been sending them home with students and families who live on a farm once they developed their feathers. This process created an immense obsession for myself and the ducklings. I am thinking about taking some home and raising them here; however, I just have a few concerns. Concern number one: I do not have a body of water at my home. Concern number two: I only have .5 acres of land. Do you think these factors are too big an issue to raise ducks? If not, how big of an enclosure do you suggest I create for them? Also, what can I use to substitute a body of water? Kiddie pool? Man made pond? Also, I should probably specify the breed and the amount I would be raising. It would be a Cayuga, 2 khaki Campbell’s, and a saxony.

    Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

    Kindly,
    Marissa

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 13, 2021 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Marissa! Thanks for the kind words. Responses to your concerns below:

      1. “I do not have a body of water at my home… what can I use to substitute a body of water?”

      Not currently having a body of water for your potential ducks is a remediable problem. Obviously, ducks are a lot healthier and happier if they can swim, play, and bathe in water whenever they want to, so we do recommend having water available if/when you get ducks.

      With only four ducks, you don’t need anything too fancy to meet their water needs. A kiddie pool would be fine. We also know a person who uses the giant no-tip rubber water bowls for livestock for her ducks (you can find them at Tractor Supply, I believe). The thing you’ll need to consider if you go this route is the messy muck that’s likely to result. That’s because you’ll need to dump and refill the water at least every 48 hours in the summer months. You can probably get away with a little less in the winter months. Without careful planning for how you dispose of this water, after a few months you can end up with a mud pit so foul it would make a pig blush.

      2. “I only have .5 acres of land.”

      That’s more than enough space for four ducks.

      3. “How big of an enclosure do you suggest I create for them?”

      Since you’ll likely be gone during the day, you’ll most certainly want to keep your ducks in a protected run during the day. The run can also incorporate their coop, so you don’t necessarily need to separate structures. For duck coops, 2-6 square feet of space per duck is a good range. If ducks will be spending their days in a run, the optimal spacing is 125’ per duck, so 500 sq ft.

      To help with planning, you may want to read our article all about duck coops and runs: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-build-duck-coop-and-duck-run/. Hope this info helps and please reach out if you have any other questions!

  • Reply
    Bek
    May 9, 2021 at 10:15 pm

    Hi,
    I have a muscovy girl with serious attitude. We got her as a 3-week-old duckling a little over a year ago, and she was not keen on handling at first. Then she started laying and suddenly became this snuggly, affectionate creature who followed me around demanding pets.
    She went broody for the longest time and was a bit antisocial during that; got over that and I had snuggle-duck back. Then she started moulting and also avoiding me.

    I got a second muscovy girl, 5 months old, to be her ducky friend – we had two chooks, and they got along fine, but they speak different languages. A week or two after we got the new duck (who was badly ostracised by everyone in that time), a fox came and claimed the chooks. My fierce, moody Ducko fought off the fox and saved herself and the new duck. They finally bonded – for a very bittersweet reason.

    New duck is shy. Old duck has completed her moult but still avoids me. I’ve been forcing a bit of affection at night when they’re in their little house and can’t escape, but now they both RUN when I come outside! I am so sad, especially looking back on videos of her lapping up head scratchies and being ever so cuddly.

    Will she go back to being snuggle-duck or is this it now? I’m heartbroken 🙁

    Bek

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 10, 2021 at 10:24 am

      We should preface our response by saying that our experience is with Mallard-derived domesticated ducks not Muscovies, which are a completely different species. However, from everything we’ve read, Muscovies are very friendly and sociable – or at least have the potential to be, with some variability by individual.

      We’ve had periods where even our tamest ducks go “feral,” as we jokingly call it. This happens when we have too much going on in our lives to bring them indoors and/or regularly pet them, with treats offered for positive association. It takes some time (a month or so) and commitment, but you can re-tame ducks and get them reacclimated to human affection. It sounds like “new duck” is going to be the biggest challenge for you if she’s naturally more shy. Ducks seem to really cue into each other and if one is afraid/shy, it becomes contagious to the others.

      Here’s a possible plan:
      Weeks 1-2: Go out and sit with your ducks daily (or more if time allows) while offering a small bowl of their favorite treats. Don’t try to pet or touch them, just get them used to eating treats near/next to you.
      Weeks 3-4: Same as weeks 1-2 except very slowly reach out and start petting them. Don’t try to hold them and don’t make sudden movements to pet them, just calm and slow.
      Weeks 4-6: This is when you start holding them while offering treats at the same time. It may be impossible to hold them both at once but that’s ideal since they’ll be calmer if they’re both together.
      Weeks 6+ regularly offer treats while holding and petting them. If it was just your Muscovy you were trying to re-tame, you could be a bit more abrupt in your regimen, but you’re trying to tame two ducks, one of whom doesn’t have that past relationship with you.

      Hope this helps and good luck! If your ducks seem more amenable to affection as you go, speed up the process as-needed. Also, please check back in and let us know how it goes. 🙂

  • Reply
    Donna
    April 11, 2021 at 9:45 am

    I have always been obsessed with pet ducks!
    I am now living on a floating home and in need of information and advise
    Can you help ?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 12, 2021 at 10:07 am

      If you’re obsessed with ducks and living on a floating home, I’m not sure there’s much more we can do to help you. It sounds like you’ve peaked as a human being. However, if you think there’s something more we can contribute, we’d be happy to help. 🙂

  • Reply
    Librarianlady
    April 6, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Noticed typos : hoping for girls
    Meter not Netherlands
    Didn’t see how to edit -oops

  • Reply
    Librarianlady
    April 6, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    Have 3 Pekin ducklings, hoping from girls, but unsure as came from tractor supply store. Wish I had known about Netherlands sexed ducklings. This is week 1, trying to take them out daily, but now when its time to go in they run. They love their outdoor time & when they warm up for a bit will follow us and get close to us, but when it is time to go in they are running from us. How can we make this less stressful, but still let them enjoy time outdoors?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 7, 2021 at 8:32 am

      Treats/rewards! Every flock/breed/individual duck is different and enjoys a different favorite treat. For our girls, it’s tomatoes (and sometimes mealworms) that tops the favorites list. Whatever that treat is for your ducks, consider drawing them back inside by showing them a small bowl of their favorite treats and then tempting them back towards your home with the bowl of treats, before finally giving them the big reward once they’ve done what you want them to do (presumably come inside and go back into their brooder). Give this a try and let us know how it goes!

  • Reply
    Zoe Mendez
    February 23, 2021 at 1:33 am

    Hi Duck Friends,

    This post really did change my relationship with my ducklings, who I desperately wanted to love me. I’d say we’re pretty good pals now and they will forage in my sleeves and lay down next to me if I sit with them. They still hate being picked up though.

    My question is, how can you tell if a duck is being aggressive? These are my first ducks (two white duclairs from Metzer farms) so I don’t understand their body language all the time. One of them (the more confident one) will sometimes get a shaky head and neck and make sudden head movements. Her eyes get INTENSE. She doesn’t bite, but maybe nibbles and then will sometimes push her beak under my hand in a jerky quick motion. Have you seen this before? Do you have any posts about duck aggression with humans?

    Thanks so much!
    Zoe

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 23, 2021 at 8:08 am

      Hi Zoe! Glad to hear you’re progressing in your relationship with your ducklings. We probably do need to create an article (with video) about translating various duck sounds and movements, but we don’t currently have anything published. As far as the shaky head combined with head lunge, yes, that’s a duck asserting herself and showing aggression. They’ll also do it to each other, so don’t take it personally or interpret it to mean she doesn’t like you. We’ll usually get a good shaky lunge when diapering a duck, but sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere (perhaps pent up frustration that it doesn’t rain tomatoes, who knows). Obviously, being the victim of a duck shaky lunge doesn’t hurt (even when they’re older); it’s more entertaining than anything. You should also expect them to nibble you with their bills during the process. Hope this clarifies what you’re experiencing, which is essentially a duck tantrum and/or attempt to show you who’s the boss.

  • Reply
    Duckology
    February 21, 2021 at 9:18 am

    How do I tame them in their adulthood?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 22, 2021 at 7:40 am

      Well, that’s a lot more difficult given that they already come with life experience and a certain baked-in view about how to relate with humans. However, you should be able to slowly (over months) attain more sociable ducks. You probably don’t want to jump right to physical contact. Start with just letting them get used to you being around them, providing treats, etc. Once that becomes acceptable, you can try to slowly progress towards holding them while providing treats. As mentioned in the article, this process will likely be easier with certain breeds and with certain individual ducks within a breed. Best of luck!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    January 19, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    This is a great article! Thank you so so much for sharing!

    I got baby ducklings for my birthday this past Saturday. I have been spending as much time with them as I can (Which mostly consists of me sitting next to their brooder, and occasionally talking to them.) They have started to follow me when they are out, and I am talking to them (which I was so excited about, I almost cried); however, they still seem scared of me, when I move close to them, they panic, chirp loudly, and run at first, until I sit and stop moving. They have not yet gotten comfortable with coming close enough to eat from my hand. As you mentioned, they scream when I try to hold them. I read in another article you aren’t supposed to chase them, but am not sure of another why to handle them, without chasing them first? I suppose I should just try and hold them anyway, even as they scream in fear? In disgust?
    Do you know, if there will there ever be a time they wont freak out when I get close to them? would you recommend something else I should try?

    Thank you for all your advice! You are awesome!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 20, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Andrea! Congrats on being a new duck parent.

      Since your ducklings are in a brooder, you should be able to lean down and pick them up without chasing them, correct? Or is it a large brooder? You don’t want to chase your ducklings around your house trying to catch them since that would likely be more stressful for all involved. Another option: lay down some “poopy” towels in a small room like a bathroom, bring in a small bowl of treats, bring the ducklings in with you then close the door. That way, you’re all close enough that you can reach out and grab them without giving chase. Once you figure out how best to get hold of them while minimizing chasing, it’s just a matter of repeating the process regularly while giving treats to help them form a positive association with being handled. Also, when holding them, remember that they’ll be calmer if another duckling is also being held at the same time or is within close viewing distance.

      Out of curiosity, what duck breed(s) do you have?

  • Reply
    Brittany
    January 17, 2021 at 5:05 am

    I really enjoyed this article! Very nicely written!! I was given three ducks about a month ago. Two pekins and a chocolate runner. There’s no other way to put it… they absolutely hate me 🙁 I’ve tried holding and giving treats but it seems they are too scared to eat. They have a large indoor coop with a caged outdoor area. I feel like I am torturing them every time I come in their area. I’ve even thought about maybe opening up their space, filling a baby pool in the yard and letting let relax around me but with how scared they are, I’m thinking they will run away at any chance out of the pen. I’m not sure they will ever like me 🙁 help!!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 17, 2021 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Brittany! Sounds like the ducks you were given weren’t well socialized with people from ducklinghood on up. They likely won’t ever be super tame birds, but you should be able to get them to at least tolerate your presence with time, repeat exposure, and positive associations. You probably don’t want to jump straight to trying to pick them up, as that requires a pretty advanced level of socialization for them not to freak out. Unfortunately, that may be reinforcing their pre-existing fear of humans. Even our very tame ducks aren’t thrilled when we pick them up since it’s pretty baked into a duck’s mental hardware that being picked up by a larger creature means predator attack which means thrash and get loose asap. You’ll likely just need to spend at least the new few months just having them get used to your presence: feed them, water them, give them treats, etc – but don’t try to touch them unless you have to due to injury or illness. Think about it as a hierarchy of social trust, and you have to start by building the foundation, since that was never done by the previous duck parents.

      It’s also really important to note that calmness/sociability varies pretty widely by duck breed. Some breeds are generally going to be harder to tame than others, as we detail in this article: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-choose-the-best-duck-breed-or-breeds-for-you/. Pekins and Runners rank around the middle of the pack on calmness.

      Best of luck to you and your flock. Please check back in periodically to let us know how the relationship progresses!

      • Reply
        Brittany
        January 17, 2021 at 1:24 pm

        Thank you for your response!!! I will lay low around them for now and hope they one day come to me! Thanks again, have a great week!!

  • Reply
    Becky G
    September 23, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    LOVE this! My two Pekin ducks were terrified of me until one was sadly killed one night & now the remaining girl is my best friend. She ran to me & wanted me to hold her the first day (after our loss). She’s safely penned up at night & in fenced back yard during the day. She comes & quacks at the back door until I come out to play with her. We have another femalenSaxony duck “visiting” our neighbors’ pond (traitor) that we will soon have to “drag” back home to be her buddy. I’m seriously considering the diaper routine & a “ducky” door to our back porch. My hubby thinks I’m crazy. But my nickname isn’t EllieMae for nothing!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 24, 2020 at 10:53 am

      Ha! Let us know if you go the ducky door route – curious to find out if your duck is able to learn how to use it. Although, that could be a problem if an undiapered duck has access to your home at-will. 😛

  • Reply
    Elizabeth O'Ham
    July 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    well, we didn’t have a choice on the breed of ducks, since we found our starter flock running loose in the parking lot of the white horse flea market! day old ducklings grew into two Pekings, some type of runner duck, and a Muscovy who hatched about thirty more ducklings. We followed most of the procedures outlined here to get them to like us… no dice. They hate us, and we think they are disgusting. After giving up on any ‘pets’, we were happy to let them be disgusting and suspicious in their large outdoor run full time. They appreciate that we feed and water and bring BSF grubs. We appreciate that they lay well and make the fruit trees grow faster. An uneasy truce, i would say. My heritage breed hens on the other hand tamed themselves and love me very much. The ducks are more just yard inhabitants except our lecherous drake… he was dinner.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 24, 2020 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks for that info, Elizabeth. Really surprised that — at a minimum — your Pekings didn’t take a liking to their humans. Those are typically one of the most social duck breeds. And, yes, drakes are rather lecherous. Ours earned his own fenced pen, where he can only gaze at the females and think dirty thoughts, though he is allowed a conjugal visit for a few minutes each morning.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth O'Ham
    July 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    well, we didn’t have a choice on the breed of ducks, since we found our starter flock running loose in the parking lot of the white horse flea market! day old ducklings grew into two Pekings, some type of runner duck, and a Muscovy who hatched about thirty more ducklings. We followed most of the procedures outlined here to get them to like us… no dice. They hate us, and we think they are disgusting. After giving up on any ‘pets’, we were happy to let them be disgusting and suspicious in their large outdoor run full time. They appreciate that we feed and water and bring BSF grubs. We appreciate that they lay well and make the fruit trees grow faster. An uneasy truce, i would say. My heritage breed hens on the other hand tamed themselves and love me very much. The ducks are more just yard inhabitants except our lecherous drake… he was dinner.

  • Reply
    Janna Zielke
    May 15, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Thank you so much for this post!! Although I don’t treat my ducks quite like y’all do (our dog isn’t even allowed on the couch, no way will a duck live in our house lol), I appreciate all the expertise and how much you truly love ducks!! I was feeling super offended that my 2 week old ducklings scream and run away from me every time I’m around, even though I give them fresh herbs from our garden. I followed your suggestion to treat them every time I pick them up just last night – I used cut up fresh tomatoes which they are obsessed with. And now they may not LOVE me, but are excited to see me and are pecking at me for treats and will eat out of my hand… so happy!! Literally transformation in 15 minutes. Thank you !

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 17, 2020 at 1:43 pm

      Ha! This is great to hear, Janna. Glad you’ve managed to get your ducks to like you — or at least tolerate you. Yes, the key to a duck’s heart is through their gizzard. Lol. Our ducks absolute love tomatoes too.

  • Reply
    Alan Bloss
    October 4, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    I enjoyed this article. I love ducks. Mine are wild mallards, but they know me and come to me when i visit. I live in north illinois. Winters are harsh. But ducks are reluctant to migrate unless they have to, owing maybe to their large bodies and small wings. “MY” flock of 60 – 100 birds stay the winter at one particular pond which never freezes over (is maybe used to cool some industrial process?). I feed them every second day, 50 lbs of cracked corn per week. They don’t let me touch them, but they let me stand in their midst. I have learned something of duck behavior and have named a few which are marked distinctively or are more tame than most. If I didn’t live in a suburban area, maybe I could keep some as pets, but this is prohibited by local ordinance. Thanks for posting your story. Luv a duck.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 7, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Alan! How interesting to hear about your overwintering wild Mallards. Thanks also for NOT feeding them bread or other foods that could cause digestive issues. Corn by itself isn’t an ideal duck food, but given the infrequency with which you’re feeding it to them and the fact that they’re still sourcing the majority of their food via wild foraging, they’re likely staying in great shape. The supplemental high calorie food source you’re providing probably helps them maintain enough energy and fat stores to successfully overwinter in Northern Illinois on their artificially un-frozen lake. Thanks for your interest and for caring for them!

  • Reply
    Kellyszoo
    September 30, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Hi, I love your pond! I have many ducks, geese and a small pond as well. I noticed all your beautiful plants that the ducks have not ate! What varieties of plants do you have that the ducks don’t eat? I would love to add some around my pond.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 30, 2019 at 11:36 am

      Hi Kelly! Thanks for the kind words regarding our duck pond! Yes, it’s hard finding plants that ducks either: a) won’t eat, or b) won’t rip or stomp to shreds. Ha!

      This is by no means a complete list, but around our pond we have lemon balm (a low-growing perennial herb), azaleas, a Japanese maple, and wild and domesticated irises. Our girls don’t care for any of them.

      We should mention that we feed our ducks lots of greens each day of the year, so they never ravenously crave greens. It’s possible that a duck on a different diet might actually eat plants which could be poisonous to them. So a secondary bit of advice: be sure to regularly provide your flock with fresh greens.

      Also, in our top bog filter we have a perennial water hyacinth which is excellent at removing nitrogen and other duck “fertilizer” from water. The ducks actually love to eat that plant so we keep the bog filter caged off, which they do not at all appreciate. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tonya
    September 21, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    Hello. I have 2 ducks. Got them from orschlens. Some how got lucky with a female an male. One was yellow and the other is black. They grew quicky…Ive had them 5 months they started mating recently an now the male duck chases us. How do I stop him from doing that? I believe the male is an Indian runner white an light brown. Not sure about the female she isn’t tall like the male. But shes shorter (like a normal duck) black with some blue feathers.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 23, 2019 at 10:58 am

      Hi Tonya! Three things to know as a starting point: 
      1) Young drakes (male ducks) are like teenaged boys: all hormones and driven by one thing (you can fill in the blank on what that is). 
      2) Indian Runners are a breed that is generally considered quite skittish and not as highly sociable when it comes to human interactions. 
      3) Without a female around, drakes can actually make very tame and sociable pets. However, once a female duck enters the equation, they’re in full drake mode. Ha.  

      So, you’re up against a combination of young drake hormones + a generally not as sociable breed + drake mode due to female presence, which is a pretty tough combo if you want a human-friendly drake. 

      We have an older Welsh Harlequin drake who will still lower his head and run at us in certain circumstances. He doesn’t actually do anything or bite, it’s more a threat and an attempt to establish dominance (it’s actually quite hilarious). Obviously, you don’t want to physically assault your drake or injure him. However, you may want to spend some time trying to establish more optimal relationship dynamics between the him and the humans. 

      For instance, when he charges you, you can gently but firmly hold your drake down on the ground for about 10 seconds, holding his head with one hand and his back with the other. This mimics the dominance-establishing behavior that other drakes use on each other. That will let him know that you’re in charge. 

      Second, 1-2 times per day, hold him in your lap and offer him some of his favorite treats (diced tomatoes are the key for our flock). If he won’t eat treats while being held, he’ll likely eat them immediately afterwards. What you’re trying to do here is get him to associate being held by humans with receiving a treat (Pavlovian response). It may take a while given your circumstances, but the hope is he begins to form positive mental associations with human contact. 

      If this sounds like too much effort, just let him continue doing his thing while you find humor in the absurdity of it all. 🙂

  • Reply
    Amanda
    August 10, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Hi! Thank you for the helpful information! I am looking for suggestions on how to catch my wild Rouen so I can start putting her in a coop at night in preparation for winter. She is fairly trusting of me as she was born on my pond and I have been feeding her since she was small… My problem comes when I try to grab her. She anticipates my move and tears off into the pond… How can I catch her? I also just recently got a khaki campbell, who I am keeping in a pen now until he gets used to home. I would like to let him out to roam the pond in the day, but am also concerned about catching him for putting him in the coop at night. Please help!

  • Reply
    Jill Redding
    July 29, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I am so jealous! I have raised my two ducks (one is a Pekin and I am unsure what the other one is she is graysish black with black spots) since they were of couple days old. But they run from me every time! I have held them (daily) and gave them treats (daily) AND they still run from me…I feel like I am torturing them by chasing them! I dont know what to do. They are raised with chickens so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it…

  • Reply
    Guest
    July 26, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I have 6 Pekin ducks that are scared of everything., including me and my husband. Oddly enough. our pit bull —not so much. They peck at the tags on his collar. Scared but bit feisty.

    The one thing that is driving me crazy is they have suddenly become scared of their pond. We started them wit a kiddie pool and when they became big boys and girls we took them to the pond. They loved it then one day I heard them quacking and when I looked out they were flying out of the water with feathers flying everywhere. I went down to check it out but, of course, I didn’t see anything. It has happened about 2 more times after they have been in the water less than 5 minutes. Now they just stand on the side of the pond and watch.

    I feel bad for the them in this hot weather but I don’t know what the problem is.

    • Reply
      susan von frank
      July 27, 2019 at 10:47 am

      Stormy: There’s probably something in the pond that’s scaring them. We built our girls an in-ground duck pond. One day, we noticed them acting very strangely, not swimming, standing on the edge looking in, etc. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, then we saw a turtle head. Turns out, a small snapping turtle had somehow gotten under our chainlink fence and into the pond. Thankfully, no harm came to our ducks, but it taught us to listen to them when they say something is wrong. We also have fish in our pond which will sometimes startle our ducks, but they aren’t afraid of the fish. Long story short: don’t force your flock back in the pond if they’re telling you something isn’t right. Maybe give them their baby pool back in the meantime.

      • Reply
        Guest
        July 27, 2019 at 1:40 pm

        I don’t try to force them to get back in the pond. I brought the kiddie pool back out but they make it a hot mess in seconds. They have outgrown it. I have a yard hydrant and make them a mud puddle for them to play in….usually every night.

        How did you catch the snapper and then convince the babies that it’s gone?

  • Reply
    John Martin
    July 4, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    Is that a duck diaper ? If so where do i get one?

  • Reply
    Ashley Hanks
    June 8, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    I love the photo at poinsette bridge! We have 2 ducks that are a year old and 3 two month old ducks that have just recently been put outside after being raised in our bathroom. The year old ducks are terrified of us, the babies are beginning to be this way now that are outside all the time. I’m afraid that they will become terrified of us like the older ducks. We have not put them in a pen together yet, they are in pens next to each other. After reading this article I am going to try some of these and hope it helps.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 9, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Hope these tips help you, Ashley! Out of curiosity, what breed of ducks do you have?

  • Reply
    Jennifer Green
    April 19, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Where do you buy your duck diapers?

  • Reply
    Ms Fay
    April 13, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    I tried to order ducks from a website last year but it did not go well. This year I went to TSC and picked up two ducks, I think they are khaki cambells. They are two weeks old and after thinking things through I decided to get two (I think they are mallards or rowans but I’m not sure) more incase something happened to one. My big questions is how long should I pet them to tame them down and how many times a day? I don’t want to over stress them but I also would love for them to be tame and holdable when they get older.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 15, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      Ms. Fay: we wish we had a 100% definitive answer to your question, but there isn’t one. What we can say is this: within reason, the more time you spend in close proximity to your ducklings and the more time you spend holding them, petting them, and feeding them treats to help create a conditioned response (human holding me = yummy treat), the better results you’ll have raising tame adult ducks. As mentioned in this article, there is variation by breed and by individuals within a breed. No matter what you do, some of your ducks will be more tame than others. So, devote as much time to your ducklings as is feasible and continue to do the same when they’re adults to maintain those bonds/positive associations.

      Hope that helps and best of luck! And best of duck. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashlee P
    March 13, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you so much for all this amazing duck information. I am a new duck mama. I have 2 Rouen ducks, Lucy & Ethel. They will be 3 months old on Sunday. Thank you for the time spent to post information like this!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 14, 2019 at 9:33 am

      You’re very welcome, Ashlee! Thank you for taking the time to read the article to improve your duck parenting abilities! Lucy & Ethel are lucky ducks. 🙂

      Let us know any time we can be of help.

  • Reply
    Outnabout
    December 2, 2017 at 12:26 am

    What a wonderful site you have. I currently have 5 ducks- all females that I ordered from Metzer Farms. 1 cayuga, 1 blue swedish, 1 harlequin, 1 buff, and 1 hybrid 300. The welsh is absolutely beautiful!! I adore them all. The Cayuga watched over the group, the welsh is the most shy. The buff I call sweet pea because she is the sweetest from the time they came to me at 3 days old. They free range in my backyard all day. I have a Bulldog that won’t let anything in the backyard so they are protected. They have a 40 gallon tub they swim in and then water dishes and i usually give them treats at least 1 time a day. Treats consist of peas, leftover salad, tomatoes, and peanuts now that winter is here. I put them up ion there secure coop at night once it gets dark. Much later in the summer. My question is I have flock feed ( I add oats, cracked corn, probiotic powder, brewers yeast, food grade diatomaceous earth and cracked sunflowers to each 40# bag of feed) in there as well as water. They will graduate to Layer feed in a couple more weeks. They make a mess with the water- I read from Fresh Eggs Daily that she puts no food or water in the coop at night. Keeps things clean etc. What do you think. Can they go 10 hrs without water and food? I can make a feeding area in the yard for the flock feed that is protected from the rain and winter weather if need be. I also want to hold all the ducks but they get so panicked the I try to catch them. They will come up and feed out of my hands at they sure take to me the I am outside. They come a running when I open the back door. If they see me in the kitchen they all come up in the deck and peck at the window. I adore them!!!!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      December 7, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks for your kind words! Sounds like you have a great setup for your ducks and are giving them top-notch care – thank you for doing that! Re food/water at night: we provide ours with both. We don’t mind the mess they make because we use all of their bedding (pine shavings) in compost, which then makes really good soil, which then grows more food for us and our ducks. So, maybe instead of viewing messy bedding as a problem, view it as a solution instead (for compost).

      If anything, I’d recommend at least providing your ducks with water at night since ducks drink A LOT. They’d probably be fine without food over night, but when they’re laying or molting their nutritional needs are greater.

      Hope that helps!

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