Hello, I have a male pekin duck about 13 weeks old. His name isXXXXX have him since he was about 2 weeks old. How he ended up with me is a long story. To keep it short, someone bought him, then didn’t want him, then gave him to me to host him for a few days and ended up staying with me permanently. He is really adorable and I truly love him, but I feel so bad that he is alone and not with other ducks. After a lot of thinking, I decided it was the best for him to be with other ducks, so last week I took him to a place where they have, ducks, hens, chickens, ecc. It’s basically an animal hotel, but they have a pond and ducks because they like them. Unfortunately, they called me 4 days later to tell me that the other ducks wouldn’t accept him, they were biting him ecc, and that i should take him back before they kill him.As you understand I took him back and he is again in the house with me. But I can’t believe the other ducks wouldn’t accept him. I can’t believe that he has to spend the rest of his life alone and just with me. It is not what I want for him. Plus, he now looks sad and I think he wants to be with other ducks more than before. There is a lake I can take him, but I don’t think releasing him in the wild is a solution since he has learnt to depend on me for food. I think maybe the other ducks needed more time to get used to him, or that maybe that he should be introduced to them in a different way. So I want to ask you:How can you introduce a pet duck (raised alone) to a group of other ducks (raised together)? What is the best possible way? I understand they will bit him in the beginning, but will he finally be accepted? How long does it take? 1 week? 2 weeks? More? Should he be placed with the other ducks, but in a cage so that they can see him, but not be able to hurt him?I want to try again placing him with other ducks, but I want to know more about the best possible way to do it.I would truly appreciate any help/ advice you can give me. Thank you in advance!Jennie
Hello Jennie, I'm Dr. Bob.Thank you for caring enough to ask this question! Your tender heart is quite evident in the story you wrote.Ducks imprint on whatever they see that's alive and moving early in their lives. This instinctive process determines their idea of what kind of creature they are. If the first animal they see is a dog, they think they're a dog, if a human, they think they're human. They then model their behavior patterns after the type of animal they think they are. If your duck imprinted on a human, which is quite likely, he thinks he's a human, and has learned to act in ways that are foreign to wild ducks. Humans like the company of other animals, but other animals, particular flocking type animals, naturally tend to prefer their own kind. To the ducks in the flock to which you tried to introduce him, he is a very strange bird, indeed. He looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but acts very strangely. The pecking order that exists in a flock singles out odd acting or ill individuals and the birds are quite merciless in picking on the unfortunate "underduck", trying to drive them from the flock or even kill them. Although this behavior seems extremely cruel to us, it is actually designed to help keep the flock from being infected with deadly disease from strange or unusual acting individuals who are ill.Imprinting is not reversible, and he will have to either stay with you, another family, or a very special situation in which many of the ducks are human-imprinted. Other possible situations that might be satisfactory would be placing him in a flock on much younger ducks who may accept him, or even flock of chickens who may tolerate his presence. Given the choice, I'm pretty sure he would prefer to stay with a kind loving friendly person like you, than a bunch of hostile bullying ducks, even if they are his own kind.If you should have further questions, or if I may assist you in any way, please let me know.With kindest regards,Dr. Bob
35 years in general practice, including avian.
Dear Dr. Bob,
Thank you very much for your answer. You are very kind and I am really grateful. I would like to tell you a few more things about Pepito and ask you a couple of more questions, just to make sure I understood everything you wrote me correctly.
First of all, I would like to say, that I have already read about the imprint in ducks, but I can’t really tell if my duck has imprinted on humans or not. You see, my duck, has seen quite a few creatures since it’s birth, so how can I really know what he thinks he is? During the first days of his life (around 10-15 days), he was probably with other ducklings (his brothers and sisters), then he spent a couple of days with the people that originally bought him and then he was given to me. During the 21/2 months that I have him, he has also spent around 3 weeks with my sister, her husband, their dog and their cats (because I was out of town). So, how can I really know what kind of creature he thinks he is? You are saying, he thinks he is the creature he has spent more time with and that creature is me?
Anyways, about placing him with other ducks, just to make sure I understood correctly, are you saying, I shouldn’t try to place him with other ducks ever again? You think there is no chance of him getting accepted in the flock? You think the other ducks will end up killing him? What about the solution I proposed? What if I place him with the other ducks, but separately in a cage for some days, so that they can see him and smell him, but not be able to touch him? Is there any chance they would get used to his presence and accept him? If I had given him when he was younger, like a 11/2 moths old, would it have made a difference? Would he have been accepted then?
Also, I would like to ask your opinion, in case I decide to keep him, do you think he can become friends with a cat or dog so that he won’t be alone? Or, what if I take 2 ducklings and raise them too along with him so that he can have company, do you think they could become some short of family? And a final question, do you think ducks can be toilet trained? Have you ever heard someone who has managed to train them? And if yes, how did he do it? I am asking because I live in an apartment and having a duck around has been really hard.
Thank you in advance for your time. Sorry for taking so long to reply, but I work long hours and I didn’t have time to do it sooner.
Hello again Jennie.It's probably not possible to know exactly just what Pepito think he actually is, the problem is that he doesn't act quite right to the other ducks. Birds and other animals pick on strangers who don't act right. Another factor is the pecking order. Even birds raised in a flock will be picked on just because they are not a dominant personality. It is theoretically possible that putting him in a cage near them would allow them to acclimate to him, but I don't think it likely. It may be worth the try, though. Each flock has its own dynamics, and one flock may accept him while another doesn't. You can try with a different flock, younger birds would be more likely to accept him than older ones.Whether or not ducks can be house-broken is a controversial subject. I have not personally known anyone to successfully do this, but some online sites tell you how, so it may be possible. You can read one site on how to toilet train your duck here: http://www.ehow.com/how_8043042_potty-train-duck.htmlI think it would be an incredibly time-consuming task, and with your schedule not likely to be possible for you. Raising two or more duckling with him would be the best option for Pepito. That would be building a flock around him that would accept him as he is.If I may be of further assistance to you, please let me know.Best regards,Dr. Bob
Hi Evgenia,I'm just following up on our conversation about Pepito. How is everything going?Dr. Bob