It is hard to resist their cute waddles and iconic quacks, but ducks need to be protected from predators and be kept in a safe environment, which can take time and commitment as a caretaker. Okay, admit it — how many of you have always wanted a duck for a pet? Look how adorable they are! Their little waddles, mighty quacks and cute little faces all shout, “Please take me home!”
I’m guilty of feeding the ducks at various ponds, although nowadays it’s prohibited in some areas. I keep waiting for one to follow me home so I can righteously claim, “He’s not mine, officer — he just lives here!”
An Unusual Choice
A duck doesn’t seem nearly as cuddly as some of the more traditional pets out there. A cat will lie in your lap (or on your head), and a dog will curl up beside you and help protect your home. What exactly does a duck do? Are they even good animals to have around the home? What sort of care needs to be given to a duck, anyway?
Ducks are actually quite intelligent, although you may never be able to teach one to say, “Aflac!” They socialize with one another, learn tricks, play with toys, give kisses and even cuddle when they learn how. When handled with proper care, a duck will bond with you and be a best pal.
Play with your duck and learn what sort of games he or she likes to play, and you’ll soon have a yard resounding with happy quacks. Because ducks are intelligent, they need the companionship of fellow ducks. Although humans are great friends, only another duck can really understand the duck’s life. To have only 1 duck in your home is to sentence your fabulous fowl to a life of loneliness.
It is perfectly acceptable to get 2 males or 2 females if you don’t want to face the prospect of your pair mating and producing a gaggle of wee duckies every so often, but to be truly happy ducks need a mate. If you’re getting a female and a male, think ahead about how you will handle a “duck dynasty.”
If you get a duckling or 2 to raise, be warned that it is notoriously difficult to sex a duck when it’s still small. You may end up not getting quite the pair you wanted. To avoid this, try getting a duck that is a little older and easier to sex. Better yet, go to your local animal shelter and rescue a few ducks.
Protection From Predators
Be aware that ducks are natural prey to many predators. Coyotes, foxes, dogs and even cats will try to snatch your feathered friend at every opportunity, so prepare a safe and sturdy place for your ducks to live.
For the first couple months before they molt, they’ll need to be kept warm and safe indoors. Once they have their feathers, they will be happiest outside. Plus, though ducks are adorable, they poop a lot — not always something you want to be cleaning up constantly.
Remember, if you are taking on the responsibility of caring for a duck, you are also taking on the responsibility of protecting it. In the wild, ducks can escape to a body of water or take to the air.
In your backyard, they have nowhere to go with a secure habitat. Your enclosure should be roomy enough for your duck family to walk and run around and insulated enough that they will not overheat in the summer or freeze in the winter.
Ducks are hardy, but they do need a place to escape the elements and the predators. Keep in mind that some predators are also intelligent and will dig under a poorly reinforced fence or enclosure. Ducks love to swim, but if you include a kiddie pool that has a way for them to get in and out, they’ll be extra delighted.
Consider the Commitment
Ducks make good pets. They’re intelligent, fun and enjoyable to watch. Their feed is relatively cheap, and they also enjoy eating greens. This is wonderful for weed control, but watch out for your garden.
Like any pet, a duck is a commitment of time and energy as you accommodate your duck’s needs. Ducks need to be protected and sheltered from predators and from the environment.
Speak with your veterinarian about getting a duck and what kind of commitment this will entail. Your vet can tell you about special behaviors to watch for, what type of duck would be best for you, and what health concerns might arise.
Take note that domesticated ducks should not be released into the wild. A domesticated duck can potentially carry diseases to which wild ducks have no immunity. A domesticated duck also may not have learned the skills it needs to survive in the wild. So if you just can’t contain the urge to raise a duck (or a whole lot of them), make sure you are committed to seeing it through.