Developing set routines seemed to increase the comfort level of my pet ducks. Being comfortable herding your ducks helps with establishing routines. Herding my ducks has been helpful when I need to pick them up and when I want them to go inside their coop for the night. Working with them as soon as they join your family is important. Ducks recognize specific gestures and sounds after repeated use. They can also learn some words. They are responding to their own instincts when they are being herded. I have had success by using the same words and actions consistently. Bribery also works very well. A way to the heart of a duck is definitely via the tummy.
We gave our ducks supervised time in the yard away from their brooder beginning when they were about a week old (on sunny warm days only). I wanted to keep them off the gravel driveway so that’s when I first started herding them. I would stay behind them and using long sticks in both hands, I held my arms out in front of me in the shape of a “V”. They could see the sticks so as I slowly walked them in a direction that would avoid the driveway, they moved right along. The entire time I walked with them, I softy said “no”. Eventually, as this became routine, all I had to do was say “no” and they wouldn’t go toward the driveway.
Bed time for our ducks is always at or near sunset. Once my ducks graduated to coop living after leaving their brooder, I briefly struggled trying to get them to go to bed. It was time to rely on herding them. They were already familiar with being herded so I no longer needed the sticks. I just got behind them, held my arms out and walked them toward the coop. The entire time I did this, I said, "bed time". As soon as they were all safely in the coop, I grabbed a plastic zip lock bag from my pocket which was full of treats. I shook the bag and tossed the treats into their coop saying, "good duck". I made sure they could hear the rustling of the bag. This routine was repeated for 2 weeks or so.
Up the ramp into coop...
Into the coop...
After a couple of weeks, I noticed that near sunset they started congregating near the doorway to their predator proof run just outside the coop. All I had to do was shake that treat bag, say "bed time" and into the coop they would go. Of course, shaking the bag without saying "bed time" didn't work. Almost a year later and we still use this same routine. The only hiccup occurs if bed time happens when it's raining. They love the rain and sometimes would rather stay out in it than go to bed. That's when I have to revert back to herding them into the coop.
I also periodically pick up the ducks. It seems to be a good habit to establish since I want to do a hands-on examination of them about once a week. I want to be familiar with what is normal in the hopes of recognizing if/when something isn’t right. I use the same technique to herd them into a corner of their fenced in yard. I say, “up, up, good duck” while I’m herding them. I have one drake that has caught on. He will stop walking away and let me pick him up. As soon as he settles into a comfortable position, I sit down with him in my lap and he gets treats. I closely examine his eyes, nares and bill. I run my hands down his neck. Time for more treats because he is usually starting to wiggle at this point. Then I feel his legs, feet and body. If he’s being cooperative, I give him hugs and kisses. I put him down on the ground in front of me and yes, more treats so I can stretch his wings out some. Then I let him waddle away so he can discuss what just happened with the rest of the flock. There are currently four ducks in our family. I do pick up the others and do the same thing. It’s still more of a chase with the three girls, but once I have them they do cooperate.
Bandana (just for the photo) after getting the once over
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