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Raising a Human Imprinted Duckling-Howard's Story

  1. mirandaleecon
    *I will be editing this to add pictures and make it pretty*

    Howard was my first duck and we got him solely by chance. We had just started raising chickens and one of my favorite things to do was go look at the chicks at the feed store but one day there was a lonely little duckling, maybe 24 hours old.

    I didn't know anything about ducks but I knew no baby animal would enjoy being all alone, so I asked the person at the register why he was there all by himself (how could someone buy ALL the ducks and leave one by himself?!). Their reply was "Oh someone just dropped him off here, they found him all alone. You can have him if you want him." So of course I took this adorable fluff ball home.

    Immediately we started looking for ducklings close in age to him to get him some company but the only ones we could find were some that were a couple weeks old, a Pekin and Khaki Cambell. Being new to poultry, I figured it would be better than nothing and if they didn't get along at first, he would eventually grow to be about their size (or twice as big! We didn't know at the time but he was a Muscovy drake!). By the time all this happened, he was already imprinted on me and my boyfriend. He thought he was people and no duck would convince him otherwise.

    Howard was the best duckling. When he was old enough to venture outside, I would take him for walks while doing my chores. He followed me everywhere! If I walked too fast, he would stop and cry until I came back and took a break with him. When he got bigger, he would wait until I was out of sight and then would come soaring through the air and crash land next to me. He's too fat to fly anywhere nowadays...

    And then came puberty.

    One day while I was out doing my chores, Howard started running towards me. This wasn't an uncommon occurance since he was always excited to see us, except this time he didn't stop running until he was close enough to bite me. I thought it was goofy until he got around the back of my legs and gave a helluva monkey pinch bite on my calves. Well turns out, since Howard though he was people, he though he had to make babies with people.

    More and more, Howard started assaulting the members of our household. He would sit on top of my car, pooping all over it and just waiting for one of us to come out the front door. Me and my boyfriend got it the worst, but occasionally he would go after my step daughter. She was terrified of him. I came home one day to a crying daughter and a bloody Howard because she hit him with a broom to get away. *Note* She is a 20 year old, so I wasn't subjecting a child to duck abuse, he actually left all kids alone*

    We tried "asserting our dominance" by sitting on him (not full weight, just enough to immobilize), which worked for a while but not everyone was consistent and so he targeted the people who weren't. We used a broom as a barrier, there was no need to hit or even touch him with it, for some reason (before the daughter incident) he would stay a couple feet away from it. That worked well but our broom wasn't always readily available. We tried running which was a horrible idea unless you could sprint into a building.

    I believe that Howard started suffering from depression through all this. He couldn't understand why his "flock" was rejecting him. He started feather plucking (all the feathers on his neck and tail we gone or broken), he would sulk around, and I'm pretty sure he lost some weight. He would sometimes hang out with the other ducks but he never had the same excitement they did for everything around them.

    Then we finally found the best solution; Water! Since Howard never thought he was a duck, he must not have realized how awesome water was. He was always reluctant to take baths and would stand under cover when all the other ducks were playing in the rain. So, we started using a spray bottle and it worked perfect. Anytime he started being aggressive, a tiny spritz of water would change his mind. Now, he rarely even tries and if he does, we just need to pretend to be getting the bottle and he changes his mind.

    It's been several months since we broke him of his habit (although I'm anticipating having to break out the water bottle next spring, I'll be prepared!) and he is a whole new duck. He molted recently and finally has his beautiful green and white feathers back, no more bald neck and pitiful tail feathers. He hangs out with the other ducks almost exclusively but I can still walk right up and pet him, even though he doesn't like it, he doesn't run like the others.

    The moral of this story is; Having an imprinted duck is adorable and cuddly but I absolutely do not recommend it. It was a good 6 months of walking around carrying brooms and water bottles, looking around in fear, and fearing he would really hurt someone because I was too stubborn to get rid of him. I think it was pure luck that he doesn't like water, and I don't think that method would work with most ducks. If you want a duck, please get him a friend to keep him company!

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