Bonding with foster duck and care tips?


Nov 3, 2018
Melbourne, Australia
Hi everyone,

Yesterday my friend's mum dropped off her beloved drake at our place. We are only supposed to be fostering him for a week or so but I'm trying to learn as much as I can about duck care so that we might be able to keep him. He's had an unusual couple of months so I want to offer him a bit more stability and hopefully a forever home.

He use to live on a farm then moved to a smaller property where he lived both as an outdoor and indoor duck and had two dogs, a cat and four hens as company (they would all hang out during the day and sleep together too).

He is still very wary of me and my boyfriend whenever we see him or come near him. I also noticed that he hasn't touched much of the food I gave him today but I'm hoping he foraged around the backyard and ate something. We were given his old house and kiddie pool but he has only used the pool once whereas my friend told me he usually spends all day in there.

I'm worried that he's stressed out and not adjusting well. Is there anything I can do to make the transition easier for him? He keeps looking at my hens so I'm thinking maybe he's lonely. We let him and my 3 silkies free range in the yard and he kept looking at them but they all avoided each other.


Ducks can be really hard to bond with, I grew up surrounded by them and I always had the impression that they were simply naturally flighty and not trusting, and that bonding with one would take lots of work and may be impossible.
Not so! Yeah, they're usually wary, they're defenseless "prey animals," but there is one surefire way to beat that instinct out. Earning their trust! It's easier than it sounds, but it'll take time and patience.
Here are some ideas.
Spending a lot of time around him where he's not the focus of your attention is important. Try engaging in calm activities that will keep you with him, maybe take a book or laptop out to his enclosure, and spend a lot of quiet time together.
When you do busy activities, make it something obviously positive, like refreshing water and feeding. Feed extra tempting stuff like a homemade salad. Try tasty treats like peas and mealworms. Mealworms are irresistible to ducks! You can even try sprinkling them around you before settling down, and as you relax he can decide how close he's willing to get. It may take baby steps, don't despair! He's fully aware of your efforts, the trust is building.
Speak gently, and if you notice that something scares him, avoid it (it can be weird stuff, some ducks hate certain colors or articles of clothing!). When you visit the enclosure, bring something interesting each time. Try different things, so it builds curiosity. Different snacks, maybe toys (simple stuff works, ducks are really curious. Things that are bushy, stringy, shiny, nubbly or wiggly are good to try. Sometimes they're fun for a minute and then are ignored forever, that's okay! Things that float often get extra attention.), and if you have clothing with strings, use that to your advantage. Hoodie strings and shoe strings are great examples. Zipper dangles, too. It may take a minute before he's comfortable getting that close, but you'll see what I mean.
Anyway, bribery and such shows you have good intentions, but time and attitude is key. Your demeanor is what he'll be watching the most closely. Be consistently gentle, reassuring and nonthreatening. It will pay off, especially since this guy was a true pet, so he has no reason to dislike people, it's just a matter of him letting you into his world.

Loneliness can definitely play a part in his difficult transition as duck form strong bonds with each other, people and other animals. You can try providing a mirror to help lift his spirits, but a friend is a more reliable solution. It can be difficult with drakes, since they sometimes don't get along, and with hens you have to worry about him causing her harm. It may be worth a try eventually, but hopefully he'll accept you as his new family, and hopefully the chickens will warm up to him. (hm, do you perhaps know anybody with a friendly duck who'd be willing to come over for a play date? That'd be one way to get an idea of how he'd fare with a buddy around.)
(Also, this may not be possible, but having him indoors with you for a while would speed up this process. He'd feel less alone and he'd grow accustomed to you faster.)

Here's a neat blog about a couple pet ducks, about 1/3 of the way down the page there's some advice on building ducky trust

Best of luck!!!
Thanks for the great advice everyone!
I spent 2 hours in his enclosure yesterday reading softly to him and he seems a bit more relaxed around me today. He still doesn't go up to me but he doesn't automatically run away when he sees me. I also made him his favourite food which I was told is oatmeal, he seemed to be happy with that and was more active today.
He still walks over to the chicken enclosure and has a look at them but I don't let them free range together anymore :)

I am considering getting him another friend once I get a better at duck care. Perhaps for now I can register my interest to adopt with local shelters and rescues. My only concern is I've heard female ducks are noisier compared to drakes? The property next to us developed so there are 5 townhouses very close to our boundary. I don't mind the noise but if the neighbours lodge enough complaints we risk the council showing up one day to seize them.
So good to hear he's making progress!
That's great that you're thinking of adopting! Yes, sometimes hens cam be talkative, but it varies from duck to duck. I have two girls and one is LOUD and the other is very soft-spoken, so I would definitely ask about that when you contact shelters. They are more than happy to couple you with the best match for your lifestyle.

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