Duck Behavior 101 - A Reference - What is normal and when to be worried.

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by AliciaDuckLady, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. AliciaDuckLady

    AliciaDuckLady In the Brooder

    Nov 3, 2013
    Brisbane, Australia
    Hopefully with your help I can compile a go-to reference for basic duck behavior here...

    I have had ducks now for 10 months and am raising our first two ducklings. It has been a steep learning curve, a delightful but confusing journey. If I knew what I did now, I believe we would have saved a fair bit of heartache and been able to better manage our little flock. Problem was, as much as I read every book I could on duck raising /care, not very much information is given on general duck behavior. So it's really hard to know if things are normal or something to worry about. Hopefully with your help we can create a general guide here to help others and myself to enjoy our ducks being ducks. I think there is always something more to learn...

    I have created some topics to start below, feel free to suggest more, comment or suggest items be in different categories etc.

    General Duck Behaviors

    • Sitting while eating, drinking
    • Running around, like crazy kids, then sleeping
    • Peeping loudly every time you are out of their sight
    • Occasionally sneezing to clear their noses
    • Stretching leg out behind them while sitting
    • Mine have both gone through phases of non stop jaw movement, not sure if this is due to growth? Looks like they are chattering but are silent.

    General Ducks:
    • Head bobbing with bills open (greeting?)
    • Muscovies - Feathers on head going up like a mohawk when curious, cranky or alarmed.
    • Feathers puffed out when reluctantly being herded into pen
    • Tails wagging when happy about catching bugs, eating, drinking etc.
    • Standing up and flapping wings triumphantly

    Laying Ducks:
    • I find my girls twitch their feathers a bit before they lay, must be a bit uncomfortable?
    • Increase in appetite

    Broody Ducks (I have my first at the moment so more info on this would be good)
    • High pitched quacking starts a week or two before sitting
    • Ruffled feathers when approached
    • Prepare nest with their down feathers
    • Won't come off nest, not even for food!
    • Cranky quacks when you get too close

    • Fence climbing!

    Suspicious Behavior:
    • Deviation from normal temperment
    • Unexpected change in appetite
    • Droppings are unusual colour or consistency
    • Reluctance to submerge hed in water

    Your duck needs help:
    • Excessive sitting, sleeping, uninterested in foraging
    • Puffy Cheeks and sneezing
    • Discharge from nose / eyes
    • Weak legs or cant get up
    • Bow legs
    • Turned in feet
    • Laboured breathing

    What have you learned from your ducks and their behaviors?
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  2. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    Oh, this could be good. I appreciate the outline format. Helps prod my memory. Hmmmm.

    Is limping in there? Limping can be caused by many things, such as sprains, wounds, infection, not just of the foot and leg, but higher up in the body.

    Tail pumping is another sign - with mine it has been a sign of egg laying troubles.

    Poor feather condition could be from depression, too many drakes, or a too-rough drake, mites, poor nutrition, illness.

    Running around in circles, neck parallel to the ground, mouth open, eyes wide open: in my flock, it appears to be a hormonal surge, just an intense emotional outburst. Can be accompanied by making "turkey tails" in the swim pan, wetting everything and everybody in a six foot radius.
    1 person likes this.
  3. Slagasse

    Slagasse In the Brooder

    Sep 3, 2015
    We have had our Muscovy ducks for 3 1/2 months. We had a Drake 3 years ago and now we have two girls. I love them I am not sure id I am adding helping.

    Our girls when they seem me waggle their tales. They make a honking noise currently between a honk and squeak. They are also starting to hiss. They have not laid any eggs yet.

    I am unsure though if their biting is loving or not, they hiss excitedly and seek me out and they nibble my hands. Once of them likes to be rubbed the other is still hesitant about it.

    Whenever I approach they wag their tails and make all sort of noises. They talk to me during the day.
  4. AtropineCaffein

    AtropineCaffein Chirping

    Dec 13, 2014
    Northern Alabama
    Here is a behavior--running along side another duck (generally hens to drakes, but all have done this) and bobbing their head WAY to the side. The target ducks pretty much ignores the bobbing duck, so it does not seem to be doing anything of note in terms of mating dances or whatever lololol. It is not straight on bobbing, it is "run up to the side and bob the head away from the target duck". Sometimes there is no target duck, and they just do it randomly. I half wonder if one duck had a crick in his/her neck as a young'un and then they all decided that was what they were supposed to do ;) ;) ;)
  5. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    I think it is part of a complex behavior. I have seen it used to greet a flock member who has been missing, and for no obvious reason as well.
    I hope @Going Quackers or @Scovy Momma can check in.
  6. lissyduck

    lissyduck In the Brooder

    Nov 17, 2015
    I have 3 females, 1 drake and 5 roughly just over mth old ducklings. Yesterday i noticed one of the females was plucking the tail feathers from the ducklings and eating them. She is quite aggressive when she does this and their poor little tails have bleeding spots where they have been plucked. Ive seperated her last night and today but i think her beak has changed colour slightly aswell (was darker before). Not sure if this is happening cause she is lacking something or if she had just gone nuts. Either way i dont really have a separate area to keep her securely and we have foxes in the area that visit regularly. Actually the neighbours lost 15 chicks to a fox last night cause they thought they would be ok until they got home from their new years celebrations.
  7. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Loving this country life

    Do you have a dog crate you can keep her in your secure area with the rest of the ducklings. and you maybe right she maybe lacking something in her diet Protein is what feathers are what are you feeding them? and do they get to look for bugs? I sure wouldn't take a chance on leaving your young ducklings outside unless they are very secure.

    And you might consider getting a product called Blue Kote it's found at feed stores it will turn anything it touches purple but works great to disguise any area a duck or chicken is messing with and also helps heal wounds. I have used it many times and it works great.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  8. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    I think I'd give her a couple of tablespoons of dry cat kibble - in case it is a protein issue - she may just be a stinker, though.
  9. lissyduck

    lissyduck In the Brooder

    Nov 17, 2015
    They have scratch mix, scraps from the kitchen plus i usually give them a can of corn and a cucumber and zucchini(they go nuts over it) cut up. Lettuce if i have some to spare, tomatoes. Actually whatever salad stuff i have. They usually get a salad a day. Also the ends of the bread from inside too. I like to sit outside and handfeed them. They also get the forage in the horse paddock and house yard during the day when the dogs are inside.
  10. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Loving this country life

    All sounds great but look at your protein content of all you mentioned, not much there I'd say, so please try upping the protein like Amiga said using a couple tablespoons of dry cat or dog kibble if good quality . Most have a good level of protein and alot of times when we hear of feather pulling and eating that is the problem they are lacking protein. Then again she may just be a bully but what if you tried the cat/dog kibble and it worked so much less stressful than keeping her separated from her flock. I don't know what part of the country or world your in but right now not much protein being found where[natural foraging] I live too cold.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: