My ducks are scared to death of me (literally)

Stradith

Hatching
Jul 14, 2021
3
4
8
About a month ago, I started my adventure into raising ducks. I bought a mix of Ancona and Harlequin Welsh from a local farm and at the time of purchase they were less than a week old. They have always been scared of me and I expected that to begin with but their fear of me has only grown since. I am not cruel to them and I try to talk and interact with them as much as I have time to, they wont even take treats like mealworms from me.

At the current moment they live in a large hand built brooder and I move them out into a enclosed pen where they have more space during the day. About two weeks ago, my area experience a nasty heat wave. The temperature was close to 105 for a couple of days and at the peak of the heat wave, when I went to move the ducks in the morning, it was already getting hot, probably 85-90. When I grabbed one of the ducks it when limp and dozy almost immediately, so I put it down and it just sat in one spot and pass about 5 minutes later. It's been the only fatality I've had with my ducks so far and I'm not sure if it was a heart attack or heat stress or what.

The ducks want absolutely nothing to do with me and I am at a loss for what I might be able to do to get them to warmup to me. I don't need them to adore me and cling to me, I just would like for them to be comfortable when I come to freshen up their water and check on their food. I am concerned that more might die to fear related causes if I cant resolve this issue. I had originally intended to breed and use them as egg layers, but at this point it seems I may need to either sell them off or send them all to my freezer. I had planned on only thinning out the drakes so that my male to female ratio was right.

I am at a loss as to what I should do, any advice would be helpful, thanks.

TLDR. A month ago I bought ducklings. They have always been scared of me and it's only getting worse. They wont take treats from me and any time they see me they scramble to get away. One duckling might have died from a heart attack due to fear. I try my best to talk to them and interact with them, but it's hard when they scramble in fear at the sight of me.
 

KaleIAm

Free Ranging
7 Years
Jul 13, 2015
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Carnation, Wa
I'm very sorry for the loss of one of your ducklings.

Teenager ducklings often go through a fear stage, and as they get older they will likely calm down.

That being said you can help them out by behaving as little like a predator as possible. I recommend looking next to them, and not at them. Walk around them in big circles, instead of directly to them. Avoid startling them, so make a noise as you approach. I quack and say, "hi ducks!" You'll likely want to do it just loud enough so they can hear you until they know you are a good thing.

Instead of trying to get them to eat from your hands I suggest gently throwing them mealworms everytime they see you. This way they'll hope they see you, but it isn't scary. Slowly you can get closer. You can also sit 30 feet away, reading a book, while they have some kiddie pool time. Don't look at them. After they are comfortable with that for a week sit 5 feet closer. Throw them a treat now and then. Very slowly they will learn not to fear you.

Avoid anything that makes them behave fearfully. Move very slowly. Don't use an umbrella if they run away when they see it. Try not to stand over them.

I have trained very scared ducks that I am not a predator. They have gone from being terrified of me to following me around, coming when called, gazing adoringly into my eyes, and even jumping into my lap.
 

Stradith

Hatching
Jul 14, 2021
3
4
8
Thanks KaleIam, I'm going to try that. I'll even stop wearing sunglasses when I approach them, they might be intimidating the ducks as well. Hopefully they will eventually learn that I don't intend to attack them every time I get close.
 

Quatie

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Oct 16, 2020
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Northern California
Each duck will also be different. Some individuals are more standoffish and never fully become social. They will also go in waves. When some of my ducks get picked on they become less social. As things calm down and they are happier, they become more social. Some ducks will also just surprise you. My drake was always very unsocial, and over time he got use to handling. Then one day he just started running behind us wanting our attention and is ok with some pets.

Give it time and patience, and some of the ducks will surprise you. And if you follow the steps @KaleIAm gave you, they will warm up to you.
 

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