Why Ducks Fight and How to Handle It

We all know ducks can be extremely affectionate and friendly towards their humans. We love them because they make such great pets and their quirks are just too adorable to pass up for something normal, like a dog. But sometimes those quirks can take a turn for the worse. Quirks like becoming aggressive and fighting each other, or even sometimes going after their own young, can take anyone by surprise and rethink whether or not we want to be duck owners. 

Why do ducks fight and how do you handle it? So, the thing is, ducks can fight for a number of reasons. You are less likely to see female ducks fighting, but if they are, it’s to protect their young or their chosen drake (male duck). Drakes fight quite often and can get possessive of their territory and their chosen female.

But let’s delve a little deeper into the world of the duck. Why are ducks so aggressive toward other ducks, and sometimes even their humans? Is it because of the little man syndrome, instinct, or is it something more?

Why Are My Ducks Fighting?

There are many reasons your ducks might be fighting. It might seem like there is no answer or solution but have no fear. We’ll get you through it. Whether they are fighting against you or each other, we will cover the basic reasons why and the possible solutions to deal with it. 

Aggressive Behavior

The first thing you need to keep an eye out for is at the very beginning when they are still small hatchlings. At times, little hatchling ducks may seem to be giving small kisses to the human that they are imprinting on, but these can sometimes be dominance pecks. They are testing their boundaries, and because it seems harmless and loving at the time, you encourage it. 

But seeing as you need answers as to why they are already fighting, you have passed that milestone and have moved onto the next. I still thought it was important to mention in case you raise another. The situation could be avoided altogether in the next go around. 

Ducks that are raised this way can turn your adorable little angel into a complete nightmare as he matures. If they start doing this as a young duck, all you have to do is “peck” them back gently with your fingers. You’ll need to be persistent with this, as sometimes it takes some time to secure the role of the alpha duck. It shows that you are the dominant one and will not be bossed around.

If your duck is still attacking you after that, then keep reading and I can give you some ideas on how to stop it. Ducks attacking each other can often times get messy and dangerous. If you have multiple ducks, you will have this aggression every year around the spring or summer. It is simply how their instincts develop throughout the year. Sometimes you may just have some ducks that are a little bit more finicky and little bit friskier. 

Otherwise, a duck becomes aggressive over what it thinks is theirs. For instance, a back yard they consider their territory or a bowl of food they have dibs on are reasons for a duck to become aggressive. 

Mating Season

Mating season for ducks can sometimes be difficult to stand by and let happen. It can be painful for the females and sometimes even life-threatening, but it is the natural order of things. Drakes tend to become aggressive in the spring and summer months. This is when their mating hormones are raging, and their instincts take over.

Males ducks don’t mean to be so rough that they rip out the female’s feathers. They are just overrun by their innate need to reproduce, and sometimes get a little too rough when they are balancing themselves. In cases where you have more than one drake, you might have to separate your female from harm. Drakes often fight over a female or they team up on her. It can go either way, and both are equally extreme.

This is probably when the worst of the behavior peaks. Male ducks will fight over females to death. Separating an aggressive male from the flock may be your only option in a case like that. That’s why if you decide to have more than one duck, you keep one drake maximum and keep only females otherwise. It is recommended that you have at least 4 females per male. 

That isn’t even the worst of it. In some cases, drakes will chase off or kill their own babies because they think the hatchlings are a threat. During the mating season, male ducks will do all that is necessary to protect what is theirs. And at that moment, it is a female duck. It’s at these times when you’ll need to take your drake and separate him from the others. A drake killing his own young is the worst situation that can take place.

Protective Daddy Ducks

In some cases, when you try to hand feed your ducks, a drake will get territorial and try to kick you out of what he perceives to be his territory. It is a good idea to not even begin the habit of hand-feeding; but if you want to do it every so often, it’s ok to hand feed your females. They tend to be more accepting and calmer in most circumstances. 

Other times, drakes fight for alpha position. This may look like a lot of wing-beating and pecking at each other, and the fight usually ends with one drake sitting on top of another. This is normal behavior for drakes. They seek to be the dominant one of both their human and the other ducks. You have already secured your position as alpha, but they will want to be the top duck of their flock as well. 

It’s ok to let them work this out on their own because they aren’t trying to hurt each other, they are simply fighting for the alpha role. Inputting our human beliefs into a situation that is purely animal can sometimes just make things worse. This is what they do, so you don’t have to worry when it is only a fight for dominance. 

Sometimes you will have a drake chasing off other males and sometimes even female ducks to protect their chosen female duck and their ducklings. You see this with any animal species and it’s something that you can just let happen. They will stop in their own time when they feel there is no threat. 

How to Handle Fighting

It is important to stay out of the business of a duck’s innate nature. You have to remember that this is entirely natural for them and is part of the package when you get them. In some cases, when you only have female ducks or just a single duck, you don’t have to worry about such aggressive behavior so much. It is when you put a drake into the mix with a small flock of ducks when things get interesting. 

If your ducks decide attacking each other isn’t enough and start attacking you, there are ways to help alleviate the situation. Some say that giving treats to an angry duck can calm it, but this can only work for so long before they catch on and start abusing their new power. Ducks are actually rather smart, so before you know it, you’ll have an evil genius on your hands. 

Retaliating with violence can work, but in all reality, it is only instilling fear into your beloved pet. It will stop the attacks, but it will also stop the possibility of you ever having any kind of loving companionship with your ducks. This isn’t a technique I would recommend. 

There is always the option to always carry some sort of shield whenever you need to go out into their territory. Because let’s face it, they may be small, but they are mighty. Those little ducks can be slightly terrifying. So, fending them off with a broom can sometimes stop the attacks, but it can also just inspire them to change tactics and start attacking when you leave the broom inside. As I said, ducks are smart. 

The best technique to alleviate the attacks of an aggressive duck is probably the easiest to understand. All you have to do is show your dominance. Be the alpha of your duck flock and they will start to respect you and listen to you. When ducks are fighting for dominance, the alpha ends up on top, pinning the other drake to the ground. For you to communicate to your duck that you’re alpha, you have to do the same. 

The One Mistake You Could Make

The place people usually go wrong with this technique is giving up too early. Pinning your duck to the ground until he gives up the fight will win you the alpha role. But you can’t back off early.  And you’ll have to be the alpha 100% of the time. When your duck tries to take the lead role again, because he will, you need to stand your ground and hold the title of alpha duck. This all may seem silly, but it is the best technique that you can use, and it works every time. 

Now, if your ducks are only attacking each other and things aren’t getting so violent that you literally see feather flying, then in that situation, you can let them figure it out themselves. You are playing the role of a parent. Letting your babies fight, fall on their butts, and figure it out until it’s time for you to step in to protect them against harm. 

So, your best is to just let them be to figure it out themselves. The only time you should step in and separate them is if any ducks are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. If this is the case, take the duck that is acting most aggressively and separate it from the rest for a few days. It is a sort of duck time out to let them cool off. If it’s a mother duck, be sure to keep her babies with her. 

Males vs. Females

It is very difficult to tell the sex of a duck when they are born. So much so, that some people may adopt a male or female duck that they don’t want. This happens more often than you might think, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to find it another home. 

Keeping a male duck, even with all of the attitude problems, can be beneficial to any family. A drake is a free way to have baby ducklings yourself. There is no need to seek out and adopt more ducks if you get an inkling for a bigger duck family. You will have a way to breed your own family. 

That isn’t the end to the benefits, though. A drake oftentimes takes on the role of protector. They will keep you flock safe from predators and accidents that could cause harm. And not only do they benefit the flock, but they have beautiful colors and would be a great addition to your duck family. 

For example, where a drake may chase off anything that comes near his food, a family duck doesn’t mind and often shares her food. Male ducks are much more territorial and can be hostile. Females will show you how they feel about something, but they won’t try to kill each other like the males sometimes do. This is why it’s best to only keep one male. 

Female ducks, on the other hand, are much calmer and laid back. The only time you really have to worry about any attitude from one is if she feels you want to harm her or if she feels you are a threat to her family. Another instance a female duck might get belligerent is during mating season when she thinks other ducks might be trying to take her male. But their actions don’t compare to a male’s behavior during that time.

Letting Human Feeling Get in the Way

What many duck owners tend to forget is that their pets are animals that are driven by instinct. When we have to be dominant and sometimes rough, we’re afraid that we will hurt their feelings or make them hate us. This is something that just won’t happen if you are a good duck owner. And by good duck owner I mean you show them love and compassion, but also sometimes tough love. 

When it comes to instincts in ducks, being the alpha is just the normal order of things. And the ducks that are lower on the totem pole don’t think anything of it. If you have to separate your aggressive ducks from the others, they won’t end up hating you. Sure, you might get the side-eye, but you are alpha duck and you have their respect before anything. 

Gaining that title as alpha duck won’t hurt their feelings either. Ducks need an alpha, just like most species of animal. So, when you use their fighting technique to win the dominant role, they will simply accept it and move on with their lives. You will be alpha to all of them and from that point on, you will have their respect. They will fight for dominance between themselves, but as I mentioned before, it’s best to just let them figure that out. 

Wrapping It Up

Just to recap on when to get involved and when not to… If your ducks are participating in natural acts for their breed, then you don’t need to worry about getting involved. A majority of the time, your male ducks are fighting because they both want the same female, or they want to be the dominant one in the flock. If this is the case, leave them be. 

Females won’t normally fight unless they are laying claim on a chosen drake or they are establishing their dominance within the group. These fights don’t normally last so long, and once they run their course, the flock will settle, and everything will go on naturally. Another instance a female will become aggressive is if she feels her ducklings are in danger, but once the danger passes, she will calm down again.

Generally, female ducks only fight for a reason and it will only last as long as it has to. My best advice is to have one male per four or five females. This will help you avoid any situations that involve violence, injuries, or death. Because sadly enough, they can all happen if there isn’t a balance kept within the flock.

The balance starts with you as alpha duck and follows with your drake as the next alpha in line and the rest following. A harmonious flock is a happy flock. To get to that point, it might get stressful and you may feel like you are being too mean and too aggressive. The best thing to keep in mind with an aggressive duck is that they want to hurt you, so don’t be afraid to be firm.

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