Are ducks just that stupid or just these guys?

gardengalrn(5KS)December 31, 2008

I've mentioned here before that I rescued 5 baby ducks in the fall. They never did bond with us, matter of fact, they were PETRIFIED of us. I don't know their breed but a mallard type and as they got older, I suspect that they were all drakes. Just this past week they decided they didn't care for their home and pen and flew out each and every day. We would get them back in for the night and all was well. Yesterday we noted that while they would fly out of the pen, they had no idea of how to fly back into it to get food/water. So, we took down the fence, which was obviously not containing them anyway. Hours later and one duck was missing. That night, I found several ducks at one end of the pasture and several at the other end. Just sitting there. When I tried to get them moving towards their home/food/water, they took off flying. An eagle would have been envious of these guys, let me tell ya. So I ended up washing my hands of them. Today, no ducks in sight. I do know that better caging and wing care would have prevented this but I am curious as to the intelligence of these creatures? My chickens aren't lap pets but they know I feed them and are not scared like that. Anyone have a good duck experience? Lori

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We have three ducks, two of which are exactly like that. They've gotten more and more used to us being around over the months, but they still decide to fly away every time we're within a few feet of them. They're in a covered run, so they can't escape entirely. They tend to come when we refill the pond and they seem to know that we provide them with food and water. But who knows, some ducks are just like that, and some are the sweetest little things! Our other one follows us around everywhere, so we were hoping she's influence the others!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 6:09PM
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Well, tonight I found evidence that at least one of them met with an untimely demise. A feather pile in the pasture caught my eye and after investigating I doubt there is a duck waddling around without his wing or windpipe :( I know I sound rude and possibly irresponsible but we herded these ducks in night after night. They had plenty of water and feed but didn't seem to grasp the concept of going back once they flew out. Hopefully the remaining ducks flew somewhere better. Lori

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:22PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Domestic ducks are not smart at all. They can learn a routine, but it better be simple.

People with herding dogs start with ducks. They say the ducks never learn the dog, it is new each time the dog works them. I would think wild ducks are similar, heads with brain is no larger! They do have instincts bred in, but those may have been confused with being handled as young ducks. So in essence the duck was arguing with himself and his setting. When flying off, they should have gone to water, but didn't. If they were wild, they probably would have migrated with the others, had examples to copy in that flock.

Sounds like you did your best, and sometimes helping wild orphans just doesn't work out. They either get wary quick or they are supper. Survival of the fittest in that open setting. One of the reasons they lay so many eggs. Few make it to adults in the wild, to live to breed and make more ducks. Fish and rabbits do the same, many born, few survive most years. Just the way Nature works.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 9:31PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Goodhors, you greatly oversimplified survival of the fittest and the mating habits of fish (which are incidentally more varied and complex than the difference between mammals and birds.)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 3:43AM
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No animal is stupid unless you expect complex math computations from them. They know what is required to survive as themselves. Ducks like chickens are prey animals and they prey on lesser animals and such. Chickens will have a given territory that they frequent. Doing the same thing each day in the same order-even roosting in the same place night after night--Ducks have a much greater territory and have several repetitive routes they take at varied times. Most Ducks dabble for their food along shorelines and shallow water. This same area is also the home of many animals that prey on them-that is why Ducks very their travels as not to be predictable like chickens. This is the difference between survivability of the two species.

Tame Ducks have not lost all of these traits but they have been limited by captive breeding. Tame Ducks have shorter bills than the wild Ducks due to selective breeding tame Ducks don't have to search for food in the muddy lake bottoms but get it in a feeder. So if the Ducks bills you have are long and slightly narrow chances are they a wild ducks and it is their nature to roam and fear other larger living things including you. But your fostering these gems of nature have robbed them of their life lesson they get in the wild--chances are they mostly would have died if left alone in the wild--but the ones that would have survived would be fully prepared for the natural life ahead of them.

Picture of wild mallard-note length of bill.

Call Ducks have shorter and wider bills.

Please read my posting---Wild Duck Called Gretchen Came and Stayed 22 Years

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 9:48AM
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Thanks for the input. I should have clarified that I "rescued" the ducks from my in-laws place and their parents were seemingly domesticated. The pair had been given to my MIL when their cuteness after Easter was done. The parents are several years old and although penned, seem to want to stay put. Anyway, the momma hatched out 9 babies in the fall and after half of them died or disappeared, she asked me if I wanted to take them because she didn't have the time to deal with them. After looking at pictures, the closest thing I could come up with was a Domesticated Gray Mallard but I wouldn't bet the farm on that ID.
I realize that animals/birds act a certain way that would hopefully improve their survival but I was a little flustered when I wrote this original posting. In either case, I suppose I could have done better with them. I was also flustered because I have been wanting to get guineas for the purpose of bug control at some point. I expected losses with guineas but it doesn't seem to point to a very good future here with the obvious predators. I guess I still have some research to do, huh? Lori

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 4:40PM
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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

Hi Lori!
I love my ducks but discovered the hard way they are way down in the food chain.
I believe you did what any sensitive, caring, animal loving person would have done which is try to care for them.
The problem with this forum is many are raising animals for food and a living where as some of us sensitive suckers are doing it because we find they make great pets!
I have a Pekin drake and a Cayuga female and she is always teaching him things.They are good at cleaning up our pond edge, a delight to watch swimming about, or foraging on our property. They love the grandkids and come looking for them when they are gone. They have REALLY taken a liking to my husband and he for them. He, who was raised on a farm and use to hunt and trap said, "I don't now how ANYONE could eat ducks,they have such a personality!"
He built them a duck house and each evening herds them in before dark using a long bamboo pole.
One evening they were still out in the pond after dark and
he got into our little peddleboat to herd them in. It seemed as though they had night blindness as he actually was pushing them with the boat and they didnt seem to realize where they were going or what they were doing.
So we wonder if they are night blind. If so that may have been a problem with your feathered friends
But,as I mentioned having lost one pekin to a bobcat in BROAD daylight with me and other humans in the vicinity that any day our sweet friends may end up a pile of feathers and dinner for a predator. Just as we all know our dogs will die someday without having to go see Marley and me. And yet we still choose to love them and share our life with them.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 6:54PM
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