Keeping a Single Duck is Cruel!

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

This video came across my path today:

YouTube – Ducks who Truck.

Cute, but I pray this does NOT inspire people to go out and get a duck as a pet!!!


Every year I get people who contact me looking for a (one) duck or egg to raise and keep as a pet. They ALL try to convince me how much they will love the duck, and they ALL try to convince me that the duck is truly happy.

Forgive if I sound vitriolic, but this sort of thing just makes my blood boil. It is a prime example of our human arrogance (of COURSE every living thing want what we like….).

First off, since WHEN did wanting something make it good or right?

Since when did loving something guarantee its happiness?

How would YOU know if the duck is happy? How many ducks have you known? Animals want to survive, and most will make the best of whatever situation they find themselves in. Making the best of a situation is NOT the same as being happy.

After 40+ years of studying and working with animals of all sorts, I have learned that different kinds of animals require different lives in order to be really happy. They will make the best of whatever situation they have and most never show any signs of depression. People are fooling themselves when they tell themselves the animal is ‘happy’.

Birds should not be treated like dogs or cats, and I would not put one on a leash, even a very long one. Ducks can learn many things and you can often teach a duck to follow you but there will still be times when instinct takes over and he does what comes naturally for a duck, like heading for the nearest lake or stream for a swim.

The problem is that no matter how much you loved him, you can NOT know what it was like for him. Just because he looked “happy” by human standards, does NOT mean he was happy by duck standards.

Ducks ARE NOT people (or dogs or cats, or parrots…)
Animals are adaptable, and will try to survive in whatever conditions they find themselves.
Your idea of a perfect life for a duck is NOT (and I cannot stress this enough!!) NOT a duck’s idea of a perfect life.The life you gave him is no more suited to a duck than dancing and riding a bike is suited to a bear.

Here are just a few reasons why this is a BAD, BAD idea:

  1. Ducks are social animals. Raising a duck away from other ducks is cruel (they absolutely need other ducks for their proper development).
  2. Ducks can NOT be house trained – and they poop every half hour or so.
  3. Ducks can live to be 20 years old. p.s. Ducks imprint as babies. They will follow anyone around because it is their instinct to do so. Don’t confuse instinct with choice. It has NOTHING to do with what he likes.

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Keeping a Single Duck is Cruel! — 178 Comments

  1. I had gotten two ducks Peco and Stetson. They loved each other very much and were very close. Sadly a dog broke into their pen in my backyard and Peco was killed. Stetson has been a lot quieter since she passed. I am reaching out to see what the best option would be for Stetson. I was told that getting a new duck to be her companion would be great. Although unfortunately I don’t believe that is possible given my current situation.

  2. I had a flock of ducklings & recently all but one ended up dying. This duckling was hatched & raised by a chicken & in an enclosure with 6 chickens & his (or her) mommy chicken. Will I need to get more ducklings? This final surviving one is 3 weeks old & obviously searching for the remainder of the flock. My current concern however, is do I NEED to find more ducklings the same age? Should I incubate some duckling eggs now? Will it be fine with it’s chicken mom? Am I ok to wait until next season to bring in another duck?

    • It is always better for them to have company of their own kind – usually the sooner the better.

      That said, having been born with chickens, it might be OK the way it is.

      Good luck!

  3. We have 6 khaki Campbell’s ducks 2 male 4 female the males began to fight so we took one out and he is in his on fenced in pond on our farm. Looks like the other drake may have injured his wing some, he will not fly now only swim. Will he be ok by himself or should we give him one of the females to hang with?

  4. I just found your blog and hope you can help with this issue.
    I have five pekin ducklings, now three weeks old. The runt first had eye isses, which resolved itself after about a week. Then I went in one night to find him on his back, left for dead by his siblings. I put him in a box next to his siblings, so they could not finish the job. I did not expect him to make it through the night.
    He did. But he has leg damage and will not walk. He wants to be with his siblings but they first ignore him, then attack him. He is now 1/4 – 1/3 the size of his siblings.
    I probably should just let nature takes its course, but he is such a fighter.
    I have been doing aqua therapy (as advised on a duck veterinary website), but I do not think he will ever walk on his feet or grow to full size. He hobbles around on his hocks and swims pretty well.
    Do you recommend keeping him in a separate cage where he can hear and see his siblings, but so he is protected from them? Or do you recommend some other course of action?
    He has access to his own food, water, and a shallow dish he can climb into to bathe if he wants, just like his siblings but scaled to his size.
    Thank you in advance.

    • There is a good chance that your duckling has some other internal challenges that may result in a short lifespan.
      That said, ducks, while not especially helpful to each other, they tend not to pick on each other.
      A cage near them can be useful, but you can also try having them all together when you are able to keep an eye on them.
      Watch and see how they treat each other .. if it goes well, leave them together longer.
      You may find they can live together.
      Good luck!

      • Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, the other ducks first ignore, then attack the injured duck when they are placed in the same area. At this point, I think I am going to see if the injured duckling plus the next smallest duckling will get along by themselves. If not, I guess I will keep in a safe area where he can be near them for the rest of his life.
        I appreciate your advice. 🙂

  5. Hello a few weeks ago my family found a duckling in our backyard. just one. we searched everyday for about 3 days and no sign of any other ducklings. we have had, we assume, the same female come to the same bush for 3 years now. she leaves them every time because we try to catch her to be able to release her with the brood. but she just flys away. so we’ve raised them successfully one year where all 12 ducklings were able to fly away safely. the next year all the ducklings died but at different times. we did the same thing but this time they would just go stiff. it was very odd and very saddening with the loss. anyways, this year we have just this single duckling and the mother never game back after the second day. we have raised him for about 3 weeks. he hasn’t had any complications. he has a stuffed dog in his cage with a mirror his size. he has constant food and water and we clean his cage twice a day. and he swims in bucket with enough water for him to stand every day. my question is just what would you suggest we do to socialize and help raise him for the wild since he has no other ducks around him? or would it be best we do something else? thank you for a response.

    • Hi Kyla.
      I would suggest you find a wildlife rehab/rescue group and give the duckling to them.
      Hand-raising a wild duckling will make it unafraid of humans and put it at risk once it’s grown.
      Raising a duckling in isolation will prevent it from learning how to “be a duck”, and it may never be able to bond with another duck come mating season.

  6. Hi I had two white khaki Campbell female ducks last week one died unexpectedly although her 2 year year old sister lives as they both did quite happily with my half a dozen chickens I feeel a duck needs a duck mate. Would it be better for her to get a drake or another female to bond with.

    • I am so sorry for the loss of your duck. Given that you only have one, it shouldn’t really matter which sex you get, but generally speaking, since ducks do not mate for life, a female might be easier. You might find your girl suffer from ‘too much attention’ if you get a drake. People have successfully kept pairs though, so it may have more to do with the individual temperament of the duck than its sex.
      Good luck!

  7. I just found this page today of all days. I had four Moskowit ducks. Two died about a year ago. I was left with a male and a female which bonded and went around together all day. Today the female passed. I’m so sad for him. He keeps looking and standing in one place like je’s lost. What do I do? I think is cruel to keep him alone, and he has been raced here always with fresh water pools, food. I don’t feel good about taking him to a lake and just dumping he there.

    • I don’t know what Moskowit ducks are. Could you mean Muscovy?
      Anyhow, I would never recommend “dumping” any animal.
      I would suggest either getting him some company, or finding another place with other ducks where he will be properly looked after.
      I hope that helps.

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