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Bullying Becoming More Common Among Ducks

Updated on October 26, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark raises free range rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, and guinea fowl at his small farm in Brazil.

One of the bullys stalks an innocent!
One of the bullys stalks an innocent! | Source

Having been around farmyard livestock all of my life, I have noticed a change recently and felt that it was in the best interest of all concerned for me to bring it to public attention and perhaps start some discussion. The situation is bullying, and the problem is being aggravated by ducks. Ducks are becoming bullys.

Ducks are not the only species to practice bullying. Stalin, one of my Shetland geese, also practices this terrible “sport” against some of the other members of her own race. Cows, goats, and even innocent little lambs all bully their own species. Ducks, however, seem to have taken this practice to a new low. Not only do they bully their own family, they even bully across species lines.

This issue was first brought up with me by Football, one of my smallest geese. She broke her leg when only a gosling and since she is not able to get around has never eaten as much nor grown like her sisters. Football (she lets me carry her around and pretend I am a running back playing for the NFL) woke me up one morning screaming.

When I went to open the dog kennel where the ducks and geese sleep I found her wing tips bloody and featherless. The culprit had blood on his beak. The ducks were no longer to sleep in the pen with the geese, of course, so they went back to bullying each other.

Ducks are not only bullies, they are opportunists.

Ducks showing the signs of bullying.
Ducks showing the signs of bullying. | Source

How do you spot a bully?

A duck bully is obvious to spot even when he hasn’t been active and has no blood on his beak. He has all of his wing feathers, whereas the rest of the ducks have to walk around without.

Only the largest drake, Natal, was able to keep all of his wing feathers; the others lost a few wing tip feathers each day. Natal, which means Christmas in Portuguese, lived up to his name and became the centerpiece of the Christmas feast. I thought I had identified the culprit so my problem was over.

It wasn´t.

The problem started back up when my dog was having lunch. She is a Pit Bull cross, about 50 pounds and no pushover. Ducks have no fear of her, however. I gave her a bowl of food as I was about to leave for town and the ducks noticed and strolled over to eat from her bowl. When she growled at them, the toughest drake pecked her in the face.

Game over. That was the day I learned that as soon as the bully duck is no longer present, one of the others will take his job. Ducks are bullys.

But is there only one bully among a group of ducks? Unfortunately not. A few days ago I saw one of my small female ducks attack a Rhode Island Red chicken that was looking for something to eat in the compost pile. Chickens are guilty of a lot of things in life, but in this case my hen was innocent.

Without Natal around, all of the ducks have become bullies. Almost all of them are missing wing feathers now.

Football, the half-sized goose.
Football, the half-sized goose. | Source
This is Stalin showing off her full plumage and asking the other geese "You looking at me?"
This is Stalin showing off her full plumage and asking the other geese "You looking at me?" | Source

What can be done to control bullying?

1. Isolation: This may keep the ducks from attacking and bothering other species, but they still manage to hurt each other. I guess if I could pen each duck individually the problem would be reduced, but that would be cruel and inhumane. (I have heard that some dog owners do that, though.) Ducks like each others company.

2. The machete: This is the permanent solution but not as good as I had imagined. Ducks seem to have some sort of “pecking order” that not even chickens understand. (I have asked and none of the hens have been able to explain it.) As soon as the main bully is no longer in the picture, one of the smaller ducks takes over and becomes the bully. Despite what all of the surgeons think, the knife is not the cure.

3. Get rid of all current and possible bullies: This seems like the final solution. It is in no way fair, though, and will condemn every duck for even having a drop of quacker blood.


The bully having breakfast.
The bully having breakfast. | Source

The bully stands in front, eating calmly with the geese, and one of his victims (identified with an arrow in this photo) stands as far away as possible.

Notice the dog in the background--alert as she performs guard duty.

Chickens are rarely innocent---this hen is!
Chickens are rarely innocent---this hen is! | Source

Living with bullying

Since the methods to stop bullying are as drastic as they are useless, it seems to be something that we will just have to live with—ducks don´t respond well to lectures or educational videos.

A recent poll taken among the animals in my yard reveals several different strategies. Victims of duck bullying can practice:

1. Avoidance. Football is using this method; she has resolved to avoid the ducks in the evenings and if the ducks jump in the pond when she is taking a bath she yells for help.

2. Ignoring the bullies. Stalin is using this method as she could care less. Ducks don´t bother her. My dog and chickens can also live with this problem.

3. Acceptance. All of us can accept the duck bullies for who they are.

Duck bullying is a problem that is not going away.

Even bullies can learn to share.
Even bullies can learn to share. | Source
We Are Not Amused.
We Are Not Amused. | Source

If my tegu was able to talk I think he would sound like John Houseman.

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    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Bullies always seem to know who to pick on, don't they? (And how to create lasting psychological damage, an important social issue that I usually require about three cups of coffee to stay awake when I hear about it.) They pick on Football because she is a wimp, but they never try anything with Stalin because she would turn around and do whatever it is tough geese do. I wonder if that greenhead bullied a coyote, or just took off and never came back? Bullies everywhere probably want to know.

    • profile image

      Ghost32 3 years ago

      I had to hop over here to get a look at your Tegu (of course)...but the duck bully issue got my attention on its own.

      Some years back (1991-92), I had a greenhead mallard who showed no signs of bully chromosomes in his DNA...UNTIL after he was partially eaten by a hawk. An employee of mine, the only one home at the time, happened to look out of the window just in time to see the hawk pinning the duck to the ground and just starting in on lunch.

      She opened the door and hollered at the hawk, which ignored her until she ran at it.

      The duck showed no long term ill effects from the attack...except that he became a serious bully. He never tried me on for size, perhaps knowing I'd have kicked him across the yard or else given him a class in Firearms 101, but he terrorized my employees' little dog no end.

      We had to move a few months later, had no place for ducks, and gave the lot away--that male mallard and several hens, all yearlings. The new owner reported that the greenhead kept up his bullying ways until one morning he was gone & never returned, having somehow managed to escape from the duck cage during the night.

      We figure he tried bullying a coyote.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I have a young Tegu also but the old guy (in the photos) is like an old house cat. He just likes to find a sunny spot in my living room and watch things go by. When he is hungry, thirsty, or tired of my parrot screaming at him, he goes back in his cage and burrows under the sawdust. I don´t think he worries too much about bullying or other social issues.

      And he is never amused!

    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 3 years ago from New England

      Now that's where it's at. We decided to hold off on the ducks until we have a larger property (in a year or so if all goes well) so we can set them up right. I know what you mean about people not getting it. We usually cause quite some conversation when we do various things for the chickens like buying stale bagels from the local bagel cafe to hang around the chicken run. I just say happy hens lay more eggs, which is true, but really why shouldn't we spoil them? Even if some of them will be eaten it's nice to know they had a good life! Not misery and torment in a battery cage.

      We got the chickens a few years after Pepper and her unfortunate puppies. We didn't really know how she'd react but she loves the damn things. They ride her around like a horse when we let them, which I can't imagine is that comfortable since they've grown past eight pounds. haha

      I think you can curse in the comments... at least I haven't had a problem there?

      And certainly, bullying and so many other things keep me up for days!

      PS Your tegu is gorgeous! (I only see babies here at the pet shops - what impressive adult you have!)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I built a concrete pond (with drainage system) for my geese, and the mason kept asking me why I wanted to spend so much on a bunch of birds. Impossible to explain since most people just see them as something to eat.

      Does your dog still take care of the chickens, or only when she had puppies? My dog doesn´t take care of them, she just sort of ignores them as she rolls around in their (going back to one of your other articles--I want to call it s*** but I guess I will say "droppings").

      But does this bullying problem keep you up at night? Even Football isn´t all that concerned, but ducks everywhere want to know.

    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 3 years ago from New England

      Wow, now I am happy we just got chickens. We considered ducks but I didn't feel like dumping and refilling a kiddie pool every day. We did have a couple bully hens but they stopped when I sprayed their victims with Blue Kote. If only that worked for children... ;)

      Also I think its funny you have a poultry-guarding pit. So do we. Pepper too to the chickens like they were puppies, which is funny because she came to us pregnant and treated her puppies like alien creatures that were ruining her vibe. She even killed two by rolling over on top of them in her sleep. SIGH.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

      I will! Now that I can work on hubs again :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Good luck with them. I hope you get some goslings since you lost that big gander. Be sure to post some photos!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

      They started laying in december! Some of them laid earlier than that, but i ate the eggs because i hadn't seen them breeding. I have a few eggs in the incubator. Not sure how they are doing. One of them rotted :/ We lost our last big gander to a fox or coyote or something, not really sure. Just never saw the guy again! We butchered four, now we are down to two. I thought they were both hens, until i saw them mating! The little lady has built a nest intheir shed and she has five eggs in it so far.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Our hobby farmers around here report egg production in the winter, too. Not as prolific, but an egg every couple or few days. Some encourage an egg a day by keeping a light on in the coop until about 8PM.

      I wonder if genetic manipulation and/or breeding protocols have anything to do with wintertime egg production.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Laying eggs already? Isn't it still winter where you live? Will the goslings do okay?

      I found out my geese are Shetland since they are sexually dimorphic. Football is a female but I doubt she will breed because of her leg, but she is a great pet and comes up to me so that I will carry her to the pond.

      My neighbors asked me if I was going to butcher her for Christmas. No way, not after she earned a name!

      Have you lost more adults to foxes? The last time we "spoke", you had lost a gander. Is that an ongoing problem there?

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Don't know what happened there! Was trying to say butchering and foxes. The pair has been mating, laying eggs and nesting. I'm excited!!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Love this hub! It's so great to see pictures of all your birds, they are good looking. I bet christmas dinner was yummy!

      Football is a great name :)

      My geese are down to one pair after butchering and

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Flavorite? Oh, MAAN!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Peking duck certainly is a worthy consideration, but it seems so...so...common. L'Orange sounds a little more sophisticated, sort of like her namesake :) Actually, I hope she settles down and becomes a flock flavorite...er, favorite.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for the visit, grand old lady!

      Atually Bob, I think MAAN is leaning towards oriental. At moments of decreased bullying I have noticed shades of Peking in the way her feathers lie. A lot of work, but she will probably be worth it.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Ahhh, of course! Much ado about nothing...one of my favorite motivators. I like to write about things that are overblown, but while there are any number of such events, alas not many of them are worthwhile hub subjects. The AVMA's ferocious position on raw diets was an exception.

      I'm honored to be the inspiration behind the naming of MAAN. I do wish she'd be a little more sociable though...I hate to see our image and reputation besmirched. Please inform her I've suggested she'd make either a good community organizer or Duck L'Orange...if she gets my drift.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 years ago from Philippines

      I like the names of your animals. This was both funny and informative! Thank you for making my day:)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      The Tegus tail is about 3 foot long so when he walks around he looks like a snake to the ducks and geese--they don't even go close to him.

      I think ducks are a lot like little kids and only bully the smaller ones, so that goose with the broken wing will probably be like Stalin and ignore them. They are entertaining to watch though!

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Tegu is awesome! The ducks don't dare mess with him, right?

      Where I work is a pond. I will have to watch for the duck in the summer and see how they behave. There is a goose that has been staying there. I heard he broke his wing or something and can't fly. But I have seen if another goose bugs him, he will try to do the duck bully thing.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      MAAN attacked one of my chickens, so she is either brave or not so intelligent. (I am sure Football is not so intelligent--remember all those studies on stupidity and facial anatomy? Football has a small brain case and sloping forehead.)

      Much Ado About Nothing!

      Thanks for the vote! It appears most hubbers appreciate the duck humor about as much as my Tegu, the John Houseman sound-alike.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I forgot to mention Football. What a great name!! I'm lousy at brain teasers...what does MAAN mean. I'm flattered, by the way...I think. How much of a bully is MAAN?

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Scary, isn´t it? I know the situation keeps Football up at nights.

      I named one of my ducks MAAN, in your honor. Get it?

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      OH NO, NOT THE DUCKS NOW!! Say it ain't so, Doc.

      The chickens have practiced bullying for centuries, both hens and cockerels to boot. Has the disease mutated and crossed species lines? Is it zoonotic?

      Yes, it must be. Our little elementary school angels, probably because their little immune systems aren't fully developed, are bullying each others' brains out...and they don't outgrow it til they're in their 20's. Then, it seems they relapse upon the arrival of the first social security check some 40-odd years later.

      It all makes sense, now. Thank you for bringing this intraspecies horror to light.

      Finally, a legitimate problem that those cat-yawn- counting scientists can work on that will benefit all humanity. If there was a category labeled "Wicked Awesome" I would vote it...otherwise I'll settle for Up, Funny and Interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Vital issue, right? CNN did a documentary on this last week, and none of the barnyard animals they interviewed were willing to accept the duck bullies.

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Thank you for enlightening the public about this duck bullying problem...ducks need a advocate too! :)

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