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Life of Dumped Duckies
Dumped ducks and waterfowl
I made this hub so that I could introduce and educate people about the lives of pet ducks and geese after they've been dropped off at a public park or lake. I will try not to be preachy or show all the bad things that happen to waterfowl after they're abandoned. I just want to let people get to know the lives of the ducks as individuals. This is a lens that celebrates the lives of these creatures that were given a fate they did not choose.
Most of the domestic waterfowl one sees at their park or lake has been dropped off there against their will. Usually, these are Easter ducklings or ducks and geese that were purchased and then, later, realized that they were too much of a problem to keep. Many people think domestic ducks and geese do fine in the wild or they belong there, but they were bred to be around people. Many of their wild instincts were bred out as well as their ability to fly. Some ducks "disappear" (often a euphemism to mean a predator got them) right after being dropped off, some live for a few years longer.
I will also try to post a few suggestions as to what to do if you can't keep your pet duck or goose any longer and where to go to find help to find it a forever home.
The photos on this page were mostly taken by me. The one to the upper left is of a sweet little Indian runner duck named Oreo.
All photos in this lens were taken by me unless otherwise noted.
Who are the Dumped Duckies?
Dumped ducks and geese come in all types of colors and body types. The most common breed of duck dumped into a park is the Pekin, which are the fuzzy yellow ducklings that one often sees around Easter. The most common type of geese dumped in parks are Chinese and African. Usually, it's male ducks and geese that are dropped off. Male ducks are rough on girls, so having too many around is not a good thing. Ganders tend to get aggressive, especially around breeding season, and Chinese ganders are very aggressive. Both African and Chinese geese are also extremely loud.
The majority of waterfowl that is dumped have very limited flying ability. There are breeds of flying domestic ducks around the parks, but most of those are escapees and not dumpees. For the non-flying birds, there is no way for them to escape the area if there are too many predators or not enough food, unlike their wild cousins. It also makes them even more vulnerable to predators, disease, and starvation.
Two Easter Ducklings Dropped Off Before a Storm
These two Easter ducklings, about 4 weeks old in this photo, were dropped off right before a wet storm hit. Many people didn't realize that these two were ducks in trouble. In the morning, a heron was eying the small one. They were unlikely to live another day. When I got a hold of them and gave them some food, they were starving. One of the ducks was very boney. They didn't have any feathers at all and had no idea what to eat.
This duckling found near his dead friend's body
This duckling was found the morning after a wet, cold storm hit the area next to his dead friend. It is unknown how long both ducklings were there before the one duckling died. Originally, they were thought to be recently hatched goslings because there were found near the park's geese. But, they were jumbo Pekin ducks that were almost old enough to not need a heat lamp, probably almost two weeks old. However, they were not old enough to be in below 40 degree wet weather. This duckling was lucky, he was saved and taken to a good home before hypothermia and starvation got him as well.
More ducklings dumped too young
These Pekin ducklings, though a little older than the three in the two modules above, are still too young to be off on their own. I estimate their age to be about five weeks old. Though they were very observant of the adult ducks in terms of finding something to eat, they were way too young to integrate into the wild flock and often stayed on their own, which made them more vulnerable to predators. Adult ducks can sometimes kill ducklings at this age as well.
One of the ducklings got a metal fishing lure in its mouth and his more dominant brother was attacking and biting him, possibly thinking that he was withholding food from him. But, they were best buddies otherwise.
They were at the lake for about three days and just disappeared. Hopefully, they were rescued and are in a good home.
A sweet girl that didn't deserve to be there
The Cayuga female (the black duck on the right) was a real sweetie. Very affectionate and loved people. It was hard not to like her. She was found dead seven months after this photo was taken, right in the middle of breeding season. Breeding season is hard on female ducks because males can gang up on them and accidentally crush or drown them. When I last saw her, she seemed OK, but sometimes young ducks have problems laying eggs and can die suddenly. Also, she was crested and males tugging on her head feathers can elicit seizures.
Her mate, the brown duck on the left, was depressed for a while after she died.
Flock of dumped duckies
17 ducks were dropped off in one night at this location, all unable to fly except for one. Unfortunately, 7 disappeared within a few days of arriving. The remaining ones were terrified of everything, but have now begun to settle down. They were even terrified of people, but now realize that people have food and they are very hungry. Three of the ducks have crests. The black Swedish had a very nice crest when she arrived, but have lost a lot of it since then.
UPDATE: Several of this flock have disappeared, mostly the females. It is suspected their male companions may have drowned them.
This little duckling was dumped off at only about a month old. He was totally covered in fuzz and scared of everything. He constantly cried for his mother or siblings. None of the other ducks wanted anything to do with him and often treated him meanly. He tried to attach himself to any duck that wasn't mean to him. He was scared of everything and anyone and couldn't be caught even when bribed with food. Luckily, it was warm for the next few weeks, so he managed to survive, but was always scared and upset and is still not totally accepted by the other ducks.
Ducks that were rescued - Dumped ducks that people helped find homes for recently
Miss Squeaky Was Rescued!
Here are some videos of duck rescuers and ducks being rescued and cared for by caring people. One of the videos is a PSA about cautioning people who are planning to buy Easter pets.
Quincy is a rescue duck that is being given good care.
Please do not buy Easter pets without researching. This video explains why.
Facts about abandoned waterfowl
Here are some short facts about dumped domestic ducks and geese.
- Their average lifespan, if they survive their first few months, is 3 years. This is compared to 6-8 years for healthy wild ducks and 8-10 years for domestic ducks not used for meat. Feral domestic geese also live dramatically shorter lives than those kept on farms.
- Domestic ducks and geese tend to be less healthy than wild ducks and geese due to their lack of foraging ability and a diet heavy on bread and junk food fed to them by people.
- Domestic waterfowl have been known to spread disease to wild waterfowl rather than the other way around.
- When domestic ducks interbreed with wild waterfowl, they tend to create hybrids with no or limited flying ability, compounding the problem further.
In memoriam - Photos of dumped ducks that have passed on.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thinking of buying a duck?
No animal should be bought on a whim. Instead, it's best to do research before buying. Sure, they look so cute at the feed store in the little bins running around, peeping, but like all animals, they require time and money. Before buying a duckling or a duck, consider the following:
*Ducks must be bought in at least pairs or more as they are extremely social. Single ducklings will demand your attention day and night. In the wild, mother ducks keep in constant contact with their ducklings. If a duckling finds himself alone, he will peep extremely loud for long periods until mom finds him, he gets exhausted, or dies. Having another duckling will keep him from feeling lonely and overly imprinted on you.
*Ducklings require heat lamps, special bedding, special food, and a special way of watering.
*Ducks are extremely messy, pooing machines. They can't help it and can't be trained like a cat or dog. Duckling brooders have to be cleaned several times of day. Adult ducks also have to have their living spaces cleaned often as well as constantly cleaning their water and food dishes and baby pools.
*Ducks eat a lot more than chickens.
*Most female ducks are extremely loud and most breeds don't produce eggs all year around. Muscovy ducks are quieter, but are larger and often capable of flying.
*Male ducks can get aggressive, especially during breeding season. He may see his human friend as a potential mate or rival. This may result in an increase in biting incidents. It's important that males have enough females around during breeding season. An ideal ratio is 3 females to 1 male.
*While many towns and cities allow chickens, they do not allow ducks. Please check with your area before buying your ducks.
If you plan on keeping those ducks. . .
Here are some resources on properly caring for ducks. It's often best to read manuals like these before buying your ducks.
This is a Kindle edition about keeping ducks for pet purposely only. The author talks about their own experiences with keeping ducks as pets.
The bible to raising ducks and contains a wealth of information to keep your ducks healthy and happy. However, be aware that this book is also for ranchers who raise their ducks for food and may include information about culling and butchering.
How about a stuffed duckling?
How about a stuffed duckling like this one instead of a live one as a gift? I actually have one of these and it's very cute.
Tips for finding homes for your ducks and geese
If you are in a situation where you feel you have to dump your duck or goose, please consider the following suggestions:
Try your humane society. Many humane societies now accept ducks and geese and put them up for adoption. Many areas have "no kill" shelters where they will keep adoptable animals until they are adopted (though they do screen for adopt-ability).
Contact a feed store. Feed stores sometimes take back ducks and geese or can direct you to someone who can take them in.
Try Craigslist or an ad in a local paper or website. However, if you want your duck or goose to go to a pet home and not for food, be sure to screen people who answer your ad, especially if you're giving away the duck for free. Many people answer these ads to get ducks and geese to eat and not for pets. It will take longer to find a pet home, but it would be worth the peace of mind you will have if that's what you want for your duck or goose.
Visit a forum or board where other people keep and raise poultry or ducks. Forums like the Duck Rescue Network can be helpful with finding a new home for pet waterfowl.
Contact a duck or waterfowl rescue agency such as Carolina Waterfowl or Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary for advice. Many of these places are often full and can't take on new animals, but may be able to tell you where to find help.
And, I hate to say this, there is the option of having a duck or goose dinner yourself if you know how to go about it.
This duckling makes an authentic peeping sound. It's not machine washable, though, because of the sound mechanism. But, can be cleaned with a damped cloth.
Become a duck rescuer!
Do you have space to keep several ducks? Does your town or area allow you to keep ducks at your residence? Do you have duck or poultry-raising knowledge? Then, you might want to think about becoming a duck rescuer yourself. Many rescue groups, cities, parks and other places are looking for safe places where they can take dumped ducks. Some ducks may require medical attention and sometimes there might be ducklings and goslings that may need heat lamps and other accommodations. Rescuing ducks can cost a bit of money, too. But, you will be saving ducky lives.