flocking with our pet duck at PumpjackPiddlewick

It is a natural instinct in a duck to flock. And by flocking, I mean wanting, nay needing, to be with others. To be part of a crowd. Safety in numbers and all that. And as ducks are essentially prey, the flock instinct is exceptionally strong.

A Flock of Ducks

It’s one of those things that gets called by many names. And for some strange reason, is particularly related to a species. So it is a flock of ducks, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows… otherwise known as collective animal nouns.

The beginnings of these nouns are lost in the vastness of time, but a murder of crows is thought to be one of the first, dating from around the 14th or 15th century. (More from The Medium if interested in linguistics.)

So now that the groundwork has been laid, on to imprinted ducks and flocking.

Flocking and Imprinted Ducks

I have had two imprinted ducks. First there was Maggie and seven years later, I had Gabby. I have said before that imprinting is not for the faint hearted or irresponsible. It is akin to having a baby, just one that has feathers and grows up quicker.

Imprinting is a strong bond, initially stronger than the flocking instinct. But the need to be in a group begins very early on, at about a week old, when awareness that there is a big old world out there kicks in. The equivalent of a toddler in human years.

The Flocking Instinct

As the duck gets older the flocking instinct slowly takes over the imprinting bond. The imprinting will always be there, that special bond with that particular someone. But like babies and their mothers, as they grow up, they start to stretch their wings, learn the world around them, and eventually start to make friends. (Though this is later in a duck’s life than a humans life).

And finally, ultimately, they leave the nest for the other ducks (if you have them). Though saying this, if you have a pet duck, there are some differences. Especially if you bring your imprinted duck up as a house duck.

My Maggie didn’t get curious about the other ducks until she could fly. She had the freedom of my cottage, to come and go as she pleased. (I lived on the estate of a small Chateau, which was completely enclosed.) Sometimes she would visit with the ducks and some times she would be with me. The ratio started to change over time until she spent most of her time with the ducks. The flocking instinct had taken over.

Flock Variety

With Gabby it is slightly different. I had 3 additional cats; Gigi, Lapsong and Noisette. No rabbits or chickens, but I did have a lot more pet ducks. Gabby had a larger and more varied flock, particularly in the house, than Maggie had. He was much more content to stick with this flock then explore the world beyond.

Gigi was enamoured of Gabby and loved to hang out with him and myself whenever possible. Gigi grew up with Maggie, and always hung out with her, so she turned her attentions to Gabby too. But Gabby acted differently to Maggie, and Gigi couldn’t quite figure out why that was.

From early on I worked at the other animals acting as baby sitters. Imprinting does not give you much freedom. Ducklings cry for ‘mom’ if not in sight. And I mean ‘in sight’ literally. As Gabby grew the flocking instinct did also. Until finally he became comfortable letting me out of sight if any of the other animals were about. If however, I tried to go anywhere without another of the ‘flock’ for Gabby to be with, he would not stop calling for me.

PS: Love Ducks?

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