What is it like to have a duck as a pet? Let's find out at PumpjackPiddlewick

What nobody tells you when you find yourself with a duck as a pet, is unlike cats, dogs, and even chickens and rabbits, there are almost no instruction manuals, helpful hint videos, or even how to sites (of any use) on how to raise a duck.  So what is it like to have a pet duck?

How it Began

A bit of background, if you are new to Pumpjack & Piddlewick and its animal antics, I started by taking care of 3 rabbits, 3 chickens, a cockerel, and a duck as part of looking after a Chateau here in France. The number of ducks has varied since then, starting with 1 and getting up to 19! I’ve now settled around 3. Ish.

My life with a duck as a pet began when the female ducks I was looking after took to laying eggs and nesting – in various parts of the garden. One of the females was taken by a fox, leaving her eggs abandoned. I was going to chuck the eggs but found one pipped, took it home and hatched it, with the result being… Maggie. And it has been duck driven wonderful chaos ever since.

A Duck as a Pet

First and foremost, ducks are very demanding. The one bit of information you do find, over and over again, is to think twice about having a duck as a pet. They require a lot of attention. A lot.

It is truly like having a baby. You can’t leave a duckling alone. It is completely dependent on you. And unlike babies, although they grow up, they will always be dependent on you. They can live up to 12 years.

Imprinting

Ducklings imprint on the first thing (person, dog, duck, etc.) they see, seeing that being as its protector. Over the first 24 hours, you have to decide what to do about this.  When I was hatching Maggie, I thought I would be putting her with the other ducklings, that were about a week old. However, within those 24 hours, those other ducklings were all lost to predators. And with experience, I now know she would have been rejected by any other Mummy duck if I had tried.

Since it had taken me almost 48 hours to hatch Maggie, and it was my birthday, I was rather reticent to then put her down with the other ducks and potentially lose her too. So the decision was made to have a duck as a pet.

Pocket Sized

The first couple of weeks were very easy, mainly because she was so small she practically fit in my pockets. In particular, she liked to snuggle into my scarf, which became a habitual accessory for me. (Thank goodness it wasn’t summer.)  As long as I was in sight, she was a happy little duck, wandering around trying to eat everything.

Panic would ensue if she couldn’t see me. This is ultimately the focus of imprinting. I was her protector and when she couldn’t see me, she would panic which meant lots of calling out for me. Loudly, repeatedly, until I came to her ‘rescue’.

Watch where you step

My biggest issue initially was not stepping on her. She would follow me around, wherever I went, literally underfoot. This is instinct because in the duck world a duckling will hide under its mother in the first couple of weeks if frightened or in need of protection.

Although her running after me was very cute, it was also very obviously tiring for her since my steps were a lot bigger than hers. This was another reason I carried her around the first few weeks in my scarf.  She loved both being close to me, but also, I think, enjoyed having a birds-eye view. She would stay there for hours and I would simply carry on with whatever I needed to do.

Night Night

Ducks sleep at night. Thank goodness. Darkness meant time for bed when all good ducks are snuggled up somewhere safe, away from predators. Watching my other outside ducks certainly helped in understanding what to do in some instances. (In other areas, all bets were off and I was watching and learning as I went along.)

I would put the ducks, chickens and rabbits inside their respective houses at night. Both the ducks and chickens very obviously sleep, or at least stay quiet, through the night, awakening at dawn. And I mean dawn, first light, barely able to see dawn.

Let’s Add a Cat

My kitten, Gigi, arrived when Maggie was 2 weeks old. Getting Gigi had been planned and arranged a couple of months previously, but that didn’t mean I had any idea of how the two would interact. I simply had hopes that as they were both very young, and initially the same size, they would learn to live together. And, I could not leave them alone in the same room.

Raising the two as interspecies siblings is another story unto itself, and I will leave for another day, but I mention Gigi here as her arrival did impact on various ways I did or had to do things.

Sleeping Arrangements

For Maggie’s first two weeks of life, she slept in a wooden box with a lamp and blanket in my lounge. This was placed by a heater for additional warmth since she wasn’t able to sleep under me (without a rather squishy result). With the addition of Gigi, and her pouncing kitten curiosity, I had to change Maggie’s bed and room.

Maggie’s new bedroom became a wine box (had to be), which was draped with a blanket and kept by the bed (so I could make sure Gigi didn’t get inside). With their friendship deepening, Gigi took to sleeping curled on top or by the side.  As Maggie grew, so did the box until finally I gave in and purchased a cat carrier, complete with a hinged door. Luxury.

With the new enclosed carrier, I was able to put Maggie to ‘bed’, in another room, as darkness came on. This worked well, as she would go straight to sleep, freeing me up for the first time in the evenings to do other things.

Getting bigger every day

As Maggie got bigger, she didn’t fit so easily in a scarf. Also, she was far more active and wouldn’t sit still as long. (And… she pooped more, but more on that important subject later.) So Maggie found herself down on the floor, more and more often.

She still followed me everywhere, inside and out, but with her getting bigger, and me walking slowly she didn’t have to tear along to keep up with me. I developed a granny gait, and we would waddle to work in the garden.

Out and About

Maggie loved to taste everything, sincerely hoping it was something yummy to eat. We would waddle to meet new people, and Maggie would greet them by trying to eat their shoes. Or, even better(!), if they wore sandals and had pink or red coloured painted toenails. A real treat. (Ducks love red tones.) And we would waddle down to the other animals, where Maggie in particular liked to hang out with the rabbits (and could share their apples).

I never wanted Maggie to be confined solely to inside the house. The rabbits lived in a large outdoor enclosure, and I introduced Maggie into their world from the very beginning. It was safe to let her wander around in there with them and explore without having to keep a really close eye on her. It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on letters to friends.

Maggie consequently enjoyed both the inside and the outside and it wasn’t long before I was able to leave the door to the cottage open and she wandered at will – well, wherever I did.

Laundry Baskets

I did find one piece of worthwhile advice and that was to use a laundry basket to help cart your duck about. It was a fabulous idea! It actually gave me much more freedom.

I could leave her in the basket, where she could see me, and get on with work without having to worry about her wandering around, or particularly getting underfoot.  She came to love her basket and would happily sit and sleep in it for hours at a time.

One Happy Family

Because Maggie couldn’t be left alone, I took her everywhere with me, to the garden, the supermarket, the vineyard… It simply became routine that she would be included in whatever I was doing that day.

Luckily Maggie loved to travel in cars. I would take her on journeys, like when I went to collect Gigi. She rode in my scarf the whole way, watching the scenery go by. When she got bigger, I put her in her basket on the front seat and, like a dog, she would stretch her head to watch out the window. She would stand like a little cowboy, watching everything pass by. I figured it must have felt a bit like flying to her.

And then… Maggie learned to fly (Ducks as Pets, Part 2).

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PS: Love Ducks?

If you are like me and are fascinated and love ducks, I have a selection of duck gifts available for you or those you know who love ducks in My Shop. Some vintage, some our own designs, all unique.

Simply click on a photo to see more.

If you found this duck tale helpful, check out my Duck 101 insights. And please consider nourishing my writings by joining me on Patreon.

2022-05-02

4 Comments

  1. You’re right, a duck does need a lot of attention! But, I’d do just the same. How did she learn to fly? Instinct or did you have to teach her… somehow?? Can’t wait to find out!

    1. We thought we went into it with eyes wide open, but still takes you by surprise 🙂
      It does depend though on whether the duck is imprinted on you or not. Or, if you have more than one duck. Maggie is the only one imprinted on me, the others are ‘pet’ ducks in that they couldn’t survive in the wild, but they are much much more independent, but then they grew up with duck Moms, unlike Maggie. They act more duck like, happy to be outside, etc. Maggie doesn’t really know she is a duck (as I could’t teach her), so she is more comfortable in the house or with a roof over her head, can climb stairs, likes to sit on cushions, and will join me on the bed for a snuggle and a nap. More like a dog with feathers.
      It is a wondrous thing though, and if you are up for it, very very worthwhile.

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