Ducks Mimic Eating Motions

Shortly after feeding the ducks this afternoon, I noticed this unusual behaviour amongst a couple of mature female ducks. These are mature egg-laying duck hens. They have just finished eating when they began to mimic the sweeping motions of feeding with their beaks. Here are two videos showing this peculiar behaviour. The second video shows the ducks stretching their necks, moving their heads upwards.

I assumed it was part of a mating ritual but the first video might dispute this, where there is a mature male duck (drake) nearby, drinking from a plastic basin, and inadvertently pushing one of the duck hens aside, a bit of a scuffle ensuing.

Do you know what this behaviour means?

Wake for a Dead Fish

This fish floated dead* in the pond so we decided to give it to the pigs. They didn’t want it. To the chickens, they didn’t want it. To the ducks, and this was their response. Yet another behaviour that we can only speculate upon. A similar behaviour occurred earlier this year, when a female duck was killed by the alpha drake, see Do Ducks Know How To Grieve.

*We have a not so large tilapia pond. Quite a number of small tilapia have appeared. I wasn’t able to catch any of the large tilapia lately because they have become smarter (and less hungry since it is chesa season and some of the fruits have fallen into the pond). As the fish population grows, the older and bigger ones die.

Providing Water for Ducks

ducksintheirpond2

While chickens bathe and clean themselves by dusting with sand or dry earth, our ducks prefer a good swim. The Muscovy duck is a tropical duck. It prefers habitats with water and sheltered trees. So if you’re thinking of keeping some ducks, you’ll need to make provisions for water.

In the beginning, when we had only a pair of ducks, we managed by providing them with a basin of water. As the duck population grew, a duck pond became a necessity.

A basin of water seems to suffice for one duck.
A basin of water seems to suffice for one duck.
Duck hen with her chicks having a well-accomplished bath in a tray of water.
Duck hen with her chicks having a well-accomplished bath in a tray of water.

Recently, in addition to the duck pond, we have provided trays of water for ducklings. This is a much safer alternative for them. If they joined the larger ducks in the pond, they often get hurt and drown. Usually, the hen will accompany her ducklings to the pond for a swim. She makes sure that they get to swim only after all the other ducks have left. However, that doesn’t always guarantee the duckling will be safe from larger ducks suddenly wanting to jump into the water.

Once, I saw an adult duck using the tray. As they say, if there’s a will, there’s a way. 😉 And she looks very much satisfied with the amenity. Thanks goodness there wasn’t any ducklings in that tray!

The Ugly Duckling …

… is really a bully duckling. It was sometime in March 2015 when I noticed the behaviour of one of many ducklings, one so determined to provoke and beat up anyone it came across. I was able to capture this hilarious though troublesome behaviour on video, below. You can see the mother trying to stop the bully duckling but to no avail.

I don’t know what has happened to this duckling – whether it is still around (unlikely, since all of our ducks are not so unruly but I’m willing to accept that the duckling could’ve undergone a religious experience 😉 ). Or it could have died while still young (we’ve had high mortality rates, as the duck population exploded, mostly due to crushing by larger ducks and aggressive pecking by chickens over food, not to mention being eaten by predators such as cats, snakes, large birds and monitor lizards). Or it could’ve grown up and was made into a stew.

Luckily, as they are free-range, ducklings can get away from aggressive behaviour like this. But once ducklings are kept inside coops and there happens to be a bully duckling amongst them, then there might be some real trouble. For now, we have been keeping very young ducklings in coops to protect them from predators and crushing, as well as to give them the chance to eat and get the strength they need without competition from larger ducks and chickens. So far so good.

If we ever have a bully duckling in the coop, it would be necessary to separate that duckling from the rest. But thank goodness ducks are generally not so prone to fighting as chickens are.