Want a ‘Pet’ Duck?
- Ducks reach full size in about five weeks. They are cute and fluffy for two weeks, and then they grow up. They can live between 10 and 20 years—and sometimes longer—depending on the breed.
- Ducks poop everywhere. You cannot train them to relieve themselves in a certain area.
- You can’t raise a duck and release him or her into the wild. Mallards are wild ducks. Most other ducks were domesticated by humans. That means they no longer have wild instincts, can’t migrate, and are usually too fat to fly. It’s illegal to own wild ducks without a permit, and it’s illegal to release domestic ducks on public land. In some areas, it’s considered abandonment and can result in cruelty charges. It’s also a death sentence for the ducks, as those raised by humans can’t fend for themselves in the wild. (And did you know that bread is bad for ducks? It lacks the basic nutrients that they need in order to grow and thrive.)
- Avian veterinarians who are qualified to treat your special companion are few and far between. You may find a vet who treats parakeets but not one who will treat your duck. If you do find one, expect to spend $80 to $120 for a basic check-up.
- There is a reason why the term “sitting duck” was coined. Ducks need predator-proof pens with hardware cloth on all the sides, including the top and bottom. They must be in these secure pens from dusk to sunrise in some areas and at all times in other areas. Secure pens that you build yourself start at around $300. Your property is not an exception simply because you haven’t seen a predator on it or you live on a pond. Raccoons reach through chicken-wire and climb over chain-link with ease. Eagles and hawks don’t need to carry off your duck—they can just grab a piece of him or her and do a lot of damage that way.
- You won’t be able to take a vacation for the next 10 to 20 years—or more—because there’s no such thing as a duck sitter. You will realize this too late, when your vacation is already planned. Ducks require complicated care. Note: None of your friends or family wants to watch your duck while you’re on vacation. They asked me to tell you that.
- “Ducks are more maintenance than the space shuttle.” Bob Tarte wrote that line in his book Enslaved by Ducks. Believe him. Don’t get a duck. Just read his book instead.
- Ducks are extremely emotional—more emotional than cats and dogs. If you raise one duck and that duck depends on you, you can’t leave him or her alone for even one day without the duck missing you and getting upset, depressed, or scared when you’re gone. Don’t do that to a duck. Ducks need duck friends.
- Ducks are time-consuming. They need twice-daily care for at least a half-hour each time, every day of the year, rain or shine. They won’t thrive unless they get much more of your time than that. But that is the bare minimum amount of time required twice a day, every single day, without fail.
- Ducks don’t think that you should have hobbies. Want to meet friends for dinner? You have to put your duck away before dusk first. Want to have brunch on a Saturday? You need to clean the duck ponds first. Like to knit, sew, paint, listen to music, go to the movies, watch TV, play games, or ride a bike? Forget it. Your sole “hobby” if you have a duck … is your duck. That’s it.
- Do you live with your parents? Absolutely do not get a duck. You think you’ll keep the duck forever, but you will grow up and get interested in your friends or go to college. And you can’t keep a duck in your dorm room. Your parents absolutely do not want to care for your duck while you’re on a date or away at school. Your parents will give your duck away and tell you that he or she died. Seriously. They told me to tell you that. Don’t get a duck until you own your own home, can pay vet bills on your own, and can afford food and amenities for your duck.
- Do you rent your home or live in an apartment? Every year, thousands of people get ducks, only to give them up because their landlord, girlfriend, boyfriend, parents, or neighbors complained. Giving up a duck means that the duck will probably be euthanized or will suffer. Do not get a duck first and then research whether or not you’re allowed to have one. Some ducks are extremely loud, too loud for neighbors. Way, way too loud. Trust me on this.
- Do you have a dog? Is he old and friendly? Wouldn’t hurt a fly? You’re wrong. Your duck will panic and flap in a way that will engage your dog’s innate prey instinct. Your dog will pick up your duck and shake him or her to death while you watch in horror. Yes, your sweet little dog will do that. Your dog is not an exception. And it will be your fault, not your dog’s. Your dog is just being a dog. Don’t get a duck if you have a dog. Your duck will taunt your dog. Your duck will chase and bite your dog until your dog bites him or her back. That will also be your fault. Your duck is just being a duck.
- Your duck is social and needs duck friends. Your duck does not want to live with just you. Your duck needs other ducks, and more ducks means more poop. (See number two above.)
- Every duck is a unique individual. Ducks are particular and don’t automatically get along with other ducks. Two male ducks can kill each other. Too many male ducks can kill a female duck. Larger ducks will pick on smaller ducks, and stronger ducks will try to kill weaker or injured ducks.
- Ducks bite. Some male ducks bite all the time. They don’t bite because they’re mean. They bite because they love you. They bite hard. They bruise. They constantly bite your ankles, hands, arms, feet, and face. You must wear long sleeves and long pants and socks and shoes in order to visit your duck. 100 degrees outside? Make sure you’re wearing long pants and long sleeves if you’re going visit your duck. Muscovy ducks have a ridge to their beak that can tear your skin off. Muscovy drakes often also protect their territory and may decide that you’re a threat. Then they attack you. They fly at you and beat their wings at you—their wing span is 6 feet—bruising you and giving you welts. Their talons can be 1.5 inches long, and they’ll try to claw at you in midair. They bite and tear at you and can chase you down faster than you can run away.
- Ducks make a huge mess when they eat. Duck food attracts rats and mice. In some areas, mice attract snakes, lots of snakes. Duck poop attracts flies. Having a pet duck means having rats and flies. It’s a package deal. Your neighbors will love that. Think you can kill the rats? Poison them, and they’ll die in your duck pond, poisoning the water that your ducks drink. Or their carcasses will attract predators. Try to trap and release them instead. Come wintertime, you can find them conveniently living in the roof of your house or in your basement for warmth.
- Having a duck means hearing awful horror stories from everyone around you. People will think that because you have a duck, you must really want to hear their story about how a duck flew into their windshield. Or how their dog brought a duck in through the doggie door and spattered blood all over the walls! Or how their neighbor’s kid had a duckling but dropped the little bird on his or her head, and the animal had seizures and vomited before dying. Or how your neighbors had ducks, but raccoons climbed into their pen and ate them. Or how someone’s grandma had ducks and killed and plucked and cooked and served them for dinner. Or how a hawk flew down and ripped into a duck, but no one ever took the animal to a veterinarian. Or how there’s this duck at the park who limps and drags his or her body along, but that’s just nature! Gosh, aren’t those stories great? People can’t wait to share their duck stories! (All of these are actual stories told to me by people who could not wait to share their wonderful duck anecdote.)
- Horrible duck stories will give you nightmares—except you’ll dream that your own duck is suffering or in danger or being eaten or being maimed. You will have this nightmare a lot.
- You will worry about your duck every day that you have him or her.
If you’ve made it to the end of this list and you still think you’re the awesome saintly exception who is going to provide a duck with a super-safe, loving home, please adopt or rescue a duck instead of hatching or buying one. So many homeless ducks are in need of great forever homes.
A version of this article was originally published on DucksAndClucks.com.