Skip to main content

Bully Ducks That Pick on Other Ducks (or Other Animals): What to Do

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Dr. Mark raises free-range rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, horses, and sheep at his small farm in Brazil.

One of the duck bullies stalks an innocent goose!

One of the duck bullies stalks an innocent goose!

Duck Bullying

Having been around farmyard livestock all of my life, I have noticed a change recently and felt that it was in the best interest of all concerned for me to bring it to public attention and perhaps start some discussion. The situation is bullying, and the problem is being aggravated by ducks. Ducks are becoming bullies.

Ducks are not the only species to practice bullying. Stalin, one of my Shetland geese, also practices this terrible “sport” against some of the other members of her own species. Cows, goats, and even innocent little lambs all bully their own species. Ducks, however, seem to have taken this practice to a new low. Not only do they bully their own family, they even bully across species lines.

This issue was first brought to my attention by Football, one of my smallest geese. She broke her leg when only a gosling, and since she is not able to get around has never eaten as much nor grown like her sisters. Football (she lets me carry her around and pretend I am a running back playing for the NFL) woke me up one morning screaming.

When I went to open the dog kennel where the ducks and geese sleep, I found her wing tips bloody and featherless. The culprit had blood on his beak. It was a duck. The solution was to no longer let the ducks sleep in the pen with the geese, so they went back to bullying each other. Ducks are not just bullies, they are opportunists.

How Do You Spot a Bully?

A duck bully is easy to spot even when he hasn’t been active and has no blood on his beak. He is the one with all of his wing feathers, whereas the rest of the ducks have to walk around without.

Check the Wing Feathers

Only the largest drake, Natal, was able to keep all of his wing feathers; the others lost a few wingtip feathers each day. Natal (which means Christmas in Portuguese) lived up to his name and became the centerpiece of the Christmas feast. I thought I had identified the culprit, so my problem was over.

It wasn't.

The problem started back up when my dog was having lunch. She is a pit bull cross, about 50 pounds, and no pushover. The ducks have no fear of her, however. I gave her a bowl of food (as I was about to leave for town) and the ducks noticed and strolled over to eat from her bowl. When she growled at them, the smaller drake pecked her in the face.

More Than One Duck Bully

Game over. That was the day I learned that as soon as the bully duck is no longer present, one of the others will take his job. Ducks are bullies.

Is there only one bully among a group of ducks? Unfortunately not. A few days ago, I saw one of my small female ducks attack a Rhode Island Red chicken that was looking for something to eat in the compost pile. Chickens are guilty of a lot of things in life, but in this case, my hen was innocent.

All Ducks Are Potential Bullies

Without Natal around, all of the ducks have become bullies. Almost all of them are missing wing feathers now.

Ducks showing the signs of bullying.

Ducks showing the signs of bullying.

What Can Be Done to Control Duck Attacks?

  1. Isolation: This may keep the ducks from attacking and bothering other species, but they still manage to hurt each other. I guess if I could pen each duck individually, the problem would be reduced, but that would be cruel and inhumane. (I have heard that some dog owners do that, though.) Ducks like each other's company.
  2. A machete: This is the permanent solution but not as good as I had imagined. Ducks seem to have some sort of “pecking order” that not even chickens understand. (I have asked, and none of the hens have been able to explain it.) As soon as the main bully is no longer in the picture, one of the smaller ducks takes over and becomes the bully. Despite what all of the surgeons think, the knife is not the cure.
  3. Get rid of all current and possible bullies: This seems like the final solution. It is in no way fair, though, and will condemn every duck for even having a drop of quacker blood.
Football, the half-sized goose.

Football, the half-sized goose.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Pethelpful

The bully having breakfast.

The bully having breakfast.

The bully stands in front, eating calmly with the geese, and one of his victims (identified with an arrow in this photo) stands as far away as possible.

Notice the dog in the background—alert as she performs guard duty.

Chickens are rarely innocent---this hen is!

Chickens are rarely innocent---this hen is!

Living With Bullying

Since the methods to stop bullying are as drastic as they are useless, it seems to be something that we will just have to live with—ducks don't respond well to lectures or educational videos.

A recent poll taken among the animals in my yard reveals several different strategies. Victims of duck bullying can practice:

  1. Avoidance. Football is using this method; she has resolved to avoid the ducks in the evenings, and if the ducks jump in the pond when she is taking a bath she yells for help.
  2. Ignoring the bullies. Stalin is using this method as she could care less. Ducks don't bother her. My dog and chickens can also live with this problem.
  3. Acceptance. All of us can accept the duck bullies for who they are.

Duck bullying is a problem that is not going away.

Even bullies can learn to share.

Even bullies can learn to share.

We Are Not Amused.

We Are Not Amused.

If my tegu was able to talk, I think he would sound like John Houseman.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Dr Mark


Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 06, 2020:

Barbie--the bread issue is really overblown on the internet. Even if your neighbors are giving bread, most of the diet will be what the ducks forage during the day. I would not worry about it.

The bullying is an issue, but there is not much you can do about it. It will not matter if the duck has a mate as they are not monogamous like swans, but the bullying is a problem. The only thing you can do is provide a shelter for the duck during the winter since she will most likely not fly off like the mallards.

I hope things work out for the little guy.

Barbie on September 06, 2020:

I have been trying to research the duck " bully" behavior and finally,,,,I live in an apt complex 3rd floor facing the " pond with fountain".The geese have came and went but one day I noticed 3 ducks,one male mallard,one female ,based on markings,and one all white which had some kind of issue walking,as summer came, two more female mallards joined the group,to me,they seemed to have been dumped there as they were quite tame, especially the white one, alot of resident's like to feed them bread etc,but my research found the lack of nutritional value and dependence could not be the best,I'm not sure what will become of them this winter as I have not seen them fly,but,my biggest fear is the white one has been pushed out,bullied,attacked and secluded chased off is sad and hard to watch,what does this all mean? There are 5 now so one will not have a mate I assume, should I interfere?I am not the only one in this complex that is concerned,it's just soooo sad to see. I sprinkle seed,corn oats to help with nutrition .but with everyone else feeding bread and crackers I worry .why is the whole group doing this to this little white guy? Its like a gang rape!!!!

Crissy Little on March 18, 2019:

I too have noticed bullying among my ducks. I do know which duck it is but as you mentioned if I get rid of one I believe another will step up. I’m not even sure there will ever be a solution to that problem.

ColumbusPeg on April 12, 2017:

Since moving into an apartment with both Cow ducks and Mallards, I have TOTALLY noticed this! I was wondering what I could do but came to a similar conclusion - nothing. I am not the property or duck owner in this case.

Anyway, thank you for posting. I was wondering if anyone else noticed how nasty the darn ducks are to one another.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 20, 2013:

Bullies always seem to know who to pick on, don't they? (And how to create lasting psychological damage, an important social issue that I usually require about three cups of coffee to stay awake when I hear about it.) They pick on Football because she is a wimp, but they never try anything with Stalin because she would turn around and do whatever it is tough geese do. I wonder if that greenhead bullied a coyote, or just took off and never came back? Bullies everywhere probably want to know.

Ghost32 on April 20, 2013:

I had to hop over here to get a look at your Tegu (of course)...but the duck bully issue got my attention on its own.

Some years back (1991-92), I had a greenhead mallard who showed no signs of bully chromosomes in his DNA...UNTIL after he was partially eaten by a hawk. An employee of mine, the only one home at the time, happened to look out of the window just in time to see the hawk pinning the duck to the ground and just starting in on lunch.

She opened the door and hollered at the hawk, which ignored her until she ran at it.

The duck showed no long term ill effects from the attack...except that he became a serious bully. He never tried me on for size, perhaps knowing I'd have kicked him across the yard or else given him a class in Firearms 101, but he terrorized my employees' little dog no end.

We had to move a few months later, had no place for ducks, and gave the lot away--that male mallard and several hens, all yearlings. The new owner reported that the greenhead kept up his bullying ways until one morning he was gone & never returned, having somehow managed to escape from the duck cage during the night.

We figure he tried bullying a coyote.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 06, 2013:

I have a young Tegu also but the old guy (in the photos) is like an old house cat. He just likes to find a sunny spot in my living room and watch things go by. When he is hungry, thirsty, or tired of my parrot screaming at him, he goes back in his cage and burrows under the sawdust. I don´t think he worries too much about bullying or other social issues.

And he is never amused!

Theophanes Avery from New England on April 06, 2013:

Now that's where it's at. We decided to hold off on the ducks until we have a larger property (in a year or so if all goes well) so we can set them up right. I know what you mean about people not getting it. We usually cause quite some conversation when we do various things for the chickens like buying stale bagels from the local bagel cafe to hang around the chicken run. I just say happy hens lay more eggs, which is true, but really why shouldn't we spoil them? Even if some of them will be eaten it's nice to know they had a good life! Not misery and torment in a battery cage.

We got the chickens a few years after Pepper and her unfortunate puppies. We didn't really know how she'd react but she loves the damn things. They ride her around like a horse when we let them, which I can't imagine is that comfortable since they've grown past eight pounds. haha

I think you can curse in the comments... at least I haven't had a problem there?

And certainly, bullying and so many other things keep me up for days!

PS Your tegu is gorgeous! (I only see babies here at the pet shops - what impressive adult you have!)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 06, 2013:

I built a concrete pond (with drainage system) for my geese, and the mason kept asking me why I wanted to spend so much on a bunch of birds. Impossible to explain since most people just see them as something to eat.

Does your dog still take care of the chickens, or only when she had puppies? My dog doesn´t take care of them, she just sort of ignores them as she rolls around in their (going back to one of your other articles--I want to call it s*** but I guess I will say "droppings").

But does this bullying problem keep you up at night? Even Football isn´t all that concerned, but ducks everywhere want to know.

Theophanes Avery from New England on April 06, 2013:

Wow, now I am happy we just got chickens. We considered ducks but I didn't feel like dumping and refilling a kiddie pool every day. We did have a couple bully hens but they stopped when I sprayed their victims with Blue Kote. If only that worked for children... ;)

Also I think its funny you have a poultry-guarding pit. So do we. Pepper too to the chickens like they were puppies, which is funny because she came to us pregnant and treated her puppies like alien creatures that were ruining her vibe. She even killed two by rolling over on top of them in her sleep. SIGH.

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on February 28, 2013:

I will! Now that I can work on hubs again :)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 25, 2013:

Good luck with them. I hope you get some goslings since you lost that big gander. Be sure to post some photos!

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on February 25, 2013:

They started laying in december! Some of them laid earlier than that, but i ate the eggs because i hadn't seen them breeding. I have a few eggs in the incubator. Not sure how they are doing. One of them rotted :/ We lost our last big gander to a fox or coyote or something, not really sure. Just never saw the guy again! We butchered four, now we are down to two. I thought they were both hens, until i saw them mating! The little lady has built a nest intheir shed and she has five eggs in it so far.

Bob Bamberg on February 25, 2013:

Our hobby farmers around here report egg production in the winter, too. Not as prolific, but an egg every couple or few days. Some encourage an egg a day by keeping a light on in the coop until about 8PM.

I wonder if genetic manipulation and/or breeding protocols have anything to do with wintertime egg production.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 24, 2013:

Laying eggs already? Isn't it still winter where you live? Will the goslings do okay?

I found out my geese are Shetland since they are sexually dimorphic. Football is a female but I doubt she will breed because of her leg, but she is a great pet and comes up to me so that I will carry her to the pond.

My neighbors asked me if I was going to butcher her for Christmas. No way, not after she earned a name!

Have you lost more adults to foxes? The last time we "spoke", you had lost a gander. Is that an ongoing problem there?

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on February 24, 2013:

Don't know what happened there! Was trying to say butchering and foxes. The pair has been mating, laying eggs and nesting. I'm excited!!

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on February 24, 2013:

Love this hub! It's so great to see pictures of all your birds, they are good looking. I bet christmas dinner was yummy!

Football is a great name :)

My geese are down to one pair after butchering and

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 11, 2013:

Flavorite? Oh, MAAN!

Bob Bamberg on February 11, 2013:

Peking duck certainly is a worthy consideration, but it seems L'Orange sounds a little more sophisticated, sort of like her namesake :) Actually, I hope she settles down and becomes a flock, favorite.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 11, 2013:

Thanks for the visit, grand old lady!

Atually Bob, I think MAAN is leaning towards oriental. At moments of decreased bullying I have noticed shades of Peking in the way her feathers lie. A lot of work, but she will probably be worth it.

Bob Bamberg on February 11, 2013:

Ahhh, of course! Much ado about of my favorite motivators. I like to write about things that are overblown, but while there are any number of such events, alas not many of them are worthwhile hub subjects. The AVMA's ferocious position on raw diets was an exception.

I'm honored to be the inspiration behind the naming of MAAN. I do wish she'd be a little more sociable though...I hate to see our image and reputation besmirched. Please inform her I've suggested she'd make either a good community organizer or Duck L'Orange...if she gets my drift.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 10, 2013:

I like the names of your animals. This was both funny and informative! Thank you for making my day:)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

The Tegus tail is about 3 foot long so when he walks around he looks like a snake to the ducks and geese--they don't even go close to him.

I think ducks are a lot like little kids and only bully the smaller ones, so that goose with the broken wing will probably be like Stalin and ignore them. They are entertaining to watch though!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on February 10, 2013:

Tegu is awesome! The ducks don't dare mess with him, right?

Where I work is a pond. I will have to watch for the duck in the summer and see how they behave. There is a goose that has been staying there. I heard he broke his wing or something and can't fly. But I have seen if another goose bugs him, he will try to do the duck bully thing.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

MAAN attacked one of my chickens, so she is either brave or not so intelligent. (I am sure Football is not so intelligent--remember all those studies on stupidity and facial anatomy? Football has a small brain case and sloping forehead.)

Much Ado About Nothing!

Thanks for the vote! It appears most hubbers appreciate the duck humor about as much as my Tegu, the John Houseman sound-alike.

Bob Bamberg on February 10, 2013:

I forgot to mention Football. What a great name!! I'm lousy at brain teasers...what does MAAN mean. I'm flattered, by the way...I think. How much of a bully is MAAN?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

Scary, isn´t it? I know the situation keeps Football up at nights.

I named one of my ducks MAAN, in your honor. Get it?

Bob Bamberg on February 10, 2013:

OH NO, NOT THE DUCKS NOW!! Say it ain't so, Doc.

The chickens have practiced bullying for centuries, both hens and cockerels to boot. Has the disease mutated and crossed species lines? Is it zoonotic?

Yes, it must be. Our little elementary school angels, probably because their little immune systems aren't fully developed, are bullying each others' brains out...and they don't outgrow it til they're in their 20's. Then, it seems they relapse upon the arrival of the first social security check some 40-odd years later.

It all makes sense, now. Thank you for bringing this intraspecies horror to light.

Finally, a legitimate problem that those cat-yawn- counting scientists can work on that will benefit all humanity. If there was a category labeled "Wicked Awesome" I would vote it...otherwise I'll settle for Up, Funny and Interesting.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 09, 2013:

Vital issue, right? CNN did a documentary on this last week, and none of the barnyard animals they interviewed were willing to accept the duck bullies.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on February 09, 2013:

Thank you for enlightening the public about this duck bullying problem...ducks need a advocate too! :)

Related Articles