Bullying Is Becoming More Common Among Ducks
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 ducks were no longer to sleep in the pen with the geese, of course, 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 obvious to spot even when he hasn’t been active and has no blood on his beak. He has all of his wing feathers, whereas the rest of the ducks have to walk around without.
Bullies Are Big
Only the largest drake, Natal, was able to keep all of his wing feathers; the others lost a few wing tip 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.
The problem started back up when my dog was having lunch. She is a Pit Bull cross, about 50 pounds, and no pushover. 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.
Bullies Always Step Up to Fill an Opening
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 Bullies
Without Natal around, all of the ducks have become bullies. Almost all of them are missing wing feathers now.
What Can Be Done to Control Bullying?
- 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.
- The 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Acceptance. All of us can accept the duck bullies for who they are.
Duck bullying is a problem that is not going away.
If my tegu was able to talk, I think he would sound like John Houseman.