Is it safe to have all your muscovy ducks living in close quarters? Do male muscovy ducks kill baby ducks, and if so, how to spot it? I will answer some of these questions below.
Infanticide or the killing of young children is not unheard of among birds – and no, it’s not limited to birds of prey.
As macabre as it sounds, birds may kill their young for many reasons.
In the wild, this could be because they need to get nourishment in trying times, to prevent a sick chick from spreading an illness, if they perceive chicks to belong to another brood, or even if they simply are unable to raise their babies.
Male Muscovy Ducks, though quiet, are also known to sometimes peck at young baby ducklings and other duck eggs, often killing them.
What is the cause of this aggression? Let’s take a deeper dive into it.
Do Mature Muscovy Ducks Assault Their Baby Ducklings?
Male alpha ducks often display signs of aggressiveness, with the muscovy breed being on the higher end of the aggression spectrum.
It is not uncommon to see muscovy ducks attack other ducks and their ducklings.
Why Do They Do It?
Most aggressive males show this behavior toward other ducks due to their wanting to assert dominance.
Hence, you might commonly see them hiss at other male ducks and babies of other ducks that they have not fathered.
The top three things that can trigger this behavior include control over food and drinking water, potential mates, or deciding the leader of the flock.
Domestic ducks and other birds, including hens, often have established hierarchies where one drake takes the lead.
In case another male muscovy duck chooses to challenge this authority, it can result in a fight.
Similarly, male ducks may fight over a particular female duck for mating rights.
When the female has kids, male muscovies aren’t particularly involved in the upbringing. However, they do protect their flock.
Hence, if any other male duck or his ducklings come too close or appear to threaten his flock, he will assault them.
Signs of Aggression in Male Muscovies?
One of the earlier signs of an aggressive drake is pecking. Do not encourage innocent pecking, as it can get worse in the future.
Other indications include hissing, wing flapping, and charging at you.
If you see these signs early on, punish your drakes for teaching them that aggression is not an acceptable behavior.
However, it is also natural for them to get into fights with other males.
Try to avoid potential conflicts by having a good drake-to-hen ratio (that would be one drake for every four hens), offering ample food, keeping broods separate, and having a small pond where the ducks can mate without territoriality fights.
How To Prevent Male Muscovies From Killing Their Young?
The most common way to prevent this is to simply separate the two.
For young ducklings, keep them away from aggressive ducks for at least two weeks.
Also, separate the various broods and do not keep multiple drakes in one coop.
Try to keep each duckling with the mother duck.
Since male muscovy ducks are much larger in size than females, you need to keep a close eye on any drake that has shown aggressive behavior in the past.
Trying to “defeat” the alpha bird is another option that some duck farmers suggest.
In this, approach the drake and pick a fight. During the fight, pin the male duck to the ground until he gives up and stops flapping and hissing.
The duck will believe that he has lost his leadership position are might learn to be less aggressive.
One thing you should not do is leave the fight midway and run – as this establishes his victory, making aggression worse.
Lastly, give enough food to each bird. Experiment with individual and group feeding bowls to see what’s best for your flock.
By offering enough food, there is a lower risk of fights among drakes over who controls food and water in the flock.
Do Muscovy Ducks Kill Other Ducks Young?
Drakes are known for killing young ducks, especially if they are from another brood.
Ducklings are especially susceptible for the first five weeks.
The male ducks may perceive ducklings from another male as a threat to their procreation goals; hence they kill off the other eggs.
This is a natural behavior and is observed in many other birds, such as Eclectus parrots, white storks, and even some chickens!
However, it can be a menace for those raising poultry.
It’s best to keep chicks indoors until five weeks, after which you can introduce them outside for short periods of time.
Do Muscovy Ducks Kill Other Ducks Chicks in the Wild?
Wild ducks can kill the chicks of other ducks, but usually, their nests are far apart, so the need does not arise.
Forest Ducks are also known for bullying other ducks in the pecking order.
We cannot entirely predict how one duck will behave toward another.
Some males are especially aggressive, whereas others are comparatively docile.
Aggression is seen throughout the year (instead of being concentrated in the duck mating season, as seen in other birds).
However, males aren’t particularly protective of their breeding territories.
Do Muscovy Ducks Kill Each Other?
When males fight, they do not usually kill but rather subdue each other.
However, it is not uncommon to see a muscovy duck produce serious injuries on ducklings or female ducks due to the sheer difference in size.
Even adult ducks can succumb to injuries sustained in a fight.
Multiple males can attack a female, trying to force her to breed, and in the process, kill her.
Males can also attack other farm animals, including humans if they perceive a threat to their pecking order or position.
If My Muscovy Duck Hatches Ducklings In With Other Ducks, Will They Kill It?
It is always a possibility that the male can attack days-old ducklings that are not his own.
But there do exist cases of males accepting other ducklings without any skirmishes.
Males have not involved parents and might ignore young chicks altogether sometimes.
The best way to predict this is to keep a close eye on the male and separate him if he shows any strange behavior.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Muscovy ducks aggressive to other ducks?
There are usually three reasons why muscovy ducks might be aggressive: trying to establish territorial dominance, gaining control over food and water, and competing with others over a female duck.
In general, if you provide sufficient foraging opportunities to them and keep a good drake-to-female duck ratio, the risk of aggression can significantly go down.
However, if your muscovy is showing aggression, it is usually best to train them using positive reinforcement techniques.
Will Muscovy ducks adopt other ducklings?
There could be two reasons behind this – firstly muscovy ducklings are very much like other duck babies – they don’t have their distinctive caruncles till the 15-16 week mark.
It might be that the momma ducks simply don’t recognize the other duck’s babies.
The other reason could be that they simply don’t care – nature has given them a strong maternal instinct, and what’s one or two more ducklings added to the brood?
Can Muscovy ducks mate with regular ducks?
However, whatever baby is formed will be sterile and will not be able to procreate further. Moreover, it might take up features from both sides of the family.
This trick is often used by muscovy duck breeders who are raising them for meat and egg production.
By raising a sterile baby, they don’t have to worry about the interbred offspring starting its own family.
How long do Muscovy ducklings stay with their mother?
They are not naked like babies of other birds like parrots.
However, they still aren’t strong enough to know how to forage or keep themselves warm.
Hence, these hatchlings spend about ten to twelve weeks with their mothers, who provide for them and look after them until they are ready to move out on their own.
It can be enticing to keep all your duck population together.
However, due to the hierarchies formed and the overall feud between various broods, it’s best to give each flock its own coop.
Aggressive muscovy ducks should be subdued early on so that they do not receive too much encouragement.
In extreme cases, farmers do kill or sell their male ducks, who cannot reintegrate with others.
Thank you for reading.