Keeping Drakes in your Duck Flock

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I get a lot of questions every day about raising ducks. One of the most frequent duck topics I hear about has to do with dealing with drakes and their behavior. Many of those questions concern mating issues – so I’ll try to keep this post as PG as possible, but fair warning – ducks are just not PG animals.

Drakes are male ducks, and like most male animals much of their life is about mating and protecting. This can make them difficult to live with as pets sometimes. I really think that once you have a basic understanding of what your drake is up to and where he is coming from they can still make a great addition to your flock.

My drake is mating…..All. The. Time.

This is possibly the most difficult aspect of keeping drakes. Male ducks have very high sex drives, they also have a reputation of being very rough on females. If you keep multiple drakes, it can be extra difficult because often when one male notices another male mating the others will run/swim over to join in while the female is restrained. This can result in the female getting injured. Leg injuries, missing feathers from the neck, head, and back, large to small cuts from the drake’s claws or bill, eye injuries, or even death can all happen when a female is over-mated.

It may seem brutal, but this sort of behavior is very common and normal among ducks. A male might pick out their favorite female, but in most breeds the males are not monogamous. Lots of people get upset by the mating, especially when there are multiple males ganging up on one female. It is hard, but try not to put human relationship expectations onto an animal. The drakes aren’t being bad, this is simply what their instincts are telling them to do.

A drake stands by a duck pool

But why is duck mating so rough?

In short, it is to keep the duck population going. In the wild only 20-50% of ducklings will make it to adulthood. Weather conditions, lack of food or shelter, and nearly every predator will snack on ducklings – fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds of prey – all add up to rough odds for ducklings.

Of the ducklings that make it to adulthood, about 53% are male, 47% female. Adult females are also more vulnerable, they can die during gang mating, and are more vulnerable to predators while incubating eggs & raising young. This means as adults the females can afford to be a little pickier because there are more males than females.

So only the males with the brightest plumage, the best mating call & dance, will be selected by females for voluntary mating….the rest have evolved some unsavory mating practices. The females have a complicated oviduct system full of twists & chambers, she can actually eject the sperm of a male that she doesn’t want fertilizing her eggs. The males are just trying to hedge their bets by mating a recently mated female, trying to do their part in ensuring the survival of the species.

Can you neuter a duck?

I have had lots of desperate duck owners ask me about neutering drakes. I am not a veterinarian but from the research I have done you CAN neuter a drake but it does not effect his behavior, only the ability to fertilize eggs. Castration will effect his behavior but is a very invasive surgery and can be very dangerous for them so most vets will not perform this on a duck simply to curb a natural behavior.

There are hormone shots that are available, but they need to be administered frequently and are costly (and in the long run may not be great for the drake’s health). In short it is not really practical to medically altar a natural behavior in your drake, so the focus should instead be on working with his behavior and making the environment safer for the female ducks.

three ducks drink from a puddle

What can I do to protect my female ducks?

  1. Give him more females. Ideally 3 females per every male in the flock, but 4-5 females provide him plenty of options and eases the strain on each female in the flock
  2. Have a pool or pond for them. Ducks naturally want to mate in the water, it is easier on the female’s legs. They will still mate on land, but given the option, water is better.
  3. Be prepared to separate them. If you notice your female is wounded or missing a lot of feathers, your drake might need a time out so the female can heal. You can separate the wounded female if you have plenty of other females for the male. If you only have two females and you remove one to recover, the remaining female will be the only mating option. In that case, it is better to separate out the male. This can be as easy as dividing the coop with some chicken wire and giving him a small chicken wire pen outdoors.
  4. Have first aid supplies ready. Vetricyn is an antiseptic spray for light wounds. If she has deeper injuries you will need some antibiotic cream, gauze pads, and Vetrap. Click here to read about assembling a duck first aid kit. I don’t recommend using chicken saddles on ducks unless they don’t have access to swimming water. If the saddle gets wet then you just have wet, dirty, fabric laying on top of an open wound. A perfect invitation for infection.
  5. Consider keeping two separate duck flocks – a male flock and a female flock

Will my drake always be like this?

The good news is no, he won’t always be like this. Ducks in captivity can live for 10 years or more. The older they get, the less testosterone they will have and their drive will get less. The worst time will be his first mating season as a fully mature drake. Mating season for domestic ducks in the northern hemisphere usually begins around mid February and eases around July. His first season he will be full of youthful energy and the drive to reproduce.

Each season after that should get a little better. During mating season is when you are most likely to see the disturbing over mating, rough mating, gang mating. You will still see it during the other half of the year but it will be less.

a drake & a duck free ranging

Other drake concerns – aggression

While mating questions are the ones I get most, drakes can also sometimes be aggressive. In the poultry keeping world, drakes tend to be more tame than some of the other males (roosters, ganders, and turkey toms are usually the more aggressive poultry), but that doesn’t mean they don’t get aggressive. Especially during mating season when their hormones are raging they can get protective of their food, their space, their females. Sometimes they take that aggression out on their human caretakers, other animals, or even on the female ducks.

If he is getting aggressive with the female ducks outside of a mating context, it’s time to separate him. Give him his own space until he calms down.

Just like people, all ducks are different. Some handle the hormones and stresses of duck life with ease, and others get stressed out, scared, and defensive. Nearly all aggression towards human caretakers can be traced to dominance. He is trying to assert his dominance and show everyone that he is in charge, to show off how big and strong he is.

Your drake is likely to be the natural head of your duck flock – if you have multiple males there may be some squabbles over which male is the head honcho. The females, for the most part, aren’t going to be challenging the male for the role of leader. Having conquered the duck flock, your drake is going to turn his attention to the other living being they interact with daily – you. If your drake is attacking and acting aggressive towards you it’s likely because he wants you to know he is in charge. That is not ok, he needs to know that you are actually top dog or the aggressive behavior is going to continue.

a line of ducks walking

How to stop an aggressive drake

First, you need to act like a leader. Leaders don’t run away. They don’t act timidly around their challenger. If you have an aggressive drake, it can be helpful to have a long handled net near the entrance of your duck enclosure. This can be used as a deterrent to push him away from you, or can be used to easily & safely catch him for the following.

Pecking or biting is a common way that ducks establish dominance, so anytime your duck is doing this to you, it’s something to discourage. When they are young, ducklings will naturally “mouth” everything, like most young animals they explore their world with their mouth. I am not talking about that, I am talking about obviously aggressive, non curious pecking or biting. If he pecks you, you “peck” him back with your finger. Don’t go overboard, you aren’t trying to hurt him. You are just letting him know that you are actually the one in charge.

Another thing to try is picking him up and carrying him around under your arm. This is a submissive position for him. If he is trying to peck you while you carry him, use your free hand to gently hold his bill.

In the wild, male (and female) ducks establish pecking order by pinning the other to the ground. You can gently pin him down, holding his head to the ground. Hold him like that until he stops struggling – it may take a few minutes but it’s important that you not release him until he submits otherwise in his mind he has won. Again, be gentle. You are much bigger & stronger than he is! You don’t want to hurt him, you don’t want him scared of you, you just need him to respect you.

For some drakes this might be a one time thing, he will accept you as alpha and never challenge you again. Some ducks will need reminders. Be ready to give him reminders as often as he needs them. Consistency is key when dealing with an aggressive drake.

A male duck

Why keep a drake if they are this much trouble?

Unless you are intending on breeding ducks, most people only end up with a drake because ducklings can be hard to sex when they are young so they are often sold as straight run (unsexed). Likewise if you hatch your own duck eggs you have no control over what sex you get. Once you have a drake your choices are to rehome him (which can be difficult), eat him, or keep him and learn to live with his behaviors. I have multiple drakes (all from either straight run or hatching). My go to hatchery for getting pre-sexed ducks is Metzer Farms. They have a great selection of breeds and can ship as few as 2 ducklings all over the US. Click here to visit their website

Drakes can still be very lovely and wonderful pets. Once you understand the reasoning behind the behavior, once you start thinking like a duck, it’s much easier to live in harmony with your drake.

in summary:

Why is my male duck being mean?

Your drake is just following his instincts! Drakes have a very high sex drive and mating can be rough on the females. If you have multiple males it can be even worse. Many new duck owners confuse normal mating for “bullying” or “being mean”. Just because it is normal doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Adding more females (ideally 3-5 females for every 1 male), providing a water source (like a pool) for safer mating, and separating the females occasionally can all make for a more harmonious flock.
Beyond mating, some drakes can also get possessive of food, water, or space. If your drake is being aggressive towards humans you should act fast to reassert your dominance. You can do this by gently pinning him to the ground until he stops struggling, or by carrying him around under your arm. Consistency is key for dealing with an aggressive duck.

Keeping drakes in your duck flock - dealing with aggressive and over mating drakes

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  1. Mickie Harrington says:

    A little over a month ago, we hatched four baby ducklings. As I have read on multiple duck sites, our Drake became VERY overprotective of his females, resulting in aggressive behavior toward the ducklings. Sadly, this resulted in the death of one of our babies. Since this occurred, we have kept our Drake separate from the flock while the babies grow and develop. When is it safe to re-introduce him again? We definitely don’t want any of our ducklings getting hurt. Thank you for your help and advice. Sincerely, Mickie Harrington ?

    1. Unfortunately that is all too common in wild and domestic ducks. The females do all the incubating and raising of young and the males sometimes just see the babies as a intrusion taking up too much time of their female. I would keep him separated until the ducklings are feathered out and big enough to handle being chased and an occasional peck, usually around 8-9 weeks

  2. This post could not have come at a better time—I mean it’s UNCANNY! This is our first go-round with ducks, and we foolishly went with 10 straight run (instead of spending the extra 3.50 per bird for sexed females). In spite of the arduous cleaning commitment and the obliteration of our budget on account of their bedding requirements, my daughter and I are hopelessly enchanted by them, and utterly charmed by their antics. We are nearly at week 13 with our Saxonys, though, and the arrival of their head coloration has finally confirmed just how many drakes we’re hosting. For the past month I’d been musing about it to my husband, and trying to begin discussing it with our 11year old. Being ABSOLUTELY sure how many boys and girls were brought up signified that the question (of what to expect for our flock’s interpersonal dynamics come adulthood) was at hand. It has begun to loom inescapably large that four of our five boys will need to go be processed if ever a peaceable flock is to be achieved, and (apparently) even still there will be drama…
    I am extremely grateful for an experienced voice to tell us what and why is ahead of us, and to vindicate the unsavory truth I’ve been telling our child all along, that we cannot keep all of them even though we love them.

    1. I am glad to be of help! Unfortunately I would say you are going to need to get rid of some of those drakes before next spring. But now you can at least be more prepared!

  3. That’s fascinating, great info!!!

  4. BJ Stoetzel says:

    Thank you for your informative suggestions.
    I find everything helpful.
    Stay safe

  5. Kimberly says:

    What a great site this is! I’m new to ducks and ended up with 2 drakes that are now about 5 months ago. I’ve noticed lately they they’ll start to argue sometimes and try to pick at each others wings. Is that normal? Are they actually fighting? Otherwise they stay side by side with no problems.

    1. That is totally normal. They need to decide between them who is alpha. It doesn’t mean they don’t like each other, their hormones are just telling them it’s time to dominate.

      1. Kimberly says:

        Great news! Should I intervene when they start pecking or leave them alone?

        1. They are going to have to get the pecking out of the way at some point. I usually don’t intervene unless they are keeping them from food/water or if they are drawing blood

          1. Sandi Hepplewhite Snowden says:

            Hi my female duck has been raped so many by my drakes shes ok nothing to worry about but she is so knackered what can I feed her to help get her strength back she’s eating her food and drinking I make lettuce watermelon treats is there anything else I can give her kind regards sandi .

          2. Most feed stores sell “feather fixer” feed blends. They are used for molting or recovering from injuries like this. Feathers require lots of protein so feeding her high protein snacks like dried mealworms or crickets is a good idea. Yogurt and sunflower seeds are other good treats for feather growth. Poor girl, I hope she is feeling better soon!

  6. Rachel Ward says:

    Thanks for this, it’s come just at a time when I’ve discovered that four out of five of my magpie ducks could be male. At this time all is peaceful. Would I really have to get rid of any of the boys? couldn’t I just seperate the female from them? I love them all and really can’t face having to get rid of any of them.

    1. You definitely don’t have to get rid of your boys! All you can do at this point is wait and see how they interact with each other. Many drakes get along great with drakes, some are just jerks and constantly causing fights. I have three drakes right now and they all get along very nicely, we have 9 females and that seems to keep everyone fairly happy. If you don’t have the space or desire to add another dozen females to your group you are definitely going to need to keep the males & females separate. You will want to get at least one more female so your lone girl has someone to hang out with though. Keeping 4 males and 1 female all together once they are fully mature is going to be a recipe for injury and fighting.

      1. Rachel Wrad says:

        The situation has become worse since I last contacted you. This morning I let them out as usual and two of the older boys (I had 3 from first hatch and two from 2nd a month later, the girl is one of the younger two) started on the girl. As soon as they were out. Relentlessly. These have been removed to a neighbouring allotment. The remaining older boy, younger boy and girl are getting on peacefully. If I have to do another seeration I’ll have the room. Feeling heartbroken right now, but I know this was the best thing to do. I had no room to do anything else.

        1. I am sorry to hear that, I hope things get better from here!

          1. Rachel Ward says:

            Update – My allotment neighbour found the drakes being picked on by some of his mascovies, so I had to take them back! Sooo… they are now at the end of my fruit beds with a partition between them and the other three. Just as well this hapened really, they were quacking frantically for their brother, he was doing the same and the whole thing was too awful to listen to. All is now settled and I feel better! And this is the setting I’ll be sticking to.

          2. Hi Liz I have a question I have had 2 female ducks for a year now I just got a male duck and they are mean to him and one even chases after him will they eventually like each other and not be mean to him

          3. Mixing male and females always takes a bit longer for introductions. The girls are likely upset that this new guy is coming into their space and he is probably trying to act like he is in charge. Give them some time – the longest intro I ever had was nearly 6 weeks before they let the new duck in. Usually after a couple weeks everyone has calmed down and accepts their new friends. Keep at it, just be sure no one is hurting anyone else and that everyone has enough food & water

  7. Vanessa says:

    We can only have 2 ducks in the city we live in, and bought unsexed ducklings in April. We ended up with 2 drakes! They have been housed with the chickens we got at the same time, but it is abundantly clear they need their own space since the older they get the more aggressive they are with the poor sweet chickens. We are awfully attached to both of them, and cant give them away. So my poor long suffering husband is building a duck run within the chicken run to keep them separated. Hoping it means we can keep both chickens and ducks happy!

    1. Awww sweet 🙂 Young drakes can be difficult, once you have them in their own space they should hopefully settle down

      1. Mary says:

        I have a drake that has developed a respiratory problem. I assume it’s an upper respiratory disease. He has labored breathing and he wheezes when he’s breathing. I finally found a vet who was able to give me a prescription for Baytril. It was 5 pills. After the 3rd he seemed much better then today he started wheezing and the heavy breathing again. He was the alpha male but now he pays no attention to the girls at all. He isolates himself under a weeping willow tree he likes. He will occasionally get in the pond and float around a little then he goes to the other side to a landing he likes. I’m so frustrated with vets right now. My dog has started getting arthritis but I can’t get a prescription for Rimadyl/Carprofren. They only prescribe Deramaxx, which in about 4 times more expensive. I have him on Cosequin but would like something to help during this bad weather. I’m going to call the vet I found for the Baytril to see if he can prescribe another 5 pills. If not, I’m not sure what to do for him.

        1. Aww poor guy, he might just be taking it easy as he recovers. I hope your vet has some other ideas

    2. Mia Hughey says:

      I am in the exact same situation! I have 5 chickens (hens), and my 2 precious quackers
      have finally revealed themselves to be DRAKES! They live together, and one chicken lives with the ducks completely. I got the one chicken the same day I got the 2 ducks and they have been together since the day they were born. I’m so torn about what to do.

      1. It can be so hard to give up an animal that you are attached to. One option would be to simply keep the drakes separate from the chickens. If it hasn’t become a problem yet, it will soon (likely in the spring when their first mating season comes around). If their only option for females to mate with are chickens they will go for the chickens and could definitely kill them in the process.

  8. Rachel Ward says:

    Update – My allotment neighbour found the drakes being picked on by some of his mascovies, so I had to take them back! Sooo… they are now at the end of my fruit beds with a partition between them and the other three. Just as well this hapened really, they were quacking frantically for their brother, he was doing the same and the whole thing was too awful to listen to. All is now settled and I feel better! And this is the setting I’ll be sticking to.

  9. Lucy says:

    I hatched 2 female Welsh harlequin ducks two years ago and recently introduced a young drake bought from a neighbouring farm. Unfortunately one of the girls keeps quacking whenever he comes near her, even though he only seems to wants her company at the moment. My worry is that she’s getting very stressed and her feathers are also quite ruffled. The other female is wheezing a lot after quacking so much and she seems really lethargic. I’m wondering whether it was such a good idea to get a drake and whether the girls will ever accept him? Any advice would be much appreciated

    1. They will accept him eventually. When the girl is quacking at him does she seem aggressive? Is she chasing him off? If she is just quacking and bobbing her head she could just be “talking” to him. Having a boy in the flock just changes the dynamics, between the girls and the boy and even between the two girls. You might notice them quarreling a bit. It’s just an adjustment, but eventually they should all settle down

  10. Debbie says:

    I have a mixed bag of ducks: 4 pekins. one Silver Appleyard, 10 Khaki Campbells. In that, I have one pekin drake, the Silver Appleyard is a drake, and two Khaki Campbell drakes. I don’t have any serious issues between the Silver Appleyard and the pekin, but the Khakis are a different story: the males began sparring this spring to the point that injuries — especially to the eyes — were occurring to the consistent loser, I took him and one female and now have them segregated in a stall in the barn. Do you think that now that breeding season is over that they will be able to co-exist? If not, down the road after the testosterone levels begin to drop, will it be possible for me to put them back together?

    1. I have seen a huge difference in my drakes since early August as far as mating/fighting, and that seems to be when the hormones start to settle down. I would give it a try and put them together again. Keep in mind they might fight a bit normally the first week they are together as they reestablish the pecking order. But each passing year should get better with them, so hopefully they will be able to coexist peacefully

  11. I have new duck, initially 2 drakes and 1 female. Unfortunately we lost one of our drake (Bubs, our favorite) to a fox. The remaining couple is getting along fine but d/t mating Twinkles (the girl) has a callous bald spot. After reading your article we have decided to separate the two but allow them to be close so they don’t get lonely. Our hope is that he chills out but it is September and he is still a pain in the butt. We hope that as he gets older his making behavior will chill or he will find himself in a separate pen every spring and summer and Twinkles will get a female playmate. .

    1. Sometimes that is all you can do! Hopefully he will chill out with the cooler weather coming in

  12. Matt & Andrea says:

    Hi Liz, great post. We have two Indian runner drakes – Freddie and Bailey – they are the best! We’re in the Southern Hemisphere (Sydney, Aus) and they’re entering their first Spring/Summer (6 months old). We’ve noticed in the last week they’ve really gained independence and exploring a lot around the yard – they discovered the pool and tend to be there all day. Is there a time with drakes where you stop nurturing them with daily food and ‘forcing’ them to their coop and allow them to be independent during day and night? The obvious fear is predators (we have possums and neighbouring cats, not foxes). Also, can drakes be gay or are their hormones simply crazy without a female in sight? We’ve witnessed plenty of ‘action’ in the water of late. Thanks!

    1. No, you will want to force them into the coop where they can be locked up at night for their entire life. The only exemption is if you have a totally secure run attached (covered on all side, buried wire, and solid roof). If you have a secure run, you can allow them to be in there at night and go in and out of the coop as they like. Even as full grown adults they don’t really have the defenses to be able to escape or fight off predators so they need your help. Same with the food, my ducks free range all day but I still supplement by giving them feed everyday. While I definitely think there are gay animals out there, so I won’t rule that out for your ducks, it’s really hard to say unless you have females and they still just prefer each other. But far more likely is that what you are seeing between them is not actually mating, but a dominance display. It’s totally normal for drakes (and I have even seen my female ducks do it to each other) to mount each other as a sign of dominance as they work out who is in charge.

  13. David says:

    I have 11 ducks. 4 khaki ( 1 male) 7 pekin ( 2 are male). Im worried the 2 male pekin are to be to big for the khaki and i know i have one too many males.

    Should i house the 2 male pekin separately at night but allow them all togeter during the day or should i just keep the 2 large male separate indeffentaly? And if i do seperate permanently can they be in sight of the females

    1. Hi David, are you having issues with them injuring the khakis now? Pekins are bigger than khakis, but they should still be able to mate without issue. I would keep on eye on it and let them live together for now. It’s also a good thing they have more girls that are their size, they will probably naturally gravitate towards them anyway. If you could add a few more larger females that would be even better (Pekins or Silver Appleyards are great large birds)

  14. Donna Colby says:

    I have Pekin and khakis. They mate just fine. Just thought I would let you know.

  15. Ms. Alicia says:

    Hi! I am new to duck owning. I was gifted 4 baby ducks about 5 months ago. I have been reading a lot to learn about ducks because I love having them. But I just noticed the Drake feathers on 2 of them. Would I have to keep the 2 males and the 2 females separate? Right now they are in a 10×10 kennel with a kiddie pool and a coop although they don’t like using the coop. They get let out every morning about 730a and free roam the backyard until dusk when the get put back into the kennel for the night. I would hate to have to separate them because I love they can free roam. If I have to keep them separate they wouldn’t get all that space to roam anymore and would have to be locked up an the time 🥺

    1. You don’t have to separate them as long as everyone is staying healthy and unharmed. 2 females to 2 drakes is definitely not ideal, and unfortunately come spring time when they go into their first breeding season you will probably have to separate them just for the sake of the females. I would leave them together until you see issues though. If the females start to limp or have bloodied necks you’ll need to separate out the boys and let the ladies rest. Maybe you can alternate who gets to free range each day, or put up a wire fence divider in the yard. The only other options would be to add more females, or rehome one or both boys unfortunately.

  16. Kathy Arnold says:

    I have a drake that has attacked one of the females multiple times. He had a ‘time out’ for a week while the female healed but after another week of starting off pushy he has turned very aggressive again – not sure if her eye will survive. Will I ever be able to let her be with her other girls? Should I start acclimating her to the chicken hens?

    1. It is really hard to say, most drakes can live with females, but some are just naturally aggressive or have really high mating drives. It’s also hard to say why he is singling out this one female. Does he have plenty of other girls? You can try to acclimate her to the chicken hens but ducks really are more happy living with other ducks. But if he can’t learn to leave her alone, for her own safety chickens could be a good option for her. It sounds like you are doing everything right with separating him and allowing her time to heal, now it’s mostly up to him to behave himself

  17. We noticed today that one of our Rouen ducks(female) is missing a decent amount of feathers under her wings. I didn’t notice them until she was grooming and when we physically picked her up and looked closer.

    It’s bare skin with what looks like small feathers breaking through the skin trying to grow back.

    We have 7 females, 2 males

    It also looks like some of her feathers on her back are broken, which could be from mating since she had a small patch of hair missing on her neck. But, under her wings is very alarming! Is this mating or is she over-grooming?

    1. It could just be the tail end of molting or overgrooming. It’s unlikely any of the other ducks got her under her wings. Molting can be harder to see in ducks than it is in other birds (like chickens). Ducks molt their underfeathers, leaving their top feathers usually in place to keep them waterproof. They don’t get all ragged looking like other birds, you just usually find a lot of feathers around their area. The small feathers are called pin feathers and will eventually open up into feathers. Pin feathers can be really sensitive though so it’s best to handle her as little as possible until they grow in. Some extra protein (like mealworms) is helpful for regrowing feathers

  18. Hi Liz, we have three females and one drake, all about 4 mos old. Everything has been great, but this week the drake has become overly aggressive(not in a mating way) with the smallest female. He chases her away from food and water, bites her back. We are worried he may harm her or even kill her. Normal? Please help otherwise we may give him away…

    1. Unfortunately it is normal, he is just about fully mature and has all kinds of hormones flying around – mating, protecting, dominating are all perfectly normal. Definitely keep an eye on him, if he bites her to the point of drawing blood you will need to step in and separate them at least until she heals. You will also want to make sure that female is getting access somehow to food & water. He is most likely just trying to establish the pecking order in his flock. This lady unfortunately seems to be on the bottom, he is letting his preferred females get the food & water first. It should hopefully settle down in a week or so as long as she accepts her place at the the bottom of the flock and doesn’t try to challenge him.

  19. Leanne says:

    I am wanting to start a sanctuary for drake Indian runners.
    Do you foresee any issues with just having drakes?

    1. Drakes do tend to fight more when females are around, so without females it shouldn’t be too bad. Once they establish a pecking order they should be able to live nicely together

  20. Kerry says:

    This is all such great information! We are researching this because we have three ducks. We have two Pekin ducks and one Mallard. The Mallard is a female the Pekin is a female and the other Pekin is a male. The male Pekin is very aggressive and mates quite often with our mallard duck. She’s beginning to miss a lot of feathers and even missing some feathers and getting some sores around one of her eyes it looks like. We separated them for a while but our female Pekin duck was really missing the male Pekin duck. So we let him back in the pen. He then quickly began trying to mate with mallard duck again.We do have a pool in their pen and when they mate in the pool he even hold her down under the water. We were separating them because we were worried for her safety. The poor mallard duck just seems really stressed all the time. She also has a sore leg right now. So we made the decision to keep the two Pekin ducks, one male one female, together in a pen and remove the Mallard to have some isolation to be able to stay calm and heal. Not sure if this is the right choice after reading this… Should we have left the two females together and separated the male Pekin? He does not seem to mate or be aggressive with the female pekin. He’s only aggressive to the Mallard and she is much smaller than him. The Mallard has been laying quite a bit of eggs and we don’t think that our female pecan has ever laid an egg.Any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated thank you.

    1. It sounds like the female Pekin is his “main lady”, they tend to treat them a little bit better and then the other ladies he might get more aggressive with. I’m sure he is also mating the Pekin, you just aren’t seeing it. The size difference also isn’t helping. Every flock is different, but I usually err on the side of keeping the females together and separating out the male mostly so the female that is alone with the male doesn’t get overmated. But if your Pekins are doing ok together it might be alright. Are they all pretty young? Pekins are big ducks and can take longer to come to maturity so it could just be the female Pekin hasn’t started laying yet. I hope your male calms down as summer starts but you might want to consider adding a few more females if he doesn’t.

  21. Dawn says:

    We got Cayugas hoping that this drake mating issue would be less than the other breeds I have had. We have 1 drake and 2 ducks that are Cayuga (hatched in September 2020) and two Pekin ducks (hatched in March 2020) with joint and leg issues. His mating habits started a few weeks ago and he is a nice drake but has picked the smallest Cayuga as his favorite and doesn’t seem to bother anyone else even though they are literally lining up. We separated him today and after a few hours of food and hang out time he is in a crate in the coop tonight. I appreciate that this will slow down but what can we do to be sure he is not putting too great a strain on them? Only one is laying after a leg injury in the snow of one Pekin and the Cayuga ducks haven’t even started laying eggs yet.

    1. Hi Dawn, unfortunately there is not much you can do to stop nature. It sounds like he has enough ladies, which is helpful. They do usually pick a favorite, sounds like it is the smallest Cayuga in your case. Cayugas are smaller than Pekins so he might feel a little intimidated by the bigger girls, but as he gets more “practice” I’m sure he will spread the love a bit more. You are doing the exact right thing right now, all you can do is give him time outs away from the girls so that they can heal. Good luck!

  22. Laura Angulo scukas says:

    Thank you for all this useful information. We keep having a problem with our female ducks which are about a year old, they lay eggs and we have at the moment 2 drakes which I know is not the recommended. The thing is every so often they can’t walk like get weak and drop, and then next day or just after is back to normal so I don’t know if it is just lack of something? A disease or because of the two drakes… I have a video that I can show to you and maybe you can help me… I am on IG as Cascade Farms SC and I posted it but really haven’t had an answer to this problem. The breed is Rouen

    1. I watched your video on IG, it’s hard to say without a professional examination, but it certainly looks like a niacin deficiency. I think I saw in the comments that you have been giving them niacin since you got them, which is awesome. But if they didn’t get proper nutrition during the first 5 months of their life it can do permanent damage. If you have ruled out injury and bumblefoot, a dietary issue would be my next guess.

  23. Chris says:

    Hi there. Thanks so much for all the info! So helpful!
    We have a happy pod of 2 females and a drake. We got 4 female ducklings in March to add to the small flock. We have had them in a separate enclosure and the drake was very interested in them. All seemed well when the gate was closed. As soon as we opened the gate however the drake ran for them and tried to mount and pin the young ones. They were terrified and tried to run away and it was an extremely stressful attempt at integration. Should we keep them separate and wait until they are older? Or should we let the drake mate with the young birds? It seems like the likelihood of them getting injured is much higher since they are smaller.

    1. Drakes always seem to make integration difficult! You are right to be worried, he could definitely injure or even kill one of the little ones attempting to mate with them. They shouldn’t be allowed to be mated until 16 weeks, so if he can’t control himself, they will have to be kept separate. Good luck!

  24. Brooke Jenkins says:

    Hi! I feel a bit stuck and looking for advice. I have 3 drakes. No females. My neighbors have free range ducks (males & females) that visit our fence line on occassion. I know its mating season. My drakes have had to be seperated from each other due to fighting. We will be creating a 3 run area this weekend so they all have access to locked shelter at night, outside area with pools, and dog houses. Each will have the same. They seem miserable and want to still be close to each other. I don’t want them to suffer….. When would be a good time to introduce them back together? Any other advice for all drakes? This is their first season for mating so I’m willing to tough it out if they will be ok in the long run. Thank you for your article! I don’t feel so alone.

    1. Awww poor boys. Can they see your neighbor’s ducks? If they can it would be great if you could somehow block their view. They will still be able to hear the females, but it might help if they can’t see them. They are social animals, and they do want to be together despite the way they are acting right now. If you could somehow make it so they can all sort of hang out on opposite sides of the fence from each other once you get the runs up that would be best. Is the fighting constant? Some fighting is to be expected now as they become full grown, they need to establish the pecking order. So don’t be discouraged if you keep them separate for awhile and then there is fighting once you reintroduce them. I would try to let them be together anytime you can be around to keep an eye on things. Give them 5-10 minutes fighting and if they don’t break it up on their own you might need to step in. The longer you keep them apart, the more fighting there is going to be once you reintroduce them unfortunately. Good luck – it won’t be like this forever!!

  25. Brooke Jenkins says:

    Thanks for the response! Yes, at times they can see the neighbors ducks from a distance. We have a privacy fence going up in the beginning of June.I will try to figure out how all three can meet together but be separate. Obviously straight runs won’t allow for that but I may be able to figure out another configuration. The fighting is constant and instant as soon as they are together. The youngest drake runs and the other 2 chase him while fighting each other. I’ve tried to let it go but they don’t take a break. I will try again though once we rearrange their home. Maybe that will make them come together. Sigh. Thanks again!

  26. Mallory says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It has helped alot, I certainly get very upset when seeing the males go at the females especially when they gang up on one. We rescued 3 Drake’s from a farm and we’re about 4 months when we got them, We than bought 4 females, which now after reading is most likely not the ideal numbers. The males and females are in separate coops however the run is all together so there rally is no splitting them up during the day. The females have started to not come out of there coop at all, the one has become very serious about laying on her eggs so my guess is she is just trying to hatch her eggs, however I’m worried there not getting enough physical activity with just sitting in the coop all day. I’m not sure if there not coming out because of the males or if they are protecting the one female who is trying to hatch her eggs. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you!

    1. I have definitely seen in my ducks where one goes broody and the other hang around to “help”, especially in a small flock they are going to be more likely to stick together. Are you letting her hatch the eggs out? If you are, there is not much harm in letting all the ladies keep her company for the month while she hatches. When the babies hatch, you might need to figure out how to section off the males. Some males are fine with ducklings around, others see them as intruders and will try to kill them.

  27. Hi. This is a great article!
    I am adopting some young drakes soon. I would like them as outdoor pets and because I know drakes are more difficult to re-home and my partner and I don’t care for eggs, we are thinking of taking on 2 boys who have been reared together. We don’t have other fowl and aren’t in an area with ducks so wondering if you think it’s likely they will live harmoniously together in adulthood once they have plenty of space? Would drakes get very frustrated and upset with no females around or will they be fine if they don’t know what they’re missing?! I expect a certain amount of fighting as they establish dominance and just general cohabiting tiffs but are they likely to be generally good friends in the long term?

    1. They should live very happily! The presence of females in the flock tends to drive a lot of the fighting/showing off, so without them, your boys should mostly live harmoniously. Now they are males, and especially for the first couple of years while they are young, they will likely fight occasionally for dominance. That is totally normal. But for the most part they should be good. Thank you for taking these boys in – it can be really hard to find good homes for drakes!

  28. Ed Oberempt says:

    i have a mixed flock of muscovies I have no idea witch are male or female they are now about3-4 months old one has started plucking out its siblings feathers to the point of bleeding we have seperated the offender 2 times now when replaced inyo the flock “he goes right back at it and we have missing feathers and blood all over again i believe they aren’t old enough to be fighting for females are they?

    1. Some birds mature faster than others, but most ducks will start to exhibit mating and dominance behaviors at 4-5 months. Some squabbles are normal as they all work out their place in the flock, but you are right to step in if birds are bleeding, missing patches of feathers, or are being kept from food/water. Unfortunately you seem to have a very overzealous boy who really wants to be leader by any means. Keep him separated for a week or two and let the rest of the flock bond with each other, hopefully once you rerelease him it will be him against a group and he will not be so aggressive.

  29. Tai says:

    Hello! I’ve written about my duck situation before. I’m so grateful for your insight. I currently have two five year old ducks, Sunshine and Shadow AND a 12 week old black Sweedish drake ( who was supposed to be female) and three silkies. The chicks and the duck were on the brooder together and they are a little quartet.

    Everyone is outside and together now and I have two seperate enclosed runs. The old ducks on one side and the new quartet on the other side.

    The new ducks have not accepted the drake. They’ve been together outside free ranging during the day for two weeks and will still chase him off, although less than before.

    I need to get him out of the chicken area soon. In very concerned about the damage a drake can do to chickens once the hormones kick in.

    So questions.

    1) how long do I have to separate him before his maleness kicks in ( he’s 12 weeks)

    2) where do I put him if the female ducks aren’t nice to him

    3) the chickens are bonded to him, so is it going to be a problem for them to be around him during the day?

    I’m trying to rehome him because honestly I think he’d be better in a home without all these complications but it is hard to re-home drakes as you know. I really like him, he’s very sweet, no aggression. I’m just honestly afraid of the hormones to kick in and then have a disaster on my hands. Also, I get attached to these creatures and want them to be happy.

    Thanks on advance for any advice.

    1. Transitions and additions can always be tricky. The female ducks definitely know he is a boy and are letting him know they aren’t interested. I’ve had it take up to a month for animals to accept someone new. It’s all about the personality of the individual bird, some let newcomers in easily, some don’t. I would suggest you keep on trying to get him in with the ducks. They have lived side by side for enough time that it’s time to let them just work it out. Keep letting them free range together, but it’s probably time to put him in the run too. Provide him a place he can hide (something like a bin pushed against the wall where he could fit but the bigger ducks can’t). As long as no one is bleeding and no one is being kept from the food & water, they will work out the pecking order. Males will typically start practice mating by around 5-6 months but he won’t get “really bad” until his first mating season (spring).

  30. My duck jalapeño has been paired with his female for about a year now they have had zero problems in the past they’ve always mated and just gone on with their duck lives but yesterday I found my female completely soaked and floating slightly below water level with her head still out of the water and she was shaking when I took her out of the pond and the top of her head was completely bald and almost unnoticeably bleeding her eyes could barely stay open and she could barely stand she is doing much better now and she’s being kept in a bathroom shower alone with food and water (sleeping all flamingo like at the moment) what would be your best guess as to what happened while I wasn’t looking?

    1. Yikes that is horrible!! It certainly sounds like a mating injury with the floating on the water, back of the head injury, and the eye injury (the drake can sometimes grab the girl more by the face/eye area causing eye injuries). So my guess is either for some reason your drake just got extra aggressive or is it possible wild ducks visited your farm? Wild ducks tend to stay away from domestic ducks because the domestic ducks are quite a bit larger, but it’s always a possibility if your ducks free range. I hope she makes a speedy recovery!

  31. Ruby Addison says:

    I have one male duck with three females, however the male and two older females seem to have kicked the younger female out of the group. She hides up on a log and won’t come down. If she does the male chases her back up. It’s happened very suddenly, so I was wondering if you had any advice on what I can do to help?

    1. That is so sad! It’s hard to say why things like this happen within duck flocks (but I hear about it often!). I would suggest you try re-bonding the females. Take your nicest female and separate her with the isolated duck for a couple weeks, then reintroduce the two groups. It’s easy for a group to single out one bird, but often when that bird has a friend they will accept them back in. If possible, make it so the two duck groups can still see each other during the separation. I would use a length of chicken wire to divide their area. good luck!

      1. Ruby Addison says:

        Thank you so much! 🙂

  32. Vicki Sapach says:

    Hi :). I recently rehomed my 3 drakes as they were related to my ducks and competing and harming them. I want to breed so I went and picked up (3 hour trip) a beautiful unrelated drake. Much to my dismay I have not seen him trying to mate with my girls. It’s been a couple weeks now. My girls have also slowed down dramatically on their laying. Is he a dud? Not sure if this is relevant but he was penned with only other drakes. Any suggestions or comments?

    1. They could just be getting used to each other. It can take a month or more depending on the duck’s personalities. If the females are scared or nervous around him they won’t make it easy for him and could even be chasing him off. It is also quite common that the girls would slow down on laying if they are under stress. I would give him some more time before giving up on him! Especially with spring mating season on it’s way

  33. Dallas says:

    I need some help. We have a 1.5 acre pond and had 1 male and 3 female Pekin ducks. 2 of the Females sat a clutch of eggs and were then both killed by a predator leaving the drake and a single female. I was able to rescue 2 of the hatchlings from the nest and now they are about 9 weeks and doing so well. But one of the babies is obviously a boy and when we attempted to introduce the ducklings to the older drake and hen, the drake was completely aggressive without letup to the boy duckling. We have tried to give them some space and time to work it out but it has not gotten any better. I have been trying to research what to do but have not got the specific advice I’m looking for. I need to know if its likely that the older drake will accept the presence of another drake if we were to get more females so that there was a proper ratio – I’ve read around 4 hens per drake. I also am wanting to see if our 1.5 acre pond would support that many pekin ducks ok. Its on 20 acre property. So if we get more females would they become one flock or if we divided them up would the older drake accept another flock and would the size of the property and pond support them all? Any advice would be helpful. I’m terribly attached to the ducklings we rescued.

    1. It is really sad and frustrating when your older ducks won’t accept the newcomers. It’s hard to say for certain if he will eventually accept the baby because just like humans every duck has their own personality. But in my experience I have found that eventually most do come around. We have three drakes right now and when we make an addition to the flock the eldest head drake is always a pain about letting the newcomer in (for both new males and new females). While it might only take the other drakes a week or so to adjust to the new face, the head drake has taken a month or sometimes even longer to accept the newcomer into the flock and not chase him off. At 9 weeks your ducklings are at least nearing full size. I would suggest you keep them separated by a wire fencing but in the same area so they can see each other but not get to each other. Let them live like that for a few weeks until the drake seems calm. Then begin letting them out together. There is going to be some fighting, with some ducks there just isn’t avoiding that. As long as everyone is getting access to the food & water and no one is bleeding sometimes you have to just let them work it out. Getting more females will certainly help the situation, but honestly if he is having issues with the ducklings he is likely to have issues with new females too at first. Good luck!

  34. We are first time duck owners. Our two bantam chickens hatched and raised our Welsh Harlequin ducklings. We have 3 drakes and 3 ducks with no interest in letting them mate so we’ve separated the drakes from the ducks and hens. They are almost 5 months old now. They can still see each other through part of the pen and seem happy to be near each other but Just the last few days the drakes have started fighting non stop. We’ve been trying to let them work it out but end up having to separate one from the other two because it gets pretty intense. Will the boys eventually leave peacefully separated even if the females are in sight? Or is that torture to them? I’ve tried to rehome them with no luck as most people want them for dinner. We love them and their funny personalities but also want a peaceful household. Appreciate any advice! Thank you!

    1. They are maturing and it’s normal that they have some squabbles as they figure out who is in charge. Being able to see the females is likely making it worse though as they will try to show off for them. For the time being I would put a tarp on the wire separating them so they can’t see each other. You will probably also want to do that during the spring, a drake’s first mating season is often when they are the worst behaved. Thank you for loving these little guys and trying to work with them!

  35. I have a drake living in my backyard he has trouble flying. Can only get 4-6 inches off the ground. Other mallards visit I am and pm to eat and swim. He was always picked on by his brood. He was always on the outskirts of the brood. He has shelter, pond and a variety of foods. He knows is name but am I making is life difficult by keeping him. He lives in open space free to leave if chooses to leave. Anything more I should do for him?

    1. awww poor buddy. Are you sure he is a Mallard? There are a few domestic breeds whose males look very similar to Mallard, but they are much bigger in size (like Welsh Harliquins or Roeuns). They are bred to be too big to be able to fly. I wonder if he is a dumped pet. Other than that, it could be this guy has some sort of deformity in his wing, which is going to make life very difficult for him indeed. Wild prey animals tend to shun others with an abnormality. They know he could attract predators and the females will be less likely to choose him as a mate. Unfortunately survival of the fittest seems to be at play here for this drake. He won’t be able to migrate with the other birds even if they did accept him. On his own without the ability to fly he will find surviving the winter challenging when there is less leafy cover and not being able to fly away. Hopefully it is just a temporary injury because letting him live with a flock is the best and most natural life. But if he has some sort of permeant injury and is unable to fly, his best chances for survival is by sticking close to you. If you were able to provide him some sort of shelter – a dog house or small shed would be fine – I am sure he would really appreciate that!

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