How to pick up a duck

How to pick up a duck

As many of you already know, we are growing ducklings and already have some fully grown ducks. While it’s preferable to just leave the ducks alone and let them walk to where they need to go – sometimes it’s just not possible. Which means that sometimes I need to pick up a duck.

But how does one pick up a duck?

How to pick up a duck 3

While I’ve had ducks for a while and never had any issues, I started to panic one day and second guess whether I was handling the birds correctly. Particularly with my new crop of ducklings who seem to try and jump out of my hands all the time. So I decided to again delve into the husbandry of ducks and found my fears alleviated – thank goodness!

There are many different methods that are advocated by backyard duck enthusiasts, however I have tried to follow the instructions of Dave Holderread – who wrote the definitive guide to backyard duck keeping Raising the Home Duck Flock. He’s also had ducks for decades and is widely considered an expert. Considering the number of ducks he’s handled, I’m pretty confident that his (and therefore my) method is the best.

To quote Dave Holderread explicitly “When catching, do not grab or carry them (ducks) by their legs. The legs and feet of ducks are easily hurt“. Everything that I have read, and my own personal experience with fully grown ducks and growing ducklings has suggested that at the very least the legs and necks of the ducks should not be touched.

So where does that leave us? Well, obviously the body needs to be cradled or used to pick up a duck.

Here is a direct quote from the Metzer Farms website. Metzer Farms are one of the most popular and well respected duck farms in the USA.

1) Grab the wings together behind their back with one hand and then support them on their abdomen with the other or

2) Put one hand on each side of the bird, holding the wings in place, and pick them up. Do not pick them up using their necks or legs as either will probably be injured.

How to pick up a duck technique

I would say that the first option is my preference when they are ducklings. It’s a relatively easy method to pick up a duck when they are younger. However when they get older, it’s much more difficult.

I would say though, that the description provided by Metzer Farms seems to imply holding on to the wings of the duck. I never do this. I grab on to the body, and with my other hand underneath cradling the bird, it’s easy to pick up and hold when the birds are young. The second technique is easier and more practicable when the ducks are older – and so I guess in the end I use both recommended techniques.

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Picking up a ducklings using the first technique. It’s much easier when they’re small!

Of course it comes down to preferences and abilities. The size of your hands, and ability to lift heavy weights easily may change the manner in which you pick up a duck. It also might depend on whether your ducks are aggressive or can injure you. Fortunately my ducks are only flighty when not caught and are relatively relaxed within my grasp.

How to pick up a duck
Using the second technique. I usually use this one for the larger birds because it’s easier. Getting my hands underneath fully grown ducks with big claws is not a good idea!

In my experience, ducklings aren’t usually that keen to get picked up unless they’re kept in smaller numbers and have imprinted on you. Comments from other duck enthusiasts suggest the same. There are differing experiences between breeds though, apparently.

How to pick up a duck
Side view of me picking up a duckling using the second technique.

So it turns out that I am not harming the little ducklings – they are just bundles of energy looking to get back with their friends. What a relief!

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