Do Ducks Need a Mate?

Do Ducks Need a Mate?

Does a male duck need a female companion?

Does a female duck need a male companion?

The answer is no: ducks do not need a companion of the opposite sex to be happy.

When buying (or rescuing!) your first ducks, one of your first questions may be what ratio of males and females you should have. Here are a few guidelines:

1. Ducks must have at least one companion.

Ducks are social creatures and need company. It is technically possible to keep a lone duck, but it will not be happy. Even if you are somehow able to spend all your time with it and it never has to be alone, a human is still a far cry from a real duck friend.

Don’t get just one duck!

2. Ducks can usually be kept in pairs, but not always.

mandarin duck pair swimming
His colors may steal the show, but together these Mandarins still make a beautiful couple.

One male and one female duck may seem ideal for someone who just wants a couple pets. While this often works fine, be aware that ducks are not monogamous, and if you have one drake with one duck, it’s possible the duck will be overmated. If you have two ducks and the female is showing signs of wear (feathers missing on the back of her neck is the first sign), it would be best to add another female or two to your flock. It is possible for overzealous drakes to kill ducks.

3. If you have one drake, at least 2-3 females is ideal.

Rather than buying a pair, it’s best to play it safe and get at least two or three females for one drake.

4. If you have more than one drake, you need at least 4-5 females per drake.

Multiple males will fight with each other and can be hard on females. The more females you have, the better, but four per drake is usually the minimum. If you want two drakes, you probably need at least eight hens.

5. Never have more drakes than ducks.

That. Just that.

Equal numbers of drakes and ducks also won’t work—don’t keep multiple “pairs.”

6. All-female flocks are fine.

There won’t be any problem with having a flock of only females. A word of warning, though: you might see them mount each other. This is normal and can either be a dominance display or just due to hormones.

7. All-male flocks often work, but not always.

Drakes can get along with other drakes. With no females to fight over, there will be less fighting.

However, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, depending on the temperaments of the individual drakes. Sometimes they’ll still fight too much. And they will still have hormones and will likely still try to mate, especially the more dominant drakes. This can be rough on less dominant drakes. Drakes may need separated from each other at times, especially during spring.

Some people who keep “bachelor flocks” split the group in two or more so they can juggle individuals around when necessary to keep the peace.

Keeping an all-male flock can be a great option, but you’ll need to monitor them to be sure they aren’t harassing each other too much or causing injuries.

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6 Comments

  1. I have a pair of muscovies (one male and one female). Since mating season started > 1 month ago, the drake has picked me as its ultimate enemy, following and chasing me around the yard, hissing and snarling, every time I go out there. I’ve tried some tips — sitting on him, pushing his head down, petting him to calm down. Nothing has worked and I’m just wondering if this will ever end. Do you have any reassurance that he will go back to old timid self one day?

    Lucy
  2. Hi Hannah, thank you for providing such useful information on this site. I have been trying to find information on raising all male flocks and cannot find anything, anywhere, until now. I started rescuing abandoned domestic ducks about a year ago and I now have 11 of mixed breeds (pekins, muskovies, Swedish, magpie, and a runner). My biggest concern is aggression against a few of them. It looks like mating behavior and has happened in the water also which looks like a drowning. Three of them have significant superficial wounds on the head and neck (no blood). I have a large pond and they are able to spread out. They also go into a coop at night and I started separating the 2 muskovies from the others because they are so big. Is there anything I should do differently to keep all safe? After reading other comments on here, getting females won’t be an option. Thanks so much !

    Andrea
    1. Hi Andrea,

      I have read about keeping all-male “bachelor flocks” and know people with them, but I’ve never actually tried it myself. From what I’ve heard, it generally works out, but that doesn’t mean it ALWAYS works out.

      Size differences, for one, can cause trouble. Also, whether it works or not depends on the individual ducks, because their temperaments vary.

      Yes, they will start mating each other. (The same may happen in an all-female flock.) Pecking order fights are also normal, although they shouldn’t be as frequent or severe as they can be when there are females to fight over. Still, individuals who have a tendency to be bullies or overly aggressive can still cause problems, and that might be what you’re seeing.

      You’re right, getting females is not an option unless you get about fifty. LOL. I actually really like seeing people who have all-male flocks. There are so many unwanted drakes who need homes, so the more people who are willing to keep them, the better.

      Anyway, I think it would be best to separate the ones with wounds until they’ve recovered. Keeping the Muscovies separate might also be a good idea. It’s breeding season now, so things may be worse than normal.

      In the long term, you might be able to have them all together again after breeding season, but if not, it might work to keep the 11 ducks permanently split into two groups, and then you can juggle them back and forth until you find a combination that works. If anybody’s getting beat up in one group, you can either move him or move the attacker to the other group.

      I hope you’ll be able to find something that works!

      Hannah

  3. I really appreciate your timely reply. I certainly did not consider the size differences and just lost my smallest boy yesterday after a Muscovy “tackled” him. They are separated now and I will try to continue to rescue similar sized drakes in the future. Hopefully, I can rehome my two big boys. Thank you for your help and this site.

    Andrea
    1. Hi Andrea,

      Sorry to hear that! Rehoming the Muscovies would be a good idea, if you can. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone do a bachelor flock with Muscovies, so I don’t know if they take well to that setup anyway. They’re very different from Mallard-derived ducks in many ways. I have had five Muscovy drakes living in the same area before, but I also had plenty of females with them. Unfortunately, adult Muscovy drakes are by far the hardest type of duck to rehome. Even many rescues and sanctuaries won’t admit them.

      Yes, sticking to similar-sized drakes, or even better, only drakes of the same breed, would definitely be the best way to go. 🙂

      Hannah