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Life is hard for abandoned female ducks

Female pekin with signs of over-breeding
Female pekin with signs of over-breeding
Darlene Luckins

Life is hard for female ducks, but especially hard for female domestic ducks that can’t fly. It can be even harder for them when they get abandoned in a public park or lake among a dozen other large male ducks. Every year, usually within the first six months after Easter, domestic ducks and ducklings are abandoned in parks, including some San Diego parks. Most of these ducks are male, but a few females are abandoned as well.

Mallard ducks, including domestic breeds that derive from mallards such as the Pekin, do not usually pair up during breeding season. Though females seem to have a preference and males sometimes will shadow and defend a single female, must ducks mate in a “free-for-all” where the female and male will have take on multiple partners. Domestic ducks kept on a farm are usually kept in a ratio of one male to three females. This lessens over-breeding and keeps all the ducks healthier. Wild females usually have the option of flying away if there are no issues preventing it, but domestic ducks don’t have that option.

Most abandoned domestic female ducks don’t survive the breeding season. If they do, they frequently don’t survive the next one. Those that survive are often beaten and bruised and often brought close to death. When the females die, the males are frequently left behind. This contributes to the problem of and excess number of large domestic males who can kill wild female ducks. Or, they create large, non-flying offspring that further compounds the problem.

It is illegal to abandon domestic animals, including ducks and other poultry. In addition to the hazards that female ducks face, all the abandoned domestic ducks suffer from poor nutrition and no care. They rarely live more than a few years and are often in bad health. Unwanted domestic ducks should only be placed in the care of another human being such as an animal shelter or another home.