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ducks lying down and geese nipping at them--WHY???

 
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A while back, we got some geese to protect our ducks and add some intelligence to the flock. In the last few days, I've noticed something really odd.

At first, the geese were just pecking at one duck (Wacky Teapot is what my daughter named it, and it turned out to be an appropriate name!). This duck is kind of spastic and likes to go around bobbing like it's found delicious food, even when there is none. The rest of the ducks don't care, but this drives our geese nuts, and they honk and nip at it until it stops.

That made sense to me, as I found that duck pretty annoying too. But, now, the geese are going at ducks who lay down. The ducks never used to do this, either.

What happens is, one duck will lie down on the ground flat, with it's neck all stretched out, and both geese will come over and honk and nip all over the duck. The duck quacks like it doesn't like this, and I always intervene. Why is this happening? Has anyone else seen this happen?

I'll try and get a picture/video tomorrow.
 
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are the geese worried about the duck and want to make sure it's not dead or in trouble?
 
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I'm no help as our geese attempted to murder one of our fowl for no reason I could see at all. We got rid of the geese.
 
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Our geese sometimes bug our ducks as a "dominance" thing. I'd certainly keep an eye out.

That said, ducks lying down with their necks stretched out sounds really weird for ducks. Even a photo of the duck position that's triggering the geese might be useful.
 
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r ranson wrote:are the geese worried about the duck and want to make sure it's not dead or in trouble?



Yah - I second this question.

One of my ducks was lying down and getting ganged up on. I picked her up, and she had limber neck. I brought her in and fed her water with a syringe <-- good times that. Most of the water dribbled from her mouth, but once in a while she swallowed. I let her sleep in the bathroom and waited to see if she made it through the night. She did.

She was having spasms or possibly seizures where her mouth would rapidly open and close and her head would swing from side to side. She also had lost her balance and sometimes was on her back pedaling her legs. I kept her separated from the flock for a couple of days, and when I reintroduced her, she started running around in a circle.

Two weeks later, she's back to normal and no one is bothering her.

Maybe the geese see her lying in an odd position and are prodding her to try to elicit a reaction.

Have you checked her out?
 
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Jay Angler wrote:Our geese sometimes bug our ducks as a "dominance" thing. I'd certainly keep an eye out.

That said, ducks lying down with their necks stretched out sounds really weird for ducks. Even a photo of the duck position that's triggering the geese might be useful.



Ducks lay down with their neck stretched out when about to be mated willingly. They also bob their heads and follow a drake or dominant duck around asking to be mated.

Our geese hate it when they see the drakes mating ladies especially if the ladies are less than willing participants. They will throw a fit yelling and getting in the drakes face.
 
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Noel Young wrote:Ducks lay down with their neck stretched out when about to be mated willingly. They also bob their heads and follow a drake or dominant duck around asking to be mated.

Our geese hate it when they see the drakes mating ladies especially if the ladies are less than willing participants. They will throw a fit yelling and getting in the drakes face.



Indeed. My ducks do this as well, but I've only seen it done in water and didn't make the connection.

Will they strike this pose when no drakes are around?
 
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It is the mating pose, and it is done by the youngest duck ladies (they were hatched this summer). They come out of their coop in the morning, and everyone does their flap-their-wings-merrily thing. Then, the duck (away from the drakes with all the other ducks busy, and the geese kind of nearby) just seems to lie down with it's neck stretched out, and the geese come over and start nipping. It's both the boy and girl geese.

It's very odd. It's usually "Ack" our rescue duck (more about Ack here). I'm honestly wondering if there's something more wrong with Ack than just her missing bill. One of the other ducks we got from Ack's previous owner also does the lay-down-with-neck-stretched out thing. All five of the ducks we got from the same place, all have slightly weird skull shapes. The owner said they were peking/runner/cayuga crosses, and all five of the ducklings look distinct, so I wouldn't think there's genetic deformities due to inbreeding, but maybe?

I tried to get a video of them, but they didn't do it again. It seems to happen in the morning. Tomorrow morning, I'll take my camera out.

Here's a picture of Ack with her weird shape--all four of her siblings have the same problem, even if only she and Qua have the messed up beaks. None of my other ducks have been lying down, and none of them have the weird shape of the head. I'll try and take a better picture of the other ducks.
Ack-duck-head-shape-is-not-smooth.jpg
Ack's weird head shape
Ack's weird head shape
ack-weird-head-shape-mising-bill.jpg
duck missing part of bill, weird head shape
Ack-s-other-siblings.jpg
[Thumbnail for Ack-s-other-siblings.jpg]
Ack's siblings from before I got them. I'll try to get a better picture tomorrow.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:It is the mating pose, and it is done by the youngest duck ladies (they were hatched this summer). They come out of their coop in the morning, and everyone does their flap-their-wings-merrily thing. Then, the duck (away from the drakes with all the other ducks busy, and the geese kind of nearby) just seems to lie down with it's neck stretched out, and the geese come over and start nipping. It's both the boy and girl geese.

It's very odd. It's usually "Ack" our rescue duck (more about Ack here). I'm honestly wondering if there's something more wrong with Ack than just her missing bill. One of the other ducks we got from Ack's previous owner also does the lay-down-with-neck-stretched out thing. All five of the ducks we got from the same place, all have slightly weird skull shapes. The owner said they were peking/runner/cayuga crosses, and all five of the ducklings look distinct, so I wouldn't think there's genetic deformities due to inbreeding, but maybe?

I tried to get a video of them, but they didn't do it again. It seems to happen in the morning. Tomorrow morning, I'll take my camera out.

Here's a picture of Ack with her weird shape--all four of her siblings have the same problem, even if only she and Qua have the messed up beaks. None of my other ducks have been lying down, and none of them have the weird shape of the head. I'll try and take a better picture of the other ducks.



Sometimes with crossbreeds of animals, even though they are able to produce viable offspring the genes may not be totally compatible. I'm not sure since they're all ducks and most domesticated  ducks are descendants of mallards. So it's possible to get deformities from the opposite of inbreeding too.
In my experience fowl will assume mating position when an animal they socialize with intimidates them... like how my chickens would always squat when I approached. Even though I'm not a rooster. I think it's common for them to do this as a submissive display to (hopefully) avoid being the target of aggression.
It is also normal for fowl to kill members of their flock that are sick, injured or deformed. Because of this the geese, which are stronger and more aggressive, may be a danger to the ducks, especially any that stand out as being weaker than the others.

EDIT: So I looked up the different duck breeds and the runners are from a relatively isolated population compared to other ducks (some islands including Bali) and they're shaped pretty differently than other ducks. They stand upright and their heads are shaped differently so I'm guessing that breeding these ducks with other varieties could result in some deformities. I'm totally just guessing.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
It's very odd. It's usually "Ack" our rescue duck (more about Ack here). I'm honestly wondering if there's something more wrong with Ack than just her missing bill. One of the other ducks we got from Ack's previous owner also does the lay-down-with-neck-stretched out thing. All five of the ducks we got from the same place, all have slightly weird skull shapes. The owner said they were peking/runner/cayuga crosses, and all five of the ducklings look distinct, so I wouldn't think there's genetic deformities due to inbreeding, but maybe?

I tried to get a video of them, but they didn't do it again. It seems to happen in the morning. Tomorrow morning, I'll take my camera out.

Here's a picture of Ack with her weird shape--all four of her siblings have the same problem, even if only she and Qua have the messed up beaks. None of my other ducks have been lying down, and none of them have the weird shape of the head. I'll try and take a better picture of the other ducks.



I have a duckling that hatched this spring who has had wry neck/stargazing and her head is shaped in the same way (I think it's actually muscular/postural). She would walk around with her beak tipped up then eventually lose control of her neck and her head would swing back and forth behind her over her body looking very much like a seizure or neurological problem. In my sleuthing I came up with a few possibilities as to why... vitamin E/selenium deficiency, mycotoxin exposure, head injury or some combination thereof. None of the other ducks present this way. I might have caught it sooner if I'd had any previous experience with it.

We supplemented her with vit E caps for a month and I gave her daily neck stretches (out of extension into flexion) and massages before putting her up for the night. I started adding sunflower seeds or bird seed mix to their rations as an extra because they're high in vit E and selenium. She also presents nowadays with ragged feathers and she lost her tail in one of her fits somehow. Hard to care for your appearance and hygiene when you're just trying to keep your head on straight. So we call her Tail-less (like Toothless in the movie How to Train Your Dragon). I'm hoping she feathers back out well at next molt. There's not much I can do except make sure she takes regular baths to keep her feathers conditioned. Obviously she's not a breeder. She's pretty scrawny but has been eating hardily lately and seems to be doing better in the last 2 months so I decided to give her a free pass for now. (sidenote: Anorexia can be a symptom of vit E deficiency). I attached a picture I took of her this morning.

If your ducks are rescues my bet is on nutritional deficiencies as they were growing as a factor.
20191113_094637.jpg
Tailless
Tailless
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Tailless
Tailless
 
Nicole Alderman
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So, I stood outside for a good hour this morning, and of course, the ducks and geese took their time to perform. I realized why I never saw the whole interaction--I'm usually busy filling up water and food and run over to see what is happening when the geese start honking. There was quite a bit of interesting duck behavior: them preening each other's wings, everyone mounting each other, the younger ducks lying down to be mounted with no one there to mount them. I'm wondering how much of the mounting behavior is just that they are becoming of laying age and their hormones are a bit odd.

I finally got a few good videos of the ducks. This one is the best, as it has them herding the ducks, nipping at them, and then really going at Wacky Teapot (runner/khaki Campbell duck, from different owner than Ack). I have it starting where they approach a duck that's NOT lying down and then Wacky Teapot proceeds to lie down and they proceed to nip at it. And, then, at 1:05, they go at the same duck again, in a much more aggressive manner.



And, here's a video of "Stripey Duck" (sister to Ack) with her neck stretched out for no reason.(I have it set to start at the time she's got her neck stretched out. It's hard knowing when to start filming!)

 
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The geese and ducks are still at it. The brown duck (seen in the second video) continued to lay down today, and the geese continued to become more and more aggressive with her about it. I've been yelling at the geese and running toward them each time they do it, and they stop...but then do it again a few minutes later. And, all this running and yelling I'm doing is freaking out all the ducks. I don't know what to do.

Today I was down at the bottom of my property tending to the chickens when I heard honking and quacking. I ran up the hill (it took me what felt like an eternity, but was probably .5-1 minutes), and got there and both geese were ganging up on Stripy duck, and all the ducks were honking, and Stripy duck was trying to get away while they kept grabbing her neck.

I put both geese into the duck house and closed them in. They seemed to know they were in trouble. I went inside for an hour and came back out. I found the ducks all huddled around the duck house, wanting to be with their goose buddies. I'm so confused by these animals. I set up a fence between the geese and ducks. I gave the geese food and water on their side of the fence, and ducks their food and water away from the geese. Silly ducks and geese spent almost the whole time right next to each other on opposite sides of the fence.

At night, I separated the geese into their own part of the house and blocked it off. The geese were really mild mannered about it. They're generally really nice geese who don't attack people or even our cats (who they don't like, and hiss at), they just walk away when confronted with something they are scared of or don't like. Which makes this whole nipping-at-ducks thing even more confusing!
 
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I wonder if the duck "invitation" behavior looks too much like goose "threat" behavior and responding to it that way.    I've owned ducks for years but never geese, so I'm speculating purely on what little I've seen from geese and then just animal behavior in general.    Sometimes different species misread body language that means something else in "their" dialect?    
 
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Sounds like a roasted goose might be a good idea for thanksgiving.
Unfortunately social animals will bond with and strive to maintain a bond with other animals that abuse them, even to the point of death. I really think these geese might end up killing some of the ducks if you keep them around. It certainly isn't helping the ducks that are being bullied, very stressful which diminishes their overall health and well-being.
 
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I wonder if the geese think that you yelling and making noise at them is joining in their behaviour?  

Putting the geese into time out was a good idea.  My geese respond very well if I quietly but determinedly approach them and without saying a word, put them into time out.  Or quietly approaching them, then grabbing the offender, hold them on the ground in an uncomfortable way (for them) and say the word "NO!" in the special voice.  

They love doing their job, but for some reason, they got the idea in their head that their job involves this behaviour.  I think it's a matter of 1) showing them how much you appreciate when they do their actual job and 2) that isn't part of the job description.  
 
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Hi  
It looks to me that the Geese are just being the dominant animals in the group and showing the ducks by pecking at them "pecking order" and chasing  them off the good spot.  With that many animals and so little a tub there will be competition and the smaller ones will be run off.  
Also there may be some seasonal changes.   My two Muscovy drakes are able to live together in peace much of the time.     When the season changes (like right now) I have to separate them or the smaller one will be run off to the perimeter. "the danger zone"

The duck lying down with her neck out looks like she is hoping to be bread.   Do you have a drake that is her kind of duck?
 
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Samantha Lewis wrote:Hi  
It looks to me that the Geese are just being the dominant animals in the group and showing the ducks by pecking at them "pecking order" and chasing  them off the good spot.  With that many animals and so little a tub there will be competition and the smaller ones will be run off.  
Also there may be some seasonal changes.   My two Muscovy drakes are able to live together in peace much of the time.     When the season changes (like right now) I have to separate them or the smaller one will be run off to the perimeter. "the danger zone"

The duck lying down with her neck out looks like she is hoping to be bread.   Do you have a drake that is her kind of duck?




We have 3 mallard drakes, but the ducks who are doing this, aren't doing it when the guys are around. Sometimes they're doing it when no one is around.

There are four separate trays of water spread out over the duck yard, so I don't think it's competition for the water. The geese don't ever seem interested in the trays of water, either. They prefer to drink out of the pail, and I've never seen them in the bucket.

r ranson wrote: Putting the geese into time out was a good idea.  My geese respond very well if I quietly but determinedly approach them and without saying a word, put them into time out.  Or quietly approaching them, then grabbing the offender, hold them on the ground in an uncomfortable way (for them) and say the word "NO!" in the special voice.  



I was afraid I might be using the wrong approach. I'm really glad you came and chimed in. Should I keep them separated for a few days, or try and reintegrate them and watch and then re-separate them if they act up?

Sarah Koster wrote: Sounds like a roasted goose might be a good idea for thanksgiving.



Definitely not with these geese. I got them from a rescue, so if they aren't a good fit, I will return them to the rescue. They really are pretty neat geese, and we've all got rather attached to them, and I would really like to keep having them in our flock. But, if we can't get it to work out, we'll have to give them back and hope someone else can be a good home for them.
 
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I think shorter-term separation is best.  Overnight and in the morning all is forgiven (which makes them even more eager to please)

Longer 'punishment' or change confuses them because they cannot associate the behaviour with the result over such a long length of time.  They see the human as being something that cannot be understood so why should we listen to the creature that speaks gibberish?  

It's also very important to them that they know they can be forgiven.  Their behaviour was bad, not them.  They don't understand holding a grudge.  

Once they start to believe that they are bad geese, they won't make an effort to be good.
 
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Nicole, if you find separating the birds into separate places at night, I've got a few suggestions as we've currently got 4 spots with different birds going to each.

1. The first few times will be the hardest and in a perfect world, you'd have a little help. If you've got any way to separate one group from another *before* bedtime, so that you only have to deal with one group at a time, that will also help.
2. You *need* longer arms. We accomplish this with a pair of children's lightweight plastic hockey sticks - the kind kids can't possibly hurt each other with because they're so wimpy. Then, as all true Canadians do, we practice our "stick handling skills" and essentially use them to herd the birds - this is a no-contact hockey game!!! Once the birds are trained and used to the routine, we often don't need the "arm extensions", but occasionally some bird or other decides to be a brat and we grab a stick to gently guide them where we want them to go. Just like a well-trained sheep dog herding sheep, the ducks have a "comfort zone". The idea is to invade that zone enough to move them in the direction you want, but not invade it so far that they get panicky or upset.
3. Timing is everything. If it's just getting dark, the birds want to go to bed, so getting their cooperation is easier than trying too early. Too late, and they decide they're perfectly happy sleeping right where they are, and bedtime may be harder. If for some reason, bedtime needs to be on the early side, again, an extra body is a big help.
4. Bribery - it's sucky but it works! Our ducks and geese don't get any chicken feed during the day. They forage or occasionally get some sort of scraps or treats. Our ducks and geese *love* chicken feed. They know that they'll get a ration when they're in their respective housing, so we've got positive reinforcement on our side.
5. Think of objects that can "funnel" them towards their door. It can be a simple as a couple of garbage cans, or even the door of the shelter. We have some small sections of "dog exercise run" panels which I can place strategically to direct the flow of birds. Again, normally this is only required during the training period, but I've had the odd group that would miss the pop-door entrance to their mini-hoop, so I'd just move their shelter to fresh grass while they were out foraging, and set up a little funnel, rather than get frustrated later. These were generally 3-10 week-old ducklings and they just didn't get the concept of "door" + "bedtime".
6. As they say in permaculture, observe, observe, observe. If a particular bird is resistant, is he being bullied? We've got one male who was limping one morning, and he now goes to separate night housing. The chickens aren't *thrilled*, but they cope and it's safer than having 3 adult Muscovy declaring war in a limited space and a small female getting hurt in the crossfire. That group of chickens has a fairly high perch, so they can avoid Gibbs if they want, but the bigger issue is they want to steal his bedtime ration, even though they've got their own food out of Gibbs' reach.
7. Ducks and geese are highly trainable. They know what our feed buckets look like, and I've got pictures *proving* my spouse has "all his ducks in a row" as they follow him up the field like a parade. They recognize sounds and groups of sounds, so we repeat, "bedtime, bedtime everybody". Some seem to recognize their names, so we'll say their name + "bedtime". We observe and adjust our position and our order depending on what seems to work more easily. Once they've got a routine, it takes longer to rinse and clean their water buckets for the morning than it does to get them indoors and fed, so hang in there and hopefully you can get a system that works without too much grief.
 
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I have had ducks and geese for nearly ten years now and the behavior in the videos is only going to get worse if you can’t train them. Jay is right about them being highly trainable though. Consistency is the main thing. If you can’t get them to get along come spring they will likely kill her.

Separating the geese from the ducks at night is a great start but you are going to need to work with the geese during the day. I suggest only letting them be together while you can supervise for a few days. What has worked with all my geese including two very dominant ganders was to grab a hose with a jet end and just stand back and let the geese do whatever except show even a trace of aggression towards the ducks. Behave as though you are ignoring them. You want them to think that you don’t care. As soon as the geese put their heads down to a duck, or start doing the fast trot to a duck, put their head down in that snakey way they do, or any other dominant pushy behavior blast them with the jet clear across the yard. Don’t yell, or make a big deal of it but keep the water blasting them till they retreat far, far from the duck. Then go back to ignore watching them. Try to blast them before they can actually start the picking thing. Or even a couple of seconds before they touch the duck.

The plan is to make them associate the water jet as the natural effect of bothering the duck, they associate retreating with the jet stopping. The loser in bird fights always is the one that has to retreat. Get them retreating and they think the ducks are nobody to pick a fight with and peace is great. They will still be top birds but they should stop picking on them. Anyway that is what worked for me. I hope you can get them to stop particularly before spring when they get all hormonal
 
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Tivona Hager wrote:

I hope you can get them to stop particularly before spring when they get all hormonal

I don't know what Nicole's weather has been like, but we had an unusually wet Sept followed by a significant cold snap in Oct and now it's warmed up and I've got a Muscovy laying an egg and have had to separate a male out of our main overnight shelter. I feel as if I'm already dealing with the spring hormonal stuff!

But I do like your suggestion with the hose! I hope I never have a big enough problem to need it.
 
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I was wondering if it was partially hormonal, especially as the ducks in question are just reaching laying age (though none have actually started laying) and the weather has been getting warmer after weeks of freezing temperatures.

I've been watching them the last two days, putting them into time out every time they start pecking at the ducks (I haven't intervened when they're just making aggressive snake necks and honks, just when they actually peck). When they bite, they get put into their house for 10-20 minutes, then put into a fenced-off area next to the ducks (if they're not next to the ducks, both they and the ducks get sad, and the geese fly over the fence to be with the ducks).

For the last part of today, they've been stopping short of pecking the ducks. They're still cranky, but they're not biting. So, progress!
 
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