The most obvious question for any human who pet ducks are – will my pet duck fly away? Will they come back following the same route? Well, it depends on multiple factors.
The breed you are bringing in, the ducks’ size and weight, and the environmental conditions all play significant roles in deciding. For instance, a few bantam duck breeds can fly very high as they are small and light-weight.
Domestic ducks do need extra protection from predators too. If they are left to fly even short distances, they can wander off looking for food, beyond your reach and protection. So, you will have to take care of their proper diet, nutrition, and protection so that they do not leave your backyard.
In this article, we will discuss in-depth the mechanism of duck flight, the best breeds to keep in your backyard that will not fly away, and our recommendations on controlling ducks from flying. If this is one of your primary concerns about raising poultry, we suggest you keep reading.
How Do Ducks Fly? – Flight Mechanisms
Usually, ducks are massive birds. Most domestic ducks are bred for meat and eggs. They also have relatively smaller wings than other high soaring birds. They have to flap their wings at a very high speed, to keep them off the ground.
Ducks can travel short distances, and they can fly at almost 80 km/hour. A few migratory ducks can fly longer distances and at a more incredible speed.
The flight of ducks is supported by two kinds of feathers- primary and secondary. The strong muscles underneath that support the rapid flapping of wings and the long-pointed wings make flight possible in ducks. The feather which helps them fly is asymmetrical and are overlapped.
Ducks have two categories based on their feeding habits- dabbling ducks and diving ducks. Dabbling ducks have wings that are wider and help them avoid obstacles like trees in wetlands. Diving ducks have slightly long wings which do not allow maneuvering while flying.
Coming back to feather composition, the primary feathers are stiff and long. These are considered the most critical flight feathers which are situated towards the rear end of the body.
These feathers help push the body up when wings flap by creating a thrust. The color of these wings is slightly darker towards the pointed end due to melanin. They are all attached by ligaments underneath on to the side “hands” like ducks’ structure.
Secondary feathers are also attached to the hands/arms, lying very close to the primary feathers. A colored patch, which is called the “speculum,” comprises the secondary feather and is only visible when the ducks are in flight. The speculum can be of bright colors like blue, purple, green, or even white.
The primary feathers flapping rapidly and secondary feathers pushing in the air make the ducks lift and fly.
Also Read: What Age Do Ducks Start Laying Eggs?
Duck Breeds That Cannot Fly
Are you deciding upon which duck breeds bring in, and will you lose them if they can fly? Let us suggest a few duck breeds, which is beneficial for your homestead and cannot fly.
The most popular domestic breed is the Pekin duck. They are bred precisely for their intensely flavorful meat and excellent egg-laying capabilities. They are considered as one of the heavy breeds with the right quantity of muscles.
Throughout their life cycle, in significant parts, they are too heavy to fly; however, in a few cases, that can fly a very short distance when their body weight is lower. For such cases, you can clip the flight feathers, which is also called pinioning, and be ensured they cannot fly.
Another prevalent breed that falls in the stout category is the Rouen. They are also bred for their meat- both quality and quantity.
A mature duck can weigh somewhere between 4-6 kgs, which is compared to any other domestic breeds available, almost three times heavier than Mallard ducks. Due to their sizeable blocky body, they cannot fly. They are, however, a preferred domestic breed due to their other advantages.
This exceptionally gorgeous and fabulous looking bird is mostly domesticated for the exhibition. They are very friendly, calm, and homely. Although they are good foragers, they do not wander off looking for bugs and insects.
They are also known for their met. Therefore, they are a giant breed. Because of their body weight, they are unable to fly. In a few cases, we have seen females, when they are young, do often take a flight.
4. Indian Runner
This breed is different looking than any other common domestic breed. They have a cylindrical body with a long-elongated neck. Due to their body structure, they often stand erect like penguins. They have been bred for years now, primarily for eggs. They do not waddle but run.
From what we have seen and heard; these birds cannot fly due to their structure. They can only hip-hop fly and jump-run but cannot fly. So, there is no need for clipping the wings. Instead, you can get a high fence. We have witnessed that they drop the eggs in this process.
Also Read: The Complete Duck Feeding Guide for Homesteaders
Duck Breeds That Can Fly
Now let us find out the few duck breeds which are not so preferable for your backyards, and if you still want to choose them, make sure you take the necessary precautions.
1. Call Ducks
This duck breed is best known as “Decoy” ducks as they have powerful call sounds. They are short, stout, tiny, and petite, weighing just around 600-800 grams. When left to free-range or scared and nervous, there have been instances that they can fly away pretty swiftly and do not return.
Call ducks are not bred for egg or meats, but as an exhibit pet for their charm and cuteness. Another risk with call ducks is, since they are small and can fly, they often fall prey to predators on both land and air. To avoid that, you can keep clipping their primary feathers until they are well settled with the new lifestyle.
The most common green-headed ducks, another common duck breed in any duck farm, is the Mallard Breed. They are said to be migratory birds which can fly at a speed of 40-60 miles per hour.
They can fly at a height between 500 and 4000 feet. However, during migration, they fly even higher to avoid overheating and dehydration. They are excellent forages, and hence the meat is delicious. They are also pet for the eggs, but they intend to hatch most of the laid egg. Most wild ducks are of the mallard origin.
3. East Indies
These wild ducks are similar looking to the Cayugas. They have a brilliant beetle-green color across bright light and a black bill. They are, however, an endangered species and are mostly pets for exhibit purposes.
They are relatively smaller in size than the Cayugas and fall under the bantam duck category. They are pretty good flyers and will need the feathers clipped or surgically remove an entire wing if you plan on bringing this breed home. They are relatively non-aggressive, quiet, and are poor egg layers. It is, however, a preferred duck breed for meat.
When you search for a duck breed, one prominent name that comes up is Muscovy. They are peculiar looking, easily identifiable duck breed for the red colored “caruncle” on their head. They are voracious eaters and feed on any week, bug and insect in the vicinity.
That’s the reason for the delicious eggs and tender, soft meat that they yield. Their behavior is quite like wild birds, and they can fly well. However, over the years, breeders have tried to breed-out this trait, but it remains in some. They are migratory birds and often migrate when they see other ducks flying away.
How to Stop Ducks from Flying
Now that we know which duck breeds to keep and which to avoid, let us find out how to keep the domestic ducks from not attempting to fly.
1. Food and Water
Ducks have huge appetites. They love to forage naturally in the wild and depend on commercial food to be satisfied. When the eggs hatch, the ducklings need a protein-rich diet besides other essential vitamins. They dip their beak into mud or water to look for weeds, bugs, insects, frogs, etc. This indicates that you will need farmland with a decent area, surrounded by a fence, for them to free-range.
Ducks are also known as waterfowls, but they do not need large water bodies around them. They are satisfied even with a bucket of water to clean their bill, take a dip, and also drink. It’s suggested that their drinking water is kept separate from the other water sources. As you may know, they can make a mess and make a puddle very quickly.
Ducks are very adjustable kind and can adapt to all sorts of adverse circumstances. Heat and sun can give them a challenge, but they can balance that by taking a dip in the water. Nevertheless, they need a cool, dry place to rest and sleep. They prefer to sit on the floor, so if the floor is hard, you will need to spread a thick layer of straw and make the surface comfortable for them to perch on.
Most ducks do not fly, but they often try to jump off from heights, and they cannot fly over a fence. So, make sure you have the land and pen adequately protected and well ventilated. Make sure you keep away predators, else few birds may try to escape and fly away if frightened and nervous.
Ducks are very friendly and like to stay in a flock. When you bring in one duck, make sure you are getting in a company to make sure they are happy. Once you bring in ducks, you will have to raise them with their affectionate fingers. Otherwise, they tend to stay frightened and away from humans.
However, they do not like to get picked up in your arms. So, try to keep away children who may try to play with the ducks and, in return, frighten them. You will have to slowly make them accustomed to other members and pets in the family.
When you add ducks to your farm, you must know everything about them. Mostly breeders over the years have done selective breeding, which has omitted a few features, but at the same time, have also added a few undesirable features.
Flight in ducks is one such feature that you can have a happy, peaceful homestead if taken care of. We hope that you have benefitted from this article. Most domestic birds are incapable of flying, so go ahead and bring these happy birds’ home. You will not regret it later.