We’ve all seen the videos of ducks waddling around inside their owner’s home, acting just like any other pet. It’s pretty darn cute, and if you like ducks the appeal is obvious.
Who wouldn’t want their feathered friend hanging out inside with you? But what about the practicality of it?
Ducks aren’t like dogs or cats. They don’t ask to go outside and they don’t use a litterbox. Or do they? Is it possible to potty train a duck?
Yes, it is possible to potty train a duck, but highly unlikely. They cannot hold it, and don’t have the same instinct to avoid pooping in their living space that other animals do.
Ducks defecate anytime the need arises, wherever they happen to be.
This is not to say it is impossible to potty train a duck, only it is very difficult to do and even if you do everything right, the training might not take.
But, if you want your duck to hang out at home with you it might be a challenge you feel like taking. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Can Ducks Be Potty Trained?
Strictly speaking, yes, it is possible to potty train a duck. However, it is highly unlikely that you’ll succeed in this endeavor for numerous reasons.
Why Would You Try to Potty Train a Duck in the First Place?
The prime and pretty much only reason is that you want your duck to be able to spend time inside your house without making a horrendous mess of the place.
This is not an unreasonable desire, but you should be aware that it will take a lot of effort on your part to make it happen. And again, there’s no guarantee of success.
You Can Try, but Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
Ducks are damn hard to potty train for several reasons, ones we’ll discuss throughout this article.
First, ducks lack the intelligence and responsiveness to verbal commands that mammals possess, and combined with their physical limitations when it comes to pooping, the deck is definitely stacked against you, or rather against them.
Plenty of duck owners have attempted to potty train their ducks, young and old, through various means and with diligence, but ultimately met with failure despite their best efforts.
Ducks Generally Go at Random
Ducks, like all birds, defecate pretty much whenever the need arises. Wherever they happen to be, in flight or sitting still, on a branch or on the water, they just go.
This is because birds lack a sphincter that allows them to clamp off the proceedings until more favorable conditions or met.
Ask anyone who raises chickens or ducks, or anyone who has observed a flock of ducks at the lake; they will tell you that ducks poop constantly, pretty much anywhere they are and everywhere they go.
Worse, they poop every couple of minutes at most. That is going to generate a lot of dooky for you to deal with.
This is not to say that ducks have no control over the affair. They do, but only for “productive” control.
When they decide to poop, they can if there is anything to get rid of, and it is this quirk of their biology that we will desperately try to take advantage of for our own ends. More on that in a bit.
It’s not that ducks enjoy pooping everywhere and making a mess of things, they just can’t help it. It’s how they’re built. And this is the first big reason why potty training them is so difficult.
How Should You Go About Potty Training a Duck?
So, despite my warnings to the contrary, you want to give it a go and potty train your duck. What do you do?
First, you’ll need to triple whatever amount of patience you think you have, then decide on where and how you want the duck to go when in your home.
A designated spot and a receptacle, be it a litterbox, newspaper, puppy pads or whatever.
Then, you must spend some time observing your duck and finally work on getting your duck to associate the signal you give him with food when he uses the potty in the right place. This will take a ton of repetition.
What Equipment Do You Need to Potty Train a Duck?
You don’t need much. The aforementioned pads or litterbox, your duck’s favorite food or treats, and something to make an obvious, distinct noise that will serve as your signal to the duck. A bell, a whistle, clicker, something like that.
You’ll Need to Learn Your Duck’s Pre-Poop Behavior
The most critical step in this whole process, aside from girding your mental health, is figuring out what your duck’s individual pre-poop signal is.
This will vary from duck to duck, so you’ll have to be diligent in your observations.
Some ducks may squat, some may waddle around or pace back and forth, some may get really still, some may bob their heads up and down or ruffle their feathers.
It could be any of these things or something else entirely. You need to pay attention as your duck goes about his day to day routine and then make a mental note of the behavior.
This is the behavior that will indicate to you your duck needs to go, and you should give him the signal.
When you bring your duck indoors, you should take him to his designated potty periodically and gently hold him in place until he does his business.
Then give your duck the signal, and then reward him with a tidbit of his favorite food.
Give Your Duck a Non-Verbal Signal to Use the Potty
The “signal” you need to give your duck is any distinct, non-verbal noise that you can make consistently and that your duck will be able to recognize. This is where a bell or clicker comes in really handy.
When you see your duck exhibiting his pre-poop behavior, make the noise, then immediately take him to his potty spot and hold him there until he goes. When he does, give him the signal again and then a treat.
The reason you don’t want to use a verbal command is that the duck might overhear it in conversation (or just misunderstand it) and start producing false positives, hampering your efforts.
This seems to be a consistent factor in training a duck; verbal commands are not great.
You’ll Have to Repeat This Process Multiple Times a Day
You need to be consistent with this process, making the noise and taking your duck to his potty spot every time you see him exhibiting his pre-poop behavior.
The more times you do it, the more likely it is that your duck will make the connection between the behavior (pooping here) and the outcome (treat).
And I’ll be honest with you; this may not work at all. You might do everything right, and your duck just doesn’t get it. That’s okay.
It’s not your fault, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or have a bad duck. This is not a sure thing. Accept that going in.
Food is the Only Thing That Will Start Motivate Your Duck
On the subject of association, do keep in mind that ducks only strongly associate behavior based on food rewards. Not affection or verbal praise like dogs and cats, or other mammals.
So, if you’re trying to potty train a duck, the only way to really do it is with food rewards. Verbal praise or petting just won’t work as well as they might with another animal.
Now, this can be a challenge since ducks have specific nutritional needs, and if you are treating them every time they poop that can equal way too much food.
A good solution to this is to use their favorite food as a treat, only one you have broken down into tiny tidbits for the purpose.
Try to pick something on the healthier end of the spectrum so you can sustain training longer without worrying about your duck’s overall health.
What Should You Do if Potty Training Does Not Work?
Let’s say that the potty training process doesn’t work. Hard to believe, I know, but let’s just say. What should you do?
If I were you, I’d put the duck back outside where it belongs, but assuming you cannot quit on your amigo you have options.
The best option is to simply put a diaper on the duck. These work just like diapers for human babies and will save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Poultry specific diapers have long been used on chickens and ducks alike for various purposes, including keeping owners sane and houses sanitary when the birds are inside for whatever reason.
Sure, it is an added expense, but totally worth it for keeping your house clean and saving you a ton of time and grief on what is probably going to be a wasted venture.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.