Abandoned domestic ducks scrounge for food in the winter among Mallards and Canada geese.

Source: Duck advocate Debbie


Have you found a domestic duck in the wild?

Domestic ducks that are found at lakes, ponds, parks, or anywhere abandoned in the wild are victims of animal cruelty. Wild and domestic ducks share the same species, but domestic ducks lack the traits necessary for their survival, such as mobility and flight. As a result, domestic ducks often die from predation, starvation, exposure, and human cruelty in the wild. They were bred to be heavy and slow-moving for the duck meat industry, leaving them helpless when abandoned. 

The first step to helping a duck is deciding that you will help the duck. Wildlife rehabilitators will not be able to assist with domestic ducks, and there are few rescues and sanctuaries with the resources to dispatch volunteers or carry out each step of the plan. If you spot a dumped duck in the wild, it is up to you to take action and save their life, since it is highly likely that nobody else will. If you see a duck in danger, you must be their advocate. Otherwise, they will suffer and die! 


Abandoned domestic Pekin ducks among wild Mallard ducks on a frozen suburban pond.

Source: Duck advocate Debbie


Is this duck really in danger?

The answer to this depends on whether the duck is wild or domestic. If the duck in question is indeed domestic, the answer is always yes. Even in areas of high foot traffic, such as city parks, aerial predators like hawks and eagles can swoop down and kill a duck instantly. At night, ducks can be strangled and eaten alive by urban-adapted animals such as raccoons. Ducks may also have other life-threatening conflicts with wildlife, including other waterfowl such as geese. Even still, humans are often a source of violent cruelty to ducks. Domestic ducks were bred to have heavy bodies and small wings, which removes their only defense mechanism: running or flying away. No amount of feeding or supervision from the public can protect a duck when they are vulnerable to predators at all hours of the day. 


Abandoned ducks and ducklings used as target practice. Source: Carolina Waterfowl Rescue


An abandoned Rouen, a domestic duck, used as a crossbow target. Source: Carolina Waterfowl Rescue


A month-old abandoned domestic duckling being terrorized by a Canada goose trying to protect their family.

Source: Duck advocate Richard


You can identify a domestic duck by first making yourself familiar with the native wild ducks in your area. The most common species of wild duck in the United States is the Mallard, who usually accept dumped domestic ducks into their flocks, though they abandon them during the migratory months when they fly away. In the winter, domestic ducks starve, die from thirst or hypothermia, and can even get frozen on lakes due to their poor mobility and lack of survival instincts. Many abandoned ducks are found with fishing hooks embedded in their mouths because they were desperate to eat something. They are abandoned by their wild counterparts in the winter and left alone to be picked off by predators. No matter the location, or how many other ducks are around, domestic ducks do not belong in the wild under any circumstances.

A variety of victims of domestic duck dumping are eager to eat food alongside their wild counterparts. 

Source: Ducks and Clucks


What is the procedure for rescuing a dumped duck?


The duck should be retrieved from the park or lake as soon as possible, then harbored and monitored safely indoors while a permanent home is found. The logistics of this plan will likely unfold after you’ve already begun. For example, when you first find the duck, you won’t know how intensive the method of capture should be or the health status of the duck. You also probably won’t have a home lined up for the duck yet, but you shouldn’t worry about this while the duck is in danger outdoors. It is best to start moving as soon as you can, and address issues after the duck is safe.

The most challenging aspect of the rescue may be securing the duck. Some ducks can be lured with food and grabbed firmly by the neck, while others may need to be caught with a net or by kayak. If this sounds complicated, do not fret – there are organizations to assist you [hyperlink to waterfowl-friendly rescues/sanctuaries] and which may provide some of the necessary supplies. If the duck has been living outdoors for some time, they may have learned to distrust people and other unpredictable situations, and thus require a more complex rescue involving multiple people in multiple canoes or kayaks.

First, assess your resources. You will need reliable transport to the location (ideally in the very early morning), materials such as bread or duck feed, exercise pens, and a carrier for transporting the duck. While you should never use bread as a long-term food item for feeding ducks and wildlife, it is okay to use it for short-term rescue missions such as this. 


Methods of capture (unfinished, images needed)


Images needed: 

/Description and accompanying image(s) of hand feeding, grabbing duck by the neck, and securing into a carrier. 

This method will work the best on large, slow, friendly breeds like Pekins, especially ones that have not learned to distrust such situations.


/Description and accompanying image(s) of luring group of ducks into exercise pen area, closing loop, Mallards fly out, grab duck and put in carrier.


Note: You may want to use a combination of the above, such as luring ducks into a U or V-shaped exercise pen area with food, and then grabbing.

The duck may be too wary of people to entertain your attempts, and they may refuse to go near you or your pen for food. The duck may choose to stay in the water or continue to run away. If the listed methods don’t work, you may have to ask friends for help or contact [a rescue organization]. This could involve renting kayaks and cornering the duck for capture by grabbing or netting them. It is important not to give up – the duck’s life is worth it!


/Descriptions and images of complex rescue instructions via kayak.


I have the duck. Now what?


Ducks need protection, appropriate nutrition, clean bedding, and fresh water at all times. In the short-term, maintaining their safety is the priority. You do not need to worry about having a fancy setup. A duck retrieved from abandonment will still have their life saved by living temporarily in a large dog crate, a garage, a basement, or even a bathtub. Wherever the duck’s nutritional and hygienic needs are met, and they are protected from predators and the elements, they will be set for at least a short period of time.


Short-term Duck Checklist:


Food: Ducks require a variety of nutrients from their naturally varied diets, and cannot subsist on corn, bread, or produce for any length of time. They should have waterfowl-appropriate feed such as duck pellets or all-flock pellets, which will provide all of the nourishment they need. Mazuri and Kalmbach are two brands that are commonly found at farm supply stores and even sites like Chewy.com. Never feed ducks anything medicated (such as medicated chicken feed). Treats: Pellets may be supplemented with duck-safe produce such as leafy greens and peas. In small amounts, they also enjoy peanuts, cracked corn, and finely chopped fruit and vegetables, especially when placed in water. This activity is a great source of enrichment for ducks.

Water: While long-term duck care involves pools for swimming and preening, a short-term water requirement is simply a bowl of water deep enough to dunk their eyes, replaced daily at a minimum and kept freely available. Ducks drink a lot of water and should never be left without it. They also require water to swallow food properly, so ensure that clean water is always available.

Bedding: Depending on the size of the space and ease of cleaning, you may want to experiment with using towels, puppy pads, straw, or conventional bedding to handle the many liquid poops that ducks make daily. If you anticipate having the duck for multiple days or weeks, poultry bedding from farm supply stores is both inexpensive and ideal. Pine shavings and pelleted pine bedding are two excellent options, as well as chopped straw. Their space should be inspected with feces removed daily, which can be returned to nature to decompose or join existing compost.

Protection: Ducks are a source of food for numerous different animals and should never be left unattended outdoors. Because they were bred to be slow, unflighted, and helpless, safety outdoors requires the bare minimum of supervision in a fenced area. The only time a duck is truly safe outside is if they are in a predator-proof aviary and/or with some kind of overhead barrier. The most common predators of ducks in the daytime are hawks and other birds of prey, so compassionate care experts strongly recommend against unsupervised outdoor roaming.

At night, ducks face different threats of predation. It is especially important that ducks are in a completely secure space overnight, since many nocturnal predators are creative and can grab and kill ducks through openings. One prolific predator of domestic birds, the weasel, can fit through spaces the size of a quarter. The best place for a duck at night is indoors or in a predator-proof coop. In the short-term, a garage or room inside your house is a good place for a duck to sleep in – a dog crate left on the porch is not.


How do I find the duck a safe, permanent home? 


Start with help:

The ideal place for a duck is in a sanctuary or adoptive home that understands both the complex care needs and predator safety requirements of ducks. Finding the duck a home can be as simple as calling or emailing the farm sanctuaries around you, and asking if they can either take in the duck or assist with placement. However, most sanctuaries are operating at full capacity, and you should be prepared to drive a significant distance if you do end up finding a sanctuary that can take the duck. 

During your search, instead of leaving a message just asking the sanctuary if they have room for ducks (which will usually get you an unreturned call or “no”), try the following instead:

  • Would you be willing to help me find a home for this duck?
  • Would you be willing to post a courtesy listing for this duck with your adoptable animals while I foster him/her?
  • Can I participate in a transport chain to get the duck to the right place?

A transport chain is a group of volunteers based in different locations, and they each play a small part in driving an animal a long distance. Each volunteer drives a portion of the full journey, such as 1-2 hours, and hands off the animal to the next volunteer. Then that volunteer drives the next portion, hands off the animal, and so on and so forth. Volunteer drivers are incredibly valuable, and they contribute an amazing act of service for animals that relies on both cooperation and communication. Sometimes this is the only option for getting overpopulated animals like dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks to their appropriate homes. Offering to drive an hour or more to secure the duck’s safety is a small sacrifice in exchange for the 10-15 years the duck will live happily in the right place. In any case, showing that you are willing to put in the effort for the duck will, in turn, make a sanctuary much more willing to work with you. While any farm sanctuary is a great starting point, you may want to first try [nearby sanctuaries that work specifically with waterfowl].


Or try to do it yourself:

So, none of the sanctuaries got back to you, and it’s been a couple weeks now. You may want to try to find the duck the right home yourself. In truth, there are very few homes that are actually qualified to provide a safe home for ducks. As such, re-homing a duck yourself will require patience, the ability to vet people, and being able to utilize resources available to you online. The following pointers should help you with the decision-making process.

  1. Avoid farms. As unfortunate as it is that it must be said, the first thing to understand is that a farm is never an appropriate home for a duck. It is never right to adopt out a dog to dog-eaters, or a cat to cat-eaters, so the same can be said for ducks, chickens, cows, and all other farmed animals. On farms, ducks are killed for simple obstacles like developing an illness, fighting with other ducks, being male, and other inconveniences that could affect profits. 

Even the most “humane” hobby farms are unsuitable. These farms take eggs from female ducks and either consume or sell them, despite ducks suffering from rapidly depleting calcium caused by laying eggs. Compassionate homes and sanctuaries let their ducks eat their own eggs to restore the nutrients, particularly calcium, which helps combat some of the damage caused by the overactive reproductive systems they were bred to have. Farms continually breed ducks into a cycle of stressful and physically taxing egg-laying so that their bodies can be used for profit. 

The vast majority of hobby farms also allow unattended free-ranging day and night, since they do not value the ducks as individuals worthy of protection. It may be alluring to imagine your duck friend swimming on a pond at a farm, but this circumstance is really no better than the one they were rescued from. It’s impossible to oversee the safety of domestic ducks on ponds, causing high rates of predation and even botulism. 

Unlike at sanctuaries and compassionate homes, death and predation are just “part of life” in farming ducks. Exploiting ducks’ bodies for their eggs and flesh is commonplace at nearly all farms no matter the size or locality. Free-ranging areas with pond access are ideal for a wild duck, but domestic ducks lack the adaptations to survive. The most “natural” environment never has the best outcome for domestic ducks. These helpless birds belong in a completely predator-proof area overseen by people that do not wish to exploit them for profit. Ducks are not simply a tool to be replaced when nature strikes.


If a duck survives a predator attack, they are usually left with lasting or permanent injuries. Both of these ducks were attacked by snapping turtles on different ponds. Injuries like these can cause chronic pain for the entirety of their lives. Source: Carolina Waterfowl Rescue


  1. Utilize your resources. Finding good adoptive homes can be done by joining spaces online that are dedicated to compassionate care for animals. Websites like [Adopt-A-Bird], [AdoptAPet], and [RescueMe] have opportunities for you to list the duck online and have interested adopters contact you. You may also want to try Facebook groups dedicated to rescue ducks, house ducks, pet ducks, and your local vegan groups. You could also do a search for local private rescues and ask them to post the duck for you on Petfinder while you foster the duck. Rescues are typically more receptive to this arrangement rather than simply asking them to take the duck, since it saves them resources in food, bedding, and hours of labor. It’s important to stick to spaces that center around rescued animals, rather than posting on craigslist or other classified sites where anyone from the public can trick you into giving up the duck. People can have nefarious plans for small animals, and you never know when someone is hoarding animals or have plans to re-sell them to the wrong person.


  1. Ask questions. When you do receive interest in the duck, there should be a short but thorough vetting process to find out they can offer a compassionate home. The right home will offer significant forms of protection for their ducks, such as the use of fencing, aviary netting, nighttime coops, etc., and they will also be able to provide the name and number of the avian vet that they use. If you want to double check that they are an active client with that vet, you may request that the interested person(s) let their vet know that you will be calling for a vet reference check. This approves the vet to speak with you about that person’s vet history. When you call the vet, you may want to ask how often they brought ducks in, the general circumstances that required them to bring ducks in, and if they seem like a good duck caretaker. This is a routine part of adoptions within rescues, and the receptionist you speak to will be happy to help you.


In the case that you cannot find the duck a home, or you have changed your mind about rehoming the duck, you may be able to give the duck a home yourself. Ducks are complex animals that can live for a decade or more, and require a dedicated caretaker to meet their daily needs. You can learn about our recommendations and best practices to give a duck a safe, enriching, and happy life by visiting [Safeguarding the Flock].

Safeguarding the Flock


Ducks must be safe from predators in order to thrive. Before beginning any long-term journey of duck caretaking, it is crucial that you assess your space, resources, and funds to determine if you are able to provide a permanent structure that meets their safety needs. For ducks, safety means that they are protected from predators that are active in the day and night. Different structures are needed to combat threats as they vary throughout the 24-hour cycle. There are different daytime and nighttime requirements depending on the predator species that are active during those times, which will affect the security features of the structures you choose.


This enclosure is secured on all sides to protect from aerial and digging predators. The nighttime coops are secured inside the daytime enclosure for maximum security.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary



The Basics

An ideal daytime space for ducks has open area for them to roam and forage, shady space to hide and feel protected, and the ability for a human to clean and maintain water sources (such as drinking bowls and kiddie pools). This space should be protected on all sides, including both a ceiling component and an underground component at the perimeter. In terms of the space, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries recommends a minimum 16 square feet of dry substrate per medium bird. Food bowls should always be protected from moisture to prevent mold. They can be placed underneath a structure like a table, inside of a covered run, or take the form of a rain-proof chicken feeder with openings large enough for ducks. In order to avoid predators, the ducks’ schedule matters as well. Duck caretakers should be prepared to let their ducks out after sunrise, and put them to bed before sunset. 


Ducks have fulfilling lives in enclosures if their needs for space and enrichment are met. Enclosures with adequate room can contain pools, greenery, perching opportunities, and community.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary


Requirements of a daytime structure

The daytime area should be able to protect ducks from all daytime predators. This means that the walls and ceiling must be impenetrable to birds of prey and roaming canines like coyotes, foxes, and dogs. Other predators may vary depending on your area. There are significantly fewer types of animals that will attack ducks in the daytime, but among them are birds like hawks and eagles. Birds of prey are prolific predators of slow, flightless domestic ducks, so a ceiling component to your structure is essential. When built sturdy enough to resist the claws and teeth of nighttime predators, your daytime structure will be an additional safeguard against the plethora of nocturnal animals that routinely outwit the best-intentioned duck caretakers.

The essentials of an ideal predator-proof enclosure are: wooden poles dug securely into the ground for support, wooden or metal cross beams as the structure, and an appropriately sturdy mesh on all sides. Hardware cloth or wire mesh are two options, and mesh that is PVC-coated will avoid rust and last the longest before repairs are needed. We do NOT recommend plastic chicken wire or string aviary netting, since almost any predator will be able to chew or rip through it. 

Sheets of netting can be securely attached in a few different ways. They can be clipped together using J-clips and a J-clip tool, weaving metal wire between the pieces to sew them together, attaching them with heavy duty weather-resistant zip ties, or sandwiching the sheets of netting between pieces of lumber. Attaching the mesh to any lumber structure can be accomplished easily using staples from a staple gun. There are a variety of different guides online for building a duck/chicken run, but the most important aspect of the build is that the right mesh is chosen and securely attached to your structure. The mesh should also be buried at least a foot underground to deter digging predators. Building the enclosure with security in mind is extremely important, as it determines whether predators are able to get in or not.

The side of this enclosure is PVC-coated wire mesh in ¾ inch spacing, overlapped and secured with J-clips. 

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary

The safety precautions needed to house chickens and ducks are identical. This predator-proof aviary is built with hardware cloth of ½ inch spacing stapled to 2x4 lumber.

Source: Good Sprout Rescue and Sanctuary 

A skirt of additional hardware cloth around the base of the enclosure may serve as an adequate barrier in lieu of an underground component. The base of the enclosure is at the top of the photo, with the edge of the skirt at the bottom. Skirts should span at least a foot outwards on all sides to deter digging predators.

Source: Good Sprout Rescue and Sanctuary


No Time to DIY?

If you are unable or do not feel like building a structure yourself, there are many premade metal structures available to purchase. The choices vary in size and usually cost less than the building materials of wood and mesh, though they also have varying levels of security. For example, most of these structures consist primarily of chain-link fencing, which means that the walls are penetrable by any small predator day or night. Any premade structure with chain-link or other large mesh should be accompanied by an extremely secure nighttime coop within it, since the predators small enough to fit through these types of mesh are usually nocturnal. As a rare advantage, these sort of metal structures will resist medium to large predators. Medium-sized predators such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey will not be able to tear into metal structures, and chain-link could also resist large predators such as black bears or mountain lions. If these large predators exist in your region, you may want to consider electric fencing around your enclosure for additional security.

Premade structures are available on websites like Amazon, though they generally still require at least two people for assembly. They will also need an additional underground component such as predator spikes or an added hardware cloth skirt to complete their predator-proof quality. Predator spikes are small sections of metal fencing that can be pounded into the ground with a hammer or mallet, and they deter most digging predators. Any underground security component should cover the entire perimeter and span at least one foot below ground. 


Areas of low predation

If you live in the middle of a town or city that allows ducks, you may only need to worry about nighttime predators, thus allowing you to have a daytime area without intensive protective measures. Urban-adapted animals such as raccoons will certainly pose a serious threat to ducks at night, but during the day, you may not have to worry about the swooping hawks or roaming coyotes. Erecting eagle wire or string-based aviary netting over areas that ducks occupy during the daytime may suffice. A fenced-in area and overhead aviary netting (which can come in sheets as long as 100 feet by 100 feet) is recommended. Note that it is always better to be safe than sorry, and you should at least provide ducks a secure run (such as a premade structure) to protect them when you are away from home. 




The Basics

Securing your flock during the nighttime is one of the most important but challenging aspects of safety. Depending on location, there are a wide variety of predators that will test weaknesses in your setup and can fit through shockingly small spaces. A gap the size of a quarter means that weasels, prolific predators of fowl, can squeeze in and prey upon sleeping ducks. Nighttime options for ducks are standalone structures such as a coop, shed, barn, or even a room in your house. Coops and sheds should be located within a secure daytime structure for added protection.


Nighttime spaces should be more secure than daytime enclosures. The right coop setup will not have any gaps or openings that small predators can fit through.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary


The Scoop on Coops

Coops are a popular choice for housing fowl at night because of their versatility and security. Coops can be DIY projects, or you can find a significant range of sizes, designs, colors, and prices depending on the number of ducks that will occupy it. Most “chicken coops” are generally secure from nighttime predators without significant modification. However, being designed for chickens means that you may need to make some minor changes to better accommodate the needs of ducks. For example, domestic ducks typically do not use nesting boxes, so removing the walls between those cells may add more space to the coop. Ducks also do not perch like chickens, so roosting bars are not needed. A coop may say it can house 10 chickens, but only be able to house a few ducks because they cannot roost vertically on the perches. (Muscovy ducks may enjoy both perches and nesting boxes, however.) It’s important to consider these factors when determining the capacity of a coop. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries recommends a minimum of 4 sq. ft. of open floor space per medium bird.

Many premade coops come with windows and ventilation installed. A professionally ventilated coop is key to ducks’ ability to thermoregulate and avoid respiratory infections. Because their droppings degrade into ammonia, allowing these fumes to ventilate will keep their sensitive respiratory systems healthy. If there is any condensation or moisture present in the coop, there is a ventilation issue that will impact your ducks’ respiratory health. A new vent should be created, which can be made secure by covering it with hardware cloth with spaces no more than ½ inch wide.

Coops may need to be modified slightly for security, particularly their windows. Windows are another option for ventilation that may even be left open during warmer months. Most coops come with simple windows bearing screens no different than what would be on our houses. However, nighttime predators can very easily rip or chew through typical window screens. To prevent this, it is crucial that any windows are fitted with a layer of hardware cloth or galvanized wire with gaps no wider than ½ inch. Any and all entrances should be fitted with at least one secure lock as well. The general rule is that if a toddler can figure out how to open a coop, so can a raccoon!


Even on pre-fab or premade coops, windows should be fitted with hardware cloth of either ¼ inch spacing or ½ inch spacing to keep out small predators such as fishers and weasels.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary


Coop Hygiene

There are a variety of threats to duck health that have nothing to do with predators, and everything to do with the type of care provided. An improper cleaning routine, the wrong bedding choice, and excess moisture within the coop are all sources of illness and disease. The hygienic aspects of overnight care should be well-understood before beginning any journey with duck caretaking.

Ducks must have clean bedding that is free from excessive dust and ammonia fumes. This can be accomplished by selecting the right bedding and cleaning routine. Coops should be examined daily for signs that bedding needs to be refreshed, which can be as simple as taking a whiff inside. Moist or odorous bedding may have its life extended through the use of diatomaceous earth and coop refreshing powders like Sweet PDZ or First Saturday Lime, though it won’t make a difference for more than a few days. Diatomaceous earth is a crucial additive to every overnight area because of its ability to prevent mites. Ducks manage mites when they swim and preen during the day, but overnight areas must have a mite prevention strategy. One easy method is dusting the bedding generously with diatomaceous earth after each cleaning. It’s important to follow the application instructions on the package, so that birds do not breathe in the powder. 

Respiratory health is another factor for selecting the right bedding. Good bedding choices are aspen shavings, pine shavings, sand, pelletized pine bedding, or even chopped straw intended for bedding. Regular baled straw is unsuitable because of its dusty quality (which irritates airways) and ability to harbor aspergillus bacteria. 

The maintenance of bedding hygiene is also important because of its role in waterfowl foot health – bedding provides cushioning for ducks’ sensitive feet overnight, where they will spend nearly half their time or more for part of the year. If left to harden and encrust with waste, a foot disease called bumblefoot may arise. Bumblefoot is a very painful infection, and severe cases can require amputation. The appearance of painful lumps, called bumbles, indicate that the duck has been living on terrain that is unsanitary and/or an unsuitable texture.

Multiple large bumbles appear on the feet of a rescued duck. Bumblefoot is a painful but common ailment in abandoned ducks and other ducks receiving improper care.

Source: Carolina Waterfowl Rescue


Ducks should not have food and water within their coop or overnight quarters. Not only does food further attract predators such as raccoons, but it can also cause rats to bed within the coop and spread disease through their droppings. Additionally, ducks are extremely messy with water, and spillage will quickly cause bacterial growth. Moist, soiled bedding can promote aspergillosis and other respiratory infections as it rots. An adult duck that sleeps through the night will not require food and water, so there is no need to take this risk. The only ducks that require food and water overnight are young ducklings, whose bedding must be changed daily for their health.


Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary’s Vet Finder for ducks, geese, and other waterfowl:

(States A-L) http://www.majesticwaterfowl.org/vetfinderal.htm

(States M-W) http://www.majesticwaterfowl.org/vetfindermw.htm

Down Feather Industry 


Down feathers are the soft, fluffy, inner layer of feathers grown closest to the bodies of many birds. These feathers insulate their bodies and help regulate temperature. Mother ducks and geese provide softness and warmth to their babies through these special down feathers on their bellies. Like all feathers, they are crucial to birds’ ability to stay comfortable and buoyant on the water and in the air. In the down industry, these feathers are removed from their bodies and used in a variety of different products for humans, ranging from blankets to couch cushions to jackets. 

A Muscovy duck lines her nesting box with her own down feathers, which will help insulate her eggs and ducklings.

Source: Shutterstock


Down feathers are collected in three different ways. Some companies remove feathers from the dead bodies of slaughtered birds, some rip the feathers out of the birds while they’re alive (“live-plucking”), and some collect molting feathers from birds farmed exclusively for this purpose. At least 75% of down comes from ducks, and the vast majority of global down feathers are sourced from China, where the duck meat and foie gras trade are a significant part of the economy. 

Pekin ducks, the largest and friendliest breed of domestic duck, are used in 90% of the duck meat trade. They are often cramped together by the thousands in one building. The cage bars dig into their sensitive feet, and their eye feathers are stained from the inability to wash themselves. They rarely live more than a few months.

Source: Shutterstock


While there is an increasing push for down companies to boycott live-plucked birds, the practice is still popular in China. In this industry, ducklings and goslings as young as 10 weeks old will experience their first live-plucking. At this age, these birds are still peeping and have not yet grown their adult feathers. While geese can live thirty years or more, they are typically killed at 5 years after numerous plucking sessions. Investigations from PETA show that live-plucking procedures leave geese screaming and paralyzed, often left with large gaping wounds that are sewn by workers with a needle and thread. This stress even causes many birds to die during the plucking. They are continuously tortured with this practice throughout their short lives, as plucking happens yearly in accordance with the molting schedules of the birds. Birds who are not live-plucked are most likely in the duck meat and foie gras industries, where they are killed even earlier at just 7 weeks old. 

The corpse of a duckling has their down feathers plucked from their body. Birds often bleed as their feathers are removed, causing severe trauma, injury, and even death.

Source: Shutterstock


In the meat industry, ducks are cramped by the thousands into small cages, often in the dark. Swimming, chasing bugs, or laying in the grass is a mere dream. The air is thick with ammonia, and they fight and kill each other out of stress. For this reason, ducks may have their beaks clipped off, an incredibly painful process that permanently disfigures them. If they are in the foie gras industry, typical conditions are being kept in rows of single-celled cages. The only uncaged part of their bodies is their heads, allowing workers access to force-feed them. Producing foie gras involves force-feeding ducks and geese until they develop fatty liver disease, a cruel process banned in multiple countries. At slaughter, these birds will be hung upside down and have their throat slit, at which point their bodies are plunged into boiling water to release the feathers used for the down industry.  

Violet, a survivor of beak clipping in the duck industry, has her tongue permanently exposed from the disfiguring procedure. She now lives in freedom.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary


No such thing as humane down

In the same way that buying cheese supports the veal industry, buying a down jacket supports the horrendous slaughter of ducks and geese. Some down collection practices involve collecting feathers that are in the process of molting, leading to less pain for the bird. However, the reality is that feathers molt at different times, and ducks and geese are being stripped of their feathers all the same. Any industry that uses animals for profit deprives them of their ability to live freely and happily. No matter how the feathers are collected, ducks and geese are bred, exploited, and killed for it.

As justice for animals becomes a more prominent cause, so has the scrutiny that the down feather industry faces. There are now multiple organizations that offer certifications to down suppliers indicating that the down is ‘humane’ or ‘ethical’. Typically, these certifications are awarded when the company follows animal welfare guidelines, or the down comes from birds that are not force-fed or live-plucked. However, even in the most humane scenarios, ducks and geese are still being bred and slaughtered by the hundreds of millions each year. Regardless of how gently they are exploited during their short lives, each of these birds faces an unwilling and terrifying death to have their feathers taken from them. 


Geese deserve space to roam, forage, swim, and form lifelong relationships. They are highly emotional animals with fierce loyalty and commitment to one another. Living isolated in cages is no place for them.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary