A fluffy duckling might seem appealing next to an Easter basket, but shelter officials and animal welfare experts want gift-happy parents to picture something else: Poop.
The average domestic duck relieves itself once every 15 minutes, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That’s why very few people have ducks for pets — except at Easter.
Yet millions of people celebrate the season by getting their children a duckling, figuring they can release it in a pond when it gets too big to keep.
“We usually get tons of calls right after Easter,” said Susie Coston, national shelter director for the Farm Sanctuary.
Duck diapers are available online, but it takes more than that to raise a duck, said Carol Chrysong, 56, founder of the Lucky Duck Rescue & Sanctuary in Los Angeles, which is home to 120 of them.
“I do a massive amount of work every day before and after work. I am pretty exhausted,” Chrysong said.
The upside is a duck’s surprisingly doglike behavior. They greet their owners (Muscovy ducks even wag their tails), can learn tricks and are extremely loyal, she said.
The downside is cleaning up after a diaperless duck that also likes to get into water or puddles and splash — then walk around, Chrysong said. A duck would have to sit on a poop mat and sleep in a playpen full of shavings if it stays inside, she said.
Chrysong added that ducks are in heat up to 10 months out of the year, so “if you don’t want to have the sex talk with your child, don’t get a duck.”
Farm Sanctuary’s Coston also discouraged ducks as pets, especially since they can live up to 20 years. Parents often assume they can set a duck free at a pond once it outgrows its duckling stage, but “domestic ducks are not equipped to survive in the wild,” she said.
They can’t fly, and they don’t know how to behave in the wild, “so they fall prey to wild animals, dogs and, sadly, even people,” she said. In many cases, territorial ducks at a pond will kill newcomers.
Most pet store chains have stopped selling chicks, bunnies or ducklings — all popular Easter gifts — so almost all sales are made online, at feed stores or independent pet shops.
Parents whose children want a duck for Easter should visit a pet store or zoo instead, she said. That’ll be less messy and a lot less work, Chrysong said, adding, “The duck lady is starting to show serious signs of wear.”