Ducks are far more vulnerable to predators than their barnyard poultry peers, chickens. There is an excellent reason the phrase “sitting duck” was coined. These meat and egg birds have no natural means of self-defense against common duck predators. Their beaks are rounded, their toenails are not sharp enough to cause harm, and nearly all domesticated breeds do not possess the ability to even attempt to flee by flying away.
The only true means ducks have to protect themselves from predators is the diligence and skill their keepers use to build their duck house or coop and run. Ducks that are allowed to free-range (like my flock) are even more vulnerable to predators. While there are means to help keep ducks safe from predators while free-ranging, they are not foolproof, and you should expect to lose a bird occasionally.
To better protect ducks from predators, you first have to determine what threats are looming around the corner. Securing the duck house or coop and running successfully requires knowing exactly what type of predator will be trying to get in. Odds are, you will be facing multiple duck predators in search of an easy meal.
Top 7 Duck Predators
“Chickenhawks” is the most commonly referred to on farms and homesteads and are perhaps the most deadly duck predator. While a hawk is not large enough and strong enough to carry off a mature large breed of duck, they can easily shred their back with the sharp talons on their feet and attempt to fly away with them. A couple of years ago, I found one of my Jumbo Pekin ducks on a trail on the upper tier of the hills on our survival homestead. My duck did not waddle all the way up there over rugged terrain. A strong hawk was apparently able to tote it some distance, but it was too heavy and likely too squirmy to pack and further, and it fell to the ground. There were no bite marks on the neck of the duck or blood anywhere, so it was not a fox that grabbed it, nor was it a bobcat or a coyote because the duck went missing during the early afternoon hours.
A mature hawk can usually lift about five to 8 pounds – approximately two-thirds of its body weight. Ducklings, young ducks, and small duck breeds are all highly vulnerable to these deadly birds of prey. It is illegal in almost all states to kill hawks. Your first option for protection from this duck predator is to keep a livestock guardian around when the flock is free-ranging. The second option is to have a cover on the duck run that is made of hardware cloth to prevent them from using their strong feet to pull apart thin wire (chicken wire is only good for keeping poultry birds in and will NOT keep predators out) and get inside of the living quarters to attack.
Place a solar-powered motion detector owl decor on top of the duck house or run, along with reflector tape to help deter hawks from coming around. The vision of a hawk is highly amplified. That is why the birds can spot prey from such a large distance above and swoop in for the kill. If you paint some large eyes on the roof of the duck house, it has been known to at least slightly deter hawks because it tricks them into thinking another larger duck predator has already claimed the area.
A coyote is easily able to kill and eat or carry off even the largest of duck breeds. Coyotes typically attack from dusk to dawn. Although rare, if a coyote is starving or rabid, it can attack ducks and other livestock during daylight hours.
Trapping or shooting coyotes to protect ducks and other livestock from them is legal in states where they have been deemed “nuisance predators.” Still, laws regarding when and how coyotes can be trapped or killed may vary widely by municipality or state.
Coyotes will burrow into a poultry bird coop or run just like a fox. Trenching around the perimeter of the duck house – coop and run one foot deep and lining the trench with hardware cloth will thwart burrowing predators. The hardware cloth will eventually rust and need replacement, but it takes a good five years until you have to retrench and replace the material, in my experience.
Lining beneath the floor of the living quarters with layers of hardware cloth, metal sheeting, and pressure-treated lumber will also help deter burrowing duck predators.
These vile and sneaky rodents are one of the most dreaded duck predators on our homestead. They attack quickly and can kill multiple poultry birds in a single night. A mink may not consume all that they kill, but their sharp little claws will rip apart the neck flesh of the ducks and either kill them instantly or cause them to slowly and painfully die of shock.
Mink can squeeze into a not much bigger space than a quarter – another reason not to use the pliable chicken wire on the duck house run. Following all of the burrowing duck predator prevention tips noted above, as well as ensuring the space around doors and window flaps are not large enough to allow a mink to wiggled through, will help protect your flock from these killer rodents.
Weasels are in this same rodent family and are also a duck predator. While they cannot get through a hole as small as a mink, they can squeeze into smaller spaces than many folks realize. Follow the burrowing predator and mink prevention tips to help keep weasels out of your duck house, as well.
The only small duck predator as common as the mink throughout the United States is the raccoon. They burrow and claw their way into any space that is worn, torn, thin, or large enough for them to reach their paws to score a meal.
I once had a raccoon reach in through chicken wire to grab at keets (young guineas) inside of a brooder that had always only been used in the garage. My rookie mistake by letting the brooder be taken outside to acclimate the guineas but still keep them separated cost four lives. The raccoon would grab and hold onto a guinea that ran by and eat off of it until it could hold or reach it no longer and then maneuver around the brooder sides and roof to grab at another one.
In addition to the hardware cloth recommendation for the run and the burrowing duck predators tips, I cannot recommend highly enough the use of a 2-step lock on all duck houses and run doors and window flaps. A raccoon can easily figure out a simple one-step lock – especially of the hook and latch variety.
Raccoons often seek out eggs, ducklings, and chicks, but that definitely should not lull you into a false sense of security. A coon WILL attack a mature duck if it is hungry enough – especially if no livestock guardian dog, guineas, or rooster is around to scare it off. I raise chickens, ducks, and guineas together for just this reason, to help protect the flock from common chicken and duck predators.
Solar motion detector lights and motion-activated decoys can also help scare away raccoons.
Foxes have been getting into hen houses since the beginning of time. Unlike coyotes and bobcats, they will frequently attack during daylight hours and can be as brazen as they are sly and quick.
Jumbo duck breeds are far more difficult for a fox to snag, but a large fox can certainly pull off just such an attack. A fox may be one of the most difficult predators to catch (if they are declared a nuisance predator and shooting or trapping them is legal in your state) because they move both quickly and so silently.
Because they attack in broad daylight, only motion detector decors that emit sound are likely to be effective against this burrowing.
Like hawks, owls will swoop down and snag a duckling as well as sneak around and steal eggs. Use the same hawk prevention tactics as noted above to deter owls. The solar-powered motion-activated owl decor can be used or replaced with a different and larger bird or prey version to help scare owls away.
Bobcats will attack ducks of all sizes and ages of breeds regardless of their size. Normally, as long as the flock is put up before dusk, this duck predator will not be able to turn them into a meal. Use the burrowing predator tips noted above and use firmly attached hardware cloth to prevent a bobcat from getting inside the duck house.
Large predators like bears, wolves, and wild boar are also ducked, predators. If these types of animals frequent the wooded areas where your home is located, they will likely go after calves, goats, and sheep before venturing into a well-lit area with motion detectors and signs of human life to kill a duck. Keeping a pair of livestock guardian dogs will help deter and alert you to large duck predators on your land.
Miniature donkeys are also a wise investment when dealing with predators like wolves, foxes, and especially coyotes. They will not only make an enormous amount of racket when a threat is nearby but will rush and kick these common predators for sport.
Learn how to identify not just the droppings but the signs left by common predators in your areas, so you are well aware of a potential duck predator long before it gets close to the duck house and runs.