How to Pick Up a Duck – Handling Ducks SAFELY

How to pick up a pet duck correctly

Ducks are a popular barnyard pet and for good reason. They’re friendly and like interacting with people.

However, there are a few things you should be aware of before getting close to your new duck friend. We’re here to give you some pointers on how to pick up a duck safely.

The best way to pick up a duck is by cornering it, slowly approaching it, and then ensuring the wings are immobile when gently grasping the duck.

To get more in-depth into how to pick a duck up, continue reading!

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How to Pick Up a Pet Duck

A duck staring at the water
Don’t grab a duck by its neck or feet to pick it up. Always support its weight by holding its body in your hands with the wings pinned to its sides.

When it comes to how to catch a duck without hurting it, the best way to pick up a duck is by cornering them in its run zone, so they have no choice but to come toward you.

Then, gradually and carefully approach the duck, moving slowly on a flat surface, because ducks can easily hurt their legs or wings if they fall.

If necessary, use the neck as a “catching handle” to help control the speed at which it approaches you.

Don’t grab the neck, but create a barrier with your hands. Then once it’s close enough, use one of these methods:

Lightweight and Bantam Ducks

Put your thumb on one wing and your fingers on the other, then hook the base of their wings behind their back.

Then, carefully raise them with one hand under their tummy.

Read More: Why Do Ducks Quack Constantly? Ducks quack for different reasons – here are some of them!

Small and Medium-Sized Ducks

Place one hand on each side of the bird, holding the wings in position with your thumbs, and bring them together in front of your chest to catch the bird.

Bigger Ducks

Gently pick them up by their breast from underneath, and hold their legs with your thumb and fingers.

As you lift them, catch them by the neck or place one hand over each wing, as stated with lightweight and bantam ducks.

Read our related article, How Much Does a Duck Weigh in Pounds? We explore the average weight of ducks and the factors that determine their weight!

After you Catch it

When you’ve caught your duck, softly and quietly speak to it and pet its back to keep it relaxed.

DO NOT lift the duck by the neck or the duck’s legs as that can injure it.

Instead, to pick up the duck, grip it underneath its wings near its body with one hand, and then use your other arm to support its legs from underneath.

Its head should be pointing upward or tucked under your arm.

You can hold a duck like a football, cupping it in both hands so that the top hand is on top of the bird and holding the wings down while the bottom hand supports its legs.

Hold the tail end of the duck pointed away from you at either your right or left side, depending on which arm is supporting it.

Don’t use the previous tactics on a Muscovy male over 6 months old.

Instead, grab one of its wings in each hand behind its back and hold on tight. They’ve got some serious muscle!

Read More: Can Ducks Fly? Ducks can fly, but how far? How can you prevent your ducks from flying away? Here’s all you need to know!

Getting Ducks Accustomed to Being Held

Duck swimming in a water
It’s important to get a duck accustomed to being held so that it can feel comfortable around people.

It’s always a good idea to get some hands-on experience with ducks before you start inspecting them, even if you don’t think you need it.

Picking up and handling your ducks regularly will help them become more accustomed to you, making it easier to check for any ailments or pests on their skin.

Even if snuggling your backyard ducks isn’t your thing, you should be able to grab them if one of them is sick or injured.

It’s critical to be able to grab your ducks so you can examine them or take them to a vet

If you don’t know how to pick up a duck correctly, you risk injuring or stressing them out.

Read More: Best Duck Egg Incubator Reviews. If you’re looking to raise ducklings, these incubators are perfect for easy hatching!

Different Ducks Require Different Handling

Two white ducks walking together
Be careful some ducks have claws, which can make them dangerous to pick up!

There are multiple breeds and species with various sizes and characteristics.

These should all be considered before holding a duck:

1. Physical Traits

Some larger species of ducks such as the Muscovy duck have sharp talons on their feet. You may need to take extra care while handling them to prevent them from cutting you.

Read our related article on How to Clip Duck Wing Feathers. If you’re picking your ducks up to clip their wings, read this guide first!

2. Domestication

Domesticated ducks are incredibly diverse, with different levels of calmness between the wide duck varieties.

Welsh Harlequin ducks, for example, are generally more friendly and calmer than other species, such as Runner ducks.

However, this doesn’t mean that all Welsh Harlequins will be docile or that all Runners will be high-strung.

Like humans, each duck has a unique personality, and you should know your duck’s personality before handling them.

3. Different Duck Sizes

The four size groups of domesticated Mallard-descended ducks, as categorized by the American Poultry Association, are:

  • Bantam
  • Lightweight
  • Mediumweight 
  • Heavyweight

The Welsh Harlequin duck is Lightweight, weighing between 5.5 and 6 pounds in adulthood.

Although the maximum weight of a considerably heavier Heavyweight duck is 30 pounds, this size is manageable even for someone who isn’t particularly big.

The males of the Aylesbury can weigh up to 10 pounds, whereas our ducks are around half the size of an Aylesbury and can weigh up to 5.5 pounds.

It’s crucial to remember this if you plan to let your young children interact with ducks.

A heavyweight duck can be much stronger than one might think and may not want to be picked up or handled.

Read More: Differences Between Geese vs Ducks. Not sure if a bird is a heavyweight duck or a goose? Here’s how to tell the difference!

Don’t Handle Wild Ducks Unless Necessary

Only in rare circumstances, such as when a free-roaming wild duck is wounded and must be taken to a waterfowl/wildlife rescue, should you ever pick up or handle a duck from the wild.

Furthermore, we recommend that you avoid offering food to wild ducks.

Wild ducks are usually weary of people. Also, healthy wild ducks may have dangerous diseases such as H5N1 influenza.

These conditions are contagious to humans, mammals, and birds kept in backyard coops.

Here’s a video of a man picking up a duck. It shows you how to grab the wings like with a small or medium-sized duck.

Read More: How Long Do Ducks Sit On Eggs to Hatch? Learn all about the egg-laying and nesting habits of duck hens!


It’s pretty easy to pick up a duck and will become necessary if you plan on, or are in the process of, caring for ducks.

It’s always important to consider the breed, size, and domestication of your ducks, and to ensure that you pick them up safely and carefully so you aren’t hurting them or putting yourself in danger.

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