Submitted to: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The domestic Pekin duck is believed to be a descendant of the wild mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos). There is very limited information available on the behavior of these ducks. Virtually no information exists in the scientific literature or the lay literature on the behavior of Pekin ducks. This is an exploratory study looking at the ontogeny of aggressive behavior in Pekin ducks raised in a production environment. Elevated levels of aggression result in increased feather- pulling which may lead to tissue damage and ultimate mortality. Ten pens of ducks,5 pens of hens and 5 pens of drakes(n=10 ducks/pen), were raised on litter in 2.4m x 2.4m floor pens containing one bell waterer and one tube feeder. Birds were individually marked and behavioral observations were collected using focal animal sampling with all occurrences of aggressive behavior being recorded (5 days per week,15 minutes per pen, for 5 weeks). Dominance hierarchies were calculated and levels of aggression determined. There were no significant differences in levels of total aggression (pecks and threats) between the hens and drakes, (26.3 and 27.5 interactions per bird per pen, respectively). However, there was a significant increase in the level of total aggression from week 1 to week 5 of age (P<.001). It was also determined that significantly more aggressive interactions (78%)(p<.01) occurred in pen areas other than the feeder space(2% of interactions) or the waterer space(22% of interactions). In order to evaluate the welfare of production ducks, information on basic behavior patterns is necessary. This study provides the first evaluation of the development of aggressive behavior and the social organization of Pekin ducks raised for production purposes.