Thinking About Travelling with your Ducks?
Before you pack up your duck and jump in the truck, here are some travel tips that will make taking quacksengers on the road alot more fun.
Prepare Yourself and Your Ducks
Before you hit the highway, try a few local trips to see how your ducks react to spending time in your car. Dogs can get car sick, ducks can too, and you'll want to know before you're 400 miles from home with a pukin' Pekin. Words of caution: Stay off major highways until you know how your duck reacts to travelling in your vehicle.
Travelling with Ducks: People Who've Done It
Read firsthand accounts with lots of valuable tips from people who travel all over the United States with their ducks. I've added a section on transporting your ducks so you will know how to do it safely.
Things to Consider
Are You Sure You Want to do This?
If you have a "Type A" (in a hurry) kind of personality you're better off boarding your ducks with your exotic vet or leaving them at home with a duck sitter. That is preferable to bringing them along and stressing everyone out as you rush to get to your destination. You will need to make longer and more frequent rest stops. Just like you, your ducks will need time to get out of your vehicle, stretch their wings, move around, have a drink of water. On longer trips a swim break and a snack is necessary.
Respect Your Family
When your spouse or companion is not keen on travelling with your ducks, respect their feelings and leave the ducks behind with a sitter. In our home, for any major decision the "NO" wins without argument.
Get Them Started Young
If you're planning to travel with your ducks, get them on the road at an early age. Ducks are creatures of habit and drastic changes in their daily routine can negatively impact their health.
Never allow an unwilling, unrestrained pet into your vehicle. Your safety and the welfare of others could be compromised. A necessary trip to the vet is an exception - in that case use a closed cardboard box with ventilation holes or a pet carrier.
You know your ducks best and what they can handle so use your own best judgement. If it requires your duck being fully restrained in order to make a journey with you, bringing your ducks along is not smart.
Making Your Trip More Enjoyable
Plan your trip in advance to prevent problems on the road.
Where to Stay
If you are staying in motels, prepare in advance where you plan to stay and make sure a duck or small pet is allowed. Some motel chains, like the Best Western and Travelodge allow a small pet as long as you stay in the room with them. Not all Best Westerns allow pets, however, and we have never asked if they would accept a duck. Some campgrounds and RV parks do not allow any pets, so don't assume. Check in advance and plan your stops accordingly.
Availablity for pet rooms is often limited and book up fast. Be prepared to pay anywhere from a non-refundable 10.00 deposit to a fully-refundable cash only deposit of $100.00 (refunded when you're checking out and only after the room has passed a housekeeping inpsection).
Take a proactive approach. Be upfront with the places you are staying. Always provide them with a cell phone number where they can reach you in case you need to leave the room without your ducks and quacking is reported. Showing that you are on top of problems BEFORE they arise and able to act fast to correct a potential situation assures the staff you are a responsible pet owner. The last thing you want is Animal Control taking your ducks away from you in a remote town because the motel manager couldn't reach you in response to a complaint. Ducks often quack when they are lonely, hungry, bored or just because thay feel like it.
Clean up After Your Duck
Diapering your duck is an effective way to keep poop under control in the car and motel room. Preemie diapers work pretty well, but you will need to practice using them and may need to modify them before hitting the road. Some people have success using a plastic baggie secured with a rubber band or a small piece of scotch tape. Make sure the plastic covers the vent (where the poop comes out). That's a less expensive alternative to buying diapers or expensive harnesses. You can try Nancy Townsend's custom harness and diaper combination for a more permanent solution. Ask her directly for instructions on how to use. Order from her website.
Minimize pooping in your vehicle by avoiding giving your ducks food or water for at least an hour before you load them up. That's a little harder to do on the road, so be prepared to take longer rest stops since they will need plenty of water throughout the day. You can feed them when you make your final stop for the night or first thing in the morning.
You can allow them to enjoy a little bathtub splash after feeding too, so the after-dinner poop is washed down the drain. Although feeding them in the tub sounds like a great idea, I wouldn't advise it unless you are willing to remove all uneaten food before you fill the tub. Don't forget, a duck needs water while they are eating to wash their food down. They can slip and injure themselves easily so you'll have to provide some traction (like the motel's rubber bathmat).
Don't Leave Your Duck's Mess Behind
Clogging the motel's pipes or leaving a mucky mess behind will not make you (or anyone else with a pet) a welcome guest in the future.
Pekins have rather large, messy, smelly poops. They are not pleasant to look at or to smell. Indoors poop cleanup: bring along an organic cleaner that is safe for pets. Clean up all accidents immediately before they have time to absorb into carpet.
For outdoor cleanups: bring a squirt gun or sports bottle filled with tap water to wash poop away if it lands on walkways or places people might step on it. On lawns or gardens it will not harm the plants. In fact duck poop is an excellent fertilizer.
I've heard people claim that their duck's poop doesn't have any odor. That's because they are used to it. All poop has an odor, and some people are more sensitive to it than others. Whether you feel your duck's poop doesn't stink or not, be respectful of others and your ducks will be welcomed in more places in the future.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Cover your seats with old blankets or towels. Tucking a layer of plastic sheeting (not the filmy kind, rather the 4 mil thick stuff) securely underneath the blanket to provides even better protection if you have cloth seats.
In a motor home, you can cordon off an area for the ducks as long as it's free from sharp edges or slippery surfaces. Cover the floor with an old blanket or towels, tape it down at the corners if you have to. Be sure if they lose their balance while you're driving they aren't going to come in contact with anything that can injure them.
To Cage or not to Cage?
A cage is fine for short distances, not recommended for long distances unless you have a very large sized one or are willing to make frequent stops to let them out. Jen Jenner allows her ducks to sit wherever they want in the car - except under the brake pedal! She also allows them to relax for awhile, then walk around for awhile after getting out of the water and before they go back into her car.
If I had no choice but to make a long distance trip with my ducks, I'd get a large cage like the kind large dogs use in cars, line it with soft towels or a rubber mat that can be rinsed off easily, secure the cage with seatbelts or another restraint device in case of sudden stops or bumps. I'd make a stop every hour on the hour and never leave my ducks unattended in the car for any length of time. Greg and I take turns on rest stops with Killer (our dog). The same should apply for ducks.
If it were a choice between caging my ducks or leaving them home, I'd opt for the second. Trouble is a pincher, and if he got me while I was driving, I'd probably crash. Mischief is very shy and does not like to be handled (we got her as an adult so she never imprinted very well). I believe that caging any pet should only be an option of last resort or emergency. All ducks are different, so again, use your best judgement and opt for the safer alternative if there is any question.
Some manufacturers are making seltbelts for dogs now. You may be able to find one and modify it for a duck, being extra careful with their wings, feet and neck.
Grub on the Go
Bring a dog's water bowl or reservoir waterer for drinking water. Bring bottled water for both you and your pets. Some older restrooms have old pipes, and you do not want to expose your duck to unsafe water. At rest stops I've often seen water sources with signs posted that say "Non Potable Water". That means the water is NOT drinkable.
For feeding time, use a small dog or cat food bowl or hand feed them. A bin feeder would not be practical unless you were feeding them in the cage. Give them the food they eat every day as a staple. Keep treats to a minimum on the road and don't share your fast food with them.
Common Sense Prevents Disaster
Test for hot pavement so they don't burn their feet.
NEVER leave your duck in the car for any length of time without adequate ventilation.
Beware of other people's travelling pets like dogs that will see your duck as their lunch.
Use a harness, like a cat or small dog "5 point" harness that is fully adjustable and won't choke your duck if you need to quickly lift him out of harms way. Practice walking your duck on a leash ahead of time and keep the harness free from the wing area to prevent injury.
Be aware of your surroundings. Predators can be extra hungry in the winter and more bold. Desert areas can be filled with spiny plants, snakes, scorpions or biting bugs in the spring and summer. Many things outside your home are potentially dangerous to your pet (and you!).
Don't use air fresheners or deodorizing spray in your car that can be toxic to your duck. My dog became extremely ill from carpet freshener used in one motel. Ducks are even more sensitive. Pet rooms are typically doused with chemical fresheners so air out your room thoroughly before allowing your ducks access.
Bring along a baby gate or folding fence to confine them to a smaller area when necessary.
Some motels use pesticides around the perimeter of their facility, so be careful about letting your duck nibble near buildings.
Contributors: Diane McIlrath, Jen Jenner.