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Mandarin Ducks

  1. The Mandarin - the Answer to the Urban Duck Keeper's Prayers
  2. More on Mandarins
  3. Mandarin and Wood Duck Nest Boxes
  4. Taming Mandarins and Wood Ducks

Taming Mandarins and Wood Ducks

Occasionally I am asked why one does not see more Mallards, Mandarins, and Wood Ducks at shows. After all, the questioner often says, they are all in the ABA Standard. While it is true that all three species are welcome at any ABA sanctioned meet, the truth is that their wild temperaments often discourage exhibitors from showing them. Without proper preparation, Woodies, Mandarins and Mallards can find the small show cages to be so frightening that they may well injure themselves trying to escape. With a little training, however, most individuals can handle the show experience very well. The two processes necessary are hand taming and coop training and that takes time and effort.

Tame Mandarins1

Hand Taming

Hand taming is not only a necessary step in preparing a bird with a wild temperament for showing, it is also a desirable process if one is to fully enjoy keeping the birds. While taming is usually attempted with fully feathered young birds, it can be done with birds of any age. It helps (but is not mandatory) to disable the bird’s ability to fly in order to aid in calming the bird. Simply wing clipping the flights on one wing will accomplish this without rendering the bird permanently flightless. The enclosure in which the taming will be conducted should allow the keeper to isolate the bird(s) to be tamed but not so small that the birds cannot move away from the keeper a little distance if they become frightened. Clean water should be supplied free choice but feed should be supplied by the keeper only when he/she is working with the bird(s). The bird should come to associate the keeper with food. Start by quietly and slowly entering the pen with the food in a bowl and placing the bowl a few feet in front of the keeper while speaking to the bird in a calm and soothing voice. Eventually the birds will approach the bowl and begin to eat. That point is the initial goal the first few times they are fed. Gradually, the birds will actually anticipate the keeper’s approach and will move toward him instead of retreating. Each taming session may only be a few minutes long at that point. As the birds learn to trust the keeper, the keeper will gradually tempt them to feed directly out of the hand. That process is greatly aided if one offers special treats such as live meal worms or other morsels. Not every bird will respond the same and some will never become as tame as others but all can be taught to trust the close approach of their keepers given time and patience. Of course, it is necessary to reinforce the behavior regularly but most keepers enjoy doing so. If the bird becomes comfortable with handling, so much the better.Tame Mandarins2



Feeding Mandarins out of the hand will tame them quickly.

Coop Training

The goal here is to simply get the bird to be reasonably comfortable in a show coop. In this process, the bird must be gently caught and placed in a show coop. The first time or two, the bird should be kept in the coop for a relatively short time and every effort should be made to calm and comfort the bird. The bird should then be taken from the coop and released into its normal pen and rewarded with a special tidbit. The process should be repeated once or twice a day until the bird appears to accept the coop well. If one can gradually introduce the bird to more noise and the presence of other people that would be a plus. Since Mandarins in particular love to perch, adding a two inch high cross section of a branch it can rest on may make it more comfortable. No experienced judge should need to handle either Mandarins or Woodies to evaluate them and most do not feel the need to handle Mallards unless they suspect the bird may have an off color (white) flight feather. While Mandarins or Woodies of either sex can certainly be shown, most exhibitors do not show the less colorful females.


Hand fed ducklings

Mandarin ducklings can easily be tamed. Photo by Andrew Markham

While taming and training Mandarins, Wood Ducks, and Mallards may require more effort than showing the other bantam ducks, having such beautiful birds in the showroom is certainly worth the effort.

Originally published: 01-08-2007
Last updated: 11-01-2009