How Do Ducks Sleep?

Ducks comprise a significant portion of a large waterbird family named the Anatidae, distributed in almost all continents. Most duck species are sociable and dwell together near lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Though poultry farmers focused on chickens in the past, most are now keeping ducks. These are generally healthier, more heat-tolerant, quieter, and more cold-hardy than chickens.

Furthermore, ducks are more profitable because they lay eggs with a richer flavor than chickens because of lower water and higher fat content, so they fetch higher prices.

When considering keeping ducks, one primary question you might have revolves around the birds’ sleeping habits. The discussion below will answer this question.

The Sleeping Habits of Ducks

The sleeping habits of ducks come from years of adaptation when living in the wild. Taming ducks will often not negate these habits.

The following are the common sleeping habits in ducks.

Sleeping Positions

Here are four main sleeping positions for ducks including:

  1. Standing on a leg when sleeping on land to reduce the heat lost through their legs with little or no feathers. The position, called unipedal resting, also allows the bird to quickly escape if a predator approaches. The duck will periodically change the leg on which it is standing to prevent tissue damage.
  2. Rotating the heads backwards to rest them on their backs while sometimes tucking the beaks under the back feathers. This is a common position for heavier ducks to conserve body heat while resting their neck and head muscles. The ducks can also direct their ears and eyes to maximize their odds of hearing and seeing predators approaching.
  3. Pulling the necks backward to rest the heads on their chests.
  4. Sleeping with the heads flopped to the ground. This is common for ducklings since they lack the muscle control needed to hold their heads up when sleeping.

Sleeping With One Eye Open

Ducks have mastered unihemispheric sleep. This means they can sleep with both eyes shut or one eye open. Ducks sleep in rows. The ones on the outer row should remain alert to guard the rest against threats, so they keep one eye open.

The open eye still functions, meaning the duck can still see through this eye when asleep. This seemingly strange habit means that the duck will only rest one side of its brain at a time. It will keep alternating the open eye to give both sides of the brain enough rest.

Keeping one eye and side of the brain alert allows the duck to react to threats and predators while getting some rest.

Sleeping In Groups

Ducks sleep in groups to keep them safe from predators. The group of sleeping ducks is called a paddling or raft. This group also helps to keep a flock warm in cold weather. In the group, the ducks along the outer edge are ‘’guards’’ that protect the rest.

The ‘’guard ducks’’ are rotated through the night so that all birds get enough rest. Baby ducks will sleep next to their mothers, usually in quiet, safe spots away from other ducks.

Preening Before Sleeping

Before sleeping, ducks keep their feathers clean by preening. The habit also entails rubbing oil on the feathers. Preening often involves placing the head in somewhat strange positions while digging the beaks into their bodies.

It helps the duck keep warm and remain waterproof, more so when sleeping on water. This explains why ducks can sleep in the rain. The oily preened feathers insulate the birds from ice, rain, and snow.

Sleeping On Water

Usually, ducks will sleep while floating on water. Ducks are generally not picky about their sleeping spaces, and most breed species can sleep on water and land. Research has also shown that ducks can sleep while in flight.

Heavy duck species like Muscovys and Mallards prefer sleeping on land, while small ones like wood ducks can sleep in trees. Wild birds primarily sleep on the water to detect intruders easily when they quickly sense movements through water sounds and vibrations.

Domesticated ducks usually sleep on wood shavings and soft straw on a coop’s floor. Weather also plays a role in where ducks sleep.

In the winter, ducks that migrate will sLeep in large communal flocks in their choice regions. Non-migratory ones will often roost in flocks under bushes or shrubs to keep warm.

How Much Sleep Do Ducks Need?

Compared to other birds, ducks will need more sleep. They sleep for approximately eleven hours, translating to about 45% in 24 hours. It is challenging to tell exactly how long a duck will sleep because most sleep in short bursts lasting seconds or minutes.

They are semi-nocturnal and do not sleep throughout the night. In fact, most ducks forage at night to escape predators. They can also be active at night to groom each other or migrate in severe weather conditions.

Generally, older ducks will sleep more than young ones since they wear out with age.

Effects of Lack of Sleep on Ducks

At times, a duck might not get enough sleep, especially when the sleeping area is not safe from predators, is cold, or there are too many things causing disturbances like regular foot traffic.

In this case, the duck will become cranky and sometimes fall sick. Some ducks develop behavioral issues because of a lack of enough sleep.

These include excessive screaming, feather plucking, and aggression. Egg production can also reduce in your duck, or the egg quality might be affected by inadequate sleep.


If you have been thinking of rearing ducks, the above information has interpreted the sleeping habits you can expect. Ducks can sleep on land, in water, and even in flight. They sleep standing on one foot, with their heads tilted backward, or with their heads flopped on the ground.

As animals that have mastered unihemispheric sleep, ducks can sleep with one eye open to protect themselves from predators. They also sleep in groups, with those on the edge of the group guarding over the rest.

Your duck will need about 10.8 hours of sleep daily. If the bird does not get enough sleep, it can become aggressive, pluck feathers and start screaming.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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