A Brief Guide to Ducks

Have you ever thought about owning your own ducks but have no idea where to start? You’re not alone.  One thing that most people don’t know about ducks is that not only are they a good source of eggs and meat, but they make for one of the most efficient and natural forms of pest control you can find. If you live in an area where sloths and slugs might pose a problem, some ducks might be exactly what you need to maintain your farm.  Ducks will gladly chow down on the types and sizes of snails and slugs you and I wouldn’t be too excited to handle ourselves.

A very important part of picking the right ducks is understanding the different breeds and what makes them unique.  Almost all domestic breeds are going to be somehow related to the wild Mallard.  Despite this, most breeds have been developed to handle specific purposes (meat or eggs, etc.)  Ducks are usually classified into heavy, light, and bantam breeds.  Typically, heavier breeds are better for meat and lighter ducks are efficient egg layers.

Pet Ducks

All ducks are different.  Some may be prolific egg layers but lack the calm and docile temperament to make a good pet.  Others may not produce many eggs or lack the size to be used for their meat but make wonderful pets.  Alas, some may be calm and productive, making them great pets as well as avid contributors to the dinner table.  While most ducks do have the calm temperament to be considered for a pet, it's important to understand what ducks make the best pets and what breeds should probably just be considered for their production habits.

What makes a duck a good pet is usually a combination of being calm, especially around other pets or children, and being aesthetically pleasing to look at.  One thing to also consider when determining whether or not to own ducks as pets is their ability to forage and act as a natural form of pest control.  Most ducks will gladly slurp up snails, banana slugs and other invertebrates that just like getting in the way of things.  The Pekin, Welsh Harlequin, and Swedish are three of our best selling duck breeds, with all three breeds being as productive of egg layers or table birds as they are fun to be around as pets.  The Cayuga isn't as productive of an egg layer but still makes a docile and beautiful pet.  All 4 aforementioned breeds are hardy and docile birds whose low-maintenance lifestyle makes them easy to maintain and enjoyable to be around.  

While birds like the Pekin and Welsh Harlequin make great pets, as well as useful contributors to the farm, some ducks are just a little better suited as "workers" and not necessarily "pets."  Breeds like the Khaki Campbell, Mallard, or Indian Runner are all productive and beautiful birds, but their active lifestyle, need for space, and sometimes harsh temperament towards humans and other animals make them better suited towards the 9-5 work life, instead of being considered a "pet" as would your dog or cat.  It's not completely unheard of to raise these breeds as pets, as temperaments and personalities may vary within a breed, but in a general sense these breeds don't make optimal pets.

We want to stress the fact that many ducks can fit into many different categories when it comes to their temperament and purpose.  For example, a Pekin duck makes a great pet, but is also a wildly popular table bird.  At the same time Pekins can still produce 175-200 eggs in a given year.  All in all, this makes the Pekin duck one of the most popular ducks around and for good reason.  That being said, what ducks you choose is your choice!  You may not care about egg or meat production at all and just want some pretty birds to look at.  At the same time you may not care about appearance and just want productive egg layers for your farm.  No matter what you're looking for, there's a duck breed that suits any hobby farmer's wants and needs.

Egg Layers

While most egg laying breeds of duck are on the lighter side in terms of weight, most of these birds can be used for their meat - making them wonderful and practical additions to any backyard farm.

The Khaki Campbell:  The Campbell is a breed that originated in England and is one of the most productive light breeds, laying a phenomenal 300 eggs per year.  Campbells come in three colors: khaki, dark, and white.  These ducks usually grow to about 3-5 pounds and can even make good table birds.  

The Welsh Harlequin: Originating in 1949, the Welsh Harlequin is a hardy 5-6 pound bird that greatly excels in egg production.  They are extremely low maintenance and can produce around 300 white shelled eggs every year.  They are also great at foraging and produce wonderful white, lean meat.

The Ancona: The Ancona duck weighs in on the heavier side of most light breeds but is one of the most popular and productive duck breeds around.  Saying that the Ancona is a popular breed of duck is a bit of a catch-22 given that the bird is currently critically endangered.  The Ancona is a heritage breed.  Though it is endangered, many farm owners around the country enjoy the benefits of these beautiful birds on a daily basis.  The bird’s exceptionally calm temperament, matched with its proven ability as a dual-purpose bird and pet make it one that every bird owner should think about getting.  Plus, if you’re really thinking about owning a flock of ducks, you should really think about getting a flock of Anconas. There is a major need for more conservation breeders of Ancona flocks in order to help ramp up their population and get them off the critically endangered list.  The Ancona is also especially hardy and can lay anywhere from 200-280 white, cream or blue eggs every year.  Given that you’d be hard-pressed to find a flock owner who doesn’t love their Anconas, why not get some for yourself!?

Golden 300 HybridThe Golden 300 Hybrid is a breed that was specially "designed" to be the highest value egg laying duck breed.  Based on the Khaki Campbell (see above,) the Golden 300 has a higher feed conversion rate and more relaxed temperament, making for a perfect bird for anyone looking to maximize eggs and minimize stress.  In larger commercial operation, the Golden 300 offers larger eggs, better fertility rates, and a faster rate to maturity than many other ducks.

Indian RunnersIndian Runner ducks are as delightful as they are rare!  These goofily beautiful birds walk in an upright, almost penguin-like waddle.  Hens can produce anywhere from 150-200 eggs in a year.  These ducks are relatively quiet compared to Call ducks.  When not swimming around in a pond, you can usually find your Indian Runner ducks foraging for worms, slugs, and even flies!  As mentioned earlier, their active disposition and need for space makes Indian Runner ducks from making the best pets.

Meat Birds

Heavy breeds are quite typically the best table birds, though even the heaviest ducks can also be adequate egg layers.  As you can see, many duck breeds are capable egg layers and table birds.

The Pekin: This duck is a popular breed for its ability to mature quickly while still providing a great source of meat.  Pekins can even lay 175-200 eggs per year as well depending on your climate.

 

The RouenAnother popular breed is the Rouen.  While the Rouen is often kept as a show bird or just for its looks, they produce a great size table bird.  Not the most prolific egg layer, they will still lay around 100 eggs in a given season.  

The Silver AppleyardThese little guys are also productive and practical birds.  These ducks are wonderfully beautiful and provide a great source of meat, but they also can be used as a dual-purpose bird. Most heavy breeds aren’t adept fliers, which means you shouldn’t need to clip their wings or have a taller fence around your farm.

Call Ducks

The Call duckThis is arguably the most famous bantam breed, if not the most famous overall duck breed as well.  It is also the smallest domesticated breed.  While Call ducks are great pets, they’re not very productive.  They are very energetic and active.  Though they used to be utilized as hunting tools and decoys, today they make a cute and exotic pet for most owners.

 

 

 

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