Understanding Your Duck Breeds
There are many different reasons to own ducks. They can be kept as pets, egg layers, table birds, or all three at the same time! Ducks are versatile animals who can be as productive as they are beautiful. One thing many people don’t know about ducks is they make one of the best natural forms of pest control around. Many breeds enjoy foraging and eat all kinds of worms, slugs, or even flies. Not only does this supplement their diet, but it helps protect your farm!
A very important part 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, eggs, pets.) Differentiating between egg layers, meat breeds, and pet breeds is a good way to sort out duck breeds, but most, if not all ducks can’t be pigeonholed into just one category or purpose. For example, the Pekin duck is a wildly popular pet breed, but its size and maturation rate make it a wonderful table bird as well. Meanwhile, the Pekin can also lay up to 200 eggs in a given season! Not all ducks have the versatility of the Pekin, but most breeds are capable of many different things.
The best pet ducks are the ones who have a calm temperament, are good around other pets and children, and don’t have an especially active lifestyle. The Pekin, Welsh Harlequin, and Swedish are three of our best selling duck breeds when it comes to pets. All three breeds are also productive egg layers and/or table birds. The Cayuga isn’t a prolific egg layer, but can still be kept as a pet due to its beauty and calm disposition. All 4 breeds are hardy and low-maintenance.
While birds like the Pekin make great pets and producers of food, some ducks live a more active and “stand offish” lifestyle that make them better members of the farm and not as much members of the family. 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.
Usually the best egg laying breeds are lighter in weight. The Khaki Campbell is one of the most productive light breeds, laying a phenomenal 300 eggs per year, while also being a useful table bird. Many owners also enjoy the Welsh Harlequin, a hardy and low-maintenance dual-purpose duck. The Golden 300 Hybrid is arguably the king of all laying breeds, being that it was specially developed just for egg laying!
The Ancona duck weighs in on the higher side of most light egg-laying breeds and is one of the most popular 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 of duck. 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 owning. 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!?
The heavier breeds are quite typically the best table birds. The Pekin 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. Another popular breed is the Rouen. While the Rouen is typically kept as a show bird or just for its looks, they can still produce a decent size table bird or even 100 eggs in a given season. Like its miniature counterpart, the Silver Appleyard is also a productive and practical bird. These little guys are a wonderfully beautiful duck who are also capable dual-purpose birds as well. 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.