Ducks 101

A breeds Buffet of

First-time owners might find the ideal duck breed among these options.

- By sue weaver

Though it’s uncertain how many duck breeds exist worldwide, there are a score or more in North America alone. They range in size from teensy Call ducks to brawny Pekins, Rouens and Muscovies.

One of the many beauties of ducks is that most are multipurpo­se birds: eggs, meat, competitiv­e shows, insect control, entertainm­ent and more. Layer breeds make fine eating when processed as ducklings, and most meat breeds lay lots of luscious eggs. You can competitiv­ely show ducks recognized by American Poultry Associatio­n and American Bantam Associatio­n, and all duck breeds rid your grounds of insects, slugs and creepy-crawlies. Best of all, most ducks make great pets. Pick a breed that delivers the goods you want but one that also tickles your fancy. You’ll be happiest with a breed you truly like.

No matter what you want in a duck, there’s a breed just right for you. Consider these eight full-size beauties.

Campbell, Also Called KHAKI Campbell

Purpose: eggs

APA category: Light; weighs 4 to 4.5 lb.

Origin: England

Conservati­on Priority List: Watch

Colors/varieties: Khaki, White, Dark, Pied

Eggs: Lays 250 to 340 large white or tinted eggs per year; rarely broody

Traits: Nonflier; active, somewhat nervous, extremely hardy, an excellent forager, needs room to roam

If you’re looking for a topflight layer that can free-range a portion of its food in season, the Campbell is your bird. Developed in Britain as the quintessen­tial laying duck, Campbells dominated British egg-laying contests during the 1920s and ’30s. One hen laid 346 eggs in

365 days; another laid an egg a day for 225 straight days! Prolific layers do require good feed. Campbell hens lay an astounding number of eggs for up to four years before production declines. Though small by meat duck standards, 3- to 4-lb. Campbell ducklings make lean, tasty roasters, too.

Crested

Purpose: eggs, ornamental

APA category: Medium; weighs 5 to 7 lb.

Origin: Far East by way of Holland

Conservati­on Priority List: not listed

Colors/varieties: White, Black and many nonstandar­d colors

Eggs: Lays 60 to 100 large white eggs; nonbroody

Traits: Nonflier; friendly but somewhat nervous, a good forager

Crested ducks are an old breed pictured in Dutch artwork created during the 1600s. It was one of the first breeds admitted to APA’S “Standard of Perfection” in 1874. Crested ducks are a poor choice for novice breeders; they carry a lethal gene that, in its pure form, causes embryonic death and deformitie­s in ducklings. In its impure form, this gene creates a cranial hernia in an affected duck’s head. Fatty tissue covering the brain protrudes through the hole, causing feathers on the duck’s head to form a pompom crest. Crested ducks are, however, decent layers, and they make fine, friendly pets.

DUTCH Hookbill

Purpose: eggs

APA category: not recognized; weighs 3 to 4.5 lb.

Origin: Holland

Conservati­on Priority List: Study

Colors/varieties: Dusky, White, White-bibbed Dusky

Eggs: Lays 100 to 225 large white to blue-green eggs; broody

Traits: Flier; hardy, fast-maturing, quiet, an excellent forager

Dutch Hookbills have downward curved beaks, hence their name. These sturdy, diseaseres­istant layers need less feed than other breeds to produce lots of eggs. They mature quickly, and some begin laying by 16 weeks of age. Hookbills are tame and inquisitiv­e, making them ideal productive pets.

muscovy

Purpose: meat

APA category: not recognized; females weigh 6 to 7 lb., males 10 to 12 lb.

Origin: South and Central America

Conservati­on Priority List: not listed

Colors/varieties: White, Blue, Chocolate, Black, Pied

Eggs: Lays 12 to 60 large white eggs; broody

Traits: Flier; roosts, hisses instead of quacking, an excellent forager

People love Muscovies or hate them. In 2010, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service passed laws governing the keeping of Muscovy Ducks. Though those laws are now in flux, it’s best to make sure you can legally own Muscovies before you get some. Muscovies make very interestin­g, friendly pets, and they’re exceptiona­lly good eating (Muscovy meat isn’t as fatty as the flesh of most ducks). Hens are setters and diligent mothers, so they’re ideal for hatching eggs from nonbroody breeds like Pekins, Rouens and Runners.

pekin

Purpose: meat, eggs

APA category: Heavy; weighs

8 to 10 lb.

Origin: Asia

Conservati­on Priority List: not listed

Colors/varieties: White

Eggs: Lays 100 to 180 large white eggs; nonbroody

Traits: Nonflier; fast-maturing, calm, good forager

Pekins are the most common domestic ducks in North America. According to University of Kentucky, Pekins represent 90 percent of commercial duck meat processed in the United States.

In a small farm setting, Pekin ducklings weigh 6 to 7 pounds, an ideal size for processing, at 7 to 8 weeks of age. Fed correctly, Pekin hens are decent layers, too. Donald Duck and the Aflac duck are Pekins.

rouen

Purpose: meat, ornamental

APA category: Heavy; weighs 8 to 10 lb.

Origin: France

Conservati­on Priority List: non-industrial Rouen, Watch

Colors/varieties: Mallard-colored

Eggs: Lays 30 to 125 extra-large white eggs; occasional­ly broody

Traits: Nonflier; calm, good forager

Rouens are easygoing Mallard-colored ducks. Non-industrial Rouens (those not developed for factory farming) mature to the ideal 6- to 8-lb. slaughter weight in six to eight months; commercial Rouens reach the same weight in

12 to 15 weeks. Either way, Rouens are famous

for their delicately flavored flesh. Some Rouens are excellent layers; some aren’t. If you want dualpurpos­e Rouens, buy from laying rather than exhibition or commercial meat bloodlines.

runner, Also Called indian runner

Purpose: eggs, ornamental

APA category: Light; weighs 4 to 4.5 lb.

Origin: Southeast Asia, possibly up to 2,000 years ago

Conservati­on Priority List: Recovering

Colors/varieties: many

Eggs: Lays 100 to 200 large white to blue-green eggs; rarely broody

Traits: Nonflier; docile but aloof, an exceptiona­l forager

Runner ducks are favorites not only for their laying ability but for their comical upright appearance, having been likened to “wine bottles on legs.” Developed for their foraging ability, Runners are ideal free-range ducks. They run instead of waddling, and though flightless, they’re famous for their ability to run up and over low obstacles. This breed doesn’t nest but drops its eggs wherever it happens to be when an egg is ready to be laid. While not considered a meat duck, connoisseu­rs appreciate the wild duck flavor of Runner duckling. In the 1995 movie “Babe,” Ferdinand is a Runner duck.

SWEDISH, Also Called Blue SWEDISH

Purpose: meat, eggs, ornamental

APA category: Medium; weighs 6.5 to 8 lb.

Origin: Pomerania (parts of modern-day Germany and Poland)

Conservati­on Priority List:watch Colors/varieties: Slate blue with a white bib

Eggs: Lays 100 to 150 large white, tinted or green eggs; sometimes broody

Traits: Nonflier; calm, active, doesn’t do well in confinemen­t, a good to excellent forager

Blue is the only variety recognized by American Poultry Associatio­n, but Swedish ducks also come in black, silver and splashed color patterns. This is an excellent all-around duck: attractive, meaty and a reliable layer of large eggs. They are fast-maturing, plump, easygoing ducks. Daffy Duck is said to be a black Swedish duck. ■

Sue Weaver lives on a small ridgetop acreage in the Ozarks with her husband and a wide array of animals. She invites you to visit her at dreamgoata­nnie.com

 ??  ?? Blue Swedish ducks are fast-maturing, plump and easygoing.
Blue Swedish ducks are fast-maturing, plump and easygoing.
 ??  ?? Campbell ducks are topflight layers that can free-range a portion of their food in season.
Campbell ducks are topflight layers that can free-range a portion of their food in season.
 ??  ?? In a small farm setting, Pekin ducklings weigh 6 to 7 pounds, an ideal size for processing, at 7 to 8 weeks of age.
In a small farm setting, Pekin ducklings weigh 6 to 7 pounds, an ideal size for processing, at 7 to 8 weeks of age.

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