When deciding on which breed of duck you would like to raise, there are two
main types to consider. Ornamental ducks are ducks kept for the pleasure of
keeping waterfowl. Their striking plumage and amusing behavior are their
primary benefits for humans, and generally, they do not make good meat or egg
producers. Utility, or commercial, ducks have been bred for meat, down, or egg
production. These are the primary duck breeds discussed in this chapter. Ducks
come in many different feather colors, and males and females can be
distinguished by feather color.
Indian Runner: This breed of duck is unique in its upright stance; it looks like a
bowling pin on webbed feet. It was developed from the wild mallard in the East
Indies two centuries ago. Because of their physical conformation, they run rather
than waddle like the typical duck, which makes walking to the fields an easy
task. They are active foragers, especially of insects, snails, and slugs, and do put
on a good deal of flesh considering they are a lighter duck. Indian Runners are
great egg layers, sometimes even outlaying chickens. Generally, females lay
about 200 eggs each year. They are not considered good egg sitters so eggs from
a female Indian Runner may need to be incubated by another hen or in an
incubator. The adult male Indian Runner seldom weighs more than 5 pounds.
Indian Runners are utility ducks, good for egg production and insect control.
Khaki Campbell: The Khaki Campbell is a breed developed in England by
Adele Campbell in the late 1800s. Campbell crossed her Indian Runner hen with
a Rouen drake (male duck) in order to produce ducks that would lay well and
have bigger, meatier bodies. Her breeding strategy worked because the resulting
breed, the Khaki Campbell, is an excellent layer. The hens more readily will sit
on the eggs, unlike the Indian Runner duck. A hen will lay more than 300 eggs a
year. The Khaki Campbell does have a flighty temperament and needs room to
forage. They are also adaptable to variable climates and perform well in hot, dry
deserts, wet, tropical environments, or cold winter weather. As an added bonus,
the Khaki Campbell is an admirable insect, slug, and algae eater.
Pekin: The Pekin is the most common breed of domestic duck. These white ducks are great for meat production as they grow rapidly and pack on more
pounds of meat per pound of feed than other ducks. The Pekin duck was
developed in China from ducks living in the canals of Nanjing. An adult female
will lay about 200 eggs a year. They are not as broody as other ducks, so they
might not sit on a nest. Drakes can weigh more than 12 pounds and females
more than 11 pounds.
Rouen: The Rouen breed is similar in coloring to the wild Mallard. They were
originally developed in France and were imported to England where the breed
was bred into the modern-day Rouen. There are two types of Rouen: the
production and the standard. The production Rouen weighs between 6 and 8
pounds; the standard Rouen is much larger and weighs between 8 and 10
pounds. Females lay about 70 greenish eggs a year. They are good meat
producers but take from six to eight months to mature. This slow maturation rate
has lead to commercial duck growers to be reluctant to raise Rouen’s on a large
scale for the meat market. The meat from the Rouen is leaner than the Pekin,
which makes it a popular duck for restaurants.
Muscovy: The Muscovy is unique in that it was not developed from Mallards. It
is a Brazilian breed that can become quite large; males can weigh in at more than
10 pounds. They come in a variety of colors, but they all have a distinctive
bright red tissue above the beak and around the eyes. They do not swim much
because they have underdeveloped oil glands, which makes their feathers less
water resistant than other breeds, but they do have sharp claws, which they use
to roost in tree branches. The females become broody three times a year and will
incubate the eggs of other ducks or poultry species. If you have eggs from
another duck, the Muscovy can hatch them for you.
Cayuga: This breed was developed in New York in the 1800s from native ducks.
They are considered a medium-weight duck primarily used as a meat bird. Adult
males reach 8 pounds. They have unique coloring with a greenish-blue sheen
over dark feathers. Eggs from the Cayuga can be variable colors depending on
the season. When they first start laying eggs, the eggs may have a gray or black
color. As the laying season progresses, the eggs will start to lose this dark
coloring and may even become white