Ducks come in a variety of different breeds, each with their own unique characteristics. Some breeds are raised primarily for eggs, some are kept as pets, and others are bred specifically for meat production. There are light duck breeds, medium duck breeds, heavy duck breeds, and bantam duck breeds. Light ducks are good egg layers but don’t produce as much meat. Heavy ducks produce a lot of meat but don’t lay as many eggs. Bantams are miniature ducks that are sometimes kept as pets. There are also rare and heritage breeds of ducks that are less common but have their own unique traits.
Popular Duck Breeds
Here are some of the most common duck breeds:
Pekin Duck – The Pekin duck, also called the White Pekin or Long Island duck, is the most popular breed of duck raised for meat in North America. These ducks originated in China but were brought to the United States in the late 1800s. They have a creamy white plumage and orange beak and feet. Pekin ducks are known for fast growth and large breast meat.
Muscovy Duck – The Muscovy duck is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America. It has a unique appearance with its bare red face and large bulbous bill. Muscovy ducks come in a variety of colors from all black to all white. They have a stronger flavor than other duck breeds. Muscovies are also efficient foragers and will eat insects, small amphibians, and vegetation.
Mallard – The Mallard is the wild duck from which all domestic duck breeds are descended. It is the most abundant and widespread duck species in North America. Mallards have beautiful iridescent green heads and a distinct white neck-ring. Drake mallards have a purple speculum on their wings. Mallards are dabbling ducks that prefer shallow waters. They are hardy and excellent flyers. Mallards are sometimes kept for decorative purposes but do not produce as much meat or eggs as domesticated duck breeds.
Khaki Campbell – Khaki Campbell ducks were first bred in England in the late 1800s by Mrs. Adele Campbell. They have tan or khaki colored plumage and were bred specifically for egg production. Khaki Campbell ducks are excellent layers and can produce up to 300 eggs per year. They have a slender, streamlined body and are very active foragers. This makes them great for free-range egg production.
Rouen Duck – The Rouen duck is sometimes called the French Mallard. It originated in France in the 1800s. Rouen ducks are large, hearty ducks that resemble Mallards but have a deeper body and claret-colored plumage. Rouen females are prolific layers of large eggs and are exceptional sitters. Rouen males are also among the heaviest ducks, sometimes reaching up to 12 lbs, making them a good dual purpose breed.
Cayuga Duck – The Cayuga duck is an American breed that originated in New York state along Cayuga Lake. Cayugas have a unique iridescent black plumage with a greenish-black speculum on the wings. They have orange bills and feet. Cayugas are calm, tolerant ducks that are excellent foragers. Their black feathers help camouflage them in the water when avoiding predators. Cayuga ducks are good layers of large white eggs even through the winter months.
Swedish Blue Duck – As the name suggests, Swedish Blue ducks originated in Sweden. They have a distinctive grey and white dappled pattern with a slate blue head and wings. Swedish Blues are a relatively small breed but are decent layers of white eggs. The unique coloration of the Blue Swedish also makes them popular for decorative purposes. They are a shy breed that doesn’t adapt well to confinement.
Aylesbury Duck – The Aylesbury is a British breed known as the quintessential duck in England. It is a large, white duck bred specifically for meat production. Aylesbury ducks have a pink bill and feet with pale blue eyes. Males can reach 12 pounds by 7-8 weeks of age. The Aylesbury duck has a docile nature and does not fly well. It became famous as a table bird in England served with peas as the dish ‘Aylesbury duckling and green peas’.
|Muscovy||Meat||South America||Varied colors|
|Mallard||Decorative||North America||Green head|
|Swedish Blue||Decorative||Sweden||Grey and white|
Duck Breeds for Eggs
Some duck breeds have been specifically selected for their high egg production. If you want to raise ducks primarily for a consistent supply of eggs, these are some of the best breeds to consider:
Khaki Campbell – As mentioned previously, Khaki Campbell ducks are the laying champions, capable of producing up to 300 eggs per year. Their high-protein eggs are creamy and delicious with a slight nutty flavor. Khaki Campbell females start laying early at around 20 weeks old. They have high fertility rates as well. This active and lively duck breed thrives in free-range environments where they can forage for insects and vegetation.
Indian Runner – Indian Runner ducks originated in India and later became popular as an egg-laying breed in Europe. True to their name, Indian Runners have an upright posture and skittish temperament. Their egg production rivals the Khaki Campbell at about 300 eggs annually. Runners come in a variety of striking colors from chocolate brown to splashy patterns. They are excellent foragers but do need adequate fencing as they are prone to wandering.
Welsh Harlequin – The attractive Welsh Harlequin has WHITE plumage with yellow legs and orange bills. It was first bred in Wales during the 1800s. The Welsh Harlequin is a solid dual purpose duck, laying up to 250 creamy eggs per year while also putting on weight well for meat production. This sociable duck adapts well to confinement and is a good choice for small farm ponds.
Ancona – The Ancona breed gets its name from the Italian city of Ancona where it was first bred. Anconas have a unique black and white mottled pattern. They lay about 180-200 large white eggs annually. Ancona ducks have an outgoing personality and do well in any farm setting. They were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s standards in 1898.
Magpie – Magpies have striking contrasting black and white plumage resembling their namesake bird. They are active foragers and excellent egg layers. Magpie ducks lay blue-tinted eggs that range from 180-200 per year. They have a shy nature and can be flighty in temperament. Magpies were bred in the UK by Oliver Drake by crossing Indian Runners with Rouens and Cayugas.
Blue Swedish – In addition to their attractive ornamental appeal, Blue Swedish ducks lay a respectable number of eggs, up to 200 per year. Their pinkish white eggs are especially large. The Blue Swedish duck has a reputation as being calm, gentle, and relatively quiet compared to other duck breeds. They make a good backyard duck but require adequate space to roam and forage.
Duck Breeds for Meat
While all ducks produce meat, some breeds have been specifically selected for fast growth and high meat yields. If raising ducks for consumption is your priority, these are the best duck breeds for meat production:
Pekin – As mentioned earlier, the Pekin duck is the preferred choice for commercial meat production. These big white ducks have been bred to reach a market weight of 5-6 pounds in just 7 weeks! Pekins have a high feed to meat conversion ratio and supply tender, mild breast meat.
Aylesbury – Aylesbury ducklings grow extremely fast, hitting 6-8 pounds by 7-8 weeks old. The British prized Aylesburys for their delicately flavored pinkish-white meat. Their feathers are also highly valued for down production.
Muscovy – The Muscovy duck is the only duck breed not descended from Mallards. It is 40-50% leaner than other ducks making the red meat very flavorful and tender. Muscovies have less calories and fat than chicken or turkey. Plus, they are efficient feed converters.
Rouen – Rouen ducks are dual purpose but their large size, hardy bones, and fast growth make them excellent for meat production as well. They dress out at a high carcass weight. Rouen meat is flavorful and juicy due to higher fat content.
Crested – The Crested duck was developed in Eastern France in the 1800s. It has a large round body, orange shanks, and a distinct ‘crest’ on its head. Crested ducks are calm, quiet ducks that put on weight rapidly for excellent meat production. Of standard duck breeds, Crested ducks dress out with the highest meat to bone ratio.
Appleyard – Appleyard ducks are a heavy, slow growing breed that originated in England in the 1930s. They have beautiful plumage and a reputation as docile and friendly ducks. Under proper feeding, Appleyards reach 9-12 pounds for meat purposes. Their meat is flavorful and succulent with a higher fat content.
Saxony – The Saxony duck comes from eastern Germany and has a long rounded body, yellow bill, and grey feathers. It is a heavyweight breed prized more for meat than eggs. Saxony ducks are hardy and can reach weights of over 8 pounds in just 8 weeks with the right feeding program.
Duck Breeds Suited for Smaller Spaces
Not everyone has the space available to raise large duck breeds outdoors. Some duck breeds are well-suited to living happily in smaller spaces like urban and suburban backyards. Bantam duck breeds are naturally smaller in size. Other breeds are simply calmer by nature and more adaptable to confinement. Here are some of the best duck breeds for small spaces:
Call Ducks – Call ducks, also known as Decoy ducks, are bantam ducks that weigh less than 2 pounds full grown. Despite their tiny size they are actually excellent layers of small white eggs. Call ducks get their name from the distinctive ‘peep peep’ call the drakes make. Their small stature and colorful plumage make them popular as pets. Bantam call ducks are content in a small yard area.
Australian Spotted Duck – This uncommon duck breed is playful, quiet and easy-going. Unlike many ducks, they do not require a pond or pool and are content with just a water dish! Australian Spotted ducks have attractive polka-dotted plumage and lay a modest number of white eggs. Their calm nature makes them ideal backyard ducks.
East Indie – The East Indie duck traces its origins to the East Indies but became popular as an ornamental duck breed in North America in the late 1800s. East Indies are small, crested ducks that come in a variety of color patterns. They are well-mannered companion ducks known for good egg production. Their smaller size and serene nature mean they adapt well to backyard living.
Welsh Harlequin – As described previously, Welsh Harlequins are a striking dual purpose breed with prolific egg laying abilities. Despite their large size, however, Welsh Harlequins have a very calm, friendly disposition that works well for small farm settings and backyard hobbyists. They are less prone to flying than some breeds.
Ancona– Ancona ducks are a British duck breed known for high egg production in a small package. They only weigh about 6 pounds but lay over 200 small white eggs annually. Anconas have a inquisitive nature but not an overly excitable temperament, doing well in confinement. Their speckled black and white feathers also lend them an ornamental appeal.
Cayuga – Cayuga ducks are a medium sized breed but their calm, gentle nature allows them to adapt well to small spaces. They are not accomplished flyers so a fully fenced yard is usually sufficient for their needs. Cayuga hens lay reliably through cold winters. Their dark plumage also provides an interesting ornamental look to a backyard flock.
Heritage Duck Breeds
Heritage breeds of ducks are traditional breeds that have been selected and maintained over the decades for their unique genetic traits. There has been a concentrated effort in recent years to conserve heritage duck breeds so their important genetics are not lost. Here are a few examples of heritage duck breeds:
Black East Indian – This nearly extinct heritage duck breed originated centuries ago in Indonesia before becoming popular as an ornamental duck in the UK. Black East Indians have lustrous emerald green feathers and are small in size. Despite their beauty, East Indians are a hardy breed well-suited for foraging and free range environments. They are active, alert ducks and the hens lay medium cream colored eggs.
Buxton – The exceptionally rare Buxton duck was first bred in the early 1900s in Derbyshire, England and was admitted to the British Poultry Standard in 1910. Unfortunately, the Buxton duck population was severely threatened during World War II and only recently has been making a comeback. Buxtons have distinctive penciled markings on their sleek body. They are a light fowl well-suited for free foraging.
Buff Orpington – Buff Orpingtons were first bred in the 1880s in Orpington, England. They were popular exhibition birds but later became rare. Recently they have undergone a resurgence thanks to efforts of heritage breed enthusiasts. As the name suggests, Buff Orpingtons have attractive buff-colored plumage. They are dual purpose birds with excellent laying and meat abilities. Their docile temperament also makes them good pets.
Silkie – Silkie ducks originated in Asia and get their name from their unusual fluffy plumage that feels silk-like to the touch. They have a pom-pon like crest around their heads. Silkies come in several color varieties and have calm, friendly personalities. Their down is highly prized for insulation purposes. Silkies are also extremely broody ducks.
Silver Appleyard – This striking heritage duck breed was first developed in England in the 1940s by Reginald Appleyard. The lustrous white and silver plumage was meant to resemble moonlight on a lake. Silver Appleyards almost went extinct but have recently had a revival. They are large, hardy ducks that lay well and have flavorful meat. Their graceful appearance makes them a popular ornamental duck as well.
There is tremendous variety in duck breeds, each with their own merits. Whether you are looking for prolific egg production, fast growing meat ducks, ornamental pet ducks, or rare heritage breeds, there are good duck breed options to suit every purpose. Certain breeds like the versatile Pekins and Khaki Campbells have become industry standards for commercial meat and egg production respectively. Yet it is also important to preserve heritage duck breeds so their unique genetics are not lost. With proper care and housing, all of these amazing duck breeds can make interesting and rewarding additions to a small scale or backyard flock.