Info on picking a breed, where to buy, what genders to get

jdywntr

Songster
10 Years
Oct 31, 2009
3,215
189
243
Somerville, AL
This is something I've been working on for a bit. Any comments welcomed. This (as usual) is based on Storey's Guide and Metzer Farms recommendations.

The following is information that will help in picking a breed, where to buy stock and what genders to get.
Picking the appropriate breed of duck is just as important as appropriate care. While there aren’t as many duck breeds as there are chickens, each breed has specific traits.


The first thing that should be considered when choosing a breed is:
What is their purpose going to be?
Eggs
Meat
Ornamental
Pet


Adult or duckling? There are pros and cons to both. If you raise ducklings, they may bond better with you but they will cost more to feed, you may suffer losses, it will be much longer until you can expect eggs and you will discover just how stinky they are.
Adults will allow you to see how the bird looks and, if female, you will get eggs after a short time. You may be able to find an adult that is very bonded to people if you are looking for a pet.


Once the purpose and age are decided, personality should be taken into account. Do you want a friendly breed or more standoffish? A quiet breed or a talkative one? A breed that will be self sufficient and brood their own young?

Each breed is different, as are individuals within that breed. The following information is based on generalizations of the breed as a whole. Remember, each individual is different and may vary widely from the norm.

I am not including all duck breeds, just the most commonly available. Ducks are classified by weight. There are 4 classes, Bantam, Light, Medium and Heavy. Typically, the bantams are the breeds that can fly well. The exception is the Muscovy. The heavy class is typically used for meat but any can be. While some breeds are friendlier than others, even nervous breeds can become very friendly birds if a lot of time is spent with them when they are young.


Bantam

Call
Mallard

Light

Indian Runner
Khaki Campbell
Welsh Harlequin

Medium

Cayuga
Orpington (AKA Buff)
Swedish

Heavy

Appleyard
Muscovy
Pekin
Rouen



Temperament/Personality

BREED

TRAIT
Call

Loud, talkative
Mallard

Calm
Indian Runner

Nervous
Khaki Campbell

Nervous
Welsh Harlequin

Very Calm
Cayuga

Calm
Orpington

Calm
Swedish

Calm
Appleyard

Calm
Muscovy

Calm, quiet, friendly
Pekin

Calm, friendly, talkative
Rouen

Calm


Top Egg Layers

BREED

AVERAGE # EGGS PER YEAR
Khaki Campbell

250-340
Welsh Harlequin

240-330
Indian Runner

150-300
Appleyard

200-270
Pekin

125-225
Orpington

150-220
Cayuga

100-150
Swedish

100-150
Muscovy

50-125
Rouen

35-125
Mallard

25-100
Call

25-75


Mothering Ability/Broodiness

BREED

ABIILTY
Mallard

Excellent
Call

Excellent
Muscovy

Fair-Excellent
Cayuga

Fair-Good
Orpington

Fair-Good
Swedish

Fair-Good
Appleyard

Fair-Good
Welsh Harlequin

Poor-Good
Rouen

Poor-Good
Pekin

Poor-Fair
Indian Runner

Poor-Fair
Khaki Campbell

Poor-Fair


Where to buy
Breeder, hatchery, craigslist, feed store, rescue organization. There are pros and cons to most places that sell ducklings/ducks. You can find stock locally or have them shipped. One of the best things about buying locally is that you may be able to visit the “farm” where the birds are raised and you can get a feel for the treatment and care provided there.


A good breeder is going to have the best interest of the breed and the individual bird in mind. If you want to show your birds, ducklings need to be purchased from show quality adults that are actually shown. Even then, the offspring may not be show quality. A good breeder is going to breed to the standard, be knowledgeable about the bird and their care and should be willing to answer any questions that you may have. As with anything, there are also “backyard” breeders who have purebred adults and hatch out young. These ducklings may or may not conform to the standard. Both professional and backyard breeders may differ in their care, sanitation and knowledge of the breed. Visit them or research them prior to purchase. Breeders may have juveniles available as well as adults in breeding pairs or trios as well as ducklings.

Hatcheries can run the gamut of quality. Some hatcheries breed to type and offer show quality stock. Others breed what they have regardless of whether the parent animal conforms to the standard. While there is nothing wrong with a hatchery bird, many do not conform to the standard. If buying shipped ducklings, you will run the risk of shipping losses and may need to buy more than planned depending on the minimum required by the hatchery. A plus is that most hatcheries offer sexing so you can get exactly what you want. Some places online are thought of as hatcheries but are just resellers. Some hatcheries also sell adult birds.

Feed stores are typically just resellers of hatchery birds though they may resell for local breeders. If you can find out where they get their ducklings, you will be able to get an idea of the quality. At a feed store you will not have the risk of shipping losses as the store incurs it. You will spend a little bit more than from a hatchery but can usually buy just the number you want. You will most likely only be able to get straight run ducklings there.

Craigslist will also run the gamut of quality. It would be best to insist on visiting the breeder’s farm in order to see how the animals are treated. You may find great quality and care, you may not. Never feel obligated to purchase from someone just because you go to see what they have. Try not to get into the “I must save them” mindset. It is great to try to rescue an animal from a bad situation but a novice is not going to be able to tell a minor health problem from a major health issue. If a place is that bad, consider reporting them to your local animal welfare agency.

Rescue organizations are a great way to find an adult duck in need of a home. If you decide on an adult duck or if you need to replace an adult due to a loss, a rescue organization may be right for you. You will be able to see the breed as an adult and may get some info on it’s personality from the workers/volunteers there. You can check your local animal shelter, some will have waterfowl or may be able to point you in the right direction. There are several waterfowl rescue organizations around (due to BYC rules, they cannot be listed here) but a simple internet search for “waterfowl rescue”, “duck rescue”, “barnyard rescue”, etc can be done. Many states do not regulate rescue organizations so, as with other sources, do your research and visit the site to ensure that they are a reputable organization.

Male, Female, or Straight Run
Depending on what you are wanting to get ducks for will determine the genders that you should purchase. You don’t need a drake in order to get eggs. You only need a drake to get fertile eggs and then ducklings.


Buying sexed ducklings allows you to get the correct ratio. Most experts recommend getting 3-6 females per male. Sometimes pairs or trios (1 male and 2 females) will work but each drake is an individual. Keep in mind that too many drakes will over breed females which can injure or kill them.

Buying straight run ducklings leaves what you get up to chance. Theoretically you will get 50/50 male/female if you purchase 100 ducklings. But many hatcheries sell sexed and straight run ducklings and the sexed orders are filled first so you run the risk of getting all or mostly males. If you buy straight run ducklings, you need to have a plan in mind with what you will do with extra males. If you are planning on using your birds for meat, it may be less expensive to get straight run.
 
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Amiga

Overrun with Runners
10 Years
Jan 3, 2010
23,197
2,601
521
Southern New England
Once again, very concise, well organized information. Thanks so much!

Is there any benefit to suggesting adopting rescues in this write-up, or is that beyond what new duck folk might be expected to do?

I can see that rescue organizations may prefer people who already know their ducks.
 

jdywntr

Songster
10 Years
Oct 31, 2009
3,215
189
243
Somerville, AL
Nope. I think it's a great idea and I didn't even think about it. I'll get started.

Okay, I added a bit about adults or ducklings and rescues.
 
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danegal2

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 30, 2013
40
1
24
Thank you for the information. I am deciding how many call ducklings to get tomorrow. If they are that loud maybe 2 is enough.
 

cher1fan

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 12, 2014
29
2
24
Thanks for the info, it's just what I needed. When do Mallards and Pekin ducks get there feathers?
 
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