1. Dave Holderread (in a personal interview) says that when it comes to egg-laying ability, line (strain) is more important than breed. Why? Because in order to maintain high laying ability, a breeder must carefully select in every generation for best laying qualities. So purchasing Khaki Campbells or Runners or Welsh Harlequins doesn't guarantee that you'll have great layers. 2. He says in his book that you can improve egg-laying ability by selecting genetics from hens who lay well in winter months. Based on those two bits of information, I've been paying attention to my hens this early winter and discovered something interesting: The offspring of my hatchery ducks, hatched this past Spring, are laying at roughly 20-25%. The hens I ordered from Holderread and received in April are laying at 66-100%. The most interesting aspect to me, is that the hens who are laying most heavily are not one of the top heavy-laying breeds often cited--they are magpies. Holderread magpies. These numbers are not precise, because although I have them separated into three groups, within the groups it is hard to tell which hen is laying. Group A has a Holderread hen, several young hatchery offspring and several older hatchery ducks, so that group is hard to measure--the Holderread girl could be raising the percentage, and the older hens could be lowering it. Their overall laying percentage is about 18% (1-3 eggs a day), but it's possible that sometimes the Holderread girl is the only one laying--I just don't know. The other two groups are easier to measure. Group B contains three Holderread magpie hens laying between 66%-100% (i.e., 2-3 eggs per day), and Group C contains four Spring-hatched Runner hens, out of hatchery stock, laying at 25% (i.e., 1 egg a day). These preliminary findings lean me toward possibly thinning my flock down to pure Holderread stock, and then focusing very tightly on egg-laying ability. I would have to thin my numbers in order to keep a pen open for separating hens to measure winter laying more precisely. But it's beginning to seem very important to me. Any thoughts? Anyone here breeding carefully for laying ability? How are you doing it? How are you measuring laying ability? What kind of records are you keeping? Have you seen your laying numbers going up or down? How important is it to you, when you buy ducks, that they be from a heavy-laying strain?