Magpies or Welsh Harlequins? (or something else?)

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Nicko, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. Nicko

    Nicko New Egg

    Feb 5, 2013
    Hello everyone,first time posting so a little intro.

    We have a plot where we live of about 1.5 acres. We grow fruit and veg for the family on about half an acre, graze some goats on another half, and have a house and workshop on the other. We keep a few geese under a small orchard and have kept a few ducks, Khaki Campbells,in the past totally free range. Unfortuntely both times we have kept the ducks they have decided to move away. I put it down to a mixture of being surrounded by drainage ditches(we live on a marsh) and not giving them enough/food/love/security.

    We really loved having them though. We know what a good job they did of eating pests. They are great fun to watch, and the eggs were lovely. In our book that is three good reasons to get some again. This time though I would like to give them alot more attention. I have read alot about keeping ducks and have designed a living area for them which includes a large well ventilated secure house, swim pool, snail and slug breeding area, brassica/comfrey/clover buckwheat forage beds all surrounded by a goat proof fence.This area is about 20 metres by 15metres and is in 3/4 shade most of the day in the winter and 1/4 shade in the summer(we live east coast UK so not too cold in the winter). They will also have access to the half acre paddock in full sun for additional forage.

    The plan is to collect slugs and snails from our veg garden and put them in the snail and slug breeding area, where hopefully the will multiply and venture off into the ducks forage area. We will feed them a proper duck ration aswell, including other food stuffs we have grown.

    I have calculated that even if they get all their nutrition from a commercial feed, we will need 7 or more ducks to provide our kitchen with a dozen eggs a week, and enough to sell to cover the cost of feed. So this means that any nutrition they get from foraging or home grown food will either provide us with additional eggs or cash.

    Now the question is which breed of duck will work in this setting? I was thinking something relatively calm because of the goats and the fact that their living area will be quite near the house which, from what I have read, excludes Campbells. I would also like the flock to be self sustaining (raise their own young).Apparently Campbells are not good sitters so this counts against them aswell.

    So after reading around I have come to the conclusion that it is either Welsh Harlequins, or Magpies.
    I can buy Welshies from the original breeders farm in Wales as an "as hatched " batch of about a dozen fairly cheaply but they will only be two weeks old and will still need heat - something I was trying to avoid.
    I can buy Magpies from a small farm scale breeder about half the distance to Wales, more expensive than the Welshies but I can have them older, sexed and in no need of heat.

    At the moment I am thinking Magpies would be best. I know it should maybe not be a consideration but I am swayed not only by the ease of purchase, but also by the promise of blue green eggs. I love the look of them, and think that they may increase the eggs' sale value.

    I would love to hear any advice, comments, or experiences people may want to offer about the above ideas. All my conclusions are based mainly on what I have read rather than direct experience so I am happy to be corrected.
  2. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 31, 2009
    Somerville, AL

    Your plan sounds good. A proper house will prevent predation and give them a safe place to brood young.

    Magpie and WH are both good egg layers and are supposed to be great foragers. Mothering ability for the WH is said to be poor-good and for the Magpie fair-good. So you may or may not have broodies. These are generalizations though and there are always individuals that don't conform to the standard. I would check with both of the breeders and see if they incubate artificially or if they allow their ducks to hatch out young. Broodiness is hereditary. The majority of domestic breeds are listed in the fair-good range though.

    As for acquiring stock. Getting unsexed ducklings, while cheaper, may leave you with far too many drakes than ducks in the long run and you may then need to acquire more females. Spending a little more at first will allow you to get the correct duck-drake ratios and will result in eggs/ducklings in far less time.

    So, with this info, I'd say go with Magpies. Also, egg color is a fine consideration in making a choice. People here are amazed when they see my green chicken eggs. [​IMG]
  3. Nicko

    Nicko New Egg

    Feb 5, 2013
    Thanks for the reply [​IMG]. So that is something alse potentially going for the Magpies - better broodies.On your advice I have written to the breeder and asked some more specific questions about their Magpie flock.

    I suppose I better get on and build their living quarters and landscape their yard now...


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