Are you interested in keeping ducks at home? Ducks are a perfect addition to your small farm. They can be raised along with your chickens, or by themselves.
If you’ve raised any kind of poultry before, you’ll know how much fun it can be. Ducks are just as much fun. They enjoy wandering around your farm or yard and eating bugs, just like chickens would. In fact, many ducks can eat some of the large insects like grasshoppers, slugs and worms that chickens only wish they could eat.
Choosing the right duck breed for your farm and family is important. You want to make sure that you purchase the breed that is most suitable for your setup and provides you with the meat or eggs that you want.
There are two types of ducks. You have the traditional breeds, like the Mallard or Pekin that you probably picture when you think of ducks. Then, there are runner breeds. The two are very distinct and are easily identified.
Runners vs. Traditional Duck Breeds
The body shape and stance of the duck is what determines whether it’s a runner breed or a traditional breed.
Traditional breeds have a chest and tail that are fairly level. Their body is more horizontal than vertical. Runners on the other hand, stand very erect and upright. Their bodies are nearly vertical.
Although all duck breeds will lay eggs that you can collect and eat, many runner breeds are kept for the prolific laying that they exhibit. If you’re wanting ducks strictly for eggs, then you’ll want to look into the runner breeds since they can be more reliable layers.
Traditional Duck Breeds
I mentioned that these breeds are more of what you probably picture when you think of ducks. Although they are more horizontal than runners, some breeds and individuals can take on an upright stance, although it’s not going to be to the extent of runners.
Aylesbury Duck Breed
The Aylesbury is a heritage breed that was developed in England in the late 1700s. Aylesbury ducks are raised primarily for meat, but they do lay very large eggs. The eggs are white and can have a light green tint to them.
Aylesbury ducks produce rich dark meat. They are unique because they have white skin and white feathers. Most ducks have yellow skin, not white. The Aylesbury breed is very docile and is often described as slow-moving.
If you’re looking for a dependable meat breed, the Aylesbury won’t disappoint. Males will mature to around 10 pounds and females around 9 pounds.
There are two types of Aylesbury. One is for show and the other is best suited for raising at home for meat. Aylesbury ducks that are raised for show are often heavy enough that they have trouble reproducing naturally and may require artificial insemination in order to breed successfully. Those not raised for show can usually breed naturally. If you want to raise Aylesbury ducks at home and want to have ducklings, make sure that you purchase Aylesbury ducks that weren’t bred to be heavy for shows.
Allowing your ducks to be active will help prevent ducks that are overly heavy.
Black or Blue Swedish Duck Breed
For a long time, it was thought that blue-colored ducks produced better-tasting meat and were also harder for predators to see. These two thoughts made blue ducks, like the Swedish popular for centuries. The Swedish ducks today are used for both meat or eggs.
Swedish ducks are hardy and have an excellent foraging ability. They are a perfect fit if you’re wanting to have a free-ranging duck flock. These ducks don’t do as well in confinement as some of the other breeds.
There are two colors in the Swedish duck: blue and black. The black Swedish will breed true, meaning if you cross a black Swedish with a black Swedish, all of the babies will be black. Both the black and blue varieties will have some white on the upper chest and neck.
Swedish ducks will slowly mature anywhere from 5-8 pounds. The meat of Swedish ducks is very flavorful. You can expect anywhere from 130-180 large eggs per year from Swedish ducks. The eggs can vary in color and will either be white, green, or blue-tinted.
A downfall to the Swedish duck is that the breed can be quite noisy. If you’re looking to raise ducks in a more urban area, you might want to avoid Swedish ducks since they need space and can be loud.
Buff Duck Breed
The famous poultry breeder, William Cook, developed the Buff breed. He was from the Orpington area of Kent, England and the breed is often referred to as Buff Orpingtons. Under the American Poultry Association, they are simply listed as Buffs. This is unusual and the only time that the APA uses a color as the name of the breed.
Buff ducks are a wonderful dual-purpose bird. They are faster maturing and can reach harvest size in as little as 8 weeks. Buff ducks will weigh anywhere from 5-7 pounds at maturity. They’re reliable egg layers and will lay between 150-220 large eggs each year. The eggs are white or blue-tinted.
They’re also a desirable meat breed since their pin feathers are easily plucked and don’t show up on the carcass. The breed is known for being calm, quiet, and friendly, making them an excellent choice for backyard flocks.
For a fun read about Buff ducks, check out The Orpington Ducks: A Cautionary Tale.
Crested Duck Breed
The Crested duck, sometimes called the White Crested, is one of the most easily identified breeds. Crested ducks have a puff of feathers on top of the head.
Crested ducks are a popular breed that is raised for both meat and eggs. They are slower to mature but will reach weights of nearly 8 pounds at maturity. Many people choose to keep them as fun pets and ornamental additions to their flocks.
Crested ducks don’t lay as many eggs as some other breeds, with most females laying between 100-130 eggs per year at the most.
One of the major benefits of the Crested breed is the lack of the ability to fly. This makes them much easier to keep enclosed.
If you want to raise ducks that will breed and are more self-sufficient, the Crested probably isn’t the breed for you. They don’t make good mothers and aren’t the best breed for foraging. They will rely more heavily on you to care for them than some other breeds. If you’re wanting more of a pet breed though, then the Crested might be right up your alley.
These classic ducks have been raised for centuries and are famously depicted in Jan Steen paintings. Their solid white bodies and yellow legs make them ideal candidates for past paintings and modern photography alike.
Cayuga Duck Breed
The exact origins of the Cayuga breed are debated. What is known, however, is that the breed was developed in the state of New York and appears to have come from wild Black Ducks that are found around Lake Cayuga. They are one of the few duck breeds that are developed in the United States.
These beautiful ducks are beetle green/black in color. Their feathers are black and have a deep emerald green sheen in the sunlight. Drakes have a deep green head. Interestingly, as the Cayuga ducks age, their dark feathers slowly turn white, until the duck is nearly all white. The color change usually occurs faster in females than in males.
Another unique feature of the breed is the color of the egg. The eggs are shades of gray. It’s not unheard of for Cayuga eggs to occasionally be black.
Cayuga ducks were once one of the most popular breeds of duck raised for meat. Before the Pekin took over the meat duck market, Cayugas were the meat duck of choice in the Northeastern U.S.
The breed is an excellent foraging breed and can mature to 6-7 pounds from foraging alone. Females will lay 130-180 large eggs per year. The Cayuga breed produces a flavorful carcass. The carcass is more difficult to clean because of the dark feathers. Many breeders that raise Cayugas for meat solve this problem by skinning the bird rather than plucking it.
Cayugas are exceptionally hardy and well-suited to cold climates. They can become very tame and gentle if handled frequently.
East Indies Duck Breed
If you’re a fan of the Cayuga but want something smaller, the East Indies may be the breed for you. The East Indies breed wasn’t developed in Asia, but here in the U.S. It’s thought that the breed was named with a foreign name to make it easier to sell. Many imported breeds could fetch a higher price tag simply for being ‘foreign’ breeds.
East Indies ducks are very similar in appearance to the Cayuga breed. They are deep black/beetle green in color and will eventually become mottled with white feathers. The breed is a bantam breed, so they aren’t used as meat birds.
The East Indies isn’t a reliable egg layer, with females only laying about 100 eggs per year, at most. The breed is kept mainly as pets.
They are small and are really good fliers, so you’ll want to either clip their wings or keep them enclosed in a run with a roof.
Golden 300 Hybrid Duck Breed
This duck isn’t a true breed, but a common hybrid. The hybrid was developed in the mid-1990s as a breed that would produce more and larger eggs. They were also selectively bred to have higher fertility rates and a calm disposition.
Golden 300s are easily sexed at any age. Females are various shades of buff-brown and drakes are various shades of black. Since this ‘breed’ is actually a hybrid, the ability to sex future ducklings does not breed true. The ducklings can be any shade of black, yellow, or brown and there isn’t a relationship between the color and sex of the offspring.
Females often have a little bit of white on them. Drakes usually resemble a Rouen or a dull version of the Cayuga.
Golden 300s are smaller and mature between 4.5 to just under 6 pounds. They are prolific egg layers though. Females will lay nearly 300 eggs per year, making them a perfect choice for farmers looking to sell duck eggs. They are often compared to the Khaki Campbell, a common breed used for egg production. The Golden 300 will outlay the Khaki Campbell every time.
Golden 300s are perfect for breeding if you don’t mind a wide range of colors in your ducklings. They’re extremely docile and rarely fly.
Khaki Campbell Duck Breed
Khaki Campbells are a popular breed that is well known for outstanding egg production. The breed was developed in the late 1800s/early 1900s by Adele Campbell of Gloucestershire, England. She crossed Rouens, Mallards, and Runners to create a prolific egg layer that would have buff-colored feathers. Buff feathers were a fad at the time. When she was happy with the breed, she named it the Khaki Campbell because the color of the feathers reminded her of the British army’s uniforms.
The breed made its way to the U.S. in 1929 but didn’t really become popular until the 1970s. Today, the breed is kept largely as an egg breed. They are active foragers and can lay as many as 240 eggs per year. There are some reports that females will lay up to 300 eggs per year.
Khaki Campbells are quick to go broody and make excellent mothers, making them ideal for breeders that want a sustainable flock. They’re very hardy and have been known to flourish in both tropical climates and extremely cold climates.
Khaki Campbells are attractive with brown and buff plumage. Drakes have a dark green head, resembling a Rouen or Mallard. They are smaller ducks, topping out at 4.5 pounds at maturity.
Magpie Duck Breed
Magpie ducks were brought into the United States in the 1960s. They are a light-bodied breed that is used for both meat and eggs. Magpies weigh between 4-4.5 pounds at maturity.
The Magpie breed is named for its unique coloring. The breed is predominantly white and has a dark blue/black patch of feathers on top of the head, on the wings, and down the back. Magpies carry themselves more upright than some other breeds. This is due to the runner duck influence that was used to develop the breed.
Magpies are excellent foragers. They are fond of snails, slugs, and aquatic insects. Many farmers that raise large livestock have reported fewer liver fluke problems in their livestock when they raise Magpies with their large livestock.
They are perfectly at home on both land and water. Magpies cannot fly for long periods, but they are easily startled and will often leap into the air and fly for short distances.
Meat from Magpie ducks is coveted and is considered gourmet quality. The white feathers on the underside make them easier to clean. They’re also prolific egg layers and can lay as many as 290 eggs per year. The eggs are medium-large and white in color.
Magpie ducks aren’t as popular as some of the other breeds listed but they make wonderful ducks for homesteading. The meat produced from one duck is often enough for 2-3 people and they have a high level of egg production. Magpies have a high level of fertility, making them easy to breed future generations.
Mallard Duck Flavor
The Mallard may be one of the most readily recognized duck breeds on this list. Mallards are a wild breed that is native to almost all countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Almost all duck breeds are descended from Mallards. Mallards are commonly hunted in the U.S. as wild birds.
Since this breed is a wild breed, all domestically hatched Mallard ducklings must be identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This may be one of the harder breeds to keep in captivity because it has a strong instinct to fly and migrate. Mallards are established flyers by the time they are four months old. Domestic Mallards will often migrate away during the winter and return in the spring. To prevent them from leaving, either keep them in a sturdy, roofed enclosed area or clip their wings.
Drakes have a beautiful emerald green head with a fawn-colored body. Females are shades of brown with a blue patch on their wings. Mallard ducklings look the same as chicks and you won’t be able to look at them and determine their sex until they are 14-16 weeks old.
Mallards prefer to live near water and are active foragers. They are also excellent breeders and make good mothers. It’s not uncommon for Mallards to raise two broods of ducklings per year.
Mallards mature at only 2-2.5 pounds but the meat is very flavorful and tasty. They aren’t the most prolific egg layers, with some Mallards laying as little as 60 eggs per year.
Muscovy Duck Breed
Muscovy ducks are another wild breed that has some domestic populations in the U.S. and around the world now. Muscovy ducks are native to Central and South America. The breed has a distinct face, with strange warty growths all over it.
Muscovy ducks in the wild are nearly almost black on color. Domestic Muscovys can be white and black in color.
The breed is large. Drakes usually weigh around 12 pounds, but some individuals can weigh as much as 15 pounds. Females aren’t this large and tend to weigh around 6-7 pounds. The breed is commonly used for meat production and grows rapidly. Males can reach 12 pounds in as little as 12 weeks.
The meat produced by Muscovy ducks is very lean and nearly fat-free. It’s one of the main duck breeds raised for commercial duck meat.
Muscovy ducks have hefty appetites and are amazing foragers. They also aren’t picky when it comes to what they eat. They will eat all sorts of insects and are voracious mosquito and fly eaters. Their large size allows them to consume large insects easily. If you have large livestock, you might be interested to know that there are reports of Muscovy ducks reducing the fly population in cattle pens by as much as 80%.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have ducks keep flies and mosquitoes off of my cows than to soak them with pesticides every day!
Muscovy females will lay around 195 eggs per year, which isn’t bad but doesn’t compare to the other benefits of this breed. They may not be the prettiest to look at, but they are very productive and a popular choice for backyard farms.
Out of all duck breeds, the Pekin is the most common. These ducks are the picturesque breed that comes to mind when you think about backyard ducks. They are solid white and have perfectly orange feet and beaks. Ducklings are yellow.
Pekins are large and can reach weights of up to twelve and a half pounds. The Pekin breed makes up about half of the commercially raised meat ducks in the U.S. Pekins are fast-growing and can reach a harvestable size of seven pounds in as little as 40 days.
Pekins are also decent egg layers. They will lay anywhere from 150-200 extra-large eggs per year. Females rarely go broody, so if you want to raise ducklings from your Pekins, you may have to invest in an incubator.
Pekins are very talkative and may not be well-suited for you if you’ve got neighbors close by. Their large bodies prevent them from flying. Pekins are easily kept in a free-range system.
Rouen ducks are another very popular breed in the United States. They closely resemble the Mallard but are larger and easier to keep around.
You might easily mistake a Rouen for a Mallard since the coloration is nearly identical. However, the Rouen cannot fly and Mallards are quick to fly. This is part of why the Rouen has become so popular. You get the look of a Mallard, but in a breed that is much easier to keep.
They are large-bodied and are only out-sized by Pekins and Muscovys. Rouen ducks will mature between 7-10 pounds. The meat of Rouen carcasses is much leaner than Pekins. They are also decent egg layers. Females will lay up to 180 large eggs each year. The eggs are white or light blue in color.
Similar to the Mallard, Rouen females are quick to go broody and make excellent mothers. The breed is quite hardy and can flourish in a number of climates. They are excellent foragers.
Saxony Duck Breed
The Saxony breed was developed in Germany in the 1930s by a man named Albert Franz. Franz wanted to create an attractive bird that could be used for both meat and eggs. He crossed Pekins, Rouens, and Pomeranian breeds. The result was a dual-purpose breed that has beautiful coloring.
The Saxony resembles a diluted version of the Mallard. Drakes have a blue-gray head with chestnut, white, and cream coloring. Females are buff in color and have white facial stripes. The neck and belly of females are also cream.
Saxony ducks are large-bodied and can mature to nearly 9 pounds. They are wonderful foragers and very self-sufficient. Saxony ducks may not mature as quickly as some of the other meat or dual-purpose breeds, but they make up for it with their other traits. Females are quick to go broody and make wonderful mothers.
Female Saxony will lay anywhere from 120-175 extra-large, cream, white or blue-green eggs per year. The breed is well-suited to a wide range of climates, from hot, tropical climates to cold, northern climates.
Saxony ducks are very docile and gentle, making them the perfect choice for families that want a dual-purpose duck.
Silver Appleyard Ducks
In the 1940s Reginald Appleyard announced that he was developing a new breed of duck that would be a beautiful breed of duck, with a combination of beauty, size, lots of big white eggs, and a deep long, wide, breast.
Silver Appleyard ducks resemble Mallards. Males have beautiful green-black heads with buff, chestnut, gray, silver, and brown bodies. Females have buff and white-colored bodies with a small patch of blue on the wing.
The Silver Appleyard breed is a heavyweight breed. Drakes can reach weights of up to 8 pounds. They are well-suited for both meat and egg production. Female Appleyards are arguably the best layers of the heavyweight breeds, with females laying as many as 270 extra-large eggs each year. The eggs are white or very light cream in color.
The meat produced from Apple yards is very lean and flavorful.
Female Appleyard ducks are quick to go broody and make good mothers. They are a perfect fit if you want a sustainable flock of ducks that can be used for both meat or eggs.
Silver Appleyards are very hardy and adaptable. They thrive in hot and cold climates and are known for being very active foragers.
Welsh Harlequin Ducks
One of the newest breeds of duck is the Welsh Harlequin. The Welsh Harlequin was developed in 1949 by Leslie Bonnett in Wales. Bonnett had two off-colored Khaki Campbells that she crossed. The breed made its way to the U.S. in 1968.
Welsh Harlequins are similar in appearance to a Rouen. The males have an emerald green head with a chestnut-colored neck and shoulders. The chest is white, the tail is dark and males have a large blue patch on the wings. Females are primarily white, with some brown feathers and a large blue wing spot.
Welsh Harlequin ducks are smaller in size and mature between 5-5.5 pounds. Harlequin carcasses are coveted because they dress easily like a white-colored bird, despite having darker feathers. The under-feathers are almost nearly all-white, making dressing them much easier.
Females are prolific egg layers, with some females laying as many as 330 eggs per year. The eggs are medium-sized and white in color. Harlequin females will go broody easily and make good mothers.
The smaller body size of Welsh Harlequins means that they can fly, if only for short distances. You may want to consider keeping them in an enclosed run or clipping their wings to make them easier to enclose.
Welsh Harlequins can be sexed once they hatch. Ducklings with a dark bill are almost always male. Ducklings that have a lighter bill with a dark spot are usually female. This method of sexing can be 90% accurate if done quickly after hatching. The distinction disappears after a couple of days.
White Layer Ducks
You may have guessed this already, but this breed is commonly kept for egg production. The White Layer was developed in 1999. The breed was developed to be a white version of the popular Golden 300.
White layers are smaller-bodied and mature between 4.5-6 pounds. They are prolific egg layers and will lay as many as 290 eggs per year. Despite the smaller body size, eggs laid by White Layers are extremely large and can usually be classified as jumbo-sized eggs. Eggs are usually white in color, although a rare blue-tinted egg is laid.
The White Layer is (surprise!) all white in color. The legs and bill are a deep orange.
They are calm ducks and are very hardy. Since they were bred for high egg production, they rarely go broody. They can be used for meat but the primary reason for keeping them is for egg production.
Runner Duck Breeds
Runner ducks have been kept for thousands of years. There is evidence of runner ducks in Javan temples in China and Indonesia that dates back nearly 2000 years ago. The Runner duck was developed by rice farmers.
The farmers kept herds of ducks that they would move into the rice paddies. The ducks had to be extremely mobile, which helped lead to their upright stance. The ducks fed on insects, slugs, and other bugs in the rice fields. At the end of the day, they were herded back up at night.
The ducks earned their stay by producing large amounts of eggs. Runners today are kept primarily as egg producers. They are also excellent foragers.
Runner hens will lay as many as 250 eggs per year that can be shades of white, blue, or green. Runners mature at 3.5-4 pounds, making them very lightweight.
Runner ducks are very active almost from the moment they hatch. As soon as they can move around, they are eager to explore their surroundings. It’s a good idea to have high walls on your brooder to prevent them from leaping over the sides.
Despite their smaller body size, they aren’t good flyers. They can, however, easily hop over fences and structures that are as high as three feet tall.
There are several varieties of runners. The American Poultry Association recognizes the fawn & white (AKA Indian Runner), white, penciled, black, buff, chocolate, Cumberland blue, and gray varieties. You can easily find other colors and varieties.
For more information about runner ducks, check out this video:
Which duck breed is best for you?
With all of the options available, choosing the best breed of duck for you can seem a little daunting. Don’t let it stop you from getting ducks if you want them.
First, decide why you want to raise ducks. Are you planning on raising them for meat? Or do you want ducks that you can keep for pest control and eggs? If you want to keep ducks for their eggs, how many eggs are you planning on using or selling?
Although all of the duck breeds can technically be raised for meat, some of the breeds are faster growers and produce more meat than other breeds. Rouens, Pekins, and Muscovys are the largest ducks if you’re interested in a large carcass. The Saxony and Silver Appleyard produce a good-sized carcass and are also decent layers, making them good dual-purpose ducks.
If you’re interested in duck breeds for their eggs, the Golden 300 Hybrid, Khaki Campbell, White Layers, and Runners are all excellent layers.
All of the breeds can be used for amazing pest control, but Muscovys tend to take the cake. They’re known for being able to gobble up large insects and chase down annoying gnats and flies.
The Mallard is a beautiful breed that many people enjoy raising because they are prolific and the drakes are beautiful. However, these are established fliers and may not stick around if their wings aren’t kept clipped. You’ll also need to make sure that they are registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since they are a wild breed that is native to the U.S.
Cayuga ducks are gorgeous and produce dark-shelled eggs that are different from other duck eggs. If you like the way that the Cayuga breed looks but you want something smaller, there is a bantam breed, the East Indies, that looks very similar to the Cayuga.
You’ll also want to consider how you plan on raising your ducks. Some breeds are better suited to being raised in captivity than other breeds. If you live in an urban area or have neighbors nearby, consider getting a breed that isn’t noisy.