Ducks are beautiful, comical animals. They blather about the yard, in search of deep puddles and tasty slugs. They’ll stick close together, quacking about all the little things they’ve found, and they lay delicious eggs. But which duck breeds may be best for your space, and your needs?
Many Different Duck Breeds
If you’ve never eaten a duck egg, you’re in for a treat. Duck eggs are larger and richer than chicken eggs. They also taste slightly creamy, as if you’d splashed a dollop of heavy cream into your eggs before cooking them. Basically, duck eggs are to chicken eggs what good brioche is to sandwich bread.
Most ducks will lay anywhere from 120-200 of these glorious eggs each year as they wander around your yard. Better yet, they’ll do so while devouring pests, and delighting children and adults alike.
If you’re interested in adding ducks to your homestead, you have an exciting choice ahead of you! What breed of ducks will you be raising? There are a variety of beautiful, productive birds to choose from, whether you want conventional, dual-purpose ducks or stunning, rare breeds.
Pekins are by far the most popular domestic duck. They’re large, heavy, white birds with bright, orange bills. These birds are ideal for duck owners who want an easy, dual-purpose bird. They’re easy to find, easy to raise, and fantastic as meat or egg birds.
Pekins grow quickly, and lay up to 200 eggs each year. They’re friendly, curious ducks who get along well with chickens, geese, children, and other animals. Our pekins are regularly chased and carried by children, and even the drakes handle themselves with gentleness.
2. Khaki Campbells
Khaki Campbells lay up to 300 eggs per year, and are known as some of the best-laying ducks around. They’re slim, graceful bird with khaki-colored feathers and gentle dispositions. Furthermore, they’re good dual-purpose birds. They’re not as meaty than Pekins, but certainly not scrawny. They’re ready to butcher at 7 months, if you’re raising them for meat.
Male Khaki Campbells have pretty, olive green heads, like the mallard ducks they developed from. The hens (female birds) are rarely broody, so gathering their abundant eggs is easy.
If you’ve seen pretty, wild mallard ducks at the park and longed to have your own flock at home, Rouens are the birds for you. They look almost exactly like their mallard predecessors, only larger and brighter. These birds are primarily raised for their meat: they’re not prolific layers, but they’re plump, pretty birds.
In fact, Rouens are some of the largest and meatiest duck breeds. They’re too heavy to fly, and since they like to stick close to home, they’re a great family bird.
Stunning Cayugas are the glamorous goths of the duck world. They have deep, black plumage with slightly iridescent wing feathers. Cayugas are built like pekins, but slightly smaller, and are sweet, gentle, dual-purpose birds.
Cayugas lay up to 175 gorgeous black-shelled eggs each year. As the birds age, the eggs lighten from black to grey. Interestingly, these are the only domestic duck breed developed entirely in the United States. They’re cold-hardy, and excellent foragers.
Anconas are becoming incredibly popular as homesteading ducks. They lay a prolific amount of pretty white, blue, or green eggs—up to 250 per year! These ducks also come in a range of colors. Black and white spotted ducks are the most common, but brown and white ducks also appear frequently. Grey and white (or lavender and white) ducks are also available.
Ancona ducks are lightweight and graceful birds. They make moderately good meat birds, but are primarily raised as egg layers.
Both Anconas and Magpies were developed in the early 20th century by British duck breeders. The two share a foundation stock, but the breeds are a bit different. Magpies look like small anconas, but they don’t lay colored eggs. They also tend to be slightly more nervous than Anconas.
Unlike Anconas, Magpies are moderate layers, rarely exceeding 200 eggs per year. That said, many magpie breeders claim their birds give over 200 eggs each year. Magpie eggs are large and white, but because these birds are smaller and lighter birds than Anconas, Magpies are rarely raised for meat.
7. Welsh Harlequins
Welsh Harlequins were developed in the 1940s, in Wales, as a dual purpose, family bird. Right now, harlequins are considered critically endangered as a breed, which is so unfortunate. Welsh harlequins are a mild, friendly, and beautiful breed. They’re calm, gentle ducks and prolific layers, often giving over 250 eggs per year.
When I first added Welsh Harlequins to my flock, I noticed right away that these sweet birds were calmer than my other birds. While they’re good foragers, harlequins don’t like to wander far from home. They’re wary and alert too, my harlequins are usually the first ducks to notice threats and head for safety.
8. Indian Runners
These slim, upright ducks are eager, nervous birds. They’re tall and slim, with lightweight bodies. Indian runners are rarely raised as meat birds, but they’re prolific layers. Furthermore, they’re one of the best duck breeds for insect control.
Indian runners are less cold hardy than other duck breeds because their slim bodies have less insulating fat. If you live in an area where winter temperatures often dip below 10 degrees, keep your runner ducks in a heated coop. Though they’re one of the more high-strung breeds, Indian runners are sweet, friendly birds. They’re interested in everything, and love to make friends with other animals.
These rare, pastoral ducks were bred in Germany before the second World War. They’re heavy, meaty birds like Pekins and Rouens. They’re creamy-colored, buff or blue ducks, and absolutely beautiful. Saxonys are dual-purpose birds, though they’re not prolific layers. These ducks have a short laying season, and produce only about 100 eggs each year.
Saxony eggs are large and heavy, but the birds are primarily raised for meat. These are quiet, mild-mannered birds, so if you have neighbors nearby, Saxonys might be ideal for preserving neighborly relationships.
10. Silver Appleyard
If you can find Appleyard ducks, waste no time in adding them to your homestead! These delightful, heavy-set birds are a fantastic addition to your backyard flock. Appleyards are built like Pekins, but the females are speckled all over with pretty black spots. The drakes look like fancy gentlemen, all dressed up, with dark, greenish heads.
Silver Appleyard ducks lay up to 270 eggs each year, and are bread for meat, eggs, and beauty. If you’re looking for a stunning addition to your homestead, a flock of these definitely fits the bill.
From black to blue, Swedish ducks are full of variety. They’re primarily black or bluish gray in color with a splash of white on their necks and chests. Swedish ducks love to forage, and will happily wander around your yard all day eating greens, slugs, and other exciting tidbits. They lay about 200 eggs each year, and their eggs can be white, blue, or green.
Swedish ducks are calm and friendly. They’re an easy breed to get to know, and with gentle, regular handling, these ducks are friendly enough to be raised by children.
12. Muscovy Ducks
Moscovies are a unique breed, as they’re the only domestic duck not to have descended from wild mallards. These belong to a sub-group of ducks: the greater wood ducks. They have sharp claws that allow them to perch in trees or roost like chickens. Be careful handling these birds, because they can unintentionally give you a bad scratch.
Moscovy ducks can mate with other ducks, but their offspring will be sterile, like mules. Drakes are almost twice the size of hens, but both sexes tend to have a spotted, “magpie” pattern in their feathers. They also have bright red crests around their eyes. These ducks are only moderate layers, giving about 125 eggs each year. But they’re good, heavy meat birds, and they definitely add a lot of interest to the yard.
The Mixed Flock
Many duck owners build a flock of different duck breeds for a unique and beautiful collection of birds. After all, ducks are friendly, social little animals. They get along well with each other, and with other poultry birds. Right now, my duck flock consists of Pekins, Anconas, and Harlequins—all milling about together under the watchful eye of their protective goose. Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to one or two breeds.
If you’d like to have a diverse flock, but only breed one variety of duck, just make sure that your drake is the breed you want to continue. For example, if you have a flock like mine and you want to breed the Ancona, keep an ancona drake. There will be some cross-breeding, but you won’t have to worry about a Pekin drake insinuating himself into your Ancona breeding pool.
With such an abundance of beautiful domestic duck breeds in the world, I know you’ll find the right breed for your homestead. Give your little flock access to plenty of fresh water, space to forage, and a safe coop to bed down in at night. You’ll be eating duck egg omelettes in no time!