Ancona duck is a calm and multi-purpose duck breed that is popular with backyard keepers and large homesteaders alike.
When they can be found.
Their love of this breed by keepers has helped save them from extinction during the past decade.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy designated Ancona ducks as critically endangered in 2015.
In 2000, there were only 125 known breeding Ancona ducks in the United States.
Thankfully, the population numbers of this duck breed have increased to between 1,000 and 1,500 breeding pairs in more recent years.
The increase in numbers has successfully moved the Ancona duck breed off the critically endangered list and onto the “watch” list designation.
While Ancona ducks are not as common as the Pekin in the United States, the folks who keep them rave on their ability to lay quality eggs consistently.
Although most keepers use Ancona ducks merely for their eggs, they also produce rich and moist meat. The average lifespan of an Ancon duck is approximately ten years.
Ancona Duck History
Tracing the history of the creation of the Ancona duck breed has a few curves. Until fairly recently, the species was primarily thought to have been developed in Great Britain and later be introduced into the United States.
But, an article found in the 1913 Water Fowl Club of America Yearbook indicates a farmer from Knowlesville, New York – W.J. Wirt of Ridge View Farms, announced the creation of the Ancona duck breed.
Wirt reportedly bred together several American standard duck breeds to create the Ancona.
Not long after the article about the New York farmer appeared, Ancona ducks were taking blue ribbons at the Willdum Duckery of Rowley show in Boston.
Hence, the Ancona has now been declared to be an American breed.
Ancona ducks are a heritage breed.
This means they are a traditional breed that has been carefully selected for their specific traits over generations for a vastly extended period without distortion to the line.
Heritage breeds like the Ancona are nearly always incredibly hardy in their native environment and survive quite well with little to no human intervention or aid from modern agricultural practices.
The mental and physical traits often associated with heritage breeds include excellent maternal instincts, ease of mating, parasite, and disease resistance.
Other strong traits of Ancona ducks are quality fertility, longevity, and foraging prowess.
The Ancona duck is an excellent example of a top-quality heritage breed. Unlike some to even many heritage livestock breeds, Ancona ducks have a fast growth rate.
Ancona Ducks Physical Attributes
- Mature Ancona ducks range in size from six to six and a half pounds.
- Ancona domesticated duck breeds are slightly more stocky than Magpie ducks – which are believed to be a reasonably close relative but less bulky than Pekin ducks.
- Ducks of this breed boast a medium-length bill that appears to concave at the top line.
- Ancona ducks have an oval and medium-sized head and a neck that slightly arches forward.
- The plumage on Ancona ducks is genuinely unique. It is similar to a Holstein cow but has no standard such design. A mixture of color and white is accepted by show judges and breed association – providing distinct areas of “broken color” visible on the duck’s underbelly, head, sides, and back.
- Ancona bills are dark green and yellow and often feature a slight black spotting.
- The neck on an Ancona is solid white.
- Ancona duck feet and legs are orange with brown or black markings that become more distinct as the bird ages.
- Color varieties common in Ancona ducks include chocolate and white, lavender and white, black and white, white and blue, silver and white, and tricolored.
- Chocolate feathering is a recessive and sex-linked trait carried only by drakes. If a black hen mates with a chocolate drake, all-male offspring will be black, and all females will be chocolate.
- Varieties include Black and White, Blue and White, Chocolate and White, Silver and White, Lavender and White, and Tricolored. Chocolate is a sex-linked recessive trait. If a chocolate drake mates with a black duck, all-female offspring will be chocolate, while all-male offspring will be black. A black drake that mates with a chocolate hen will churn out only black ducklings of either sex.
- Like nearly all domesticated duck breeds, Ancona cannot fly and migrate during the winter months.
- Members of this duck breed are prone to relatively rapid growth. The meat they produce is quite flavorful and is often considered less fatty than the meat garnered from Pekin ducks.
- Once mature, Ancona ducks are not victims of birds of prey, except eagles, in some cases, due to their heavyweight.
Ancona Duck Personality
These ducks are known to be not only hardy but among the hardiest of all the breeds kept in the United States.
While I am partial to the Pekin duck breed and believe them to be the hardiest and best layers, the Ancona comes in a close second.
Both hens (females) and drakes (males) are highly regarded for their calm demeanor. For folks who are keeping a duck flock in a backyard or on small acreage, this breed might be the best bet.
While they are solid free rangers, they tend to stay close to their duck house or coop and run when turned out and have no desire to wander too far from their home base.
Ducks of this breed are not only highly adaptable to varying climates, but they are also exceptionally hardy as well.
Cold winters and humid summers do not phase Ancona ducks – as long as they have a freshwater source to get into to cool off.
While foraging, the little noise some Ancona ducks make resembles that of a squeaking hinge.
All in all, these ducks are generally relatively quiet and do not panic when exposed to loud noises that can cause chaos when some breeds are free-ranging.
Ancona Ducks Diet
Members of this duck breed as dedicated free rangers. They will roam close by their living area in search of insects, tadpoles, tiny frogs, or fish, as well as their favorite snack – banana slugs.
Even from a very young age, Ancona ducks will forage for at the very least half of their diet if allowed to free-range. Even when insects are cleared out of their “close to home” foraging area, Ancona ducks will dine upon grasses and wild greens.
To expand the foraging area of Ancona duck free-ranging, you can use a chicken tractor to relocate them to another space where all bugs have not been depleted.
Planting a small garden near their duck house and running and creating connected tunnels out of chicken wire or hardware cloth around or through the gardening area will offer more bug-eating opportunities.
This is without any destruction of the growing plot.
Placing aquatic plants in the pond or even the baby pool used by the Ancona ducks – especially “duckweed” will also offer the flock a sustainable and natural food source.
Ancona ducks can be fed waterfowl, game birds, or chickens. Ducklings can eat chick starters, but it MUST be non-medicated.
Game bird feed is excellent to use during the winter months when foraging opportunities for insects have greatly diminished.
Game bird feed boasts a higher percentage of protein than other common types of meals designed for poultry birds.
Ancona Duck Eggs and Ancona Ducklings
Ancona duck hens lay roughly 210 to 280 eggs per year. The eggs are large and vary in color from cream to white to blue.
Ancona hens do not tend to go broody or have much of a desire to sit their eggs to hatch consistently.
Increasing the number of Ancona ducks in your flock will also assuredly require the use of an incubator.
Because ducks nearly always lay eggs between duck and dawn, they are easier to collect than chicken eggs.
Allowing you to find more viable Ancona eggs to place in an incubator before they get trampled and cracked throughout the day.
On average, Ancona ducks lay eggs consistently for five to eight years. It is during the first three years that a hen of this breed will lay the most eggs.
As the Ancona hen ages toward full maturity and beyond, her eggs increase in size.
Ancona duck eggs are grade large and weigh roughly 70 grams.
Ancona Duck Conclusion
Ancona ducks do not have any specific husbandry needs that are also not shared by other breeds – shelter, constant access to clean water, and proper feed.
I would recommend a deep litter system inside the duck house or coop. Ancona ducks can tend to be a little messier with their droppings and splashed water than some other breeds.
You should change the bedding regularly to avoid mold or mildew from growing in it or bacteria growth from forming.
Because Ancona ducks are medium-sized to heavy ducks, they will need four square feet of space per bird in their living quarters.
It would be wise to make the duck house or coop run as large as possible since the birds prefer to forage in very familiar territory.
Growing small plants or greens in containers inside of the run can also be a handy way to create a rotated and steady supply of natural food for the members of the Ancona flock to forage.