The biggest duck breed is raised at meat ducks both residentially on homesteads and farms as well as commercially. These heavy duck breeds may be heritage ducks that are organically prone to grow large over a long period of time, or intentionally bred to maximize growth and bulk over a short period of time.
While there is no hard and fast rule about what technically is a “big duck” or heavy duck breed, there are some generally accepted classification standards. Any female duck breed that weighs at least seven pounds once mature is considered a biggest duck breed. Drake (male) ducks that hit a minimum of eight pounds once mature, are considered to be among the biggest duck breeds.
History Of The Biggest Duck Breeds
The favorite big duck breeds have risen and fallen in popularity many times over the decades. Because the vast majority of heavy duck breeds were developed diligently and specifically as table birds, there have traditionally been heavy competition among breeders to consistently put out high quality and quantity of the type of ducks they keep.
If a meat duck breeder creates a new breed or differing variation of an existing breed that wins favor with restaurants, it can quickly push a once highly heralded breed not only out of favor, but cause its population numbers to dwindle to the point of near extinction.
Once the meat demand for a big duck breed bottoms out, commercial breeders have little desire to spend time, money, and space developing it anymore. If the heavy duck breed is also an above average layer (which only sometimes happens) the breed has a better chance of keeping its population numbers solid.
The Cayuga big duck breed is a prime example of the drastic ebb and flow in popularity and population numbers of meat ducks. These beautiful ducks were THE most popular meat duck in the United States until Pekin ducks were imported from China around 1874. Now, you will have to find a hatchery or specialized poultry bird breeder to even locate a few Cayuga ducks in most regions of the country.
Once the Pekin meat duck craze caught on in more and more upscale restaurants around the globe, the much loved Aylesbury duck fell victim to its popularity in the United Kingdom, as well. Here’s what we found to be the top 7 Biggest Duck Breeds.
Pekin ducks are readily available throughout the United States thanks to their ongoing popularity as not just a big meat duck breed but also because they are proficient egg layers and are just plain fun to keep as farm pets.
A mature Pekin drake can weigh between nine to 12 pounds – if it is the “Jumbo” version of the breed. Mature Pekin duck hens weigh in at just slightly less around eight to nine pounds on average – or up to 10 pounds in the Jumbo variety. Members of this big duck breed are extremely fast growing and are fully capable of hitting butcher weight by the time they are five to seven weeks old.
Pekin ducks are amazing bug eaters, they can clear your garden area of bugs (both bad and beneficial bugs) in mere days. Slugs and snails are a particular favorite of members of this big duck breed.
They are a multi-purpose breed – both meat and egg ducks. Pekin ducks lay up to 250 large white eggs per year, making them popular both with backyard keepers seeking a meat and/or an egg bird. I love the rich and creamy flavor of Pekin duck eggs, especially when baking and making pie crusts.
These traditionally raised meat ducks are quite beautiful. The Cayuga duck resembles a Pekin in physical characteristics but boasts plumage that is highly sought after by artisans and crafters – making them a popular exhibition big duck breed, as well.
Mature Cayuga drakes weigh between seven to nine pounds, on average. Cayuga mature hens weigh between seven to nearly nine pounds on average.
Cayuga duck hens lay roughly 100 to 150 large and colorful eggs annually. The eggs laid by hens are nearly all black in color during the beginning of the egg laying season but as the year goes on the color lightens to what could be described as greenish and bluish shades until only cream or white eggs are laid going into the winter months.
This is a favorite British big meat duck breed is similar to the Rouen in many respects. It weighs roughly the same and has a similar calm and quiet demeanor.
Until Pekin ducks became so popular and readily available around the globe, the Aylesbury duck was bred by the thousands in the United Kingdom. Despite lessened production of the Aylesbury ducks in recent decades, members of this big duck breed are still popular with both residential and commercial keepers alike in Great Britain. In America however, their population numbers are now critically low.
The meat produced by Aylesbury ducks is moist, tender, and has a robust flavor. It takes a mere seven to nine weeks for members of this heavy duck breed to hit the standard 5-pound butcher weight. A mature hens weighs about nine pounds and drakes one pound more, on average.
Aylesbury ducks range in weight from seven to eight pounds once mature, on average – making them a medium class heavy breed meat duck.
The average lifespan of an Aylesbury duck is eight to 10 years. Mature hens lay only between 35 to 120 eggs annually. Although they only produce a relatively small amount of eggs, they are absolutely delicious and excellent for baking with – especially when making meringues.
Aylesbury ducks are not very good at foraging, but are affable in nature.
Members of this domesticated duck breed are often mistaken for their wild Mallard duck ancestors. Rouen ducks look almost identical to Mallards, with the exception of some plumage color deviation and the blue speculum feathers the Rouen ducks boast.
Both male and female Rouen ducks are larger than wild Mallard ducks. Mature ducks of this big breed weigh eight to 12 pounds on average. A Rouen duck’s average lifespan is eight to 12 years.
It typically takes members of this biggest duck breed longer to hit a mature butcher weight than Pekin, Aylesbury, and Cayuga ducks. But, once a Rouen duck is ready to butcher, the meat it creates is known to be superbly flavored and moist. It is a lean meat that is often deemed far less “greasy” in taste than some meat created by other prime meat ducks.
Rouen ducks are excellent free rangers and are fully capable of foraging for up to half of their daily nutritional intake from spring through the early weeks of fall.
They are a docile and easy going duck breed that is far more quiet, on average, than Pekin ducks. Mature Rouen duck hens lay between 35 to 120 large white eggs per year.
Blue Swedish ducks were popular and easily acquired in England through the mid-1800s, before they became less favored than Aylesbury and Pekin ducks. Members of this heavy meat duck breed are also fairly calm and quiet, but a bit more shy than the other ducks on this list … especially the Pekin.
Blue Swedish duck hens lay between 130 to 180 eggs per year, on average. Members of this biggest duck breed commonly hit butcher weight in about 17 weeks after hatching. The average lifespan of Blue Swedish ducks is eight to 10 years.
Ducks of this biggest breed weigh between 7 to 9 pounds once mature, on average. It typically takes a drake only about nine weeks to hit butcher weight. A Silver Appleyard hen is ready for butchering around 11 weeks or so, typically.
Mature hens of this breed commonly lay between 200 to 270 large white eggs annually. They are one of the best egg laying meat class duck breeds.
Silver Appleyard ducks are intelligent and great free rangers like the Pekin ducks. Unlike my favored Pekin duck hens, mature hens of this breed are actually very good sitters as well as being attentive mommas. They are such good sitters in fact, that you can slip the eggs of other ducks under them for natural hatching.
Members of this breed grow quickly and can reach butcher weight in about six to eight weeks. The average lifespan of Silver Appleyard ducks is eight to 12 years.
Silver Appleyard ducks are affable and very sociable with both other ducks and their keepers. This is why the Silver Appleyard are also highly popular as barnyard pets.
Members of this biggest duck breed weigh between eight to nine pounds on average. Saxony duck hens lay between 80 to 100 medium to large eggs annually. This duck breed is often deemed to be a multi-purpose duck breed. Saxony are large enough to be raised profitably as meat and also are capable of laying delicious eggs annually.
Saxony ducks reach a mature butcher weight in about eight to 10 weeks. The mature hens of this breed are good sitters and attentive mothers once the ducklings are naturally hatched.
Newbie duck keepers and Saxony ducks often get along quite successfully. This breed is incredibly friendly, smart, and excellent at foraging for their own food from the spring through the final days of autumn. If you are looking for a fairly multi-purpose duck that is low maintenance, the Saxony would be a superb choice.
The biggest duck breeds are often kept for meat, but as noted above, several varieties are also quite adept at providing a steady supply of quality eggs, as well. Even though these ducks are all heavy class, backyard and small homestead (5 to 19 acres) keepers can still enjoy them if only a small flock is developed at any one time.
Read Next: Pros And Cons Of Raising Ducks