We review the most popular duck breeds from A to Z. Keeping ducks is possible for anyone, even if you do not live on a large homestead with a pond or large body of water. The question is what kind of breed is suitable for you and your family? What do you want to achieve with having ducks? This will determine what duck breed you should choose.
We keep both types of poultry birds on our large homestead and I consistently find that ducks are often far more hardy and easier to train to free range. Plus, drakes (male ducks) do not show the sometimes scary type of aggression that roosters tend to inflict on their keepers. As another added bonus, most duck breeds grow larger and more quickly than chickens, allowing them to mature for egg laying. Lets take at how to determine the best duck breed for your lifestyle, your goals, and your surroundings.
Choosing The Best Duck Breed
Before you go and purchase a box of cute little ducklings, several factors must be taken into consideration for the new homesteading endeavor to yield successful results. Also, make sure to read our reasons to buy ducks guide as well before digging deep into the breeds and their characteristics.
- Usage – Some duck breeds are raised almost exclusively for meat, others for their eggs. There are a handful of duck breeds that have largely been deemed “multi-purpose” birds because of their prowess at consistently delivering both tender and moist meat as well as laying a significant amount of eggs on an annual basis. Determining how you want to use the duck flock should drastically influence the breed or breeds you decide to keep.
- Housing – Next,, you must consider the space available to create a coop and run. Even if you are going to free range the ducks, they should still have an enclosed outdoor run area attached to their coop for exercise, sunlight, and increased airflow during times they are not released to range. If you become ill, busy, go on vacation, or a predator is roaming about, it may become necessary for the ducks to remain in a secure environment for many days or even a few weeks. Some duck breeds do far better in a confined environment than others. Knowing the breed characteristics or personality will greatly help you determine which type will best fit your planned husbandry style.
- Cost – All domesticated duck breeds are excellent at feeding themselves if they free range and have some type of pond to splash about and hunt in, in my personal experience. These activities not only keep feeding costs down but also provide the ducks with a far more healthy and natural diet during the spring, summer, and fall months. But, during the winter, you will need to budget for a 50-pound bag of feed once a week for a flock of a dozen ducks, on average. If you are raising the ducks for meat, a high-protein or game bird feed and larger daily supplements, may be necessary. The price per 50-pound bag of poultry bird feed (the same type that is fed to chickens) varies by location, but runs about $12 to $15 per bag on average.
- Flock Continuity – If you are going to hatch ducklings to sell or or to raise to maturity to keep flock numbers steady or growing, a brooder must be purchased or built, as well as small feeders, waterers, and heat lamps purchased. Some duck breeds are excellent layers but lousy sitters, this is something that also must be taken into consideration when determining what duck breed to raise. If you want to raise a duck breed that is not known for its sitting capabilities, purchasing an incubator (approximate cost $100 to $150) will be necessary. The average lifespan of ducks is eight to 10 years.
- Domestication – It is essential that you purchase domesticated duck breeds if you do not want the birds to fly away from your homestead or backyard – or migrate during the winter months. Domesticated duck breeds, especially the heavier meat birds, have only the ability to fly roughly one foot in the air and to travel a distance of only a foot or so. All of the ducks featured in this guide are regularly sold as domesticated breeds and readily available from hatcheries, agriculture stores, or localized poultry bird breeders.
Top 4 Duck Egg Breeds
Duck breeds generally offer more eggs during the long cold months of winter than chickens on average, in my personal experience. It seems that ducks are not impacted by the short days as heavily as their poultry bird counterparts. Placing a solar chicken coop light inside the duck habits it still highly recommended to keep egg laying quotas as high as possible and to offer more light in the living area for the general well-being of the birds since they will be spending a substantial amount of time indoors instead of free ranging or waddling about in the coop run.
While it would be rare for any duck breed to lay eggs every single day throughout the year, the best egg laying breeds do tend to lay between 250 to 325 eggs annually.
This duck breed is not only excellent at laying large which and delicious eggs, but at sitting them, as well. Both the Khaki Campbell and Pekin duck breeds are known for their large eggs and laying capabilities, but the former far better at sitting than the larger Pekin – which is often dubbed a multi-purpose bird.
On average, Khaki Campbell ducks are capable of laying around 280 to 320 eggs per peak year. All duck breeds do their best laying the firsts two years of their life – known as their peak years. Hens of this variety typically continue to lay quality eggs in large amounts until they are five years old.
Khaki Campbell hens often begin laying eggs when they are only six months old. The white eggs laid by a hen of this breed weigh roughly two and a half to three quarter ounces. If you are looking to raise ducks for eggs the Khaki is a good choice of breed.
These birds are a little more reluctant to trust their human keepers at first than Pekin ducks, in my personal experience. But, when melded into an established flock, they quickly learn the routine and follow along at turn out and put up time.
Khaki Campbells are a docile, quiet, and independent duck breed. They tend to form lasting relationships with their brooder mates, including any chickens or guineas they have been raised with before being released into the general coop population. It is not unusual to see the Khaki Campbell ducklings waddling and swimming with their brooder mates and bedding down with them throughout their lifetime. Often, the chickens they were raised with use the Khaki Campbells as a pillow in the coop when cuddling up to sleep on chilly nights.
The only downside to Khaki Campbell hens stems from their nearly non-existent maternal instincts. They seem to think their job is done after laying and sitting their eggs. The ducklings will line up and follow their momma, but she seems largely disinterested in their antics and well-being once they can feed themselves.
Khaki Campbell ducks are a medium sized breed that weighs approximately four to four and a half pounds. They are not considered a multi-purpose bird due to their smaller stature, but if butchered, the meat is moist and tender.
This is my favorite duck breed. Even though we have kept and are still keeping several other breeds, the Pekins are always a standout. They are not only adorable and robust egg layers, they have a playful personality. Pekin ducks are the most intelligent duck breed I have ever raised, they are superb free rangers and prefer to spend their days looking for bugs and swimming on the pond – putting on entertaining shows in the process.
My Pekin ducks follow me around like I am their momma trying always to convince me that it is treat time long before their sunset put up. They too get along well with other poultry birds but eagerly interact with their humans, as well.
Pekin hens are fairly loud, if they are the demanding sort like mine always have been. They will honk to get your attention if they think you are late for turnout, feeding time, snack time, or about any time they just think you need to come give them some extra attention.
Pekin ducks lay about 200 to 300 eggs annually. The hens usually start laying eggs when they are five to six months old. The duck eggs weigh about three ounces. These hens are excellent layers and really protective momma ducks, but are known to be lousy sitters. Sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) they will sit eggs diligently for a few days, but then get distracted or bored and abandon them – possibly coming back of a half a day or a few days, or even a week at a stretch, before getting bored again and leaving you with nothing but undeveloped and rotten eggs in their nest.
Ducks of this breed commonly weigh between eight to 11 pounds – making them a true multiple purpose bird that is good at producing meat as they are at laying eggs.
This heritage breed of duck is exceptionally hardy. Like the Khaki Campbell and Pekin duck breeds, they too continue to lay eggs steadily during the winter months. Silver Appleyard ducks weigh between eight to 10 pounds, on average.
Due to their size, Silver Appleyard ducks are raised for their meat as well as their eggs, They are excellent foragers with a docile demeanor. Unlike the other domesticated ducks on this list, these beauties have been known to fly fairly well and may need their wings clipped to prevent them from roaming too far away. But, keepers of these highly muscled birds regularly contend that even when left out to free range, once they learn where home is before their daily release and are fed well, the desire to go wandering in search of food or a mate evaporates.
Silver Appleyard ducks are not as noisy as Pekin ducks. While they are not as good as sitting eggs as Khaki Campbell hens, they do usually sit eggs better than Pekin ducks, especially if they are coop and run kept.
On average, Khaki Campbell hens lay between 250 to 270 eggs that are between two to three ounces, on an annual basis. Hens of this breed typically start laying eggs when they are five to seven months old. They will lay during winter months, but perhaps not as frequently as either of the other two prime egg laying duck breeds noted above.
These rather odd looking ducks are also superb layers. Indian Runners have a body that is cylindrical in shape. Due to the legs being situated far back on their bodies, ducks of this breed stand in a nearly upright position.
Indian Runner ducks are a domesticated breed with wings that are too small to allow them to fly at all. Mature ducks of this breed commonly weigh between four and four and a half pounds.
These typically docile and easily handled ducks weigh around four and a half pounds. Unless startled or cornered, Indian Runners are known to be a quiet and mild-mannered egg duck breed. They lay large greenish colored eggs instead of pure white.
Indian Runner eggs weigh between 270 to 300 two and a half to nearly three ounces on an annual basis. Hens of this breed usually begin laying eggs when they are roughly four and a half months old. This duck breed does not usually produce good sitter but the hens do exhibit decent maternal instincts.
If bug control is part of the reason why you want to add ducks to your homestead, farm, or backyard, Indian Runners should be at the top of your breed consideration list. When allowed to free range or moved about in chicken tractors, they are voracious insect eaters.
This is a perfect breed for keeping in a small space or in a large coop run. While they are fairly easily trained to free range, Indian Runners do not mind boundaries or confinement.
Duck eggs can be used in any way and in any recipe that calls for chicken eggs. The duck eggs are decidedly more rich and creamy, there is both a distinct and pleasant taste difference. When using duck eggs in a baking or cooking recipe it is vital that you account for the difference in size between the two different types of eggs to ensure the dish turns out as desired and does not become runny due to the addition of too many large eggs. Large chicken eggs typically never exceed a two ounce weight.
I have found over the years that duck egg shells are often thicker and harder than chicken egg shells, especially when the birds are just starting to lay or during the winter months – which may help them break less and extend their shelf life.
Top 4 Meat Duck Breeds
If keeping ducks is entirely or primarily being engaged in for meat purposes, choosing a larger duck breed known for achieving good muscle tone is a priority. While some multi-purpose duck breeds, such as the Pekin, mature quickly, top meat ducks should reach butcher weight in roughly seven weeks.
Although the many attributes most often associated with this breed have already been noted above, there is still a little more worth learning about this breed while pondering selection options.
Pekin ducks produce mostly dark meat that is a healthy source of protein. Due to the extremely flavorful nature of meat from this duck breed, it is often. most popular choice for not only backyard keepers but commercial ones, as well.
At six weeks of age a Pekin duck weighs six pounds and can be butchered – drastically keeping feed and general husbandry costs at a minimum. The “Jumbo” Pekins hit between nine and a half to 11 pounds (depending upon their sex) by the time they are 12 weeks old.
Muscovy ducks are the quietest breed of duck you can purchase – they do not quack and can only make a low hissing type of sound. If you are going to raise meat ducks in a backyard or small homestead with nearby neighbors.
These odd ducks are voracious eaters and poor egg layers and should never be considered a multi-purpose bird. Even if you free range a Muscovy duck, they are likely to still demand additional feed to fulfill their large appetites.
Oddly enough, they have an extra claw on each foot to help them do what they seem to love to do best … perch. Because these ducks can actually fly like a wild duck (think Mallard, for example, or wood ducks found in the wild) they will need regular wing maintenance if kept longer than the necessary time to butcher and allowed to roam outside of their coop and run.
The Aylesbury is often considered the most popular backyard and commercial type of duck meat in England. They produce a flavorful pure white meat that is both tender and moist. In the United States however, the population numbers and breeders of this traditional duck breed have dwindled critically in recent decades.
It takes only between seven to nine weeks for an Aylesbury duck to hit a butcher weight of five pound. Mature hens weigh roughly nine pounds and mature drakes commonly weigh about 10 pounds.
While they are not proficient foragers, members of this duck breed are known to be quite docile and interact easily with their keepers.
Although members of this duck breed can easily be mistaken for their wild counterparts – the Mallard ducks, they are a hardy domesticated meat duck breed. These ducks can be up to three times larger than Mallards.
Rouen hens are decent egg layers, but miss the mark a bit too much to be deemed a true multi-purpose breed. The eggs produced by hens are smaller than the ones produced by top quality egg and multi-purpose breeds. Typically a Rouen hen should be expected to lay around 140 to 180 eggs per year – if you are lucky.
Mature female Rouen ducks usually grow to weigh between six to seven pounds. A mature male Rouen should be expected to hit the eight to 10 pound mark. While they are a hardy duck that grows substantially large, it takes a few weeks longer, on average, for them to hit butcher weight than the other meat duck breeds included in this guide.
The meat produced by Rouen ducks is often considered not just a flavorful lean meat, but one that is also quite juicy and without any of the greasiness that can be associated with duck meat.
Birds included in this breed are also big foragers and love free ranging. I have not personally found Rouen ducks to be as intelligent or easy to train as Pekins, they still are able to learn a barnyard routine fairly quickly and do not wreak havoc at put up time. There is nothing more frustrating for a homesteader or backyard keeper than having to chase one or two ducks around a coop as night starts to fall because the little feathered cutie refuses to go into the coop.
Rouen ducks are fairly quiet (more so than Pekins) and they will not take to coming and sitting in your lap for a good scratching like some chickens, they are not skittish and have a pleasant demeanor.
Keeping ducks is no more difficult than keeping chickens. Raising ducks and chickens together is completely feasible as well. In fact, because they do not crow at dawn, spawn aggressive males to keep increasing flock numbers, and learn a free ranging routine with ease, I would argue that duck husbandry is far easier than keeping a coop of even just laying hens.
The only additional work that keeping ducks for meat, eggs, or both could entail in reference to raising chickens, is the need for a water feature if the birds are not going to be butchered at six weeks old. Keeping the ducks healthy so they produce meat and eggs you want to feed your family requires the same coop cleaning and disinfecting routine. I have never had a problem keeping ducks, chickens, and guineas together. But, I would highly recommend against adding turkeys or pheasants into the same coop and run due to the size and hardiness differences between the various types of poultry birds.