Indian Runner ducks boast one of the most distinctive body styles in the entire duck world. Members of this breed actually look a lot more like penguins or feathered bowling pins at first glance than either domesticated or wild ducks. But, unlike penguins they do not waddle and can actually run rather quickly.
When Indian Runner ducks were first imported to the United States they were often referred to as “Penguin Ducks.” Ducks of this breed are raised almost exclusively for their egg and not their meat production. Like most domesticated duck breeds the Indian Runner duck cannot fly.
These intriguing looking ducks live roughly eight to 12 years, on average when domestically kept. In the wild, Indian Runner ducks typically survive only two years.
Indian Runner Duck History
Indian Runner ducks have been known to exist for at least the past 200 years. In ancient Javan temples images that appear to look like the distinctive body style of this duck breed have been found. The etchings carved into the stones in the Indochina temple date back to about 2,000 years ago.
Members of this duck breed found their way from their native Indonesian islands to Europe during the 1800s. Duck herding in Indonesia was commonplace in the region, with thousands of Indian Runner duck roaming about the islands. Some of the first locations Indian Runner ducks were known to exist include India and Bali.
It was not unusual for a single duck herder to keep a flock of 1,000 Indian Runners. To move the massive amount of ducks to market the keeper would herd them long distance, walking along beside them. During the journey the Indian Runner ducks would find food to forage along the sides of the trail and especially in the rice fields they passed.
The clever herders would check diligently along the trail, making sure to check for eggs that could also be sold when reaching the market. Depending upon how remote the herder lived, the trip to the market could take up to six months. Only the most hardy of the Indian Runner ducks survived. This type of ancestry may have helped create the durable and disease resistant breed that keepers still rave upon today.
Indian Runner Duck Physical Attributes
- These ducks stand distinctly erect – like a penguin.
- The body of an Indian Runner duck is cylindrical in shape. The duck’s legs are positioned quite further back on the body than all other duck breeds. The shape of their bodies and placement of the legs permit these ducks to actually run and not just waddle quickly.
- The skulls of Indian Runner ducks are wedge in shape. Their bills are extremely straight and their eyes are situated high on the head.
- The tails of Indian Runner ducks are quite more compact than some other common breeds of domesticated ducks.
- Indian Runners stand roughly between 20 to 26 inches from the tip of their tail to their crown.
- Mature drakes (males) weight between three and a half to just over five pounds, on average. Adult female Indian Runner ducks usually weigh between a little more than three pounds to a little more than four pounds.
- Members of this breed come in more colors than any other variety of domesticated duck. The most common colors of Indian Runner ducks include: chocolate, black, white, blue, light brown, dark brown, and a brownish shade of green.
Indian Runner Duck Meat Production
Indian Runner ducks are considered a “light class” domesticated duck breed. Even though these are on the small size for a traditional meat bird, the flesh to bone ratio is high and the meat is often deemed to be of a quality flavor that some think is similar to wild duck.
There is usually little fat on an Indian Runner duck. A mature hen or drake should possess enough meat to feed two people.
Indian Runner Duck Egg Production
- Hens (females) of this breed typically lay between 300 to 350 eggs annually, on average.
- The eggs laid by Indian Runner duck hens come in shades of white and blue.
- Duck hens of this breed lay jumbo size eggs that weigh roughly between 2.8 and 3 ounces, on average.
- Hens lay consistently for about four to five years before the quantity but not necessarily the quality of the eggs diminish.
- Indian Runner ducks do not yearn to be in water or at least the rain when breeding, like most other breeds. This can be a big plus for the hens due to the less than gentle manner in which drakes mount a hen in a pond – nearly drowning her in the process.
- Indian Runner duck hens rarely ever go broody. They are one of the few duck breeds willing to make a nest and actually lay in it. But, if you want the ducklings to live once they are hatched, scoop them up quickly and put them in a brooder. Hens of this breed RARELY develop any maternal instincts and figure their job is complete once the ducklings break out of their eggs.
Indian Runner Duck Husbandry Facts
- Unlike Ancona ducks, Indian Runners will not prefer to forage close to their duck house or coop. Being run kept is possible, but Indian Runner ducks will want a larger space to roam and can be quite vocal about their desires.
- There are no special dietary or living quarter needs for Indian Runner ducks. A clean and dry space to sleep that allows four square feet of living space, clean water, and clean bedding – along with standard poultry bird food will help keep these prolific egg layers healthy and happy.
- Despite their unusually shaped bodies, Indian Runner ducks are actually quite graceful swimmers. They enjoy spending at least half of their time in the water, slightly more than some domesticated breeds, when allowed to free range.
- This duck breed is one of the most avid foragers. They will provide for the bulk of their diet if allowed a spacious free ranging area and a pond.
- The favorite foraging foods for Indian Runner ducks include: slugs, mosquitoes and their larvae, snails, grass, wild greens, small fish, and small crustaceans.
- Indian Runner ducks are perhaps one of the most cross-bred of domesticated duck breeds thanks to their outstanding and outgoing personalities and beautiful plumage. This breed nearly became extinct in the final years of the sixteenth century (particularly in Western Europe) because they had been cross-bred so extensively.
- A hardy breed, Indian Runners are not prone to illness or seem to be impacted by either hot or cold weather in a negative manner.
- Indian Runner ducks were used to create both the Buff Orpington and Khaki Campbell breeds as “light class” ducks became more popular as the number of factory farms grew across the United States.
- Worms are the most common health issue for Indian Runner ducks. Worming new juvenile or mature ducks purchased to add to your flock should be wormed immediately if the date of that last worming is unknown. Many keepers of this breed worm every 21 days for the first 63 days and then provide wormer again every six months – unless a visible problem develops sooner. Dusting the head of the Indian Runner ducks for parasites is also often recommended. I provide homemade medicinal herb balls (oregano, honey, thyme, garlic, clove, cinnamon, basil, and sage) to all of our livestock on a weekly basis to deter parasites and to boost their immune systems. In addition to the weekly treatments, I also mix diatomaceous earth into livestock feed as a natural deworming agent. I personally have not used commercial wormers for any small to large livestock in years, but other homesteaders feel more confident in the health of their animals by using it in the recommended dose and timeline.
Indian Runner ducks are prone to being a bit timid or high strung at first, but when they feel safe and comfortable with their keepers and their environment members of this duck breed become quite social. Handling the ducklings frequently after they hatch can help deter this initial behavioral response. But beware, their enthusiastic and easy to panic personality traits of this breed has led to ducklings jumping right out of the incubator as soon as the lid is lifted and a human hand reaches inside.
While they are not as excitable or loud as guinea fowl, Indian Runner ducks can have an enhanced panic response and have been known to jump over barriers as high as three feet to escape a loud noise or other either perceived or real danger. Once free from an enclosed space, these ducks will rapidly scramble away from just about anything that does not resemble a duck when they are in panic mode.
Indian Runner ducks are perhaps one of the most fun breeds to just sit and watch when they are free ranging. They scamper about clowning around and frollicking in the water for hours – unless their bellies growl and it is once again back to foraging.