Magpie ducks are not necessarily as popular or well known as the Pekin, Khaki Campbell, or even the Indian Runner breeds, but they do have an extremely devoted keeper and breeder community.
The hens of this breed are proficient layers of quality eggs. Both hens and drakes (mature male ducks) are excellent meat birds – if keepers can stand to butcher these incredibly adorable and sociable ducks.
Magpie Duck History
M.C. Gower-Williams and Oliver Drake – both of Wales, are believed to have been the original creators of the Magpie duck breed in the 1800s. The Belgian Huttegem was also a part of the cross-breeding process used to create the Magpie duck breed. Belgian Huttegem ducks may also have some Indian Runner duck breed ancestry.
Magpie ducks were first imported into America by Michigan farmer, Isaac Hunter, in 1963.
The American Poultry Association did not recognize Magpies as an official breed with established standards until 1977. Black Magpie ducks were first recognized by the association, followed by Blue Magpies a few years later.
The average lifespan of a Magpie duck is 8 to 12 years.
Magpie Duck Physical Characteristics
- Magpies are classified as a “light class” breed of duck.
- Mature Magpie ducks weigh between three to five pounds, on average.
- Indian Runner ducks were believed to have been used in the cross-breeding process that created Magpie ducks. The distinctly upright carriage on members of this breed, along with the feather colors and plumage pattern support such a belief.
- The feathering on Magpie ducks is predominantly white, with the exception of a large patch of colored plumage on both the back and crown of the head.
- Due to the head shape of the duck and the spot of colored plumage on the crown, it appears the ducks are wearing a flat cap on their heads.
- Magpie ducks boast a long body, but one that is not as cylindrical in shape as the Indian Runner duck. The body carriage on these ducks are between 15 to 30 degrees horizontal when a Magpie is standing in a relaxed pose. The degree of horizontal stature is a little higher when one of these duck breed members becomes stressed.
- The heads of members of this breed are rather broad.
- Bills of Magpie ducks are either yellow or orange in color and long in size.
- The standard colors of Magpie ducks when graded for association listing or shows are black and white or blue and white.
- This duck’s body carriage is fifteen to thirty degrees above horizontal when relaxed, and slightly higher when agitated. Standard varieties include Blacks and Blues. Some breeders have also developed nonstandard color varieties.
- Both the webbed feet and legs of Magpie ducks are orange.
Magpie Duck Personalities
- Magpie ducklings can tend to imprint more deeply on their human keepers than baby ducks of other breeds – especially if they are the only surviving baby duckling or there is a long gap in the incubator hatching process.
- Typically, Magpie ducks are both docile and calm. They are definitely not as easily startled as their Indian Runner duck ancestors, but are still more high strung and prone to panic than Pekin, Rouen, and Khaki Campbell ducks.
- Like nearly all domesticated duck breeds, Magpies cannot truly fly. They can flap their small wings to lift their bodies off the ground maybe one foot or so and move forward a few feet, but that is the extent of their flying capabilities.
Magpie Diet And Husbandry
Magpie ducks have the same basic needs as all other duck breeds: constant access to clean drinking and swimming water, clean bedding, a duck house or coop that protects them from the elements, and a protective run to spend time in when not free ranging.
Ducks of this breed can also eat standard poultry bird feed, A game bird feed will infuse more protein into their diet during the cold weather months when foraging for a protein source is far more difficult in most climates.
Magpies can also eat waterfowl feed, layer feed, and chick starter as ducklings as long as it is not medicated. Waterfowl starter crumbles will offer the highest level of nutrition for ducklings but they can be especially difficult to find at agriculture feed stores – particularly in rural areas.
Ducks of this breed will avidly forage for about two thirds of their own dietary needs when given ample room to free range and a pond to swim in on a daily basis. Foraging favorites for Magpies include: tadpoles, small frogs, seeds, slugs, berries, snails, small crustaceans, wild greens, small lizards, mosquitoes and their larvae, and other common insects.
Magpie Egg Production
- Magpie hens lay between 220 to 290 eggs annually, on average.
- Magpie duck eggs weigh about 80 grams.
- Magpie duck hens do not typically begin laying until they are 25 to 30 weeks old.
- It takes only 18 to 19 days, on average, for Magpie duck eggs to hatch – a full week shorter than some other common domesticated duck breeds.
- A Magpie hen will typically lay six eggs before she feels her clutch is complete and decides to sit the eggs.
- Magpie hens are far better sitters than Pekin or Indian Runner duck hens. They will more frequently sit their eggs consistently, but to consistently increase your flock numbers investing in an incubator is still recommended.
- Some Magpie hens get broody, but this is not necessarily a typical behavior for female ducks of this breed.
- Unlike their Indian Runner duck ancestors, most Magpie hens are good mommas. They will train and look after their baby ducklings after they hatch for the most part.
- Breeders may still want to place the ducklings in a brooder if the mothering instincts of a newly mature hen are not yet known.I recommend keeping a brooder in the duck run to allow the momma duck to see her babies and monitor how she interacts with them, before allowing them to run free with the other juvenile and mature birds in the flock. Although ducklings are usually far more hardy than baby chicks, they can still get trampled, squashed, and killed when a momma hen is not looking after them amid the far larger birds waddling around in the same living quarters.
- While drakes are rarely (if ever) prone to attacking ducklings, they have been known to be rough with the baby ducks if they move too slowly or get in their way. A mature duck uses its bill to pick up a duckling by the wing to find it out of the way. This act can permanently damage the wing or harm the feet, legs, and hips of a duckling if it lands hard against solid ground or a coop amenity – like a waterer or feeder.
Magpie Breeding Tips
- Starting with quality breeder birds that boast both strong legs and an active disposition typically leads to a higher duckling hatch success rate.
- A hen with a history of laying eggs in high quantity and of good quality usually tends to also be a good breeder.
- The egg size and even laying ability of a future hen is often greatly influenced by the genetic influence offered by the mating drake. Choose drakes that stem from healthy and solid laying momma hens.
- The best breeding ration of Magpie ducks is one drake for every five mature hens. This ratio is slightly higher than the recommended ratio for many domesticated duck breeds due to the historically active libido of the drakes.
Magpie Meat Production
- Although Magpie ducks are not large birds – as meat birds go, their meat is often regarded as being of gourmet quality.
- The carcass of a Magpie duck is typically cleaned out entirely and easily thanks to the light color on their underbellies.
- The meat harvested from a mature Magpie duck should be enough to feed two to three adults.
The friendly demeanor and easy going nature of Magpie ducks makes raising them with other breeds, guineas, and chickens a simple task. Some folks firmly believe ducks should not be raised with chickens – or even with other breeds for fear of unintended cross-breeding. I am not in that camp.
I have always raised multiple duck breeds together and have found that as long as a drake and hens exist in all breeds, the birds prefer to stick to their own. I had hoped some cross-breeding would occur between my Pekins and Khaki Campbell ducks and between the Pekins and the Magpies to garner the best of the egg laying, setting, and mother traits of each. But after four years of intermingling various duck breeds and hatching copious amounts of ducklings, no cross-breeding has ever occurred.
The primary concern about raising ducks and chickens together is commonly fear that a mean rooster will attack a defenseless duck. I have never had this happen, either. For over a year I kept the meanest rooster on the planet – he drew blood from anyone who went near him but me. Yet, he never harmed a duck, duckling, or any other bird in the flock.
When introducing any intermingling with a Magpie duck, it is best to do so slowly and allow the birds to see and hear each other for at least a few weeks without permitting them to have direct physical contact with each other. I raise my birds together straight out of the brooder, they imprint on each other early and form one flock. When bringing in new and different types of poultry birds and waterfowl, the introduction process should be done cautiously – especially since Magpies are somewhat hard to find and have at least a somewhat population numbers, losing one to an attack would be a tragedy.