Tips for Raising Runner Ducks

Runner Ducks are Incredible Foragers and Egg Producers

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Keeping Runner ducks combines the benefits of raising poultry with the entertainment of watching penguin-like bowling pins forage around the yard. After dabbling in call ducks, I increased my flock to include Fawn and White Runner ducks. With their unique appearance and high egg production, Runner ducks were a great addition to our homestead. Now 20 some years later, I still have a small flock of Runners foraging about.

In ancient Javan temples, Runner-like hieroglyphics date back to 2,000 years ago. For many centuries in Asia raising and herding ducks has been a traditional homesteading practice. I have heard stories of duck herders taking their ducks out to rice fields during the day where the birds clean up fallen grain, weeds and snack on pests. Through artificial selection, farmers choose birds who were skillful foragers and could travel long distances with ease. The Runners must have been off the two weeks I was in Thailand last summer, as I did not see a single duck in or near the rice fields.

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In addition to describing Runner ducks as a mix between a penguin and a bowling pin, breeders and judges look for a wine bottle shape with a head and legs. When foraging around, their posture is between 45 and 75 degrees. When standing at attention, show specimens stand nearly perpendicular to the ground. When choosing breeders, strong legs with a smooth running gait is desirable. Avoid low, short or stocky bodies and short necks and bills, contrary to heavyweight breeds such as Muscovy ducks.

Runner ducks are considered a lightweight breed with females weighing on average four to four and a half pounds and males weighing up to five pounds. Ducks are between 24 and 28 inches tall and drakes can measure up to 32 inches.

Runner ducks come in more varieties than any other duck breed. Standard and nonstandard colors include: Black, Blue Fairy Fawn, Blue Fawn, Blue-Brown Penciled, Blue-Fawn Penciled, Buff, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cumberland Blue, Dusky, Emery Penciled, Fairy Fawn, Fawn & White, Golden, Gray, Khaki, Lavender, Lilac, Pastel, Penciled, Porcelain Penciled, Saxony, Silver, Splashed, Trout and White.

In North America, the Fawn & White variety was the first to be admitted to the American Standard in 1898. In 1914, Penciled and White were added. In 1977 the Black, Buff, Chocolate, Cumberland Blue and Gray were admitted.

Showing Runner ducks in a ring has advantages compared to showing birds in a show cage. The ring allows the birds to show off their running gait and tall stature. A great Runner has smooth feathers, is slender and nearly vertical with an imaginary straight line running from the back of the head through the neck and body to the end of their tail. Tall birds with long and straight bills are ideal.  Runner ducks have the tightest feathers of all ducks, allowing them to be disheveled easily in transport. If showing your birds, ensure that their flight feathers are folded back properly.

Raising Runner ducks is a valuable hobby due to their incredible active foraging lifestyle and egg production. Baby ducks are ready to roam quickly after they hatch and this is exemplified in runner ducks. Runners who can live up to 10 years old are said to be the most active foragers of all domestic breeds. They will happily eat snails, slugs, garden pests and weeds. Purebred Runners on average lay around 200 eggs a year. Duck eggs, which contain quite a bit of Omega-3 fatty acids, have the potential of making bake goods fluffier. Some Runner strains can lay up to 300 eggs a year.

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Kenny Coogan as a teenager, raising runner ducks, blue and black varieties

Although Runner ducks lay countless eggs annually, they are not a broody breed. Since my flock has free range of my one-acre homestead I often go on a daily egg hunt searching for their 70g bone-white sized eggs. Some Runner strains like the Silvers, Blues, and Chocolates lay dark green to tan eggs. Younger birds seem to lay darker eggs, with the color lightening up as they mature. Many sources say that Runners lay early in the morning. If I would keep them in their night coop until mid-morning, I would not have to go searching; but what is the fun of that? My birds have a half dozen of their favorite spots to lay including in bromeliads, under bushes and right in the middle of the garden path. They are so busy foraging they don’t have time to go back to their pen and lay an egg. Many mornings when I let them out, they run right past the duck kiddie pool and food bowl around the chicken coop and vegetable garden and start digging in the dirt near the greenhouse. They are quite amusing to watch.

Do you enjoy raising Runner ducks? What’s your favorite color of Runner duck? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments
  • I love my runners!!!!! Always good for a laugh or a smirk. Catch them going for a run at dawn when the worms are on the surface and you are looking at a new over land speed record. If your runners lay 200 plus eggs a year, please sell me some of your stock. The U.S. stock has been type and color bred too much and most runners are doing good to hit 100 eggs a year by my experience and other sources. I would like to get the high egg production back in the U.S. and am planning a breeding project toward that.

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  • While runners have the reputation of not going broody and sitting on their eggs, my first hand experience is quite different… ALMOST ALL my runner girls have gone broody this year, and the first who started is our most typical, bottle shaped runner you can imagine… she hatched six ducklings and she is an awesome mom (better than our Cayuga mom, despite the Cayugas having a reputation as good mothers). Even her mate (also a Runner) is a good daddy, very protective. So, you never know. 🙂

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  • I love my runners! I have the pom pom variety in white, but mine lay blue eggs. Is this normal?

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  • 2 of my Runners went broody this year. They were not good moms, they ran off and abandoned their babies for no reason so I rescued them before the crows and falcons came. I love my Runners, they are just unique and cool looking. I have blue, black, chocolate, dusky, trout, lilac and possibly khaki or cinnamon colors, don’t have a favorite color. I have a batch of 7 Runner babies descended from Holderread stock. Their mom was Trout and possible dads were black, chocolate, blue or dusky. The babies are brown, black and blue, some have bibs, some don’t have any white. They super bonded to me like I am their mom. They enjoy baths in the sink, crickets as treats, and they enjoy my attention. I have them in a pen on the grass all day and at dusk they call me to come put them to bed. They are 6 weeks old now and even though I have a dog house for them to sleep in they want me to put them in a box in the house then they tweet happy and sleep 🙂
    Box alone isn’t good enough, they want to be in the house with me lol 🙂

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  • I just loved my Runner ducks. I have a fawn & white and a blue runner that I got from a hatchery and adopted a group of ducks and one fawn & white was included. Trying to tell the two fawn & whites takes some effort! I just love them. They are so fun to watch. Their antics are great therapy. So far only my blue runner lays blue eggs. I’m not sure about the new fawn & white since she hasn’t laid eggs yet. If I got more ducks, I would certainly hope to include more runners.

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  • I love Runners! They are my favorite duck. I would like to create a small flock at our Government run Historic Farm to parade out daily to help with bugs and such in our planting field. Any advice on how to train would be much appreciated!

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  • I adore my runners. They eat the snails from under the rabbit hutches. Grays, chocolate, blue, black and fawn&white. Two went broody last year and co parented three hatchlings. Always good for amusement.

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  • I have 2 Indian Runner ducks. One male, one female. Also have Kakhi Campbell ducks. One drake and six hens. They stopped laying when they molted last fall and I haven’t been given any eggs since except for the one hen that is 7 months old. I love my ducks but I am very disappointed that they aren’t giving me the eggs like they should be.

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  • I absolutely love my runners. I had never had the privilege of being owned by ducks until I acquired my beloved runners. I have since lost my first male/female couple who were wonderful parents raising their daughter together. I made the decision to limit their egg to offspring to one. Both females raised offspring of their own 2 years later – sharing the same nest. My first female laid white eggs her daughter lays green. The daughter and her mate (from a different lineage) have nested a dozen eggs twice this year but I have not let them hatch any this year. Both of my females have been wonderful mothers. Runners are very skittish by nature but if handled when very young will become accustomed to being handled.

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