Ask someone to draw or picture a flock of backyard ducks and most likely the large, white Pekin duck will first come to mind. Brought to this country as well as the UK from China in the late 1800s, the Pekin duck quickly became the most popular breed, both for eggs and meat.
A large heavy breed, usually weighing in between 8-9 pounds, the Pekin duck can’t fly. Solid white, or cream-colored with a yellow tinge, Pekin ducks have dark blue eyes and bright orange feet and bills. The males (drakes) and females (ducks or hens) are nearly identical except for the curly tail a drake sports. Like most duck breeds the drake doesn’t quack, but instead emits a low, hoarse, raspy noise.
Pekin ducklings are pale yellow, but quickly grow in their adult feathers. Pekin ducks, like other duck breeds, grow extremely fast and are usually fully feathered by around 6-8 weeks. They should begin laying eggs by around 24 weeks old and can lay up to 200 large white eggs a year.
The Pekin duck is extremely docile. Calm and easygoing, they are an excellent first choice for someone new to duck keeping. They do tend to be overweight, and so need room to roam. Treats should be healthy and limited to leafy greens and vegetables, grasses and weeds. In fact, Pekin ducks are quite good foragers. They do need to be kept safe from predators since they are ungainly on the ground.
Pekin ducks don’t have the tight feathering like other duck breeds and care should be taken to keep their feathers from getting muddy because they can become dirty very quickly if not given access to clean water in which to bathe and swim. Cold hardy birds, they will do fine in northern climates that get a lot of snow as long as you provide them some safe, draft-free shelter, and they will still enjoy a quick swim on the warmer winter days.
If given the opportunity, Pekin ducks will go broody and pretty soon, they’ll be hatching duck eggs for you! Duck eggs incubate for 28 days, not the 21 days chicken eggs take to hatch. I recommend keeping at least three ducks, with no more than one drake, and a better ratio would be one drake for 5-6 ducks, to ensure the females don’t get over-mated.
Pekins are fun, smart and excellent layers. For anyone who wants to start raising ducklings, Pekin ducklings are readily available at feed stores and hatcheries every spring. Why not consider adding a few to your flock?
For tips, tricks and advice to help you raise chickens and ducks as naturally as possible, visit me on my blog Fresh Eggs Daily.