I’ve been raising various types of ducks alongside our chickens for years and have had ample opportunity to observe not only the interaction between the chickens and ducks, but also the differences between the different breeds of chickens and ducks. While chickens tend to have very different breed-specific personality traits, in general, I find all duck breeds to be friendly, active, mischievous and happy, regardless of breed.
Maybe it’s because nearly all the domestic duck breeds descended from one common ancestor, the mallard. But I do think ducks are all pretty similar personality-wise. All ducks will lay you eggs (All female ducks that is!), they will love roaming your yard looking for weeds and bugs, and they will all provide your family hours of entertainment as you watch their antics in a wading pool or waddling around. However, if you’re thinking about keeping ducks for a specific purpose, choosing one of the types of ducks below for their prowess or abilities in that particular area will likely be more successful.
Types of Ducks
If you are primarily going to be raising ducks for egg production, you can’t go wrong with these three types of ducks. While no duck lays an egg every day, most ducks will lay right through the winter without any supplemental light. Although lighting their house will result in increased winter production. Many duck breeds outlay even the most prolific layer chickens, and you can expect somewhere between 250-325 eggs a year from these super layers.
For Colored Eggs
Most ducks lay white eggs, but there are several types of ducks that can also lay greenish-blue eggs and one breed that lays charcoal gray eggs. Unlike chicken breeds which, other than Easter Eggers, lay only one color egg, ducks of the same breed can lay white, cream or tinted eggs. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a blue-green layer, there’s a greater percentage chance if you choose one of the following breeds. About 70 percent of Mallard ducks and Runner ducks lay green eggs instead of white, and most Cayuga ducks lay gray eggs!
Generally, domestic ducks aren’t prone to go broody by sitting on fertile eggs for the 28 days necessary to hatch ducklings, but there are some types of ducks that are more apt to sit than others. To encourage broodiness, provide these three breeds a nice quiet spot in a corner of your coop or duck house with a thick bed of fresh straw and leave some eggs for them. This just might result in a clutch of ducklings hatching! If you are looking for a breed with maternal instincts, try raising one of these.
For Bug Control
While all ducks love rummaging in the mud for bug larvae and will eat all kinds of worms, slugs, grubs and beetles, there are a few breeds that really excel in bug control. In fact, Indian Runner ducks were bred by ancient farmers in Asia to stand more upright than other duck breeds to allow them to cover more ground quickly when keeping the farmer’s rice paddies free of insects.
For Weed Control
Ducks also love to eat weeds and grass, and offer natural pest control for gardens. Dandelion greens and clover are big favorites of my flock. If you want some ducks to help keep your lawn tidy, you can’t go wrong choosing one of these types of ducks. All three are small, extremely active breeds, that will keep busy rummaging around your yard munching on weeds, grass, your flowers or vegetables from the garden. All are good choices if you’re looking for smallish foragers; ducks that will supplement their diet of commercial feed with plants, helping to keep your feed bill down.
Ducks are generally happy creatures and fairly low maintenance, but some types of ducks can be a bit excitable and mischievous. If you’re looking for some ducks who are a bit more laid back, say for instance if you have neighbors close by, you might consider these three breeds. One thing to note, if you’re raising ducks purely for their entertainment value and bug control, you might consider a flock of drakes (male ducks). They don’t quack (only female ducks quack) and will get along in an ‘all bachelor’ flock and shouldn’t fight with each other as long as there are no females around. You can often find drakes on Craig’s List or at poultry swaps for free.
For Meat/Dual Purpose
If your goal in raising a duck flock is to eat some of them, you’ll want to choose a dual purpose, heavy duck. These ducks also lay eggs, so you can keep the females for their eggs and butcher the males for meat if you wish. Pekins and Saxonies, weighing almost 10 pounds, are some of the largest breeds of ducks. The Pekin duck is the most popular breed in the United States. And the Muscovy duck, which can weigh in at 10-15 pounds, is prized for its meat, which is lower in fat than other ‘true’ duck breeds (Muscovies are not descended from Mallards like the other domestic duck breeds, but are actually large perching waterfowl).
For Rare Breed Preservation
Some duck breeds are in danger of dying out. If you are interested in preserving some of these rare breeds, the Livestock Conservancy is working hard to keep the breeds thriving and has a wonderful website which includes a handy breeder directory to help you find a local breeder. These three breeds are some that are in the most trouble and could use help building their numbers.
I hope this has helped you to narrow down which types of ducks you might consider raising. Of course, by raising a flock of different types of ducks, you get the best of all worlds – lots of different colored eggs, a few ducks that might one day want to be moms, an efficient bug patrol and loads of daily entertainment guaranteed!
If you’re thinking about adding some ducks to your backyard, start off by finding out what do you feed baby ducks now that you know a little bit about which breeds you might prefer. Then visit the Metzer Farms site to look at pictures of ducks to get an idea which breeds might interest you visually.
If you enjoyed this article and are thinking of raising some ducks, stop by my Facebook page Duck Eggs Daily or pick up a copy of my book Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Ducks…Naturally. (St. Lynn’s Press, 2015)