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Best Pet Ducks For Beginners

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Kaycee is an exotic pet owner experienced in working with a variety of non-domesticated animals.

A pekin duck.

A pekin duck.

Why Should You Own a Duck?

Delightful and energetic, domestic ducks are a welcome addition to any farm or backyard poultry enthusiast's flock. Domesticated ducks are hardy birds that are more resistant to certain debilitating and deadly diseases than their chicken counterparts, such as the H5N6 Avian Influenza virus. [1]

In addition, domestic ducks require less food on average than chickens [2] and purely in my opinion, are just cuter and far more enjoyable to watch than chickens. Provide your ducks with an adequately sized body of water and they'll never cease to entertain you with their antics; splashing, dabbling, and diving with their feathered friends all day long.

This article will cover a few of the best breeds of duck you can own, taking into consideration both their usefulness in meat and egg production as well as their disposition and appeal as backyard pets.

A female welsh harlequin duck.

A female welsh harlequin duck.

Welsh Harlequin

A more recently developed breed of domestic duck, the welsh harlequin originated from the country of Wales in 1949, and are currently the only breed of duck to trace their origins to there.

The original creator of this breed, Leslie Bonnet, chose to selectively breed Khaki Campbell ducks displaying uncharacteristically light feather coloration, and over generations was able to refine the breed into what we have today. [3]

Welsh harlequin ducks are most famous for their beautiful plumage, unique from all other breeds of domesticated ducks. Their lightly freckled feathers and gorgeous dark black bills make them immediately recognizable and valued as ornamental birds.

When raised with care, they grow to be calm and docile birds with high egg production and an ample amount of meat for their lighter weight, making them an asset for anyone desiring eggs or meat for the table.

Females are prone to broodiness, and make excellent mothers. Upon hatching, ducklings are also able to be sexed from the color of their bills with shockingly high levels of accuracy, with some sources claiming this statistic as high as 90 percent. [4] This is hugely beneficial to any owner or farmer that cannot vent sex ducklings.

A pair of khaki campbell ducks.

A pair of khaki campbell ducks.

Khaki Campbell

While more plain than other breeds of duck on this list, don't let their drab colors fool you; the khaki campbell is just as charming and useful as other ducks, with a long-running and intricate history behind their creation.

Originally created in Gloucestershire, England from a foundation stock of prolific egg laying Indian runner ducks [5], the khaki campbell stays true to the dreams of its creator and namesake, Mrs. Adele Campbell. They are more than capable of laying up to 300 eggs a year, making them one of the best breeds to choose from for egg production.

While more nervous and flighty than some other breeds, the khaki campbell is not known for being broody, which is an asset to most who only want a flock of ducks for the eggs they produce.

A pair of white call ducks.

A pair of white call ducks.

Call Ducks

While the smallest breed of domestic duck, the call duck makes up for what they lack in size with personality and charisma. These small birds look like a miniature toy version of their relatives, with adorable round bodies and an almost affectionate personality to match.

Not much is known of the history of call ducks, with little information being documented of their origins. The oldest records available suggest one potential country of origin being from the Netherlands, potentially traded to the Dutch from Japanese merchants from farther back in time than the 17th century. [6] These birds were originally bred and used as auditory decoys by duck hunters, their loud quacks luring in wild mallard ducks to the location of the hunters so that they may be shot. In modern times, people have found they are much better suited kept as pets or bred for poultry shows, which this breed excels at winning.

Call ducks are not prolific egg layers like other breeds are, and their value as one of the most expensive breeds you can buy (often more than $190 for a male and female pair) combined with their tiny bodies mean they have no use for the table. This breed is purely ornamental, but make fantastic pets for duck lovers or the aspiring show participant.

A Black Swedish hen with a broken bib.

A Black Swedish hen with a broken bib.

Swedish Duck

As their name implies, the Swedish duck is a stunning breed with either jet black or powder blue feathers contrasted by a snowy white bib from their face to belly. Originating from Swedish Pomerania around 1835, this is an older breed of duck that is experiencing a gradual population decline, currently listed by the The Livestock Conservancy under their "watch" category. [7]

Swedish ducks are wonderful birds with heavy, stocky bodies and gregarious appetites to match. When raised from ducklings, they can be quite tame and friendly, often accepting treats from your hand or tolerating gentle handling.

Swedish ducks have flavorful meat, and grow to be very heavy birds. They also lay a decent amount of large white eggs per year, and are not known for becoming broody. They are generally are only raised for pets or for their carcass, but there is much value to be had in helping a threatened breed of duck secure its captive population.

Adopt a Duck!

No matter what your reason is for wanting a duck, there are dozens of breeds out there to look from and select your favorite, each with their own rich history and traits defining them.

If you are simply looking for a pet, I urge you to also consider adopting a duck in need of a home, for there are many mixed breed domestic ducks in need of a loving owner to care for them. Every duck will look, quack, and act like a duck; it's simply that some breeds are better at performing certain tasks expected of them than others.

I hope that this article has given you insight on a handful of duck breeds, and aided you in deciding on which is right for your family or farm.

References

[1] Jang Y, Seo SH. Age-Dependent Lethality in Ducks Caused by Highly Pathogenic H5N6 Avian Influenza Virus. Viruses. 2020 May 29;12(6):591. doi: 10.3390/v12060591. PMID: 32485904; PMCID: PMC7354466.

[2] Poultry Science, 2022. Feed efficiency in the laying duck: Appropriate measurements and genetic parameters. [online] 91(5), pp.1065-1073. Available at: [Accessed 5 July 2022].

[3] Carol Ekarius (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. ISBN 9781580176675.

[4] Holderread, Dave (2001). Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. North Adams, MA, USA: Storey Publishing. p. 4

[5] Brown, J. T.1909 Encyclopaedia of Poultry Vol.1, pp.123-124

[6] "History of Call Ducks". Callducks.net. Retrieved 5 July 2022.

[7] Swedish Duck. Pittsboro, North Carolina: The Livestock Conservancy. Accessed July 2022.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.