Everything You Need to Know About Pekin Ducks
Pekin ducks are a large-breed, white dabbling duck that was domesticated over 2000 years ago. Although the location is often disputed, all agree it was probably somewhere in Southeast Asia. By using selective breeding habits, these birds were bred to produce bigger eggs, more meat, and to have a visual appearance that appeases the eye. Since then, Pekins have become one of the most common production ducks in the world today!
In general, a Pekin is a big, white duck with an orange beak that is a hearty, friendly bird. These ducks were bred specifically for meat and egg production but have become almost synonymous with the word duck today. These calm-natured ducks are a little bit skittish but make excellent pets due to their unique personalities and overall durability. Raising Pekins is easier than raising most any other breed of domestic duck because of their strong immune systems and ability to survive in extreme conditions.
Fun Fact: Aflac and Donald Duck are Pekin Ducks!
What Does a Duck Eat?
Ducks are scavengers and they will eat just about anything that will fit into their mouths. To get the maximum lifespan from this feathered creature, help it eat healthily. Although ducks will not overeat, they will devour unhealthy junk food. So what do ducks eat?
In the wild, depending on the time of year and location, ducks eat a wide variety of things. These little guys can eat so many things the list is just too big to list, so here are a few random healthier items to help you get an idea of how broad a wild duck's typical diet is. Ducks eat aquatic things like fish, frogs, and algae. They also eat nuts, berries, seeds, and forage. Even worms, crickets flies, and mosquitos are on the menu.
A domestic duck can usually roam free on a farm and find most of its food on its own but still needs to be supplemented with a traditional poultry feed. Poultry food is usually cheap and readily available at any pet or feed store.
To determine the type of feed that you will need, you will have to decide what the ducks use is. If you want healthy eggs, the girls need a "Layer Feed." Layer feed is rich in calcium and the vitamins poultry need to produce beautiful eggs. Boys, on the other hand, need a healthy protein diet with intermittent calcium supplements to make sure you have fertile eggs.
Pets are a bit different, free-ranging ducks are great at finding food so supplementing meals with chicken scratch or corn is usually sufficient. Be careful with corn, too much and the duck will become overweight. Corn and protein are better for the winter months. Corn helps add an extra layer of fat, while protein provides the energy to stay warm.
Baby ducks need a type of food referred to as "Chick Starter." Chick starter provides the protein and vitamins the babies need to live strong healthy lives. Avoid medicated food for ducklings, ducks have strong immune systems and the extra medicine could weaken them.
How Do I Set Up the Duck Pen?
Ducks are hardy creatures and can survive extreme hot and cold temperatures. In the winter they need a draft-free shelter with hay on the floor, in the summer they need shade and extra water. Contrary to popular belief, ducks do not need water to swim in, they only need deep enough water to clean out their bills, most ducks do love to swim it is just not necessary. Cleanliness and predators are what you need to be careful of.
Ducks POOP!! It gets messy, keeping the coop and pen clean are important to avoid sickness outbreaks and keep healthy ducks. A healthy duck is a happy duck, I can't stress how important it is to keep the feed containers, pen and coop clean.
To keep the coop free from predators, you have to understand what predators you might encounter. For instance, protecting your Pekins from the neighbors' dog or a raccoon is different than protecting the coop from bears and a pack of coyotes. Know the predators in your area and adjust accordingly,
What Are Pekin Breeding Habits?
Pekins rarely sit on their eggs so an alternative incubation method is required. Often an incubator or broody hen will get the job done. Pekin eggs, like most descendants of the mallard, take approximately 28 days to hatch and will require consistent temperature and humidity as well as the tedious turning of the egg throughout the day. This is why an automatic incubator is often the preferred choice to incubate eggs.
The mating ritual of a breeding duck can be hard to watch, it helps to make sure the girls are happy. 5 girls get 1 boy, too many boys make the males aggressive and the hurt the hens. A small pool of water makes this experience much more desirable for the little ladies.
Since Pekins are descendants of the mallard duck, they can breed with just about any domestic duck in the world. I love watching baby ducks run around the yard and am always excited to see what new type of bird or eggs I will get! If you intend on breeding show quality birds keep in mind that you must be prepared to cull the flock of the young ducks at an early age.
Is My Duck Male or Female?
Baby ducks are nearly impossible to sex before 8 weeks of age. There is a method called sex venting that can be done within the first 24 hours but the method is often misunderstood and hurts or kills the baby duck.
The easiest way to tell if your Pekin duck is a male or female is by their quack. Girls have a loud honk and boys have a quieter quack. Male ducks have a drake feather, a drake feather is a curled feather at the end of his tail, but this way isn't always accurate. Watch the video below for a more in-depth explanation.
Pekin Identification ImagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Different Types of Pekin Explained
Although some of these ducks are not technically Pekins, they are often confused with Pekins and have nearly identical features and traits. Refer to the images above for a visual reference of these different duck varieties.
The American Pekin duck is a large hearty bird that doesn't feel as fragile as other common domestic ducks. They were introduced to America from China in 1873 by James E. Palmer who started the American flock with 6 hens and 3 drakes. Palmer loaded 15 birds on the ship and only 9 made the trip across the pond. Over half of America's commercial ducks are Pekins today!
These ducks are seen throughout America today at local ponds, commercial farms, backyard farms as pets and even parks. The American Pekin duck lays about 200 eggs per year and is rarely broody, you often need to incubate the eggs. Sexing the duck is often hard until maturity, the drake possesses a drake feather. A drake feather is a single curled feather on its tail. The female has a much louder quack than the drake.
Aylesbury ducks, although extremely similar in appearance, aren’t actually Pekin ducks. These ducks get their name from the town they originated in Aylesbury, England. Since at least the 1690’s Aylesbury and the surrounding areas have bread ducks. Given the similarities, this breed seems to have been inspired by the Chinese Pekin.
The preferred duck was a hearty white meat bird with clean feathers, this led to selective breeding and by the early 1800’s, Aylesbury ducks were a sought-after meat bird being shipped throughout England including London regularly. Aylesbury ducks were considered more flavorful and less fatty than Pekin ducks. Over inbreeding and war led to the Aylesbury's decline, there is only 1 major flock left in England today.
Breeding the Chinese version with an upright Japanese duck from Dutch ships gave the German Pekin an upright stance, much like an Indian Runner Duck but boasts a much stockier appearance.
Pekin ducks arrived in Germany from France and from the UK shortly after they were imported by Walter Steward in 1872, and the German version of Pekin was born. The Pekin duck didn't make it back to the United Kingdom until 1970, Aylesbury is the preferred duck meat choice in the UK to this day.
Germany has not farmed the German Pekin commercially since the second world war and is listed on the critically endangered species list. Today these birds are kept as pets and displayed in shows.
The German Pekin started shortly after they were imported into the UK in 1872 by Walter Steward, that's how they made their way to Germany and the German Pekin duck was born. The Pekin duck didn't make it back to the United Kingdom until 1970.
Jumbo Pekins are bred by crossing a meaty strain Pekin drake with a medium sized Pekin hen. The largest Pekin you can get, these birds are often a preferred choice for meat birds because of their size and fertility rates. Because these ducks grow so fast their legs aren't built to hold their own weight which reduces their life cycle and productivity. This is the reason people do not usually keep them as pets.
White Crested Duck
A domestic White Crested Duck looks nearly identical to a Pekin duck, but it's not exactly a Pekin. Domestic Crested Ducks most likely originated in the East Indies being depicted in paintings over 2000 years ago.
So how do these guys get their cute little hair do’s? It's a deformity of the skull caused by a genetic mutation called Hemizygous. This gene causes a sharp decrease in hatchability rates, ⅓ of the ducklings that survive incubation will not have a crested head.
Please note that there is a difference between wild and domestic crested ducks. Wild crested ducks don't have that cute little fluff ball on their heads.
Grimaud Hybrid Pekins
With an American Pekin like appearance, these ducks are created in France by Grimaud Freres. Grimaud ducks are genetically modified to be fertile, high output egg layers with an improved feed conversion ratio for meat birds. Due to the proprietary nature, little is known about this breed other than what's posted on Mr. Freres website.
Pekin Egg and Weight Comparison Chart
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.
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