Cayuga ducks are a beautiful and docile breed. At one point in history, Cayuga ducks were the most popular meat duck in North America and Great Britain. While they were later classified as “threatened,” the Cayuga breed has become popular enough that they now only have a “watch” designation.
While you may need to search local hatcheries and breeders to find Cayuga ducks or ducklings, they will be an excellent addition to your flock. Whether you intend to enjoy their eggs and meat or simply admire their iridescent black plumage, Cayuga ducks are well worth the investment.
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While the history of the Cayuga duck is debated and unclear, the consensus is that the Cayuga is an American breed derived from a wild population of black ducks from Cayuga County, New York. Historically, this black duck was most popular for its meat, but the Cayuga duck breed also offers large eggs and abundant down.
Cayuga ducks were once the premier breed of meat duck on large farms across the United States and England but were eventually succeeded by the Pekin duck in the 1890s. Due to this shift, the population of Cayuga ducks trended downwards for decades. Still, thanks to recent efforts, this black duck has been upgraded to the “watch” list maintained by the Livestock Conservancy.
Standard Variety Cayuga
The standard variety of Cayuga is black with iridescent green feathers, sometimes described as a “beetle black” color. The males have a distinctive curled sex feather. Their beaks and feet are also black.
Recently, a solid blue variety of Cayuga duck was developed in the United States. Their plumage is similar in appearance to Blue Runner ducks. Unfortunately, this color variation is rare and difficult to acquire.
While Cayuga ducks were once the most popular meat breed, they were eventually surpassed by the larger Pekin duck. Despite that, this breed is still big enough to offer a considerable amount of meat and wonderfully sized eggs.
How Much Do Cayuga Ducks Weigh?
As the result of being a meat breed, Cayuga ducks boast a considerable weight.
- Young Ducks: 6 lbs.
- Adult Ducks: 7 lbs.
- Young Drakes: 7 lbs.
- Adult Drakes: 8 lbs.
(Female Cayugas are called ducks, and male Cayuga ducks are called drakes).
Cayuga ducks are wonderfully calm and docile. If hand raised from ducklings, they can even be an excellent pet. Their quacking is quiet and infrequent, with the drakes being particularly quiet.
Due to their docility, these ducks are also easy to introduce or assimilate into new flocks. As long as the birds are similar in size, the flock should only have infrequent and short disputes as they gradually bond.
Cayuga ducks produce excellent manure for your lawn, shrubs, or garden. Whether you’re looking for companion ducks, Cayuga duck eggs, or meat, Cayuga ducks will be a wonderful addition to any homestead.
Caring For Cayuga Ducks
While some adjustments need to be made for their fast growth and large size, caring for Cayuga ducks is similar to caring for other breeds.
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If you’ve decided to hatch Cayuga ducklings, it’s important to note that they will need some extra care to thrive. If you buy day-old ducklings from a hatchery, they will need to spend their first month or so in a brooder with a heat lamp, similar to brooding chicks.
The ducklings won’t be waterproof until their adult feathers have grown, so keeping them warm and dry is essential. Because ducklings don’t know they aren’t waterproof yet, and because the love playing in water, they will turn any water source into a playground. It is best to start them off with a chick waterer to give them less room to play. After a couple of weeks, you can give them a shallow pan of water.
Adult Cayuga ducks should be given access to deep water. While they can live without a deep pond, they’ll most likely make a mess trying to use any other water sources you offer them. With a proper water source, the Cayuga ducks can keep their eyes, nostrils, and feathers clean and tidy.
Cayuga ducks are prone to predation, so they’ll need to be offered a safe shelter each night to keep them safe. You should provide at least three square feet of floor space per duck and line the shelter with warm and dry bedding.
Feeding Cayuga Ducks
If you’re raising your Cayuga ducks for meat, they can be kept on a duck feed formulated for quick fattening. But for egg laying, breeding, or companion Cayuga ducks, they should be kept on a diet formulated for their life stage that will keep them at a healthy weight.
Cayuga ducks are exceptionally hardy and well suited to cold temperatures, so they don’t need a lot of extra protection from the weather. It’s essential to ensure their water doesn’t freeze, both for drinking and for splashing and bathing.
If you have a pond, you will probably see them in the water more during winter than in summer. Regardless of how far the temperature falls below freezing or even below 0° F, water in a pond with an aerator will always be 33°F, which is like a hot tub for them!
Cayuga ducks are known to be quiet, with the females being slightly chattier than the drakes. These ducks may react in excitement or fear or respond to each other and become noisy in some situations. Cayuga drakes are reputed to be silent. They may make throat noises, however.
Cayuga ducks require protection from predators. Offering predator-resistant shelter at night fully covered with a material like chicken wire effectively thwarts many predation efforts.
Like most other ducks, Cayugas stick close together and are easy to herd. They can be trained to follow you for feed, and it’s as simple as ensuring that just a few of the ducks follow you. The rest will follow.
Because Cayugas herd so tightly, it’s crucial to ensure that they aren’t frightened. Frightened flocks of Cayugas can quickly start stampedes and unintentionally trample smaller birds.
Although Cayuga ducks were traditionally raised for their meat, they offer large and deliciously rich eggs with large yolks that you’re sure to enjoy. The hens can produce either white or black shelled eggs, but most eggs laid are typically olive green in color.
At the beginning of the year, Cayuga hens lay very dark eggs. But as the seasons change, Cayuga eggs will gradually shift and lighten in color. By winter, the Cayuga hens typically lay white or off-white eggs.
Cayuga hens are very broody and attentive. They’re excellent sitters for their clutches, and you can expect a successful hatching rate of 50 to 70 percent. While the hens are great sitters, you can invest in an incubator to get the highest hatching yield.
Pros And Cons Of Raising Cayuga Ducks
There are many reasons to keep Cayuga ducks, but ensuring they’re the right choice for your homestead is essential.
Cayuga Duck Pros
- Large, rich eggs
- Broody hens
- Delicious meat
- Extremely hardy
- Cold resistant
- Beautiful plumage
Cayuga Duck Cons
- Hard to pluck (dark pin feathers are unattractive)
- Small breast meat
- Heavy breed
Cayuga Duck FAQs
Want to know more about the Cayuga? We’ve answered some frequently asked questions below about this domestic duck!
What Does Cayuga Duck Meat Taste Like?
Cayuga duck meat is known for having a distinctly beefy flavor. It eventually fell in popularity due to the black duck feathers being so challenging to remove, but Cayuga meat is a wonderful and decadent treat.
How Do You Determine Sex in Cayuga Ducks?
Cayuga drakes have a distinctive curled tail feather that makes them easily identifiable.
The Possibilities With Cayuga Ducks
While Cayuga ducks may have fallen out of popularity as a meat bird, they’re still an incredible choice for your homestead. Whether you intend to enjoy their rich eggs or their beefy, tender meat, these birds have a lot of value to add to your farm.
Looking for the perfect duck for your homestead? Check out this post – Top 10 Domestic Duck Breeds in the US