Ducks are a great choice if you’re looking to expand your homestead. They’re perfect for any type of farm, whether you only have a small piece of land or a large one. And due to their hardy temperament and skilled foraging, ducks are very independent and easy to keep.
Ducks grow much faster than chickens, with comparable egg laying rates and large, delicious eggs. Duck meat is rich and popular, and the drakes are much gentler and easier to work with than roosters. And with so many duck breeds available, there’s a perfect bird for any homestead.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Duck Breed
Before choosing the best domesticated duck breed to add to your homestead, you must consider a few factors to ensure you get the best fit. Whether selecting a species for its intended use or ensuring its costs match your budget, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment to raising ducks.
Depending on your priority, there are duck breeds to suit any homestead. This includes egg breeds, meat breeds, and ornamental ducks. Due to their tender meat and abundant egg laying, some duck breeds are called “multi-purpose.” Determining what you want from your ducks is crucial when choosing a breed.
Although a shelter is not required in most climates, you will need one if you want to be able to easily find eggs. If ducks are not locked up in a shelter overnight, you will have a real egg hunt every morning. Luckily, since ducks lay overnight, they will probably have laid their eggs when you let them out of the coop in the morning.
If you already have a shelter, there may be limits on how many ducks you can keep, based upon the size. This is particularly true for large breeds, like the American Pekin. It’s important to build a coop with enough space for your flock. Certain breeds do better in confinement than others, and certain breeds need more backyard space to swim and forage than others.
Do you need a pond?
Although ducks do not need a pond to be healthy and happy, they do need a decent sized body of water that they can splash in and completely submerge their heads for bathing. If you’re okay with the idea of filling and emptying a kiddie pool 365 days a year, then you don’t need a pond.
If you want to breed ducks, then you need water that is at least a foot or more deep. Almost all duck mating takes place in the water. Frankly, it can be a little scary the first time you see it because you think the drake is going to drown the hen, which is usually completely submerged.
If you don’t have a pond but really want duck eggs or meat, we’ll be discussing Muscovies below. (They are not technically a duck.)
Due to their natural talent for foraging, ducks can be very cost-effective to keep on your homestead. This is especially true if you have a large amount of land for your flock size, as well as a pond where they can eat algae, duck weed, and other aquatic plants. During the winter, however, you should plan to purchase approximately 50 lbs of feed per 12 ducks a week.
These are the initial costs associated with getting ducks:
- Brooder (if you are starting with ducklings)
- Kiddie pool (if you don’t have a pond)
- Feed pans
- Incubator (if you want to hatch ducklings and your breed isn’t broody)
10 Most Common & Popular Domestic Duck Breeds
1. Indian Runner Duck
Indian Runner ducks were initially used in Indonesia as pest control in rice paddies because ducks are omnivores and love eating insects, such as mosquitoes and mosquito larvae.
While not as calm as breeds like Pekin ducks, Indian Runner ducks are still docile and friendly. This domestic duck is a lightweight breed weighing around 3.5 pounds on average and has a distinctively tall and elongated body. They aren’t as fond of water as other ducks, preferring to spend the day foraging on land. They lay 100 to 180 eggs annually.
2. Pekin Duck
Pekin ducks originate from Beijing, China (once known as Peking, China). Since they were first bred, they’ve become one of the most popular meat birds worldwide. They have delicious and rich meat. Pekin ducks are also docile and lavish layers, which makes them an excellent dual-purpose duck.
There are various lines of Pekin ducks in the US with different hatcheries listing different weights for their specific line, which can vary from 8 to 13 pounds, easily making it the largest duck breed available, regardless of where you buy it. Similarly, egg production estimates can be somewhere between 130 and 200 eggs per year.
The white Pekin is a heavy breed with very short flying distances. Like other ducks, they have an independent streak and love to forage and swim. Pekin hens aren’t very broody, so if you want to hatch Pekin ducklings, you may need to incubate the eggs.
3. Buff Orpington Duck (aka Buff Duck or Orpington Duck)
Buff Orpington ducks have a variety of positive qualities that make them an excellent fit for any homestead. Many hatcheries simply list them as Buff ducks.
They have a social and friendly temperament and aren’t as easily frightened as some other breeds of ducks. They’re known to be somewhat quiet and are easy to keep due to their hardiness and talent for foraging.
Originating from the United Kingdom, this duck breed will lay around 180 eggs per year and are known to be somewhat broody. This can be a disadvantage if you want lots of eggs, but it makes raising Buff ducklings very easy. And due to their large builds and easy-to-pluck feathers, Buff Orpington ducks are excellent to raise for meat.
4. Cayuga Duck
While Cayuga ducks are well known for their beautiful beetle-black plumage, they were originally bred as meat ducks. They are from Lake Cayuga in New York, making them one of the few duck breeds that claims the US as its home. They generally lay 130 to 180 eggs per year and rarely go broody.
5. Khaki Campbell Duck
Khaki Campbell ducks are a quiet and sweet duck breed that is an excellent addition to small homesteads. These domesticated ducks are efficient egg layers, laying up to 300 eggs per year, making them the best heritage duck for egg production. They’re also excellent foragers and will make the best of your space. While the Khaki Campbell performs better in larger areas, they can prosper even on small homesteads when given the proper care.
6. Welsh Harlequin Duck
As the name implies, the Welsh Harlequin is from Wales. It was developed in the 1940s and came to the U.S. in the 1960s. It is a medium sized duck, weighing in at around 5 pounds, and it’s a good egg layer, laying up to 150 eggs per year. Some also go broody and make good mothers. Adult males and females can easily be distinguished by feather color and pattern with males looking similar to Rouen ducks and wild Mallards, which have iridescent green heads.
7. Rouen Duck
Rouen ducks originally came from the French city of Rouen. Although both male and female feather color and patterns look very much like a wild mallard, they are about three times as big. In addition, wild mallards can fly whereas Rouens, like all domestic ducks cannot lift off for more than a few feet.
Rouen ducks make a great dual-purpose duck. They weigh about 5-7 pounds and lay around 140 to 180 eggs per year. Only Pekins and Muscovies are larger than Rouens.
8. Black Swedish and Blue Swedish Duck
The Swedish duck originally came from the northern coast of Europe that is now Germany, Belgium, and Poland but was part of Sweden in the 1840s when the Swedish duck was developed. Both varieties of Swedish duck are almost as big as Rouens and lay 120 to 180 eggs per year.
The only difference between blue and black is that like all blue poultry, blue Swedish ducks do not breed true. If you breed two blue Swedish ducks, you will get 50 percent blue, 25 percent black, and 25 percent silver or splashed white. If you breed two black Swedish ducks, you will get only black ducks.
9. Mandarin Duck
These are not the most practical ducks for homesteaders, but if you’re looking for a distinct and beautiful breed of duck to breed, the Mandarin duck is the best duck breed to put on display. Mandarin ducks are sexually dimorphic. Females sport a mottled brown and white plumage, while males have beautiful rust, violet, red, green, and blue display plumage.
10. Muscovy Duck
It doesn’t quack like a duck or swim like a duck! Muscovies are technically not ducks, although everyone refers to them as “Muscovy ducks.” If you put a Muscovy egg next to a domestic duck egg, no one could tell the difference. The meat is also so similar, it’s unlikely anyone could tell the difference. For these reasons, Muscovies are called ducks, and many people raise them in lieu of ducks, especially if they don’t have a pond. Unlike ducks, Muscovies really don’t care much about swimming, diving, and bathing regularly.
This is also a great choice if you need a particularly quiet duck breed for your homestead. This is especially true if your property is subject to noise ordinances or complaining neighbors. Muscovy ducks are a perfect fit for these homesteads. This duck species doesn’t tend to vocalize unless startled or attacked.
Muscovies are immediately recognizable because of the caruncles on their head, and males are noticeably larger than females.
Muscovy ducks are the broodiest bird available today, and they are great mothers, often hatching 8 to 10 ducklings. If you want meat ducks, these are a great option because of how reliably they produce. Some hens will even set a second time each summer.
2 thoughts on “Top 10 Domestic Duck Breeds in the US”
Muscovies fly and taste much better than duck or chicken. They also have a much meatier carcus.
They will hide eggs if they think it will increase their chance of brooding. Eggs cream color. They love splashing in any level of water, often destroying vegitatiin where water pools.
Thank you for sharing your experience.