Ducks: A Critically Endangered Bird
for the self-sufficient homestead. Fun to raise.
Duck - Hardy, All Purpose Domestic Waterfowl
Ancona ducks make good pets because they do not migrate, do not even fly, and
like staying close to home. They are calm, and if handled when young are friendly
The hens are excellent layers usually laying 210-280
white, cream, or blue eggs each year. Our Ancona ducks lay off-white eggs. Their
eggs are larger than chicken eggs.
If we raise a duck or chicken as a
pet, we do not eat them. They live a full life until old age comes. But we do
raise some for eating and don't become too friendly with them. They have a very
good life, enjoying the pasture and the natural farm life.
grow fairly quickly producing high quality meat that is more flavorful and less
fatty than Pekin ducks (Long Island duck). We had one male duck for Christmas
dinner and were very happy with it. They are a great dual purpose (meat and egg)
Ancona Ducks are robust and capable of enduring hard conditions. They adapt well
to various environments. (Of course, the better their environment, the healthier
they will be.) They are good foragers even being able to eat banana slugs (a large
land slug) and other unwanted garden pests. They like greens and insects.
They are large birds so most winged predators leave them alone. It is good
to provide some protection against predators such as dogs. An outer perimeter
fence is a good idea.
We let our chickens and ducks share the same coop
though some recommend keeping them apart. They get along fine. They lay their
eggs in the same nest boxes as the chickens. During the day the ducks forage together
as a group.
The 2 photos above are 2 drakes and 2 hens. The drakes
are bigger. Drakes also have a curl at the end of their tail. You can see a curled
tail in the second photo.
are descended from Indian Runner ducks and Belgian Huttegem ducks. This is the
same foundation stock as Magpie ducks and Dutch Hookbills. They were developed
in England during the early 1900s but were not shipped to the United States until
Ancona ducks weigh about 6 to 6.5 pounds as adults. Males weigh
more than females. It is stockier than the Magpie duck. Adult plumage is white
with pinto (dappled, speckled) markings (each animal has a different pattern).
Colors include black and white, blue and white, chocolate and white, silver and
white, lavender and white, and tri-colored. The most common is black and white.
Any pattern combination is acceptable as long as there are broken colors on the
Some are all white though this is not the breed standard. Ducks
with an all white bib are not the breed standard either. The Ancona is not yet
recognized by the American Poultry Association. Unique patterns are preferred.
Birds with high egg production are also preferred.
Chocolate color is sex-linked (carried by the male only) and recessive. If
a chocolate drake (male) mates with a black hen, all female offspring are chocolate
and all male offspring are black. A black drake mated to a chocolate hen produce
only black offspring.
The neck is usually solid white. The bill is yellow
with dark green or black spotting. The legs and feet are orange with black or
brown markings (spotting) that increase with age.
The eggs incubate for
28 days. Ducklings are yellow with spots or speckles. Yellow markings turn white
when they become adults. When brooding ducklings, they like a shallow plate of
water to bathe in. But it should not be too deep because ducklings can drown.
Raising them is the same as chickens except they need more B vitamins than chicks.
Get a good book on ducks such as "Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks". They are a
lot of fun.
Rare Duck Breeds
Ducks are considered rare (critical status) by the American
Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). In 2000 ALBC's census of domestic
waterfowl in North America found only 128 breeding Ancona ducks.
ducks are a lively bird to raise. They are fun to watch as the group moves around
the pasture. If they are disturbed by what is going on, they make noise to let
They love having a pond but if you don't have one you
can use a kiddie pool that has a ramp in and out of the pool. In the winter we
have to put the pool away but we bring it out again in the spring.
photo to the left is 2 hens. One is black and white. The other is brown and white.
Notice the speckled beak.
The book "The Resilient Gardener: Food Production
and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times" by Carol Deppe has a chapter on Ancona ducks.
ducks like snow. They especially like it when it rains.
Ancona eggs, ducklings and ducks.