The Best Duck Breeds for New Homesteaders

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Thinking of raising some ducks? Here are a few easy-to-raise duck breeds for new homesteaders…

If you’re looking to add some small livestock to your new homestead, ducks are a great place to start. Ducks are generally friendly, easygoing, and social creatures – so make sure you have a few of them to keep each other company. They don’t require a lot of extra food if you keep them in a pastured area where they can roam and find tasty things to eat, and they can provide both eggs and meat, as well as pest control.

While many Americans are not all that familiar with duck eggs, in some countries, they are prized for their richness and size. They are higher in protein and healthy fats than chicken eggs, and quite delicious! Some duck breeds may also lay eggs longer than chickens do, and more consistently.

And of course, duck meat is rich and flavorful – and pasture-raised birds tend to be less fatty than the commercial kind.

Ducks are great foragers, and besides greenery, they also enjoy foraging for insects such as grasshoppers, and slugs and snails.

There are many different breeds of ducks, most of which are perfectly fine for those new to raising livestock. However, you may want to avoid Mallards, which, although lovely to look at, tend to fly more than some other breeds, so they may not stay where you want them to. And call ducks are a very loud variety, although cute, so you may want to stay away from these if you have neighbors!

Here are a few duck breeds to consider, depending on what you are looking for:

Best Duck Breeds for Pets

If you just want a few quackers to enjoy and make pets of, a calm breed is a good choice, though any duck that is handled gently and frequently will get reasonably friendly and used to humans.

  • Welsh Harlequins tend to have a very calm personality and their small size (4.5 to 5.5 pounds) makes them easy to handle, even for children. They are some of the most prolific egg layers around but also like to sit on and hatch eggs, making them a good choice if you’d like to slowly increase your flock.
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Best Duck Breeds for Foraging and Pest Control

…These can help you manage weeds and pests while cutting your duck feed bill.

  • (Indian) Runners are amazing garden helpers and, unlike chickens, they don’t dig stuff up (just keep them away from small seedlings, as flat duck feet are great squashers, and ripe strawberries, which they are rumored to find irresistible)…
  • Campbells, Harlequins, and Hook Bills are also good foragers.

Best Duck Breeds for Eggs

All ducks will provide you with some eggs, but many breeds lay predominantly in the spring and summer, leaving you eggless for months at a time (due to their thick shells and membranes, duck eggs store in the ‘fridge for many months though, so you may be able to stockpile eggs for eggless periods if you have room).

Two of the best heritage breeds for eggs are (Khaki) Campbells and Welsh Harlequins, especially if you buy from a breeder or hatchery that selects for laying ability rather than looks. Welsh Harlequins tend to be very calm, while Campbells tend to be loud and nervous. Raising a heritage breed gives you the option of hatching eggs to add more birds to your flock, as long as you are willing to eat the extra males.

If egg production is your primary goal, Metzer sells a couple of great hybrids, the Golden 300 Hybrid Layer and the White Layer, which will pop out an egg almost every day all around the calendar and are much calmer than Campbells…

Best Duck Breeds for Meat

All ducks are edible and tasty, but some have been selected because they grow fast and make a lot of meat for the amount of feed they consume.

If you want to grow a batch of meat ducks to fill your freezer, and especially if you want to cut them up into boneless breast cutlets (for grilling, yum) and legs (for stewing), it’s hard to beat Hybrid or Jumbo Pekins. They grow so fast it’s almost scary and their white feathers make for a clean looking dressed bird…

Muscovies (not technically a duck, they are their own species, but they are quite duck-like in appearance and taste) are a great choice for meat, being much leaner than true ducks and getting quite large (adult males weigh as much as 15 pounds)… Muscovy females can hatch out a couple of huge broods of ducklings every year…, so they are very sustainable. The downside is that young Muscovies fly early and well, and females continue to fly as adults (males eventually get too heavy), so catching your dinner can be a challenge. If meat is the plan, pen them as ducklings and butcher them as adolescents, before they get airborne.

Best Multi-Purpose Duck Breeds

If getting a reasonable number of eggs, a few smaller meat birds to butcher, and birds that will hatch out their own replacements sounds like a good plan you are in good company and just about any of the heritage breeds are a good choice.

Welsh Harlequin, Buff, Silver Appleyards, Saxonies, Anconas, and Magpies are all good choices. Runners and the smaller duck breeds don’t have much meat on them, but are still perfectly tasty.

Read more about raising ducks at WeedEmAndReap.com

 

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