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Best Duck Breeds to Consider for Your Homestead

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Ducks are becoming more and more popular on backyard homesteads, and for good reason. There are so many benefits to raising ducks and more and more people are adding them to their flock of chickens or switching to ducks altogether.

Duck breeds, like the Ancona's pictured here are great for homesteads.

But while they are becoming more popular, they’re still underutilized and often misunderstood. When most people think of a duck, they either picture a mallard or a farm duck with white feathers and an orange bill.

There are actually over 30 domestic duck breeds around the world and many, many more that are a mixture of breeds hanging around in backyards everywhere. So, how do you know what’s available and will best suit your needs?

Choosing the right domestic duck breed

First off, many folks decide to keep a mixed flock of various ducks because it can be difficult to select just one! But, there are benefits to choosing a breed (or two), especially if you’d like to conserve a heritage breed.

Regardless, before you go picking up all the cute ducklings, you should know how to properly care for baby ducks first. Then, you should know a bit about the different breeds available and what they’re best for.

Most ducks make amazing dual-purpose animals. Several are good layers and also grow quickly and dress out to a decent-sized bird for roasting. Knowing what you plan to raise them for should be the first decision.

After you know whether you’re planning to raise them for meat, eggs, or both and whether you want to hatch your own and preserve a heritage breed you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision.

Best Duck Breeds for Meat

Duck meat is a healthy, easy to prepare meat. Ducks breeds specifically for meat do not require long to grow out, even heritage breeds.

This is a great way to add sustainable meat to your own property even if it is a small property. However, if you’ve never had roasted duck, be forewarned. It’s a lot less like chicken and a lot more like steak. 

Pekin

Pekins are one of my favorite breeds. They’re friendly and full of shenanigans. They will come up to me and my children without hesitation, especially if we are holding a treat.

Pekin ducks produce a lot of flavorful, moist, dark meat and at around 6-8 weeks are ready for butcher producing a dressed out carcass of about 5 pounds.

This breed is very, very popular among not only backyard homesteaders but also commercial operations. Their quick grow out makes them inexpensive to raise, cutting down significantly on feed costs and the flavor of the meat cannot be beaten.

These ducks are also fantastic layers and can reproduce naturally, as you’ll see in the following section.

Rouen

Rouen ducks with two Indian runners in the back.

Our Rouen ducks were not one of my favorite breeds. They’re quite flighty and take a long while to grow out. But, they still produce a decent-sized carcass at butcher time, if you have the time and resources to raise them.

Rouen ducks look almost identical to wild mallards. While a lot of people utilize Rouen’s for exhibition, they also make a great, heritage meat breed. Unlike Pekins, they don’t lay many eggs, only 35-100 or so a year. But, they make delicious meat perfect for roasting. 

Like I mentioned, Rouen ducks take a long while to mature. Roughly 6-8 months. This is perfect for someone just wanting to produce a little bit of meat on their homestead, though. All that said, they’re typically quiet and the meat is flavorful, lean, and moist.

Ayelsbury

Aylesbury ducks are very popular in England, but not so much in the United States. This breed is critically endangered according to the Livestock Conservancy.

This breed grows out similar to the Pekin, weighing butcher weight around 7-9 weeks of age. The flavor is said to be better than that of the Pekin and the bird dresses out nicely since it has white feathers.

This particular breed is better suited to feed than foraging, so if you want them, keep that in mind before you purchase them thinking you’ll be able to free-range.

Muscovy

Muscovy duck

The muscovy is often referred to as a duck but actually isn’t one at all. But, for the sake of argument, I’ll include them in the list.

These “ducks” are one of the oldest domesticated fowl in the world and do not quack. Instead, they make a quiet hissing sound, which makes them great for people who have neighbors that don’t like the noise of the farm coming from your backyard.

Muscovy ducks will not lay many eggs (60-100 a year), but make an excellent meat bird producing the highest meat yield of any domestic duck. But, the flavor is said to be quite strong and the ducks take about 15-20 weeks to reach butcher weight.

Best Duck Breeds for Eggs

Ducks are known for their consistency in egg-laying, unlike chickens. Duck eggs are also fantastic in baked goods. They have a higher moisture content, a larger, richer yolk, and more nutrient content than chicken eggs. Making ducks a great addition for nutrient-rich, eggs that taste pretty much like chicken eggs!

Indian Runner

Indian runner ducks

These ducks look like little bowling pins running around. As they stand more upright than most duck breeds. Runner ducks have been around for thousands of years, according to Javan temple carvings that indicate this style of duck existed then. 

Runners are great layers, laying 250 or more eggs a year, but aren’t very heavy making them great for eggs, not so much for meat. They’re a docile breed, but they are active. They love to explore and are great at foraging for bugs. 

Khaki Campbell

Khaki Campbell duck

The khaki Campbell was the result of a cross between an Indian runner and a Rouen duck and resulted in one of the most prolific laying breeds there is amongst ducks. 

A docile, beautiful duck you can expect khaki Campbells to lay anywhere between 250 and 350 eggs per year. Yes, almost an egg a day can be expected from this breed. We currently have one in our mixed flock and she has laid all year. 

Saxony

Saxony duck

We have one Saxony in our mixed flock that we named Geronimo despite the fact she’s a female. She grew so fast and is a very large duck. With that, she lays very large eggs and a lot of them. 

Saxony’s will lay upwards of 200 eggs a year and up to around 250. They take a little longer to grow out than some other breeds, but produce very flavorful, leaner meat than other breeds as well. They’re also very docile and can be great mothers.

Ancona

Ancona ducks in a garden

Ancona ducks are a recent addition to our homestead and I’m quite impressed with their performance. They’re incredibly friendly and prolific layers. They’re also a heritage breed. These ducks can lay blue-tinted eggs, but ours are white.

You can expect anconas to lay around 280 eggs a year and they also quickly grow out to produce flavorful, less fatty meat than some other duck breeds. They make great yard ducks and won’t stray too far from their dinner bowl.

Cayuga

Cayuga duck

If you’re looking for a beautiful breed that lays unique eggs… look no further. These ducks can lay eggs ranging from white to almost black, depending on the time of year. These ducks also produce excellent meat, but, like most dark feathered birds, they can be difficult to clean.

Cayugas are said to be very easily tamed if they are hand raised and are known as one of the hardiest duck breeds. They lay around 150 eggs a year and produce delicious meat, as long as you don’t mind being able to see some of the remainders of their black feathers. They are beautiful birds, though, and are known for their unique shell color.

Silver Appleyard

The silver Appleyard is listed as threatened on the livestock conservancy. They are a beautiful breed and one of the best producing heavyweight breeds there is.

A docile breed, which is something I think is important, the silver Appleyard should produce 225 to 260 eggs a year. They also produce excellent, lean meat. This breed is great for backyard homesteads as it will stay nearby as long as you feed it well. 

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Antonia Pratt-Reid

Tuesday 28th of April 2020

We love muscovies! I had one come up to the back door of my clinic. We took her home then scoured the neighborhood and small farms for the owner. A month later she began laying eggs and stayed with us for approximately three years. We lost her again in a storm. We’ve had two other pairs since and we’re about to introduce more into our lives this week. The Muskovy‘s are quiet, gentle, and very fun to watch.

Leroux Everson

Thursday 26th of September 2019

What about the muscovy duck? Are they a good choice for the homestead?

J McGrath

Monday 22nd of February 2021

@Danielle McCoy, uh, Muscovies are covered above, no?

Danielle McCoy

Thursday 26th of September 2019

Muscovies can be a great addition to the homestead... but they're a different species than your typical mallard duck, so I didn't include them here. We haven't raised muscovies yet, but they are great layers, quiet, the ducks are broody and will hatch you out a whole clutch and the drakes make great meat from everything I've heard. I've also heard that you shouldn't keep your muscovies with your mallards. So, do your homework, but I definitely think they might be worth a try.

Becca

Monday 18th of February 2019

Cayugas are on our list to add to our homestead this year. I've been trying to talk D into ducks, turkeys, and potentially geese.

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