Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ducks for Eggs, Meat or Both?

Ducks are one of the easiest of all poultry to raise. Ducklings are a great animal to start with. Whereas chicks grow into chickens quite quickly, ducklings take their time to mature. Which gives the kids a longer time to play and handle them. They greet you when you come by  and will follow behind you.  Ducks are great at foraging and getting rid of bugs, slugs and other creepy things. Some ducks have been know to eat a snake, mice and small vermin.

Many people feel duck eggs are unbeatable for baking and pastries. And some people that have allergies to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs (or quail eggs)

Some ducks are very prolific at laying eggs - Khaki-Campbell are strictly an egg-laying duck. They will lay 300 - 325 eggs a year! They continue through the winter. They will be good layers for 3 to 4 years. The females are seal-brown and the males are the same with touches of darker brown. They are excellent forages and withstand cool climates very well. They weigh about 4 1/2 pounds 

The Welsh Harlequin is a fairly new breed, developed by Leslie Bonnett in Wales from two off-colored Khaki Campbell ducklings in 1949.
They are excellent egg layers, and will still set on a nest - a trait that has diminished in some breeds.
They can also be sexed just after they hatch by the color of their bill: darker is a male and lighter are females. This disappears after a few days. They also have a pretty feather color and are just a nice duck to have around..

Indian Runner ducks are raised for eggs. Because of their size, they are not used for meat.
Under refrigeration (34 to 40 degrees) eggs can be kept safely for up to six weeks. By sealing freshly laid eggs in a plastic bag their refrigeration life can be lengthened to two months, as the bags help prevent moisture loss from the egg. Duck eggs also have a longer shelf life than chicken eggs.

White Pekin:  The most popular breed for meat is the Pekin (also called the Long Island duck) and is the major breed raised commercially. They are large white ducks, with the males reaching 9 pounds and females about 8 pounds. They are a bit high strung and are not good setters.
The Pekin dress out nicely because their white skin looks good roasted.

Muscovy (Mus-coh-vee): These ducks have the best tasting meat - some compare the meat to veal, with less fatty taste compared to other ducks.
 The drake weighs about 10 pounds, and the duck about 7. They reach market weight at about 8 - 10 weeks. (Although, if they are kept for breeding, they do get larger)They are great setters, but do not lay a lot of eggs - about 40 - 45 eggs a year).
Some people consider them ugly because of the large red warty caruncles above the beak and around the eyes. 
They are one of the only ducks of the larger breeds that fly very well. Many states require breeders to clip their wings to prevent them from flying away. They do like to roost in trees.
Although the Muscovy is a tropical bird (originally from South America) it adapts well to cooler climates and can thrive in a climate as cold as 10 degrees F

Rouen ducks look very similar to the ancestor of most modern duck breeds - the Mallard duck, and, as such, the male has a beautiful green head. Because of this, Rouen ducks are popular for various ornamental reasons, and the fact that they are pretty docile ducks.
 The Rouen is a popular farm flock breed, and is a very good meat breed.  It is slower growing than the Pekin, but it reaches the same weight over the 5 to 6 month period of feeding and foraging under farm flock conditions. 
 They are poor layers, producing only 35-125 eggs yearly. 

Swedish is a medium sized duck that weighs between 6 1/2 to 8 pounds; the male usually weighs more than the female. Blue Swedish ducks are very calm and make good ducks for beginners and will go broody. The Swedish is considered a dual-purpose duck for both meat and eggs.

 Blue is the standard, but there is Black, Silver, Yellows and Splash color patterns.

A good layer, the Swedish will lay about 130 -180 eggs per year, and reaches table weight by about 16 weeks.

The Swedish may also be crested.

So which duck do you choose? For eggs production we prefer the Welsh Harlequin. The ducks lay a lot of eggs, and are a pretty duck that seem relatively calm. The Khaki Campbell is too flighty a bird for me.
For meat, the Muscovy is the best tasting with a less greasy taste (which turns off a lot of people)

My all time favorite duck is the Rouen. I like their calm personality (they come when you call them). They do like the schedule and want to go into the barn at night... which makes it easy for us to keep them safe. Every night they will walk single file from where they were foraging to the barn and patiently wait by the door.
And the males are pretty ducks with the green Mallard colored head..

1 comment:

  1. Khaki Campbell duck is really awesome. They are excellent layers. Eggs are of good size and taste. We are raising Khaki Campbell ducks for many years. Love this breed very much!