Ducks: A Critically Endangered Bird
for the self-sufficient homestead. Fun to raise. Good pets.
"Your ducks are so beautiful- the ones we hatched are vibrant!" -Kat, Gainesville, Georgia
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.
Ancona ducks are a lively bird to raise. Some people spell it Anacona or Anaconda.
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 everyone know.
They love having a pond but if you don't have one you can use a kiddie pool or
other container that has a ramp in and out of the pool. In the winter empty
the pool when you close up the coop for the night. Then refill in the morning.
The water won't freeze here in Western North Carolina except on really cold
The photo to the left is 2 hens. One is black and white. The brown one is a Tricolor
with gray and wild mallard patterns. Notice the speckled beak.
ducks like snow. They do better in cold weather than chickens do. They especially
like it when it rains.
|| "I think
part of what makes Anconas so much fun is that you can tell all the individuals,
at least you can if you keep all the colors and patterns. I think separating
them by color is a step in the wrong direction. Also, part of their behavior
may depend upon the fact that they can so easily tell each other apart.
I noticed that Anconas treat single-color breed ducks as generic ducks,
not as individuals. I also suspect the vigor of the breed is because they
are very heterozygous for all the chromosomes involving color genes. Pure
color groups is just a bad idea, I think. It is failing to appreciate what
is unique about this breed." -Carol Deppe, Ancona Duck Breeder, 2010
||The book "The Resilient Gardener: Food Production
and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times" by Carol Deppe has a chapter on Ancona ducks.
See quote from it below.|
"The Resiliant Gardener", chapter "The Laying Flock":
of big eggs as well as dual-purpose production of eggs and meat, I recommend Anconas.
Anconas lay about 210-280 eggs per year, mostly jumbo and super-jumbo size...
Ancona are calmer, more sensible, and easier to work with than extreme-egg breeds
(producers of 300 or more eggs per year)."
"They are quite mellow and flexible
about their dominance hierarchy. They have one, but nobody seems to take it very
seriously. Nobody excludes anybody from anything because of it."
rarely have any leg or foot problems. Anconas come in various colors with pinto-style
white markings that allow you to identify each individual, even at a distance.
The colors are black, blue, chocolate, lavender, and silver."
are the best foragers of all the medium-weight duck breeds... Anconas have female
flock leaders. Because of their female leaders, Ancona flocks forage better than
Campbell or Harlequin flocks. Anconas have more complex flock behavior than other
duck breeds, with a more sophisticated ability to communicate."
are led by female leaders chosen by the consent of the led. The behavior of Anconas lends itself ideally to egg production under free-range conditions."
"Anconas are very alert and sensible about predators
and make better watchdogs than the geese I used to have. They are especially smart
about hawks... I can usually tell what the flock is doing just by the sound."
ladies are usually capable of hatching out a clutch of eggs and make good mothers."
Ancona eggs, ducklings and ducks.
|| Get all your ducks in a row! This photo of Ancona ducks is from Kat in Gainesville, Georgia.
||This photo is also from Kat. There are goats in the background. They get along great with ducks.
is from Jason in New Martinsville, West Virginia. The adult is a Muscovy
duck. There are Muscovy and Ancona ducklings with her. All the ducklings
get along well with each other.