Ancona Ducks: A Critically Endangered Bird
Great for the self-sufficient homestead. Fun to raise. Good pets.
"Your ducks are so beautiful- the ones we hatched are vibrant!" -Kat, Gainesville, Georgia
Ancona 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 and affectionate.
"I hatched Ancona duckies in my senior year in high school and they all imprinted me! They followed me everywhere just like the geese in the movie Fly Away Home. (Without the flying part since mine didn't fly.) It was an awesome experience I'm hoping to have happen again :)" -Ashley, Newberg, Oregon
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.
Ancona ducks 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) bird.
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 top photo is 2 drakes and 2 hens. The drakes are bigger. Drakes also have a curl at the end of their tail. Then 2 ducklings. One is a Tricolor. (Photo from Rachele, Fort Myers, Florida.) Then a photo of 3 Ancona ducklings and 1 Dominique chick.
"We ordered five of your Ancona duck eggs to hatch. We live on a farm, and have a pond and a two-year-old farmboy but no ducks...must remedy this situation! Thanks so much for providing duck eggs for our incubating experience in a small quantity and for a great price." -Abi, Fulks Run, Virginia
Ancona Breed Characteristics
They 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 1984.
Ancona ducks weigh about 6 to 6.5 pounds as adults. Males weigh more than females. It is stockier than the Magpie duck. Ducks live to be 10 years or older.
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 duck.
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.
Female ducks start to lay eggs from 17 to 34 weeks (4 1/4 to 8 1/2 months) old. They lay for 5 to 8 years with the most productivity in the first 3 years. Eggs get bigger as the birds get older. They usually lay their eggs between 4 and 7 am. The eggs incubate for 28 days.
"Just candled, and it looks like I have 6 Ancona duck eggs that are fertile and growing! Clear tiny little heartbeats and veins. I am so excited!" -Jill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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.
Raising Rare Duck Breeds
Ancona 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 days.
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.
From "The Resiliant Gardener", chapter "The Laying Flock":
"For production 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."
"They 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."
"Anconas 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."
"Flocks 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."
"Ancona ladies are usually capable of hatching out a clutch of eggs and make good mothers."
Nantahala Farm in the Mountains of Western NC
Macon County (close to Cherokee, Graham and Swain Counties)
Topton, North Carolina 28781
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