Friday, March 11, 2016

Ducks, Ducks and More Ducks!

I apologize for not posting about our ducks more. However it is most definitely time to let you know about them and how they are doing. The first thing is they are the most trouble free of the poultry, they don't get in near the mischief as the chickens and turkey's do and are well behaved for the most part. They put themselves to bed, they don't climb on things they are not supposed to and they love grass!

We researched duck breeds and came up with 3 we liked very  much. Two heavy breeds, Cayuga and Blue Swedish and a  laying breed Khaki Campbell.

The Blue Swedish are lovely and very quiet placid ducks. They were the friendliest ducklings and learned to come to us calling Duck Duck Go immediately.
The ALBC write up is as follows:
" The Swedish is a medium sized bird that weighs between 6 1/2 and 8 pounds. It has an oval head, medium length bill nearly straight along its top line, and a stocky body with a carriage approximately 20 degrees above horizontal. The plumage of both the duck and drake is a uniform bluish slate, with a white bib. However, the drake's head is a dark blue with a greenish bill while the duck's head and bill are the same blue slate color of the body. The legs of both sexes  are reddish-brown, with irregular markings of greyish-black. The American Standard specifies that the outer two or three wing flight feathers must be white, but this difficult specification has discouraged many breeders, and is unimportant for general use. While Blue is the only Standard variety, Swedish ducks also come in Black, Silver, and Splashed color patterns (Holderread, 2001).

The Swedish is a utility breed which matures fairly slowly and provides well-flavored meat. The Blue Swedish prefers to forage in orchards or paddocks, and grass and natural foods assist in the development of succulent flesh. In confinement they do not thrive as well (Batty, 1985) Swedish will lay 100 to 150 white, green, or blue tinted eggs yearly. Typically they have calm temperaments and make fine pets."

 Our Blue Swedish Ducklings

We loved the large gentle ducklings right from the start, they ate and drank right away and grew so fast. They were the quiet ones of the three and liked to be held for the most part. They have grown fast and steadily. They thrive outside and adapted to going outside almost instantly. I think they would  not do well in confinement but need a good sized pen or paddock.
When they grew in their first feathers and they were an incredible steel blue with penciling along the edges in varying degrees. Some have a pure white patch on the breast and others have a more mottled lacy white area.

 First day out on Grass...they took to it like they were born there, grazing and nibbling seed heads.

The second breed we chose were the Cayuga. Another big breed of startling black ducks. 

The ALBC write up is as follows:

"The Cayuga is recognized as one of the hardiest of the domestic ducks and are easily tamed if hand-raised. They tolerate the harsh winters of the northeast and can produce many offspring. The Cayuga averages 7-8 lbs. and has the ability to obtain much of its diet from foraging, when given appropriate areas to explore for food. The meat of the Cayuga is reputed to be of excellent taste and fine quality but the carcass can be difficult to clean because of their dark feathering. Some resolve this problem by skinning the ducks rather than plucking. Cayuga ducks can lay 100-150 eggs per year that can be used for general eating and baking purposes. Eggs are initially black in color, but as the season progresses egg color lightens to white by the end of the season. The plumage of the Cayuga is uniformly greenish black and may become mottled with white as they age"

This breed was my number 1 choice as I was fascinated with their color,  so black that look green in the right light. They were vigorous ducklings and dark but more of a sooty gray than black. Not really very fancy at all but they were nice and learned to come at our call for food and water. They are quiet and unassuming birds that makes them good to handle. They grew and are still growing well and are a good size. As to the color, startling black with greenish iridescent heads and shades of blue and purple on their wings. They are wonderful to look at on sunny days when they play in their pond with the sheen of their feathers. 

My favorite Cayuga Drake.

The last breed we ordered were Khaki Campbell, a laying breed.  Smaller and from the photos we saw a simple and unassuming brown duck.
The ALBC says:

"The Campbell duck is a light weight bird that on average weighs 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. They are active, streamlined birds with a modestly long head, bill, neck, and body, and a sprightly body carriage of 20 to 40 degrees above horizontal (Holderread, 2001). There are four color varieties of Campbell ducks in North America: Khaki, White, Dark, and Pied, with Khaki being the only one recognized by the APA. The Khaki drake has a green bill, rich dark-orange legs and feet, and dark brown eyes. Its head, upper neck, lower back, and tail culverts are brown-bronze while the rest of the drake's plumage is a warm khaki. The Khaki duck has a green bill and dark brown eyes and its legs and feet are brown. The ducks head, upper neck, and lower back are seal-brown and the rest of the plumage is khaki.

Campbells are prolific layers and active foragers. Most Campbells lay their first eggs when 5-7 months old and will average 250-340 eggs of superb texture and flavor per year. With an age staggered flock, one may have eggs year-round. Campells are high-strung and energetic, and need plenty of space to graze and forage. (Ives, 1947) "If they consume an adequate diet, are kept calm, provided sufficient space, and run in flocks consisting of no more than 50 to 200 birds, Campbells have proven to be amazingly adaptable. They have performed admirably in environments ranging from arid deserts with temperatures of 100°F, to humid tropical rainforests with more than 200 inches of annual precipitation, to cold Northern regions where temperatures can remain below 0°F for weeks at a time." (Holderread, 2001)"

 From the ABC site.

One of our Khaki Ducks.

We were surprised at the color of these ducks, they are far more than brown ducks. The penciling on the hens feathers is striking and they almost glow golden in sunlight. Photos do not do them justice. The Khakis are the movers and shakers of this group of ducks. They explore the most and are by far the fastest on their feet. They can also fly quite well although they do not fly very much. The Ducks are laying really well and are the first to do so, the two bigger breeds are not laying yet but we are enjoying the better baking with the Khakis wonderful eggs. They graze very well and love the hayfield. They also keep the grass in the yard nibbled down. They cover an amazing amount of ground in a day. They are a lot smaller than the Cayuga and Swedish. We love the saucy nature of the Khaki ducks, they keep the drakes in line and the other ducks too! They do talk a lot and we can always tell where the ducks are by the loud QUACK QUACK QUACK of the Khaki's!

Over all we like the ducks a great deal, they are low maintenance and have been no trouble at all, they put themselves to bed and really don't get into things like the chickens. They love grazing and are easy to feed now they get out to grass. 

It will be interesting when the two big breeds start laying eggs. Oh we also sold one of the Cayuga Drakes to a neighbor, his 91 year old mother had two white Pekin ducks on her pond. The drake had died. The neighbor had seen our ducks on the way by our farm. He stopped and asked if we would sell one. Since we only have three Cayuga ducks and 7 Drakes I thought a black duck would be nice with the white one. They had  never seen Cayuga before and were amazed at the myriad of colors on a plain "Black" duck.

If you have the room I would say ducks are a worthwhile investment for grass control and enjoyment. Yes we are putting the eggs to good use and will cull the drakes as needed. We will keep you posted as to how these low profile birds do.

 PS: I forgot to tell you they absolutely love snow and winter weather!

Be safe and count your blessings!



  1. I apologize for the variation in font size in this post...Blogger and I had a war....blogger won! It would size the font properly on the draft but then revert to the odd font sizes as soon as I previewed it. Since there are only so many hours in the day I posted!

  2. I just love your first paragraph, especially the "they don't get in near the mischief as the chickens and turkey's do and are well behaved for the most part. They put themselves to bed, they don't climb on things they are not supposed to" part. LOLOL. All I have are 5 Muscovies, but they really add a lot of personality to the poultry yard and I love having then.

    About the font - did you take a look at the html? I've found correcting the html is the only way to make it behave sometimes.

    1. Thank you for the html tip.....

    2. Okay this post is driving me posted the above reply before I was done! Right now the ducks are planning their day with a lot of quacking by the bedroom window which we have open to cool off the house! (Ralph lit the woodstove) They have been grazing the area Ralph mowed for the new garden...the new shoots of grass and rainy heaven!

  3. I love Cayugas. They were the first ducks I ever had. I'm planning on adding some this year, if I can find them locally. I don't want to get too many and the minimum order from all the hatcheries I like is too much. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and text.

    1. I think Meyer hatchery where we got our ducks and all the other poultry has a minimum order for ducks of 5. We are very pleased with the birds we got from them. The Cayuga are big and robust and Gorgeous colors... my summer photo project is to get "good" photos of them in the right light!