2023 - Volume #47, Issue #4, Page #22[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Magpie Ducks Make Great Backyard Birds
These beginner-friendly birds get along well with other duck breeds, as well as chickens and guinea fowl. They owe their name to the distinctive black or blue markings along their backs and heads that resemble a European Magpie.
This breed got its start in the 1800’s. Duck breeders believe they’re descendants of runner ducks and a Belgium breed known as Huttegem. Duck breeders Oliver Drake and M.C. Gower-Williams are credited with their development, and Magpies entered the British Waterfowl Standards in 1926. The breed made it stateside in 1963 and was first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1977.
Magpie ducks belong in the “light” class of duck breeds. Adults weigh between 3 to 5 lbs., and the long-bodied birds have broad heads and long orange bills that may turn green with age. Standard colors are black and blue, although some breeders have developed non-standard colors as well. On average, they live between 8 and 12 years.
These ducks are prolific foragers that supplement their feed with grass, insects, seeds, slugs, and snails. In fact, some large livestock farmers keep them around to eliminate liver fluke infestations on their property.
Magpie ducks are known for their pleasant temperament. They aren’t easily startled and are friendly companions in a backyard flock. Ducklings tend to imprint on human keepers more intensely than ducks of other breeds.
You don’t need special accommodations for these birds. They thrive when provided with clean bedding, constant access to clean water for drinking and swimming, and a duck house with room for foraging. Plan to provide 4 sq. ft. of living space per bird. You don’t need nesting boxes or perches, as the birds prefer to lay eggs on the ground.
Magpie hens will lay between 220 and 290 eggs each year. They tend to make better mothers than other duck breeds. Most will lay six eggs in a clutch before sitting on them. Even so, most breeders rely on incubators for better results.
While the ducks aren’t large, their meat is considered a delicacy in many circles. Expect one bird to feed two to three adults.
It’s possible to purchase eggs or ducklings from breeders nationwide. Search for sellers near you through the Livestock Conservancy and Magpie Duck community groups on Facebook and other social media. Plan to pay at least $15 per duckling, as they’re rare.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, The Livestock Conservancy, PO Box 477, 33 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro, N.C. 27312 (www.livestockconservancy.org).
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