The best known of the bantam breeds is the Call duck, so named for its loud and persistent quack. It makes a great pet, but is not a good layer. The Crested Miniature, which is an exhibition type, lays a useful 100 eggs a year, but the Silver Appleyard Miniature or the Silver Bantam not only lays well but is also chubby for its size. Bantam breeds are good flyers and need to have their wings clipped when newly purchased or simply buy before full winged.
This group includes the really good layers, such as the Indian Runner, an upright duck that cannot fly but is a superb forager on pasture and should not be confined to a small area. The Campbell was bred for egg laying — it can produce 300 a year . The Welsh Harlequin is another dual-purpose, hardy bird with a placid (dim) nature. These are not real meat birds but okay for a stir fry
These are the table birds, and at the top of the list is the Aylesbury. The true Aylesbury is now rare, and most such-named ducks are really white, heavy, Pekin-type hybrids known as Cherry Valley ducks . The Pekin is a semi-upright, quick-maturing, high meat-yielding bird, but a low layer in Britain, although U.S. keepers can expect up to 200 eggs a season.
The Rouen and Rouen Clair are kept for their looks, but still produce a good carcass and 100 or so eggs a season. The Silver Appleyard was developed to be a good foraging, dual-purpose bird, but it is also colourful in appearance.
Heavy breeds are not good flyers, with the exception of the Muscovy which originates from a tree duck, and with its crest, its hissing, and the red, fleshy protuberances on its face and bill (carbuncles), it looks quite different from other ducks. It makes a good table bird (though it is dark meat) and is a moderate layer, but it can be aggressive( actually a mega defensive parent but with a short fuse re dogs) and also eats small mammals.
For table purposes the main breeds are Commercial
Pekin,Muscovy, Commercial Aylesbury, Cherry Valley ;Gressingham,
Crosses. and anyredundant young drakes. Commercial meat ducks may
be reared in indoor
or outdoor systems. When the birds reach the desired weight at
around42 to 56 days old they are sent for slaughter.
The commercial meat Industry is based around the Aylesbury /Pekin / Meat breeds. This is because genetic brreding programmes have taken place within the breeds achieving market weightsearlier than the other white breasted breeds. Consideration should be given to white plumage which dresses out easier for thetable. White hybrid duck meat is normally fattier than the rangier cousinds from the breeding pens and if spare drakes are used do notexpect the self basting supermarket duckling
Food and Drink Feeding ducklings presents no problems at all. For the first four weeks, feed them on ordinary chick crumbs which you can buy in small quantities from any good pet shop or by the sack from farm supplies. Ducklings will eat those crumbs immediately upon hatching. From four weeks of age untilfeathering, the young birds should be fed grower's pellets which, once again, can be obtained from a pet shop or agricultural supplier. At all stages, simply feed ad-lib, leaving a constant supply of food with the birds and allowing them to eat as much and as often as they want.Sometimes they appreciate a few greens to augment their diet and the easy way of providing these is to hang a lettuce in their pen for them to peck at. Clean water must be available constantly but it must be provided in a manner which prevents the little birds taking a bath in it. Although day old ducklings will swim in the wild, they are able to do this because they are waterproofed by a film of oil which they get from their mother's plumage. Your hand-reared ducklings will not have this protection and will chill if they become wet. The best type of drinker is the inverted jam jar model which suppliers like Eltex can provide very cheaply. or a shallow bowl / jam jar lid etc. A larger model will be useful after the first week or so but be sure to put some small stones around the exposed area so that the birds cannot clamber in for a swim !
If you find yourself completely out of feed, the following items can be used to make an emergency ration: oatmeal (uncooked), wheat (uncooked), wholegrain breakfast cereal' (uncooked), cracked wheat, barley or other grain, chopped greens, grated fruits and vegetables, bugs. DO NOT FEED WHOLE GRAINS OF ANY KIND( chocking hazard/digestive nightmare), DRY BREAD(moisten to stop chocking), WILD BIRD SEEDS ( often treated), OR ANY KIND OF CAGED BIRD (budgie, canary, etc.) FEED until at least two weeks old as it takes time to digest . They can also eat fresh greens as long as they haven't been sprayed with anything (not even fertilizer). Any grains/ oatmeal can be turned into chick crumb in a liquidiser/old coffee grinder etc. Personally an old electric coffee grinder from a car boot converts adult pellets into chick meal to add as an alternative food and to get the older ducklings to accept the taste.
Home made feeding drink station the wire covering is excellent for Muscovies to climb or Runners to lean over and eat
Eventually, at the age of seven or eight weeks, the day will comewhen you can release your birds into the garden. Ducklings can go straight out to a suitable pond and see how much truth they give to the phrase "taking like a duck to water". Provided there is sufficient plant life in the pond (to harbour insects), you need only scatter a few scoops of food around the margins to supplement the natural feeding which will be available. It is wise to avoid hand-feeding duck any more than is absolutely necessary as they tend to become over-tame and fall east prey to predators.. Looking after those birds over the spring and summer takes very little time and effort .Memo for the lazy a childs fishing net collects fast running ducklings easier than crawlingthrough the shrubs.