WHAT BREED IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Your first decision is whether you want ducks, chickens, or geese. Then what do you want the birds for: pets, eggs, meat, showing, breeding. Then you get to choose the ones you like best in character, shape, etc.
CHICKENS: hybrids, purebreds, eggs, meat, other
For lots of eggs every year then you should consider hybrids. These have been created by recent intensive breeding created by man. Most are almost entirely “man-made” for the intensive production of eggs and in our opinion they are not as good for backyard and free range.
You can only get females and the very high productivity falls off after a couple of years.
However, for backyard birds, and for family eggs, they,will carry on laying and being friends for many years.
If you want birds for lots of meat you need to buy broiler breeds. These birds are
specially bred to mature very fast (and really are not for keeping over 18 weeks as they can get severe structural problems.)
If you like the idea of pure breeds, you will get birds with fascinating history, a wider
variety of sizes and plumage and, if you choose carefully, birds that will provide you with eggs and meat that will easily fulfill a family’s needs. You need to ensure that the stock you get is from known parent flocks. A concern is, however, that exhibition birds are often not as productive, as the breeding programs are concentrating on feather and form, not meat and eggs.
Then there are the egg layers. Do you want white eggs? If yes, Leghorns would do the
job. Do you want brown eggs? For deep brown, Welsumers and Marans are good. For mid-brown shells, look at Rhode Island Reds. Unfortunately, there are few strains of these breeds which are really productive.
You interest may be in dual purpose breeds. The dual purpose breeds include
Orpingtons, Wyandottes, or Sussex. The aim of the creation of these breeds was to lay a reasonable number of eggs, mostly brown, and produce a good carcass for the table.
If you are looking for “yard art”, there are many breeds available with contrasting colours that are delightful. Breeds such as White Leghoms, Wyandottes, or Welsumers make wonderful moving pictures.
Temperament and other features must be taken into consideration when selecting breeds for your flock. Many would agree that Orpingtons and Plymouth Rocks are among the quieter breeds. For size, the Orpington wins again, along with the Wyandottes, and Marans. For medium-sized flocks, Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks fit the bill. For those who prefer the smaller breeds, Leghorns could be the way to go. As for keeping bantams, they are not very productive, but are great fun.
If you enjoy the hobby of showing, you will be looking for exhibition quality birds. It is
important to tell any supplier of your intentions. Go to the shows and ask the exhibitors for ideas. Get to know the breeders of the birds you like. They will be keen to share their
knowledge with interested newcomers. Purchase a book which has the breed descriptions (the Standard of Perfection). You will find what faults to look out for and how judges score birds.
Ducks are, in general, somehow more disease free than chickens. However, some can get foot problems. Ducks are absolutely charming to have around. They will keep your garden slug free, but will walk over plants and make mud pies out of the ground if there is limited space.
Ducks are fairly easy to fence out of sensitive areas, unlike chickens. Many ducks don’t fly, but can flap over quite a height.
For the table, breeds which are useful include the Aylesbury, Muscovy, Rouen, and
Saxony. There are a number of lighter breeds which are also useful for the table; these include Blue Swedish, Buff and Magpies. These are really attractive birds and make great pets.
If you are looking for ducks with lots of character, then the answer is the Call. These
ducks are small and cute, but make noisy pets.
There really does not need to be a reason to have ducks – they will keep the whole family entertained and are simply delightful to have as part of the family, as long as you can provide them with their basic needs of constant clean water for swimming and cleaning themselves. The range of colours is beautiful especially when set against the reflection of a sparkling pond. But BEWARE – they are addictive; one or two can lead to large number somehow.
(Editor’s note: The above information is from an article written by Tim and Jill Bowis of
Scotland. That is why some of the breeds they mention are not that common in North America.
I made some changes to the information to make it relevant to our hobby.)