Cayuga Duck: Everything About This Beautiful Backyard Duck

Cayuga Duck: Everything About This Beautiful Backyard Duck

Cayuga Duck

Cayuga Duck is a breed originating from North America and named after the Cayuga tribe of New York’s Finger Lakes region. First introduced in the 1840s, these ducks are known for their striking greenish-black plumage. They have a calm and docile temperament that makes them a joy to raise.

The Cayuga Duck falls into the medium-class category. A mature male duck weighs an average of 8 pounds, while a female duck weighs about 7 pounds. They are not just a sight to behold but were once the main duck breed for meat production in the United States until the late 19th century.

Today, they’re mostly kept for their ornamental value. Their unique iridescent sheen on their black feathers is especially noticeable in sunlight, adding to their appeal. But don’t let their beauty fool you – these ducks are also valued for their egg and meat production capabilities.

Despite their popularity and unique qualities, the Cayuga Duck is on the Livestock Conservancy Organisation’s watch list. This status serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving this remarkable breed for future generations.

What Is the Origin and History of The Cayuga Duck?

The roots of the Cayuga Duck are shrouded in mystery. Some folks say it sprang from wild ducks in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Others reckon it shares a common ancestor with a black duck breed from Lancashire, England during the 1860s.

John S. Clark, a key player in the Cayuga Duck’s history, brought these ducks to Cayuga County from Orange County, New York. This was around 1840. The breed got its recognition from the American Poultry Society in 1867. The British Poultry Club Standards gave their nod in 1874.

In the late 19th century, the Cayuga Duck was big in the meat market. It was the top duck breed for meat in the United States. But around 1890, the American Pekin took over.

Today, the Cayuga Duck holds a special place as an American heritage duck breed. It’s also on the watch list of the Livestock Conservancy Organisation. These ducks with their unique green plumage are a sight to behold. And their dark-shelled eggs are a treat.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of The Cayuga Duck?

The Cayuga Duck has a distinct look that sets it apart from the rest. Weighing in at around 8 pounds (3.6 kg) for males and 7 pounds (3.2 kg) for females, it falls into the medium to heavy breed category.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Cayuga Duck is its vibrant black plumage. But it’s not just any black. This black carries a unique iridescent sheen, almost like a beetle’s shell, catching the sunlight and showing off shades of teal, emerald green, and even purple. As the bird ages, you might spot some feathers fading or whitening, especially in females.

Continuing with the black theme, the Cayuga Duck also sports a black bill along with black legs and feet. Dark brown eyes peek out from its head, creating a uniform and striking look. It carries itself upright, with a long neck adding to its distinct silhouette.

Beyond its looks, the Cayuga Duck is tough. It’s one of the hardiest domestic ducks, known for braving cold weather. Plus, it’s got a docile temperament, making it a breeze to handle.

What Is the Behavior and Temperament of The Cayuga Duck?

Cayuga Duck is renowned for its calm, docile, and friendly temperament. They’re an ideal pick for new keepers or families with kids. Start handling them from a young age and watch how they grow to be quite tame, showing affection to their caregivers.

These ducks are easy to live with, thanks to their quiet and playful nature. They’re full of energy but not too noisy. They adore human attention, making them a pleasure to have around. Whether it’s a coop, run setup, or a free-range setup, they thrive if they have ample space.

When it comes to social behavior, the Cayuga Duck is a peace-lover. They take pleasure in interacting with their human caregivers and other ducks. They’re social birds that are good at foraging, getting most of their diet from it, especially when they’re allowed to free range.

An intriguing fact about the Cayuga Duck is its tendency to go broody. They make excellent mothers, often hiding their eggs, making the nest a challenge to find. While they’re generally good mothers, they’re not as likely to go broody and hatch for you as other breeds.

What Are the Uses of The Cayuga Duck?

The Cayuga Duck is a versatile breed that fits many roles. They’re not just pretty to look at.

Meat Production: Back in the day, the Cayuga Duck was a top pick for meat in the US and Great Britain. Over time, the Pekin duck took over, but that doesn’t erase the Cayuga’s place in history. Their meat is known for its rich beefy flavor and deep red color. It’s a delicacy that stands out from the crowd.

Egg Production: It’s not all about the meat, though. Cayuga Duck lays between 100-150 eggs per year. Plus, their eggs are firm and perfect for baking. So get your apron on and whip up a treat.

Ornamental Purposes: With its black plumage and green sheen, the Cayuga Duck is a sight to behold. They’re often kept for their looks alone. Their calm demeanor makes them great pets too. They’re quiet, friendly, and enjoy being around people.

Dog Herding Trials: The Cayuga Duck is also used in dog herding trials. They flock well and can keep a dog on its toes. If you’re into dog trials, a Cayuga Duck might be your secret weapon.

How to Care for And Raise the Cayuga Duck?

When it comes to raising the Cayuga Duck, there are a few key factors you’ll need to consider. These include their housing, feeding habits, health, safety, breeding, and interaction.


Your Cayuga Duck will need a safe and comfortable living environment. Given their medium size, plan for 4 square feet of housing space per duck.

The housing should boast a good ventilation system for fresh air and light and be designed for easy cleaning.

Since the Cayuga Duck is prone to predation, it will need a safe shelter each night. Ensure the bottom 30 inches of the fence are made of ½ inch wire to shield them from predators like raccoons.


Being an excellent forager, the Cayuga Duck loves to free-range and will get most of its diet from foraging. These ducks relish eating insects, slugs, and snails. However, if space is limited, a commercial duck feed is a must.

Ducks also need small gravel or coarse sand for digestion. Provide fresh drinking water, deep enough to cover their bills, for their health and to help in eating.

Health and Safety

Known for its hardiness, the Cayuga Duck can withstand cold weather. Despite this, they need protection from the sun with shade provided when temperatures hit 70°F.

Regular health checks are crucial to ensure they’re free from diseases and parasites.


When it comes to breeding, the Cayuga Duck is known to brood its own eggs.

If you plan to incubate the eggs, maintain a temperature of 99.5°F at 86% humidity for the first 25 days, and 98.5°F at 94% humidity for the last three days.

Interaction and Handling

The calm and docile temperament of the Cayuga Duck makes it easy to handle. Regular handling from a young age can make them quite tame and even affectionate toward their keepers.

What Are the Challenges and Considerations in Raising the Cayuga Duck?

Predation is a major challenge when raising the Cayuga Duck. Cats, mink, weasels, raccoons, and owls all pose a threat. So, it’s vital to provide a safe shelter, especially at night.

Your fence should have a bottom 30 inches made of ½ inch wire to ward off raccoons.

Space and Foraging is another key consideration. The Cayuga Duck is a excellent forager and it loves to roam freely. They need at least 12 sq ft of space each to dig for worms and grubs, find nuts and berries, and nibble on fresh plants and algae. If your space is limited, you’ll need to supplement their diet with commercial duck feed.

Climate Considerations also play a part. Although the Cayuga Duck is hardy and can withstand cold weather, it must be shaded from the sun when temperatures hit 70°F. Plus, they need access to plenty of water to cool off in the summer heat.

When it comes to Breeding the Cayuga Duck, there are specific considerations. Maintaining a diverse gene pool is key to the breed’s health and vitality. Also, the eggs are very sensitive to changes in humidity. You might want to think about investing in an incubator for the best hatching results.

Finally, if you’re raising the Cayuga Duck for meat, bear in mind their dark feathering. This can make them tougher to clean than other poultry birds. You might find Skinning the Cayuga Duck rather than plucking it is a more efficient option.

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