Magpie Duck: The Complete Guide for Beginners

Magpie Duck: The Complete Guide for Beginners

Magpie Duck

The Magpie Duck hails from the United Kingdom. These ducks carry a striking resemblance to the European Magpie Bird, thanks to their unique black and white markings.

They’re also popular show birds and make excellent dual-purpose homestead birds or pets. Plus, they’ll help keep your garden clear of weeds and pests.

The Magpie Duck is adaptable, productive, and a hardy duck, boasting a lifespan of 8 to 12 years.

What Is the Origin and History of The Magpie Duck?

Magpie Duck is a unique British breed of domestic duck that was developed in the early 20th century, right after World War I. Two prominent figures, M.C. Gower-Williams from Wales and Oliver Drake from Yorkshire, took it upon themselves to breed this distinct duck.

While the precise lineage of the Magpie Duck is a bit of a mystery, it’s believed to have roots in the Indian Runner Duck, and possibly some influence from the Huttegem duck of Belgium.

The Magpie Duck made its first official appearance in 1921, and it didn’t take long for it to garner attention. A breeders’ club was formed in just five years, in 1926, and the breed standard got published the same year in the Poultry Club Standards supplement.

The Magpie Duck is lightweight, averaging about 4-5 lbs in weight. This breed gets its name from its black and white plumage, which is similar to the coloration of the European Magpie. The American Poultry Association (APA) classifies it as a “light duck”.

If you’re looking for a good egg-layer, the Magpie Duck doesn’t disappoint. This duck breed was initially developed as a commercial bird, to provide both meat and eggs. The white breast of the Magpie Duck allows for clean plucking of the carcass.

Fun Fact: The ‘Paramount’ strain of the Magpie Duck is known to lay 185 eggs per year and reach slaughter weight in about 11 weeks.

One of the reasons you’d love having the Magpie Duck around is its friendly and docile nature. These ducks active foragers, getting a significant portion of their feed from grass, seeds, insects, and aquatic life. They’re also great at pest control in your garden or pasture because they feast on slugs, snails, and insects.

This duck breed first made its way to the United States in 1963 and was admitted to the American Standard of Perfection in 1977.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of The Magpie Duck?

Despite its medium size, the Magpie Duck is known for its light build, averaging a weight of 4-5 pounds. You’ll find them quite similar to the Khaki Campbell Duck, yet more substantial.

The body shape of a Magpie duck sets it apart. These ducks sport a long body and neck, and their moderately wide and deep body is carried 15-30 degrees above horizontal when relaxed. This carriage is known to elevate a bit when they’re agitated.

One cannot miss the plumage of the Magpie Duck. Predominantly white, they have two large black areas on the back and the top of the head. But don’t be surprised if the black cap on the head turns white as the duck ages. Some breeders have even developed non-standard color varieties.

The Magpie Duck has a broad head and a long, yellow or orange bill. This bill may turn green in older ducks. It has orange legs and feet that might be mottled.

The eggs laid by the Magpie Duck are white, cream, or green-blue in color and are large.

The lifespan of a Magpie Duck ranges from 8 to 12 years.

Behavioral Traits of The Magpie Duck

Friendly and Docile: The Magpie Duck isn’t just good looking, it’s also well-mannered. You’ll find these ducks very friendly, especially with their keepers. This includes children, making them a great addition to family farms. They’re social creatures that can blend right in with other poultry or livestock.

Active Foragers: The Magpie Duck is a worker too. These ducks spend a lot of time hunting for their feed. This can include grass, seeds, insects, and aquatic life. You’ll love their help in the garden where they can clear out weeds and pests.

Not Good Fliers: While they have wings, do not expect a Magpie Duck to take flight. The best they can do is a short hop, just a foot off the ground.

Curious and Kind: When you’re out in the yard, you’ll find the Magpie Duck fun to watch. Their curious and kind nature makes them enjoyable companions. They’re gentle, peaceful birds that are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Imprinting: Magpie ducklings tend to form strong bonds with their human keepers, even more so than other duck breeds. This is especially true if they’re the only baby duckling or if there’s a long gap in the hatching process.

High-strung Disposition: While it’s mostly calm, the Magpie Duck can get a bit high-strung. They’re not easily startled but can be more prone to panic than other duck breeds like the Pekin, Rouen, and Khaki Campbell ducks.

Drake Libido: If you’re planning to keep a male Magpie Duck, be aware that they have a high libido. To avoid tiring the females, you may need to ensure there are at least five mates for each drake.

What Are the Uses Roles of Magpie Duck?

The Magpie Duck is a great pest controller. These ducks have a knack for foraging and make the majority of their meals from grass, seeds, insects, and aquatic life. Their appetite doesn’t discriminate against slugs, snails, or insects. They’ll happily clear these pests from your garden, even going as far as eradicating liver flukes.

Duck farming is another area where the Magpie Duck shines. While they may not be the first choice for all farmers, their egg and meat production capabilities make them a viable option. They’re regular egg-layers and their meat is also of good quality.

The Magpie Duck is also the perfect pet. Their beauty and docile demeanor make them an irresistible choice for a pet. However, it’s worth noting that their calm exterior may sometimes give way to a more high-strung nature. They can be a bit skittish, but that’s just part of their charm.

What Is the Magpie Duck’s Egg Production?

On an average, the Magpie Duck can lay between 220 to 290 eggs annually. That’s a significant number, making them a top choice for duck farming.

The eggs these ducks produce aren’t just plentiful, they’re also unique. The Magpie Duck eggs are large grade and boast an unusual color palette, coming in shades of green and blue. Each egg weighs in at about 80 grams, making them a substantial addition to any breakfast plate.

Another fascinating fact about the Magpie Duck eggs is their shorter incubation period. Unlike some other common domesticated duck breeds, Magpie Duck eggs take only 18 to 19 days on average to hatch. This speedy turnaround time can help boost your flock numbers in a shorter span.

A Magpie hen will typically lay about 6 eggs before she deems her clutch complete and decides to sit on the eggs. Despite Magpie hens being good sitters, it’s a smart move to invest in an incubator if you’re looking to increase your flock numbers.

How to Care for And Feed the Magpie Duck?

The Magpie Duck needs basic care and feeding. Here’re some core aspects of their care.

Housing is vital for these ducks. It’s essential to have a duck house or coop that shields them from harsh weather. Providing a safe run for them to roam in when not free-ranging is equally important.

Water is another key element in Magpie Duck care. They need a constant supply of clean drinking water and swimming water.

When it comes to feeding, Magpie ducks aren’t fussy eaters. They can munch on standard poultry bird feed, waterfowl feed, layer feed, and non-medicated chick starter. For ducklings, waterfowl starter crumbles are the best bet as they offer high nutrition. It’s a good idea to switch to layer feed in warmer months and broiler feed when it gets cold.

Being an excellent forager, the Magpie Duck can find about two-thirds of its food if you give it ample room to roam and a pond to swim in every day. These ducks love foraging for tadpoles, mosquitoes, wild greens, tiny lizards, slugs, snails, and insect larvae. They also enjoy working a field, eating grass and bugs, and playing in puddles.

Egg-laying starts when Magpie hens are around 25 to 30 weeks old. They lay 200-300 eggs per year, which is about 5 eggs per week. The eggs come in a variety of colors, including white, blue, or green.

The Magpie Duck is a sturdy breed. They don’t have any underlying genetic issues. They’re easy to care for and can live for 9-12 years on average.

What Are the Challenges and Considerations in Breeding Magpie Ducks?

Breeding Magpie ducks is not a walk in the park. It requires a firm grasp on complex genetics and the demands of maintaining distinct markings on the birds.

First, you need to select the right breeding ducks. Go for those with a good type and avoid those with similar faults. Always focus on the type before color and aim for birds that complement each other.

Understanding the genetics of your ducks is also essential. It’s crucial to know their background and how they pass traits to their offspring. This understanding is not an overnight thing. It takes time, several breeding seasons, and a bit of trial and error to figure out which breeding combinations work and which don’t.

Getting crisp and well-defined markings on your Magpie Duck can be a major hurdle. Whether it’s their back, cap, or rear/tail, your breeding should aim for consistent and high-quality markings.

Breeding Magpie Ducks in groups of 5-6 birds can lower stress on the females. This is important because male Magpie Ducks are very active breeders.

The color genetics of the Magpie Duck are intricate, making it hard to breed good show specimens. The color patterning of the ducklings stays the same as they grow into adults. So, you can select good specimens for breeding early on while using other ducklings as utility birds.

When breeding, pay attention to the size and type of the ducks. The Magpie Duck should have a long-bodied shape, a broad head, and a slightly upright carriage.

Lastly, don’t forget about egg production. Magpie Duck is famous for being a prolific layer of quality white eggs. When breeding, look for hens that are prolific layers and drakes from high-laying families. After all, the laying rate and egg size are influenced by the father as well.

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