Pekin Duck (All About America’s Favorite Breed)

Pekin Duck (All About America’s Favorite Breed)

Pekin Ducks

The Pekin Duck, also known as the American Pekin, is a breed of domestic duck that’s primarily raised for meat. This breed has its roots in China and made its way to the United States in the 19th century. Since then, it’s spread across the globe and you can now find it being bred in many parts of the world.

One of the key features of the Pekin Duck is its large frame. Most Pekin Ducks have white feathers and they’re known for their hardy nature. This breed of duck grows at a fast pace, reaching a body weight of over 3.5 kg (that’s over 8 lbs) in just seven weeks.

What makes the Pekin Duck particularly popular in farming circles is its high feed conversion ratio. This means that they’re able to convert a high proportion of their feed into body weight, making them a cost-effective choice for farmers.

In addition, they’re known for their calm temperament and high fertility. Their eggs are also prized for their high rate of hatchability.

In the United States, the Pekin Duck holds a significant place in the farming industry. Over half of all ducks raised for slaughter in the country are Pekin Ducks. We’re talking numbers in the tens of millions here.

What Is the History of The Pekin Duck?

The Pekin Duck has a deep-rooted history spanning over 2000 years. It’s believed to have first been bred in the city of Nanjing, a locale famous as the Ming Dynasty’s initial capital. During this era, the humble roast duck began gaining fame, often sold by vendors going door-to-door.

As time marched on, the tradition of roast duck moved with the Yongle Emperor in 1420. He relocated his capital to Beijing, taking this culinary delight with him. Here, it earned the tag ‘Jinling roast duck’, with Jinling being an old name for Nanjing.

Throughout the Ming Dynasty, a roast duck shop called Old Bianyifang gained fame for its top-quality birds. Located in Beijing’s Rice Market Hutong, it became a symbol of the Pekin Duck’s popularity. However, the breed’s true golden age came during the Qing Dynasty, lasting from 1644 to 1912.

But it’s not just China that has been charmed by the Pekin Duck. In 1872, the breed was introduced to Great Britain. It was further adapted into various strains across Europe and the United States. It made its way to the U.S. around 1873, swiftly becoming the country’s top market duck.

Fast-forward to today, and over half of all ducks bred for slaughter in the United States are Pekin Ducks. It’s clear this breed has left a profound impact on global culinary practices, and its history continues to evolve.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of The Pekin Duck?

The Pekin Duck is noted for its long body and full-breasted shape. It has a rectangular profile when viewed from the side. Weighing in at 7 to 9 lbs (3-4 kg), males are generally heavier than females.

Intriguingly, there’s a larger version of the breed, aptly named the Jumbo Pekin. It can reach a whopping 12 lbs when mature.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Pekin Duck is its creamy white or pure white plumage. This stunning color is not a coincidence, but the result of selective breeding. Additionally, their legs, feet, and bill are an orange color, with small, black eyes adding to their charm.

The ducklings are yellow and they grow into their adult white feathers by the time they’re eight weeks old. Something unique about the males is they often have upwardly curled tail feathers.

Despite its large size, the Pekin Duck has short wings. This makes them generally poor fliers due to their heavy build. Yet, their wings are strong and their bones are hollow, common characteristics among other types of ducks.

The Pekin Duck has a large, rounded head and thick neck. The breast is smooth and broad, lacking a pronounced keel. The beak is yellow, fairly short, and almost straight.

What Is the Behavior and Temperament of The Pekin Duck?

Pekin Duck is known for its friendly and non-aggressive behavior. They’re often dubbed as docile, and even affectionate. These traits have boosted their popularity as both farm animals and pets.

These ducks are no slouches when it comes to intellect either. With their knack for loud quacking as a warning signal for potential threats, it’s clear that the Pekin Duck is quick on its feet. They’re also good breeders and protective mothers, often showing broodiness if left undisturbed. Remember, they’re social creatures and don’t take well to solitude. To prevent any duck depression, it’s best to keep at least two ducks together.

Now let’s talk about their diet. The Pekin Duck is a free-ranging champ. These ducks love to hunt tadpoles, small frogs, small fish, and crustaceans. They’re also fans of algae, berries, worms, nuts, crickets, flies, and their favorite, mosquitoes. If you’ve got garden greens, you’re in luck. These ducks have a soft spot for lettuce and grapes.

Its friendly nature notwithstanding, the Pekin Duck can be noisy. Often rated as one of the noisiest duck breeds, their volume varies depending on individual temperaments. Here’s an interesting fact: females are known to out-quack males, a common trait among duck breeds.

Preening is another key part of a Pekin Duck’s behavior. Common to all waterfowl, preening involves combing feathers with the bill to keep them waterproof, remove parasites, and lock the barbs and hooks of each feather together. This forms a protective layer that repels water.

The Pekin Duck is also known to be quite friendly toward humans. They can become quite attached to their keepers and have been known to follow them around, much like dogs. But do note, they can also be wary around strangers.

What Are the Dietary Needs of The Pekin Duck?

When it comes to Pekin Duck’s dietary needs, these depend on its age and purpose. Here’s a brief guide to help you ensure they’re getting the right nutrition.

First, let’s look at the diet for Pekin ducklings from hatching until 2 weeks old. They should be fed a diet containing 20% protein. This is usually achieved through a non-medicated chick starter feed that has a protein content of 18 to 20 percent. Adding a niacin supplement or brewer’s yeast to their feed is also a good idea as niacin is vital to the health and growth of young ducks.

From 3 to 20 weeks old, the ducks transition to a different diet. This consists of a grower, breeder, or layer style of pellet feed. This feed should have a protein level of about 15 percent.

When a Pekin Duck reaches 20 weeks of age, it transitions to an adult diet. The nutrient requirements for adult Pekin Duck includes protein (15-22%), arginine (1-1.1%), lysine (0.6-0.9%), methionine + cystine (0.5-0.7%), calcium (0.6-0.65%), and phosphorus (0.3-0.4%). They also require vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, and Selenium.

A mature duck should consume between 170 to 200 grams of feed per day. Ducks raised for meat or large breeds raised for eggs need several ounces more feed daily.

In addition to commercial feed, the Pekin Duck enjoys foraging for food. They eat a variety of foods such as tadpoles, small frogs, small fish, crustaceans, algae, berries, worms, nuts, crickets, flies, and mosquitoes. They’re also fond of garden greens, lettuce, grapes, and alfalfa pellets.

However, foraging alone won’t meet their nutritional needs – especially for ducks raised for meat or egg production. So provide a balanced diet to meet all their nutritional needs.

How to Breed Pekin Ducks?

Breeding Pekin Ducks is a process that involves several steps and considerations.

Male ducks are known as drakes and females as hens. To ensure a successful breeding, maintain a ratio of one drake for every four to five hens. This helps to avoid any conflicts among the males while ensuring all females can be inseminated.

The Pekin Duck is best bred when it reaches the age of 7 or 8 months. Don’t breed them too early or too late as this may result in infertile eggs and unhealthy ducklings. Breeding season is typically in the early spring, between February and May, depending on where you’re located.

Your hen will need a suitable nesting area. A well-designed nesting box encourages them to lay eggs. The box should be placed in a quiet, secluded area within the duck enclosure or yard. A large wood or rubber container with a hole in the front makes an excellent nesting box.

Once your Pekin hen is approximately five months old, she’ll start laying eggs, anywhere from half a dozen to about twenty. She can hatch up to 15 eggs at a time.

After the eggs are laid, they must be incubated. The Pekin Duck often won’t brood its own eggs, so you’ll need to be prepared to take on this task. Pekin Duck eggs require 28 days to hatch. They stay in a setter for 25 days. On the 25th day, they’re moved to a hatcher where they remain until they hatch on the 28th day.

During incubation, maintaining the right temperature and humidity is vital. The hatcher should be set at 37.2°C (99°F) and the humidity at 65% (88°F wet bulb). As the hatch progresses and eggs start to pip, increase the humidity to 80% (93°F wet bulb) and ventilation openings by about 50%.

Breeding ducks doesn’t end with hatching. Remember, ducklings grow into adults who need space, healthcare, food, and socialization. It’s a commitment to their care and well-being.

Common Health Issues in Pekin Ducks

Pekin Duck, like all duck breeds, may face a range of health issues. Duck Virus Enteritis, also known as Duck Plague, is one of them. This acute disease is highly contagious and often fatal. It’s caused by a herpes virus. If your ducks are sluggish, have ruffled feathers, or greenish-yellow diarrhea, they might have this disease.

Another common health problem is the Riemerella Anatipestifer Infection. This bacterial disease can cause high mortality, weight loss, and condemnation. Keep an eye out for signs such as listlessness, eye discharge, and diarrhea.

Bumblefoot or Staph Infection is a common issue, especially in heavier duck breeds like Pekins. It’s a staphylococcus infection caused by cuts, hard landings, or splinters. You’ll notice a black scab on the bottom of the duck’s foot.

Ducks can also suffer from Impacted Crop. This happens when they ingest long pieces of string, plastic, or even rubber bands. If untreated, it can lead to life-threatening problems such as difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Pekins are prone to Leg Weakness due to their fast growth. They need extra niacin for proper development.

Other common diseases that may affect ducks include Botulism, Mycosis, Non-Specific Diarrhea, Salmonellosis, Sinusitis, Spirochaetosis, Rickets, Vitamin A Deficiency, and White Eye.

Ducks may also develop Arthritis. This includes osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) and septic arthritis (also called infectious arthritis).

Diseases like Avian Influenza, Fowl Cholera, and Newcastle Disease can affect various body systems in ducks.

To prevent these diseases, maintain clean and dry housing for your ducks. Avoid contact with wild birds. Provide clean water and balanced diet. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help detect problems early. In many cases, vaccines or bacterins can be used for protection against common duck diseases.

How to Take Care of The Pekin Duck?

Taking care of the Pekin Duck is a journey that involves understanding their housing, feeding, water provision, and health management needs.

Housing Needs

Pekin Duck enjoys roomy outdoor spaces. Their pen doesn’t need a top because they don’t fly. Still, a top can protect your ducks from predators.

The sheltered area needs an earth floor bedded with dry absorbent material like straw or shavings.

Pekin Duck loves water, and its run turns muddy faster than a chicken’s. So, spreading straw around the run can keep it dry.

Feeding Needs

You can feed your Pekin Duck the same poultry feed given to chickens. But don’t forget they love foraging. They can spend hours in your backyard consuming pests.

This habit can lower your feed expense. Their diet needs to be rich in nutrients like protein, arginine, lysine, methionine, and cystine.

Water Provision

Water is vital for the Pekin Duck. They don’t need a pool to survive, but swimming offers many benefits for them. If you can’t provide a pool, make sure they always have access to clean, fresh drinking water.

Ducks make their water dirty fast. So their water source needs frequent changes or a filter. Ducks prefer clean water where they can submerge their heads.

Health Management

To keep your Pekin Duck healthy, you need to prevent diseases. Set up a biosecurity program to block diseases from entering your duck premises. Vaccinate your ducks against common infections which can create a high level of protection.

Minimize environmental stresses that can make ducks prone to infections. This includes good housing, proper management, adequate ventilation, and balanced nutrition.

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