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July 21, 2011

How Do We Know Pekins Originate from Wild Mallards?

We have read that all domestic ducks (with the exception of Muscovy) originate from wild Mallards.  But how do we know that?

Charles Darwin wrote in 1883 that the middle four tail feathers curl upward in the males of only one breed of wild duck, the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).  This characteristic of a curly feather on the male is in all domestic ducks.  He felt, therefore, there was little doubt that the wild Mallard was the parent of all breeds of domestic duck.

                                       Notice the black, curly feather on the male's tail.

Are there similarities in growth, maturation and body composition between Mallards and domestic ducks?  Yes. 
  • The maturation rate of Mallards and domestic ducks is very similar.  Both can lay their first eggs at about 20 weeks of age. 
  • In commercial breeder operations the ratio of males to females is also very similar - about five females to every male to maintain peak fertility.
  • Both Mallards and domestic ducks achieve mature body weight by about 12 weeks of age when both their primary and secondary wing feathers are mature.
                                Note the white, curly feather on the male Pekin duck.

In the wild, a female Mallard does not actively feed her ducklings and she may travel great distances to find feed.  The ducklings must feed themselves and keep up.  Therefore, thigh and leg muscle and bone, along with webbed feet, must develop rapidly to not only travel looking for food but to swim and escape predators.  Mallards and Pekins are very similar as theynormally achieve 80% of the mature weight and length of leg bones and muscle by 28 days of age!  They need these legs early!

On the other hand, breast meat weight, as a percentage of adult weight, is less than 20% by 28 days!  This is not surprising as Mallards don't have mature feathers until they are 12 weeks of age so there is no rush to get a large breast for flying until then. Pekins are also slow in breast meat development.

If you think of all the variety of domestic ducks, from the large Pekin to the slim, upright Runner, it is astounding that they all originate from the wild Mallard.  A great deal of genetic work has occurred over the hundreds of years to achieve such a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

Much of this information came from an excellent book I just received,  Domestic Duck Production - Science and Practice.   I have ordered ten copies from the publisher in England and will blog its availability once it arrives.  It is written for the commercial egg and meat producer but has fascinating background information on ducks, too.

July 15, 2011

Two Duck Breeds Only Available July 18 and 25 This Year

For two weeks every year we hatch Silver Runners and Silver Swedish.  For 2011 it is July 18 and July 25.  If you want these rare colors, now is the time to order.

Why do we only hatch these colors for two weeks a year?

                      A flock of Black Swedish males and Silver Swedish females.

So that we can produce 100% blue colored Blue Swedish and Blue Runners, we have two breeder flocks for each breed. Using the Blue Swedish as an example, in one flock we have Black Swedish males and Silver Swedish females. In the other flock we have Silver Swedish males and Black Swedish females. All the progeny from these crosses will be the correct blue color. In June when we need breeders for next year, we switch the males so Black males are with Black females and Silver males are with Silver females. We collect these purebred eggs for about three weeks and hatch them for breeders. Then we switch the males back to where they were originally and go back to producing the correctly colored Blue Swedish for the rest of the season.

                          A flock of Black Runner males and Silver Runner females.

So for July 18 and 25, we do not have Blue Swedish or Blue Runners available but we will have the Silver Swedish and Silver Runners.

As we only hatch these twice a year, they are not on our price list but we charge the same for them as the Blue Runner and Blue Swedish.  Give us a call (800-424-7755) if you have an interest in these Silver Swedish or Silver Runners!

July 07, 2011

Metzer Farms at Crossroads Poultry Show in October

I am going to the Crossroads Poultry Show in Indianapolis in late October.  This is one of the largest poultry shows in America.  I will not be exhibiting but rather I will have a booth to meet customers and poultry enthusiasts such as yourself.  I hope many of you take the time to visit this great show.

There will be visitors from around the world and exhibitors from every state in the nation.  If you want to see a wide variety of breeds and many quality exhibition birds, this is the show to attend.  This is the first time the APA (American Poultry Association) and ABA (American Bantam Association) will have a Joint National Meet since the last Crossroads Show in 2006.  There are also over 35 Breed Clubs that are having their National Show at this Crossroads Show.  There will be chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and guineas shown.  In addition, the Rabbit National Show will be during the same week in another facility on the fairgrounds.

Prior to the show I will make some more videos on ducks and geese and their management.  I already have two produced: How To Sex Day Old Ducklings and Goslings and Our Hatch Day.  I will be showing these videos at the show.  What other topics would you like covered in a video?  Now is the time to let me know so I can get them made!  Some possibilities are:

How to Sex Adult Ducks and Geese
How to Blow Eggs for Decorating
When and How Should I Help an Egg Hatch?
How to Candle Duck Eggs

What video would you like to see on waterfowl?

I also volunteered to give a presentation on a waterfowl topic.  As there are 25 meeting rooms at this conference facility, it will be easy to schedule and present a waterfowl topic.  What would you like to learn about ducks and geese?  Nutrition as they grow, treating diseases, handling injuries, housing needs, waterfowl flooring, techniques of hatching.....?  If there seems to be a topic of interest, I will schedule a presentation to share what I know and then encourage a sharing of knowledge from those in attendance.

The dates are Friday October 28 through Sunday October 30 and it will be at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.  There will be a Junior and Open show.  You can mail your birds to the show and pick them up when you arrive.  For more information on the show, go to the Crossroads Poultry Club website.  This will be continually updated as more information is available.  There are also many informative articles on the show in the Poultry Press.  In addition, there are two Marriott Hotels and a Sheraton Hotel giving special rates to show attendees.... but book your rooms soon!

It seems like I am really pushing this show.  Well I guess I am - it is the best way to meet poultry enthusiasts such as yourself and the more that attend... the merrier!  See you in Indianapolis!

John Metzer