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March 13, 2011

Our Pekin Duck Breeding Program

Originally posted by John Metzer on Mon, Feb 21, 2011 @ 09:57 AM 

 All my Pekin breeding stock comes from Grimaud Freres, a French poultry breeding company. I have many customers that grow Pekin ducklings year round - some purchase ducklings weekly, others every other week, and others monthly. To supply these ducklings, I import Pekin breeding stock twice year.

Two sets of eggs are brought in for these Pekin breeders: the male line and female line eggs. Of course males and females hatch from both sets of eggs. But it is the females from the female line and males from the male line that are kept for my breeders. The remaining birds, called off-sex, are sold as commercial ducklings (to be grown for meat). With this type of breeding program, the selection emphasis on the female line is for excellent egg production and high fertility. The male line is bred for larger size, fast growth, and excellent feed conversion. When you cross a male from the male line with a female from the female line, you produce a large number of ducklings that grow quickly with good feed conversion. My Grimaud Hybrid is called the Star 53 by Grimaud Freres.

I was visited recently by Laurent Bomard, Grimaud's Western Hemisphere representative 
(on the left in the picture).

Laurent explained that Grimaud's genetic program is now putting a much stronger emphasis on feed conversion. Feed conversion is expressed as a ratio: the pounds of feed it takes to produce one pound of duck. A feed conversion of 2.00 (or 2.00:1) means it takes two pounds of feed to produce one pound of live duck – a seven pound duck would have eaten 14 pounds of feed. Of course the desire is to reduce this number. With increasing feed costs, the feed efficiency of commercially grown poultry is critical.

Muscovy ducks and individual feeding stations behind them.

Grimaud has developed equipment to measure the feed conversion of each individual duck in a flock. With this information, they can select the better converting ducks for breeding stock. Each duck has a chip implanted in its neck (much the same as is done with horses and dogs for identification purposes). Each feeder can only be used by one duck at a time. When the duck reaches for feed, the scale automatically weighs the feed. When the duck leaves, the scale again weighs the feed and records the difference as feed eaten by that particular duck. The advantage of this system is each duck does not need to be penned separately to record the feed consumption – they can be grown in a flock.

The back side of the feed hoppers.  Notice the Muscovy on the other side of the short wall.

For large operations, feed conversion is critical. Assume you grow 10,000 ducks a week, their feed conversion is 2.4:1, you process them at 7 pounds live weight and feed costs you an average of $340 a ton. With this scenario, you will use 4368 tons of feed, costing $1,485,120 in a year. Now let us assume you grow our Grimaud Hybrid ducks and achieve a feed conversion to 2.3:1. With everything else constant, you have just saved 182 tons, or $61,880 dollars a year. Even if you are only growing 100 ducks a week, you will save $618 a year.
Grimaud started with Muscovy ducks and became the world's leader in Muscovy breeding (France consumes much more Muscovy than Pekin duck meat). They then turned to Pekins, rabbits, pigeons, geese and guineas. Our French Toulouse geese are of Grimaud breeding as are our Pearl Guineas.
The other major, international breeder of Pekin ducks is Cherry Valley of England.  Both companies sell breeding stock internationally.  I visited Cherry Valley in 2008 when I was in Europe visiting hatcheries and researching which new incubators to get for our hatchery.  Both companies are excellent Pekin breeder companies.
Is anyone doing any selection on their ducks or geese for characterisitics other than size or appearance?


  1. Dear john,
    Introduce my name is Iwan Dharmawan, from Indonesia. I am very interested to breed the peking duck like the one on your farm. How do I can buy your eggs from you for my breeding program in indonesia?
    Please contack me immediately via e-mail address:
    I am very forward to hearing from you soon.
    Thank you.

  2. Farm Science, gotta love it! Very interesting topic, thanks for it!

  3. Dear John,
    I had been breeding manager at the Guide Dogs for the blind for ten years.
    My job was to select and breed healthy Labrador puppies with no hereditary disease,temperamentaly suitable to be trained as working dogs.
    I has nothing to do with goose& ducks but I realy enjoy reading your article.
    I also like your question about breeding for more than size and apperiance.
    It is very important issue,the responsible breeding.There are many different ways people breed animals around the world and sometimes they focus on just one or two characteristic at the same time forgeting all the others.
    It looks like you have many years of experiance and that you realy like your job.I wish you all the best luck with your projects.
    Greetings from Norway
    Davorka L.Andersen

  4. Davorka: Thank you for your comments. We have friends that raised about 8 dogs for that program through our 4H youth program. In addition, my daughter is in college and one of the students in her program is raising a pup for the program, too. Keep up the good work! John

  5. Dear John,
    When I look back at our breeding programe - I have to laugh!
    My husband just said something very funny..."of course it has to do with the ducks! You had to breed labradors who would not chase them!
    I realy enjoyed my job,gathering the information from puppy raising families,trainers,other guide dog schools around the world,visualy impaired people...
    I belive that it is very important to have a clear goal and priority list while breeding animals.
    In our case the top priority was to breed healthy dogs because it is very difficult for blind people to loose their best friend after two or three years due to the health issues. hips,eyes,elbow...etc had to be clear for the minimum of 4 generation.

    Temperament was also top priority and we realy had to breed dogs who would not chase bird or a cat while guiding a blind person.
    Guide dog has to take many difficult and stresy trafic situations and stay focused for hours...some things are traineble some tings are not.
    Some charasteristics - like searching drive is positive with labradors that search for drugs at the custom service but undesireble for guide dogs...they should not sniff around while guiding the blind....
    In order to keep the control over our breeding plan we used artificial insemination 100% and kept our own seed bank at the Vet.University in Oslo.
    The idea that you can use frosen seed after 15 years( if you need exactly that type of dog) is realy wonderful because that male does not even have to be alive.
    I was wondering how does it look like when breeding so many different types of ducks and geese?
    How do you gather all the relevant information and what are the most important characteristic that you whant to keep in your breeding?
    Is it mostly defined by the demands of the market or do you have some personal manuvering space to follow your own instincts and experience?

    I hope you don`t mind all my questions,I find it very interesting comparing to the dog breeding.

    Unfortunately my husband and I had to sell our guide dog school last winter but I still like to read about the breeding....

    Kindest regards

    Davorka L.Andersen

  6. It is challenging with so many different breeds. I have described in this blog what Grimaud does with their Pekin breeders. Our primary goals for our non-Pekin ducks and geese here are health and confirmation (body structure and coloring). We do not have the time or resources to identify individual birds in our breeding program and identify their progeny and follow their production. We can only remove birds from our young and older breeder flocks that do not have the characteristics we desire. I would love to be more scientific but it is not necessary with so many breeds for which their primary purpose is to provide pleasure to their caretakers.

  7. Dear john,
    Introduce my name is sk magdum, from India. I am very interested to breed the pekin duck like the one on your farm. How do I can buy your eggs from you for my breeding program in India?
    Please contact me immediately via e-mail address:
    I am very forward to hearing from you soon.
    Thank you.

  8. John,

    Is Grimaud (or any other company) doing similar research with Embden geese? I'm located in New England and very interested in raising both Pekins and Embdens with the emphasis on production and feed efficiency. If you would email me directly about this topic that would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance for your time,

    Lucas Fletcher

  9. I bought two peking ducklings March 3, 2011, knowing and hoping I would have a pair. A customer told me to pick a large one for the male and a smaller one for a female. They turned out to be a pair. Well, around November she stopped laying her large egg every day and has not laid since than. Is this normal for the winter months in Michigan. I also have 14 New Hampshire hens who are laying less due to the cold. I think it might be due to changing their farm made organic laying mash which uses the Ferrel products (I can't affod to buy those products until I buy a grinder and more money), and the change to about a 10 by 13 foot pen for the winter near the house (I will never do that again). I did this so I would have a small green house for my seedlings too. ALso, what do you mean when you say eggs from the female line and from the male line. I am having a hard time finds books on raising ducks.

  10. Yes, it is common for ducks and chickens to lay fewer eggs in teh winter as the days are getting shorter. For more information on promoting higher egg production year round, go to Care and Management on the main menu, and then Maximizing Duck Egg Production.

    A female line is a strain of ducks that have been bred for those characteristics important in a female: high egg production and fertility. A male line is a strain of ducks bred for those characteristics important in the male: fast growth, high meat yield, good feed efficiency. They could both be the same breed, but just two different strains selected for different traits. You cross the males from the male line with females selected from the female line. The females lay lots of highly fertile eggs and the progeny grow fast with lots of meat due to the father's traits.

  11. Thank you John;

    After reading your answer this morning, and meditating on what it meant, I finally got it. I will also strive to creat the same genetic traits too. One thing I have discovered, is one of my females is laying a round egg and one is laying an almond shaped egg and I found that the ducklings do do well in those eggs during incubation, etc so I will only use those females for food and blow egg crafting from now on. All females are valuable so I will only cull those with deformities and segregate the ones not used for breeding. I also discovered when duck eggs are not refriderated and than not used for hatching, if hard boiled and used for food, the taste is why too strong for me. I refriderate eggs I use for food to prevent the strong taste from occurring. Hatching eggs aren't refriderated. Thank you for your answer.

  12. s/b "ducklings do not do well in almond shaped eggs during incubation and the first 7 to 10 eggs from a young breeding group should also not be used for incubation.

  13. Hi,I have a question.If I buy some ducklings from the grimaud freres strain,and I have both males and females,will they be able to breed when they grow up? And will their duckling beable to breed ?

  14. Yes, they will be able to reproduce and their progeny will be able to reproduce - no problem.

  15. I really miss breeding waterfowl, although my main concern was breeding show quality birds, the Pekins were my favorite breed. It was the breed I started with and the last I had. There is something about a massive 14 lb drake Pekin that I would take over any other colored duck or goose. I am assuming with what you are saying, that you don't breed pekins based on the american standard of perfection, but rather on a pure commercial type enterprise. They sure do eat a lot of food, but taste great.

    1. You are correct about the Pekins. As we sell thousands each week to commercial growers, we select our Pekin breeders with them in mind - not the Standard of Perfection. For all other breeds we do select using the Standard of Perfection.

    2. Hi, above you said that a pair of Grimaud Pekin Ducks can breed and their progeny can breed; is this without any inbreeding deformities? Can the offspring continue to breed with each other and back with the original drake and hen (parents) without any concerns? I don't want to show I want to breed and hatch their eggs, keep a few to breed again and cull what I choose for personal consumption. Can this be done without too much inbreeding or should I purchase more pairs from you?
      One more Q. if I may: can any breed of duck cross breed (I know they can physically) without any concerns for the outcome of their progeny? Which characteristics do they take on, the drake or the hen? Whichever line is more dominant?

    3. You do not need to worry about inbreeding with the Grimaud Hybrid progeny. They are a cross of two different strains of Pekin when you get them. So it would take a lot of father on daughter mating to produce inbreeding.
      Yes, you can cross any breeds of ducks and not worry about the progeny. In fact, the progeny will probably be healthier because they are a cross. It is hard to say which characteristics they will have as it is done so infrequently. Normally it is an average of both parents (plus an improvement due to heterosis).

  16. This is Mrs. Josefina A. Agoncillo ( of San Pablo City, Philippines. I am presently the President and COO of 3J FOODS CORPORATION engaged in poultry raising and operating a Hatchery and Dressing Plant. I am interested to start Peking Duck raising in my farm and would like to know if I can source it from your company. Also I would like to know the procedure and requirements needed for buying same from you. I will highly appreciate your early response regarding my request. Thank you. .

  17. Mrs. Agoncillo: I will email you directly to answer your questions. Thank you.

  18. Dear John,
    Im confuse because there are people who said cherry valley breed and at the same time also pekin breed. You said Cherry Valley ducks is a company that breeds Pekin Ducks? Thats the truth fact right? Thats why there's no information regarding cherry valley breed right?

    1. Cherry Valley is not a breed. As you said, Pekin is a breed, Ayelsbury is a breed, Cherry Valley is a breeder. They may have their own special strain of Pekin duck that they might call 3M or 456X but they are all based on the Pekin breed.

  19. Dear John,

    This is Jimmy Mondonedo ( from the Philippines. Our family ventured into Pekin Duck farming during the early 70's but we had to close it down since the market was not ready for it at that time.

    Currently I'm in the process of reviving the Pekin Duck Farm. Im planning to put up a growing farm as well as set up a breeding farm. I would like to know the process and requirements of ordering and shipping hatchable broiler and breeder eggs here in the Philippines. Is there a minimum amount to place an order? What are the cost involved aside from the cost of the eggs?

    I will appreciate if i can hear from you soon regarding my inquiries. Thank you.

    1. Jimmy:
      Please contact us directly at
      Thank you very much.

  20. Can someone explain to me why my Pekin duck is producing Black Swedish babies with my Welsh Harlequin drake? The first time it happened, I figured I had mixed up the eggs, as I also have a "true" Black Swedish duck. But it has happened again and I'm certain this time I didn't mix up the eggs. There are no other drakes of breeding age in the vicinity.

    1. You are hatching ducklings that look like Black Swedish but are not Black Swedish. I am not that familiar with the genetics but I know if you cross a Pekin male with Khaki Campbell female, 100% of the progeny will look like Black Swedish - but obviously they are not Black Swedish. I hope this helps. If you have more interest in genetics, I would buy Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread as he has a good section on genetics and feather coloring.

  21. hi John,
    what is the genetic strain that breed the fastest with the lowest food conversion rate (FCR)? what's the major difference between the English (cherry valley), French (grimaud), American (Rhode Island or maple leaf farm), and so on? I'm looking to breed the genetic strain that has the lowest FCR while most healthy bird in term of egg production and meat production. How many I get your French genetic strain to grow in Melbourne, Australia)? Please contact me via xiong96 at; I'm looking forward to hear from you soon.
    Kind regards,