Magpie ducks may not be the most popular duck breed to keep, but they are high on the list of the most productive.
Known for being decent meat birds and prolific layers of quality white eggs, Magpie ducks fall into the light ducks class. In general, they are described as being calm, friendly, and active. Plus, they are excellent foragers.
There is more to this duck breed than we have mentioned. So, if you intend to keep one as a pet or breed them on your farm, we have provided a detailed profile in the rest of this article. Read on.
The Magpie duck breed came to be in the early 20th century, more precisely, in the 1920s. The creation of this breed is credited to two Welsh men: Rev. M.C Gower-Williams and Oliver Drake.
Of the two men, Oliver Drake did more to make the breed known. He had a strain of the Magpie duck that could become as heavy as 6 pounds within 11 weeks. This strain also had a laying rate of 185 eggs per year.
Following its inception, the Magpie duck breed was entered into the British Water Standards in 1926.
Going by their physical appearance, it has been suggested that Magpie ducks have a Runner duck ancestry. Then it is also thought that the Huttegem duck – an old Belgian duck breed – was also part of the cross-breeding. It is suggested that the Huttegem duck may also have a Runner duck ancestry.
The upright stance, size, and plumage pattern of Magpie ducks are similar to that of the Huttegems and Runners. Hence, the speculation.
While the Magpie duck had been around since the 1920s, it made it to the United States almost 4 decades later. The introduction of Magpie ducks into the USA was facilitated by Isaac Hunter, a Michigan farmer who imported them in 1963.
Then about 8 years after, the popularity of the breed spiked. However, even until this moment, Magpie ducks are one of the least common domestic ducks.
While the plumage of Magpie ducks is predominantly white, they do have black patches on their backs and heads. The black and white pattern of their feathers is similar to that of the European Magpie. Hence, the name.
Note that the black patch on the head of a Magpie duck may eventually fade and become totally white.
Generally, Magpie ducks have an upright carriage. However, they are generally more horizontal when relaxed.
Magpie ducks are light ducks, and as expected, they are pretty small. They have moderately long necks and rounded chests, and they are sized and shaped like Khaki Campbell ducks.
On average, Magpie ducks weigh from 3 to 7 pounds, with the males falling on the heavier end of the range. The drakes typically weigh 5.5 to 7 pounds, while the ducks weigh 4.4 to 6 pounds.
In the first year, Magpie drakes and ducks both have yellow bills. Then in the second year, those of the ducks turn greenish like a cucumber. In drakes, the beaks may develop some green spots as the year passes.
When fully feathered, Magpie drakes have curled feathers on their tails. The ducks, on the other hand, have straight feathers on their tails. This is one of the ways to differentiate male Magpie drakes from females.
Beyond the well-known black and white, Magpie ducks come in other color combinations. These colors include blue and white, chocolate and white, and dun and white. However, only black and white and blue and white are recognized by the American Poultry Association.
On average, Magpie ducks live for 8 to 12 years.
Magpie ducks are bred for 2 primary purposes: meat and eggs.
It might seem unusual to raise Magpie ducks for meat because of their relatively small size. But the Magpie duck meat has excellent flavor and texture – it is regarded to be of gourmet quality. On average, one mature Magpie duck should feed 2 to 3 adults.
Besides being tasty, the carcass of Magpie ducks can be cleaned with ease. This owes to their light-colored underbellies.
Besides being raised for meat, Magpie ducks are one of the most prolific layers.
Magpie ducks do not become layers until they are around 25 to 30 weeks old. On average, they lay around 220 to 290 eggs per year.
The egg of a Magpie duck is white and quite large, with an average weight of 80 grams. After laying around 6 eggs, a Magpie duck may decide to sit on her eggs.
While female Magpie ducks are better sitters than Indian Runner ducks and Pekins, they are not generally broody. In other words, if Magpie ducks decide to go broody, they are pretty consistent and frequent. But they may also choose not to.
Beyond being great sitters, mother Magpie ducks nurture their ducklings pretty well. They monitor and train them for a decent period after they hatch. Compared to the parent breed, the Indian Runner ducks, Magpie ducks are better mothers.
Where to Buy & Cost
You can buy Magpie ducklings from the following online sources:
- Stromberg’s Chicks & Game Birds Unlimited – One duckling goes for $8.99 on their website. But you might get a deal if you buy many chicks at once. (source)
- Purely Poultry – If you are getting 1-15 ducklings, the price starts at $16.10. However, if you are getting 16-30 ducklings or 31+ ducklings, the starting prices are $11.29 and $9.58, respectively. The costs could be higher depending on gender considerations. (source)
Local Farm Supply Stores
Besides the online stores above, you can also get your Magpie ducklings from feed stores or local farm supply stores. They typically have ducklings for sale in spring and early summer.
To be sure, you can reach out to them to know when they will have ducklings for sale. You should also ask if they stock Magpie ducklings – not everyone does.
You may also speak with friends or people around you. They just might know a local farm that raises ducklings for sale.
Raising Magpie Ducks
When raising magpie ducklings, you must get everything right. Housing, safety, temperature, feeding and nutrition, bedding, and every other thing must be spot on. (source)
Brooder and Temperature Regulation
In the early days of their lives, ducklings should be kept in brooders inside an area with controlled temperature. Such an area could be a spare room in your house. This area should also be inaccessible to your other pets (like dogs and cats) since they may harm the young ducklings.
You might build your own brooder, or you may choose to buy one.
So, you will likely have to provide heat for them artificially. You may do this with a heat lamp. Just ensure you get a thermometer, so you can monitor and adjust the temperature.
In the first 3 days, the brooder should be kept at 90-92 degrees Fahrenheit. Then from day 4 to day 7, the temperature should be 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. After day 7, reduce the temperature by 5 degrees every week until they are fully feathered.
To regulate the temperature in the brooder, move the heat lamp closer or farther, depending on the readings.
In other words, when it is too hot, reposition the heat lamp away until you get the appropriate temperature. Then when the temperature is low, move the heat lamp closer until the temperature is right.
Besides temperature regulation, hygiene is vital when raising ducklings. To this end, you should install bedding to absorb poop and moisture. This will keep the brooder clean and prevent the waste from sticking to the feet of the ducklings.
One can use old clothes, old newspapers, or shredded pieces of paper as bedding.
Moving the Ducklings Outdoors
When the ducklings are 4 weeks old, you may start preparing to move them outdoors. Of course, the outdoor area must be protected from all kinds of predators.
If the temperature outside stays above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, then you can allow the ducks to move outdoors.
However, if the temperature in your region varies significantly, wait till when the ducks are around 9 weeks old. At this point, they should have gotten all their feathers. Therefore, they will be able to regulate their body temperature better.
Feeding & Nutrition
Magpie ducklings can eat starter feed for ducklings or chicks. However, if you intend to give chick starter to your ducklings, it must be non-medicated.
Crumbles are highly nutritious, and they come in small broken pieces, so ducklings can eat with ease.
When the ducklings are 2-4 weeks old, switch them to low-protein grower feed or mixed grower feed.
When fully grown, Magpie ducks require around 120 to 150 grams of feed per day. They can thrive on duck feed and standard poultry feed. When it is hard to forage for protein in winter, add game bird feed to their diet to meet their protein needs.
In warmer seasons, Magpie ducks forage for most of their protein. They typically eat smaller animals like frogs, slugs, snails, mosquitoes, lizards, tadpoles, and various insects, among other things.
Of course, besides feed, ducks need to have water. For the ducklings, you may get a waterer. A chick waterer would do, but the ducklings will readily make a mess with this type of waterer.
If you want less mess, you may opt for a single cup waterer.
Fresh water should always be accessible to ducklings. Therefore, you must always replace their water every day as it will get messy.
Do not provide swimming water for ducks less than 4 weeks old. Before that age, ducklings cannot produce preen oil. At this point, their feathers are not waterproof, and they may drown.
Before Magpie ducklings are 4 weeks old, any body of water provided should not be deep.
Magpie ducks are generally decent breeders. But if you intend to breed them, look out for strong-legged active birds. Then look out for prolific layers.
Besides paying attention to female Magpie ducks that are prolific layers, look out for drakes from high-laying families. The laying rate and egg size of a Magpie duck are extensively influenced by the father, too.
All in all, when breeding Magpie ducks, keep a proper ratio of drakes to ducks. In general, a ratio of 1 drake to 5-8 ducks is desirable.
The following are some ideas for Magpie duck names:
- Betty Boop
- Tux (Tuxedo)
You can check this article out for more pet duck names.