The Welsh Harlequin Duck
Size: 4.5 – 5.5 lbs.
Grooming: Clip wings if keeping as pets
Exercise: Needs at least 10'x10' waddling/living space per duck
Environment: Usually happy in the yard with a garden and/or pond.
Diet: Insects, Amphibians, Snails, Small Fish, Algae and Aquatic Plants, Lettuces, and Duck Feed
Temperament: Calm and Placid
Interesting facts: Developed and named in North Wales from Khaki Campbell ducks, today the Welsh Harlequin is considered critically endangered. Its light color may make it more vulnerable to predators. Ducks oil their feathers (enabling them to float) by activating a preen gland on their rumps.
Appearance: A beautiful duck, the drake (male) has a green and bronze head and ringed neck. The breast and shoulders are a rich red-brown and white, the underbody is creamy white, and wings are somewhat tortoiseshell. The duck (hen/female) is honey-fawn with a darker rear-end and striking tortoiseshell wings.
Personality: Their calm makes them excellent pets, especially when hand-raised. Ducklings can "imprint" on humans. Easily exhausted, a balance of attention and rest are vital for babies. Average egg-laying is 100-200 eggs per year, with most laying in spring and summer. Males have a high libido and can be aggressive if competing over females, so one male per five females is ideal. Remove aggressive males to protect hens from injury. Fun to watch and great pets, ducks are however messy due to their love of splashing around in their water. Plus, their poop can quickly ruin lawn or garden areas.
Life Expectancy: 9-12 years
Common Health Problems: Injury and wire cages can cause bumble-foot (a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction) so it’s best to provide plenty of outdoor time. In general, ducks are very healthy and, unlike chickens, do not usually require vaccinations. Salmonella is a concern, hand washing after handling ducks or eggs is important. The biggest “health concern” for ducks is predators — including hawks, eagles, rats, foxes, dogs, cats, and raccoons. Close ducks in a coop at night and provide a daytime covered area. Consider wood or concrete for the coop floor to protect from prevent rodents. Make sure fences are secure — predator can sneak through very small holes. Ducks require constant fresh water to clean their eyes and bills.
Best Match: For first timers, juvenile or adult ducks may be best. Ducklings must live in a brooder, stay dry, and can drown or choke on food and other objects. That said, ducklings are fun. Check local ordinances as two adult ducks is a common in-town limit. Ducks are social, so a solo bird is not advisable. They can be noisy, but some breeds, such as the Cayuga, are quieter than others. Welsh Harlequin females make noise when laying and often when expecting their morning meal. Do not purchase ducks for Easter without a long-term plan. Ducks live about 10 years, so before ordering, find a friend or family member with a farm who can either take them when full grown or watch them in an emergency or while you’re away.
- Females are typically louder than males, so if you don't need a ton of eggs, you may want a male and a female. However the Welsh Harlequins are good sitters, so watch for eggs lest you end up with unwanted babies.
- Ducklings and domestic ducks cannot be “set free” at a pond or other outdoor location as they will likely starve and will certainly not enjoy a long life.
- Duck eggs are recommended for hard boiling or baking as they are higher in fat and protein than chicken eggs.
- The duck enthusiast may enjoy showing their ducks at county fairs.
Suggested reading: Choosing and Keeping Ducks and Geese by Liz Wright (2008) and Storey's guide for Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread (2000).
How to get a Welsh Harlequin: MetzerFarms.com or McmurrayHatchery.com. Many farms ship day-old ducks. This is a fairly safe practice as the ducks mostly sleep throughout their one-day trip. Other endangered species may be available locally. In Eugene, Ancona, Saxony and Silver Appleyard Miniature Ducks are available at Boondockers Farm (Boondockers.sharepoint.com). What makes the Welsh Harlequin ideal is that it is docile, a great layer, and is typically satisfied with garden life since it is a poor flyer.