Ancona ducks are both rare and beautiful poultry birds. These black and white domesticated ducks have unique and broken-colored feathering patterns that make them both easy to identify and engaging to watch.
Ducks of this breed are classified as multi-purpose or dual-purpose because they are raised for eggs as well as meat.
The beauty and friendly nature of Ancona ducks have also endeared them to backyard keepers and homesteaders alike as farm pets.
Ancona ducks are a medium-weight breed that tends to be calm and intelligent. I believe they are second to only Pekin ducks in barnyard common sense and ease for free-range training.
The average lifespan of Ancona ducks is 10 years in captivity.
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History of Ancona Ducks
Despite their attractive plumage and enigmatic personalities, Ancona ducks have threatened population numbers. According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, members of this duck breed were deemed critically endangered in 2015.
There were just roughly 124 known Ancona duck mature breeder ducks in America a decade ago. Some slight increases of about 1,500 breeding pairs have been noted in recent years.
The little uptick in population numbers prompted the move from critically endangered to “watch” list status.
There has been some heated debate over the exact origins of the Ancona duck breed. Until about 1913 these ducks were thought to have hailed from Great Britain.
It was then the Water Fowl Club of America’s yearbook stated a Knowlesville, New York farmer created the Ancona breed.
W.J. Wirt, the owner and operator of Ridge View Farms, maintained he had crossbred multiple different varieties of American standard breeds of ducks to create the Ancona breed.
Soon after Wirt’s announcement about the new duck breed, Anconas started to take first place in the Wildum Duckery of Rowley show in Boston.
It remains unclear which breeds of ducks were used to create the Ancona. Some duck keepers think there is some body style similarity to the Pekin – which is not a native breed to the United States.
Others look at the Ancona and think that Indian Runner ducks as well as the Belgian Huttegems also were somehow in the cross-breeding mix. Magpie ducks may be a close relative of the Ancona as they share multiple similar physical characteristics.
Ancona Duck Physical Traits
|Medium (6-6.5 lbs)
|Average # of Eggs Laid
|210-280 large eggs per year
|White, tan, blue, green, spotted, cream
|Broken, mottled plumage like Holstein cattle (no set design); solid white neck with yellow bills
|Active but do not fly
|Dual purpose (eggs and meat)
|Country of Origin
- Ancona is known to be a hardy breed, and boasts above-average disease and parasite resistance.
- Duck mating is often rough on the hens as drakes are not prone to be gently amorous. Ancona ducks may be the most mild in the world of domesticated ducks.
- Ancona ducks are classified as medium-class birds based upon their weight. Unlike many heritage breeds of various livestock, members of this duck breed have a fairly fast growth rate.
- Mature ducks of this breed range in size from nearly six to six and a half pounds.
- Ancona ducks have a bill that is concave at the top line and of medium length.
- Ancona ducks are fairly stocky for a medium-class breed. Their body style and bulk is similar to a Magpie but is a little less robust than a Pekin.
- The head on Ancona duck is similar in plumage to the fur on a Holstein cow – but without a standardized feather design. The plumage is a mix of white and colored feathers with broken color areas on not just the head but the back, sides, and underbelly of Anconas, as well.
- The most common plumage coloring on Ancona duck breed members include silver and white, black and white, chocolate and white, blue and white, and lavender and white.
- The head is oval in shape and is connected to a neck that slightly arches forward. The neck of Ancona ducks is always solid white.
- The bill on Ancona ducks is yellow to dark green in color. A tiny amount of black speckling or spotty can also be present on the bill – which is similar to the greenish-black speckling on the bill of a Pekin duck.
- Ancona legs and feet are orange with black or brown markings that appear and become more distinct with age.
- Any chocolate plumage present on an Ancona duck is the result of a sex-linked and recessive trait that is solely carried by drakes. When a chocolate drake mates with a black hen all of the females will be chocolate, and all of the males will be black. When black drake mates with a chocolate hen all of the ducklings will turn out black regardless of sex.
- As is the same situation with all domesticated duck breeds, the Ancona cannot fly – not really. These birds are capable of getting a couple of inches off the ground when flapping their little wings really hard and then moving forward 12 inches or so before their fanciful flight comes to an abrupt end.
- Due to their size and agile nature once mature, Ancona ducks are less often targeted by birds or prey (except for eagles) than some other domesticated duck breeds. There are, however, tragic exceptions to the rule. I have twice found dead mature Jumbo Pekin ducks that a hawk tried to make its dinner dropped on our hilly farm acres away from the barnyard.
Ancona Duck Demeanor And Eating Habits
Members of this duck breed are as hardy as they are sweet. Ancona ducks seem to enjoy human interaction, even though they do not require it in order to survive in the wild. They are not easily startled whether in or outside of the coop and run.
Ancona ducks love to free range and are capable of foraging for up to half of their daily dietary needs. Even when still in the duckling stage a young Ancona will still likely be a voracious forager.
But, unlike Pekin ducks, these beauties rarely venture too far from their living quarters. If you have a small homestead of only five to 10 acres or are a backyard keeper, the Ancona will still have the room to roam when they want to feed themselves.
Some of an Ancona duck’s favorite foraging meals include slugs, insect larvae, snails, tadpoles and small frogs, small fish, tiny lizards, mosquitoes, and wild greens.
To provide a continuous supply of free and naturally healthy food for an Ancona flock, consider using a chicken tractor to safely relocate them to other areas of the homestead or farm to forage for more food once their favorite stomping grounds near the duck house have been depleted.
Ducks typically cause far less damage to a garden area than chickens due to the difference in the rounding of the bill as opposed to a pointy beak.
Still, allowing Ancona or any other duck breed free access to your garden results in trampled ground crops and the loss of possibly your entire patch of lettuce.
Because Ancona ducks prefer to spend as much time on the water as they, investing in some aquatic plants, such as water lettuce and duck week, will help keep the flock in natural food during the winter months, and when they have cleaned out the pests from around their living quarters.
Ancona ducks often make a sound that is similar to the squeaking of a metal hinge while happily foraging for a meal. Members of this duck breed are docile, quiet unless substantially startled, and get along well when living with other duck breeds, chickens, or guineas.
Members of this duck breed are climate hardy in both hot and cold environments. Neither summer humidity nor the chilly winter nights in February seem to deter an Ancona duck’s desire to free range, lounge outside, go swimming, or mate.
When you need to supplement the feed of the Ancona chicken or poultry bird feed can be used.
Waterfowl feed may be best, but it is not usually stocked at agriculture supply stores, especially in rural regions. Game bird feed is highly recommended during the winter months to give the duck a needed protein boost.
Only use non-medicated chick starter when feeding ducklings, medicated chick starter can be very detrimental to the health of the young ducks.
Do Ancona Ducks Fly?
Ancona ducks can fly a few feet off the ground but not higher than trees or rooftops. Most of the time, Ancona ducks will use their wings to help them swim faster or to jump out of the water.
Overall, Ancona ducks are more efficient at moving around by swimming than by flying.
Ancona hens are excellent layers of quality eggs with hard shells, but they are more often than not, awful sitters. This is a highly unusual trait in a heritage poultry bird breed and perhaps part of the reason why their population numbers have dipped so low.
If you want to sustain or increase flock numbers, investing in an incubator would be incredibly wise.
- Hens of this breed usually lay between 210 and 280 large-grade eggs annually.
- Ancona hen eggs can range in color from white to cream and also include light shades of blue.
- These hens rarely ever go broody.
- Ancona duck hens usually lay eggs heavily for five to eight years before the quantity but not quality of the eggs dwindles as they age. The peak laying years are from hatching through age three.
- An Ancona hen’s age gradually increases in size from when she starts laying at around four months old until she reaches maturity.
- An egg laid by a duck hen of this breed weighs approximately 70 grams.
Raising Ancona Ducks for Meat
Ancona duck meat is tender and flavorful, but it has a relatively higher fat content than chicken meat. The meat is juicy, but it’s not as lean as chicken meat. If you prefer lean meat, you might find duck meat unappealing. However, if you’re looking for unique and flavorful meat, Ancona duck should be worth the try.
These ducks can reach six pounds in around nine weeks, making them suitable for meat production. Feeding them with a well-balanced diet is easy, and they mostly consume forage, water plants, and commercial feeds.
On average, Ancona ducks can live for 5 to 8 years. Of course, there are always exceptions – some ducks live up to a decade or more.
The life expectancy of Ancona ducks, like other ducks, can be affected by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and basic care for their needs.
Providing your ducks with a clean and spacious living area, a balanced diet, and daily opportunities for exercise can help them live as long and stay as healthy as possible.
Are Ancona Ducks Good Pets?
Ancona ducks are very social and form strong bonds with their human caretakers. They are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities and will often follow their owners around the yard.
Many Ancona duck owners describe them as “dog-like” in their behavior, making them a unique and charming pet to have.
One thing to keep in mind when considering an Ancona duck as a pet is that they can be noisy. They have a tendency to quack loudly and frequently, which may not be ideal if you live in close proximity to neighbors.
This is something to consider before bringing Anconas home…
Ancona Husbandry Tips
There are no breed-specific husbandry tips for Ancona that are not present for all other domesticated duck breeds.
They need a clean and safe living area, such as a duck house or a duck coop and run. The living quarters need to protect the Ancona duck flock from both the elements and predators.
Clean and dry bedding needs to be inside the living area. Damp and moldy bedding can breed bacteria and cause the growth of mold which can be deadly to the flock.
If the Ancona ducks spend the bulk of their day inside of the run, straw will occasionally need to be spread around the run to dry up the mud created by the ducks hopping in and out of the baby pool and splashing.
Ducks need constant access to clean drinking water, as well. A duck should never be without access to clean water to drink, and at least dip their head and neck into for longer than eight hours.
Growing vegetables, greens, and fruit inside the run (enclosing them in a hardware cloth cage until mature) will simulate foraging and provide a reduced-cost and healthy alternative to supplementing the diet with a substantial amount of grain.
There is really no need to put nesting boxes in a duck house or duck coop. It would be extremely rare for a duck hen to actually lay an egg in a nest like a chicken hen.
But, duck hens (regardless of breed) lay between sunset and dawn, making it easy to know when to search around the coop and to gather delicious farm fresh large duck eggs.
Where to Find Ancona Ducks for Sale
Although Ancona ducks are regarded as being somewhat rare, they are still relatively easy to find. Start your search with an online hatchery.
Some reputable hatcheries include Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms, Mcmurray Hatchery, and Metzer Farms. If you can’t find Anconas with a hatchery – or perhaps would rather buy locally – do some research with the American Poultry Association, which has information on reputable breeders that might be close to you.
When selecting your ducks, look for those that are active, alert, have bright eyes, and do not have any visible signs of disease. Keep in mind that one drake (male) can be kept with up to four ducks (females).
Being a heritage breed, the Ancona was bred selectively to generate specific traits that solidified over generations to ultimately led to a purebred line without distortion of the desired attributes.
Like other heritage breeds of livestock, they tend to be exceptionally hardy and require little to even zero human intervention in order to survive.
Starting or expanding a duck flock using Anconas will add not only more beauty to your barnyard but likely also bolster the hardiness and disease resistance to future duckling hatches.
Due to the docile and social nature of members of this duck breed, they may also help to calm any more anxious and vocal duck breeds you are already keeping.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.