The term Waterfowl relates to ducks, geese and swans. Domestic ducks and geese, (there are no domestic swans), have been selectively bred for meat, eggs or exhibition purposes. It is widely considered that all domestic ducks, with the exception of the Muscovy, have been bred from the mallard and that all domestic geese, except the Chinese, originated from the wild greylag goose.
Ducks and geese are delightful birds and can give their owners much pleasure and enjoyment. They are hardy, very easy to keep and become trusting and responsive particularly with children. There are a wide variety of breeds of duck from the smallest Call Duck, no larger than a pigeon, to the big majestic Aylesbury. Geese are useful as friends, guards and lawnmowers but require a larger enclosure than most ducks. All birds should be enclosed and protected from predators but only need simple housing. Keeping pure breeds of ducks and geese gives the opportunity to take part in preserving some of the old breeds of domestic waterfowl.
The BWA has produced a book on British Waterfowl Standards, with detailed descriptions of the colour, size and shape of all the breeds recognized in the UK. For more information about the book and details of how to buy it click here.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
THE DOMESTICATED DUCK
With the exception of the Muscovy, all domestic ducks are believed to be descendants of the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).
Even in the wild mallard, there is variation in shape, size and plumage. This is what enables the evolution of the species: mutation and natural selection. Under domestication, the process is much more rapid. Humans have selected characteristics resulting from specific mutations and encouraged such birds to breed. This has been going on for thousands of years resulting in the wide variety of domestic breeds seen today.
Domestic ducks are classified into a number of sections - Heavy, Light, Bantam, Runner and Call. The most popular domestic duck today is probably the Call duck. Its small size lends itself to keeping in a relatively small space, it requires less food than other breeds and there is a wide range of available colours.
To keep domestic ducks it is not necessary to have a pond, although it is advisable to have a suitable water container in which the birds can bathe and mate. Consideration should be given as to how the water is changed - there are plenty of wide shallow plastic troughs available which can easily be emptied and moved around to prevent one spot becoming too muddy. One advantage of keeping domestic waterfowl rather than wildfowl is that the birds are likely to take more readily to being shut away in a house at night, reducing (but not eliminating!) the risk of predation.
The following is a list of breeds of domestic waterfowl kept in the UK, based on categories described in the British Waterfowl Standards.
|Domestic geese||Heavy ducks||Light ducks||Indian runner ducks||Bantam ducks||Call ducks|
Buff, grey back
West of England
Fawn & white
American f & w
Black East Indian