Welsh harlequin duck is a relatively new breed that originates from Wales. They are very popular for having a strong desire to mate and reproduce.
Although they are light in weight, these ducks are not good flyers. In most cases, they will only lift of a few inches from the ground and thrust for a few meters.
These ducks are faithful egg layers and are good when raised for them. They are calm, docile and make good pet ducks for your young kids.
In this article, I am going to take you through everything you need to know about this duck breed. This will help you know whether this breed is the right for you.
Welsh Harlequin ducks history
It was in 1949 when Leslie Bonnet a resident of Criccieth, Wales discovered a difference of color mutation among his Khaki Campbell ducks.
This color variation seemed to impress him that he started to breed them selectively. Bonnet was a group captain in the Royal Air Force, an editor and a dedicated duck hobbyist.
In 1968, a Tennessee resident by the name John Fugate imported the first fertile hatching eggs in the United States.
The welsh harlequin ducklings that Fugate hatched multiplied but after several years they dwindled to almost extinction.
This prompted him to import live ducks to continue breeding and increase their genetic diversity. After several years of dedicated breeding, there were enough numbers for sale and their popularity went up.
The popularity of these birds had risen so much and in 1997, they were admitted in the UK poultry club. In 2001, the silver color variety was accepted by the APA leaving the golden variety which is yet to be recognized.
American Poultry Association of standard perfection classifies welsh harlequin ducks as a light duck breed.
These ducks are rare with the Livestock Conservancy listing them on the watch list. This means that if not well bred to increase their numbers, they can easily become extinct and the coming generations may never see them.
Characteristics of welsh harlequins
Welsh harlequin ducks are small to medium birds that weigh between 2-2.5kgs. The drakes are very similar to mallards with a green sheen, dark head, white collar and chestnut shoulders.
The back and wings have a white frosted pattern while the breast feathers are creamy white. Eye color in males is orange; bills are yellowish green while tail feathers are brown or bronze in color.
Female ducks are mostly creamy –white with frosted brown and fawn markings and olive colored bills. Welsh harlequins are very similar to their decedents Khaki Campbell’s.
The chests are often rounded, medium length backs, streamlined bodies, wide spaced legs, full abdomens, concave bills and are long-bodied.
Harlequin feet and legs are orange with short black toe nails on them. As they grow to maturity, the legs turn to brown.
Welsh harlequin ducklings are tiny balls of fluffy downy feathers. These young are easy to sex at hatching where the females have paler bills than the boys with a dark tip.
However, this color difference in ducklings only lasts for a few days and later vanishes. Sexing using the bill color does not guarantee 100% accuracy, though 80% of the sexed chicks are often accurate.
Temperament and Hardiness
These ducks are very calm and good foragers preferring to range and look for their own food. They are docile and are not rowdy like some duck breeds are.
They make good pets because of their calm demeanor posing no threat to your kids. When hand raised, they will easily get used to you allowing you to hold them and cuddle and even feed from your hand.
They love to roam vast areas on the backyard where they forage on small plants, collect seeds, eat insects, bugs, snails and have a bath in the pond to freshen up and preen their body feathers.
Their calm nature allows you to easily integrate them with other duck breeds like Cayuga and others with a calm nature similar to theirs.
Welsh harlequin ducks are extremely hardy and are not deterred by weather and will do well on any type of climate. These birds have a robust immune system therefore not prone to common illnesses.
They easily adapt and do well on any type of soil as long as they get plenty of space to roam and range looking for their own protein.
Although these ducks are adept foragers, do not stop feeding them with their main course of crumbles and pellets. This will help them remain healthy and productive all through.
Welsh harlequin egg laying and uses
Welsh harlequin hens are renowned for their egg laying ability. These birds are prolific layers of 250-300 large eggs in a year.
The eggs have a white eggshell color but can sometimes be speckled. The inside egg is white with a large yellow yoke.
Welsh harlequins are known to have a strong libido and an avid urge to mate. Do not keep many drakes together with a few hens. Make sure you maintain the correct male to female ratio of one male in a flock of 10 females.
This is because chaos will easily erupt and injuries or death may happen during the chaotic and forced duck mating similar to gang rape.
They are good at mating naturally and will often get broody, hatch well and make some of the best mothers.
Welsh harlequin ducklings for sale can be bought from Murray McMurray hatchery. Additionally, hatching eggs can be bought from a few dedicated breeders. However, because these ducks are rare, expect their eggs to cost you more than those of other common breeds.
These birds do not weigh much but have high quality meat that is rich in nutrients and full of flavors. When butchered, welsh harlequin ducks can offer 2-2.5 kg of meat.
Lifespan of the welsh harlequin duck
Welsh harlequin ducks have an average lifespan of about 10 years. However, the time these birds can live is not specified.
When well cared for, pet welsh harlequins can live for more than ten years. Ducks raised as pets have the privilege of getting quality care and therefore tend to live longer.
On the other hand, laying ducks are likely to experience reproductive tract issues due to prolonged laying. Their bodies will get exhausted and most of the body nutrients will be used to make eggs.
In most cases, male welsh harlequin ducks may not live for long because they are often culled for meat. Some baby ducks will die right after hatching due to mortality related issues.
However, ducks that have a good coop, get a well-balanced diet, are treated against diseases and are free from predators are likely going to live for long.
Welsh harlequins are naturally strong, healthy and robust ducks. They are hardy doing well in both hot and cold climates.
These birds do not have a history of diseases meaning they are easy and cheap to raise. They are excellent at foraging where they are able to eat a wide variety of plants, seeds, insects and tasty grubs.
However, as strong as they are, these ducks are often infested with external parasites like mites and lice. These notorious parasites hide under the feathers where they suck blood and damage new feathers.
Because ducks do not require dirt bath like chickens do, diatomaceous earth may not be the best option. Ensure they have enough pools to bath where water will help drown those parasites.
In addition to external parasites, internal parasites like thread and gapeworms are a serious threat. These worms live, feed and multiply inside the ducks body.
Infested ducks are weak, lay few eggs or stop to lay at all, are light in weight and are prone to diseases. To eradicate worms in ducks, seek advice from a qualified bird vet near you on the right dewormer to administer.
Why are welsh harlequin ducks the right for you?
Welsh harlequin ducks are good at free ranging because they are adept foragers looking for their own food. They are predator savvy and will always be on the look out for any possible threat around them.
Free ranging ducks are easy to raise because the cost of feeding them is cheap. They are calm, cool and docile ducks that can be raised as house pets.
These ducks are not noisy and can be kept in an urban setting. They are able to mate naturally without human interference.
Welsh harlequin hens make good mothers where they hatch and raise their brood well. They are faithful egg layers keeping your egg tray full of large white eggs.
The meat of welsh harlequin ducks if healthy and full of tad flavors just like that of game birds.
Raising welsh harlequin ducks in winter
Winter is around the corner and your ducks must make through to the other seasons. These critters do not have warm clothing like us but instead rely on their feathers for warmth.
It is good you know what your welsh harlequin ducks will require before winter starts. Remember that during winter temperatures fall and everything is covered in snow.
Ducks will not hibernate like bears but instead remain active throughout. They will require food, water, shelter and extra warmth to keep warm and stop them from chilling.
So, what do ducks require during winter?
Ducks live in a duck house or a coop. Good housing will keep your birds safe and away from harsh elements.
A good duck coop should be well ventilated to allow free movement of fresh air. It should be properly locked to keep predators like bears, possums and foxes out.
The coop should be located not too far from your house to ensure easy accessibility when need arises. Do not position the coop in an area where flooding may occur because the birds may drown or get cold.
Always make sure that the coop is warm than the outside especially if you have baby ducklings. You can use chicken coop heaters to provide extra warmth especially during the night.
Additionally, utilize the few hours of sunshine during the day by taking your ducks out. This way, they will get natural warmth naturally from the such which is cheap compared to using electric devices to heat the pen.
Litter or any material used as duck bedding is very important. The material should be dry and free from draft, mold and dampness.
Ducks are easily affected by dump environments because they are prone to respiratory issues. Remember that ducks do not roost like chickens and turkeys do.
These webbed birds prefer spending the night on litter. Put a thick layer of bedding especially if the duck coop floor is made of concrete.
As for my baby ducks, I prefer to use dried chopped straw other than pine shavings or sand. Straw is not fine hence becomes hard for them to swallow and suffer from impacted crops.
Welsh harlequin ducks will require a well-rounded meal during winter. The duck food you choose for your birds should be rich in carbs so that it can be converted into fat to help keep their bodies warm.
Ensure you get them enough greens because during this season there are very few weeds or even none for the ducks to forage on.
Be generous and share some of your vegetables like cabbage, spinach, celery, lettuce with them as treats.
Those left overs and table scraps like rice, banana peels, popcorn, peas and whole corn are also good for these birds to eat.
But it is good to avoid foods with too much sugar, salt, butter and seasonings when feeding welsh harlequin ducks. Their digestive systems cannot handle such foods and they can lead to ill health.
Ducks are heavy drinkers and require plenty of clean drinking water to keep their bodies well hydrated. I know it is an uphill task to keep water in liquid state during winter.
But, there are winter duck waterers from Amazon or any tractor supply near you. Most of these waterers have a heated base that will just keep the water a little warm but not hot.
These birds also require water to bath and preen their feathers. So, what magic do you apply during winter to keep them bathing?
There are heated duck pools also available online that either requires electricity or solar power to keep them functional.
Remember that ducks will choose to go out during winter. They do not have combs like chickens do therefore cannot be deterred by frostbites.
Why choose Welsh Harlequin?
This is a good dual purpose duck breed. Although they do not have much meat, they are egg laying machines laying like Leghorns.
These ducks are good on free range meaning they can look for their own food. This will help bring the cost of feeding them down.
Welsh harlequin ducks are calm, docile and make good pets. They sett well, hatch and make some of the best mother ducks.
They are hardy, robust and healthy making them easy to raise on every climate. Harlequin ducks are not noisy and can be raised in an urban setting.
Welsh harlequin ducks are a good and easy breed to raise. They are excellent layers of large white eggs keeping your tray full.
They are very docile and pose no threat to your children. These birds make good house pets and when well cared for, they can live for more than 10 years.
Welsh harlequin drakes have a strong desire to mate and do not need human interference to fertilize the hens.
Do you have Welsh harlequin ducks?
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