Heritage Ducks


Sketched duck

Breed Facts

Status:
Watch

Use:
Meat, Eggs, Pets, Exhibition

Egg Color:
Black fading to white late in the season

Egg Size:
Large

Weight:
Male – 6.5-8 lbs. Female – 6-7.5 lbs.

Temperament:
Docile, Calm

Characteristics:
Prone to predation; Prefers cool climate

CAYUGA DUCK

According to local lore, the Cayuga duck breed was developed from a pair of wild ducks that a miller in Dutchess County, New York, caught on his mill pond in 1809. This report seems to be historically inaccurate and is actually an account of development of the Gadwall duck as reported in Birds of America by John J. Audubon in 1843. Historic local opinion in New York is that Cayugas originated from a population of wild ducks from the region, but there is currently no definitive evidence found to substantiate the hypothesis.

Cayuga Ducks, courtesy of Metzer Farms

Cayuga Ducks

Another story of the creation of the Cayuga duck breed is told by Mr. R. Teebay of Fulwood, Lancashire, UK in Lewis Wright’s 1885 publication The Book of Poultry. Teebay states that the Cayuga resembles, or was identical to, an English black duck breed common in Lancashire in the 1860s. He believed Cayugas may have originated from this stock. He notes that the English black duck had since disappeared in Lancashire, replaced by the popular Aylesbury duck in the 1880s. Teebay’s view on the Cayuga’s origin was supported by an unnamed acquaintance who extensively hunted and trapped in the region and was familiar with both domestic breeds. The hunter, having vast knowledge of the local wild ducks, supported the theory that the Cayuga was derived from the Black duck of Lancashire as opposed to originating from a local wild duck population.

John S. Clark introduced ducks he obtained in Orange County, New York to Cayuga County in the Finger Lakes region of New York circa 1840. He noted at the time that occasionally ducks would develop a “top knot” on their heads. This is further substantiated by Luther Tucker, editor of The Cultivator, in 1851. The ducks were named “Cayuga” after the native people of that area. By 1874, the Cayuga duck was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection. The breed was raised in large numbers on duck farms in New York until the 1890s when the Pekin duck came to dominate the duckling market in big cities.

The Cayuga is a medium-sized, heavy breed. They are similar to an Aylesbury duck in shape and size. They have a long head, and their bill is slightly flattened along the top line. Their medium length neck is slightly arched. They have a broad, full, and prominent breast with a deep, long, and broad body and large, short thighs. Their feet have straight toes with webbing. The stiff, hard plumage of the Cayuga is black with an iridescent green/blue/purple sheen in the sunlight; they may develop white mottling as they age. Sex feathers on drakes are well-curled. They are upright breed with brown eyes, and black legs, and feet that may be tinged in orange in drakes as they mature. Their bill is black but may change to olive. 

The mature Cayuga averages 7-8 lbs. and can obtain most of its diet from foraging when given appropriate areas to explore for food. The meat of the Cayuga is reputed to be of excellent taste, tender, and of fine quality, but the carcass can be difficult to clean because of their dark feathering. Some resolve this problem by skinning the ducks rather than plucking. Some feel the meat has a flavor similar to that of prime beef. They may be butchered as early as 8 weeks, but many suggest the best results come with waiting until 12 weeks.

Cayuga ducks can lay 100-150 large eggs per year that can be used for general eating and baking purposes. They become broody after they have laid 8-14 eggs, and they may become aggressive when they are sitting. Eggs are initially black in color, but as the season progresses, egg color lightens to gray and eventually they become white. They tend to choose seasonal rather than life mates. 

The Cayuga is recognized as one of the hardiest of the domestic ducks and are easily tamed if hand raised. They tolerate the harsh winters of the northeast but need access to shade in hot weather. They are not good fliers. They are a quiet breed that is good for urban/suburban settings; hens tend to be noisier than drakes. They need access to water – be it a pool, pond, or basin – for swimming/bathing. The breed is sometimes used for dog herding trials as they flock well.

Support Cayuga Duck Consergation

The Cayuga is recognized as one of the hardiest of the domestic ducks and are easily tamed if hand-raised. They tolerate the harsh winters of the northeast and can produce many offspring. The Cayuga averages 7 to 8 pounds and can obtain most of its diet from foraging when given appropriate areas to explore for food. The meat of the Cayuga is reputed to be of excellent taste and fine quality but the carcass can be difficult to clean because of their dark feathering. Some resolve this problem by skinning the ducks rather than plucking. Cayuga ducks can lay 100 to 150 eggs per year that can be used for general eating and baking purposes. Eggs are initially black in color, but as the season progresses, egg color lightens to white. The plumage of the Cayuga is uniformly greenish-black and may become mottled with white as they age.


Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.

Heritage Ducks


Sketched duck

Breed Facts

Status:
Watch

Use:
Meat, Eggs

Egg Color:
Black fading to white late in the season

Egg Size:
Large

Market Weight:
6-7 lbs

Temperament:
Docile