Highland Glenn Ranch is thrilled to be the home of beautiful Ancona ducks! The Ancona is a hardy, adaptable, dual-purpose, heritage breed that forages better and has superior laying ability compared to most other dual-purpose breeds.
Our flock is the generous contribution of a farm friend who had to relocate. Her chicks came from Boondocker’s Farm in Oregon who acquired the original Holderread Waterfowl Conservancy flock; their breeding flock is comprised of stock from breeder/author Carol Deppe, too.
Developed in Great Britain during the early 1900’s, it is thought the Ancona originated from Runner ducks and an old Belgian breed called Huttegen. They have been raised in the United States for several decades and in 1983 were first exhibited in Oregon.
The rare Ancona has been designate critically endangered by The Livestock Conservancy (formerly American Livestock Breeds Conservancy). Although their numbers have been increasing since 1984 when they first became available to the public, they are still in dire need of conservation breeders. Excellent egg laying qualities, being good mothers, tasty meat, and calm disposition all make them a valuable addition to any sustainable homestead or backyard flock.
Averaging 6 to 7 pounds, Ancona ducks sport a flashy, pinto-style white pattern unique among duck breeds; there is no set design so ducks can easily be identified even at a distance. Color varieties include Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lavender, Silver, and Tricolor. Iridescent sheen can be found on some black and chocolate birds. Any combination of white and color is acceptable as long as there are broken areas on the head, backs, sides, and under body. The neck is normally solid white, bills are yellow with dark green or black spotting, and the legs and feet are typically orange with black or brown markings that increase with age. (Holderread 2001, 53). Eyes can be blue or brown. There is such a high variability in both color and markings in the Ancona that they are truly unique as individuals!
The Ancona tends to be an active forager, lending themselves well to free-range situations. They require minimum supplemental feed with adequate grazing area. They will rid your garden of many unwanted pests, including large banana slugs and grasshoppers! The lead female Ancona makes all the foraging decisions, controlling the movements of the flock. Ancona have large and very hardy legs and feet compared to other ducks, which likely gives them improved foraging ability on rough and rugged or heavily wooded properties. They also make excellent pond or yard ducks since they tend to stay close to home, do not fly under normal conditions and are large enough so that they are less likely to be preyed upon by winged predators, yet are also prudently watchful.
Ancona are prolific layers, annually giving 210-280 jumbo white, cream, blue-green, or spotted eggs, even in winter. They grow quickly, reaching a market weight of approximately 5 pounds at nine weeks old, resulting in a medium roaster. The meat is very high quality, more flavorful, and less fatty than the average meat duck.
Ancona flocks make strong social bonds. Unique to Ancona’s, there is a high percentage of female-led social hierarchy in Ancona duck flocks. This usually means less stress during mating season and more active foraging compared with other duck breeds. The lead female is the one that goes to find forage, whereas males of other species often keep their girls from finding precious food for their eggs. In general, this subtle hierarchy of the flock is not demanding or stressful to flock members; dominance isn’t that important to them. They are very accepting of all flock members. Even the least dominant bird is a respected member, allowing her to be happy which keeps her laying well.
Mildly talkative, Ancona’s have distinctive vocalizations, various foraging calls along with softer chirps of numerous sounds. Ancona’s have lovely personalities, are very friendly and will gladly sit with you if raised with proper handling. They make nice pets! Ancona’s are calm and laid-back, not hitting the panic button at the slightest disturbance. They dog-break very quickly and work wonderfully, great for starting our English Shepherd puppies!
“I think part of what makes Ancona’s so much fun is that you can tell all the individuals, at least you can if you keep all the colors and patterns. I think separating them by color is a step in the wrong direction. Also, part of their behavior may depend upon the fact that they can so easily tell each other apart. I noticed that Ancona’s treat single-color breed ducks as generic ducks, not as individuals. I also suspect the vigor of the breed is because they are very heterozygous for all the chromosomes involving color genes. Pure color groups is just a bad idea, I think. It is failing to appreciate what is unique about this breed.” -Carol Deppe, Ancona Duck Breeder, 2010.
Production: the Ancona is a great dual-purpose duck. They are excellent layers of jumbo-sized eggs. The eggs are white, cream, blue-green, or spotted. The Ancona boasts a long egg production period, even in winter, and lay 210 – 280 eggs yearly. In the medium class, their meat is flavorful and of high quality.
Temperament: Ancona’s are a good backyard duck. They are calm and typically don’t wander as long as forage is available. They are also sensible and savvy which make them careful and less vulnerable than many other breeds of duck. They do not fly.
Colors: Ancona are white with spots and splotches of color, with no pattern to the spots. The spots can occur on feet and beak as well as on the feathers.
Conservation Status: Critical
Body Type: Ancona’s are a medium sized duck with a stocky build. They have strong feet and legs, and they are slightly large for the size of the body.
Standard Weights: Males 7 lbs.; Females 8 lbs.
American Poultry Association Class: Not recognized yet but would be classified as a Medium Duck.