The Wood Duck is well known in aviculture, it is considered by many to be North America's most ornamental and most colorful duck. The Wood Duck and it's close relative the Mandarin are often the first ducks a beginner obtains. They are extremely hardy, easy to care for, and will get along well with others in a mixed collection.
Wood Ducks are cavity nesters and will require a raised box for nesting. A ratio of three boxes for every two nesting pairs is recommended. They can breed their first Spring, however fertility is usually better their second year. While their cousin, the Mandarin will commonly trio, I myself have had no success at breeding Wood Ducks in trio's. The breeding season is in Spring, and begins in March in my region, however I have collected eggs as early as February and once in December. Clutches range from 10-16 eggs and are incubated for 28 to 30 days. If the eggs are removed early in incubation the hen will often produce a second clutch. Second clutches will normally consist of less eggs than the first.While most experienced waterfowl aviculturist find wood duck ducklings fairly easy to raise, many people attempting it for the first time find them quite challenging. For the beginner excessive losses of ducklings at about 4-6 days of age is common, and usually results from the fact that they did not settle down enough to begin eating, or did not like the food or the way it was presented.
At Mallard Lane Farms we start our Wood Ducks on Mazuri Waterfowl Starter. Listed below are a few tips that we commonly use to get these ducklings eating.
- Sprinkle foods on brooder floor and onto the ducklings themselves
- Smear moistened food onto sides of brooder
- Place food in small containers of water (we use pickle jar lids) mazuri will float
- Put a duckling of another species (of about the same size) in with them. This duckling will help teach them to eat.
- Feed live meal worms
Wood ducks are available in several different color mutations which include the apricot Wood Duck, white wood duck, and the very beautiful silver Wood Duck and the rare platinum wood duck, all are currently bred in the US.
What does Split to Silver mean?
Split/Silver is a term commonly used to describe those birds that carry the genetics to produce some silver offspring, but are not silver themselves. Split/silver birds most often acquire these genetics by having one parent that is silver.
Listed below are breeding results that I have recorded for some of the silver and split silver pairs listed above. Percentages are approximate and may vary from your own breeding results.
- Pair consisting of two silver birds- all silver offspring.
- Pair consisting of 1 silver bird and 1 split/silver bird- about 50% silver offspring all of the remaining regular colored offspring will be split to silver.
- Pair consisting of one silver bird and one reg bird (not split)- all offspring will be regular colored but all will carry the silver gene and will be split/silver.
- Pair consisting of two split silver birds- about 20-25% silver offspring, of the remaining regular colored offspring about half will be split/silver and half will not carry the silver gene. It is important to note that there is no way of telling the splits from the regular birds in this mating and these offspring should not be sold as split birds as there is only a 50% chance that they will be carrying the silver gene.
How we breed our color mutations
. Some of these traits include but are not limited to:
- Infertility in males
- Smaller clutch size
- Weak ducklings , large % of hatch dies while hatching or soon after
- Skeletal deformities, such as crooked legs or neck
- Shorter lifespan for adult birds
At Mallard Lane Farms we are constantly working to improve the bloodlines of our color mutations, particularly in the white and the silver Wood Duck. We do not breed white on white or silver to silver to produce our whites and silvers. At this time, all of our birds, of these colors that we sell, are out of split pairs or pairs possessing one color mutated bird and one split bird.
We also take great care in knowing what offspring comes from
which birds. Breeding pens are set up so their will be no question as to what
color bird layed which particular egg.
Platinum Wood ducks
The bird pictured here was hatched at Mallard Lane Farms, in 08, she is the offspring of a split/silver hen and a silver drake. She is much lighter colored than a normal silver, almost white, but does not have the pink bill or eyes that a white hen would have. The bill and legs are more the color of apricots. This bird hatched out yellow as whites do, not gray like silvers. I do not have much information about this color at this time, and I am hoping to learn more about it in the 09 breeding season. One interesting fact is that there is no record of any drakes with this coloration, all platinum birds to date have been female.
The picture on the right contains wood duck ducklings of several different colors (and 1 call duckling, right corner). There is 1 apricot, 3 silver, 2 regular colored, and 1 platinum (middle back)
In 2009 we were unsuccessful at raising any platinum males. The original silver male that produced the platinum females unfortunately died early that spring before he could mate with his platinum hen. In 2010 we did have the success and raised a few males in this color. The platinum drake is basically a very light silver. He almost appears to be a cross between a white and silver, however their is no white bred into this bird's background.
See pictures below of 3 different colored male wood ducks. To the left back platinum, back right silver, and front white.
To the right a platinum male and a white male
Below a silver male and a platinum male.
We are still learning about the genetics behind this color, and only have theories as to how platinum works. Right now we believe that this is a sex linked color and it works in much the same way as apricot and white.