Breeding Show Ready Rouen Ducks
Breeding “Show Quality Team” of Rouen Ducks, or any birds for that matter is not an easy task. You need to have passion, and drive to do so. There’s no short cuts in reaching a high quality in Rouen Ducks, and it can sometimes take years to get there. If you’re buying “Show Ready” Rouen Ducks every year just for the purpose of showing them. This may be a short term win but I wouldn’t recommend it in the long run, because unless you really know what you’re doing, the beautiful show birds you bought 6 months ago aren’t going to stay that way. They’ll start to drop weight, lose colour etc.
Do your ground work, start small, and grow your flock along with your experience. This post will be relevant to you if you already have a good understanding of food, housing, habitat and are now at the point of wanting to perfect your flock. On that note I can not stress enough that it is important with all waterfowl that they kept in an environment that has plenty of fresh air, fresh water and good quality food.
1. Foundation is the Key
Your ultimate goal is to always have both perfect males and females. A good flock is always built with sound females and with that comes the good males (with the odd exception to the rule).
Grow your numbers year on year, each year taking the ducks and drakes with physical defects, like bad wings, or toes out of the flock. Any ducks that aren’t sound physically need to go, otherwise it’s just going to cause more problems down the track.
2. Grading Your Flock
The aim is to get all the key qualities on the one bird and to do this you need to start looking at colouring, lacing and wing bars. Grade the birds into different groups based on the quality of mentioned features… picking the best ducks that fulfill the criteria. Once this is done you want to put together groups of ducks that compliment each other. For example…
– Heavy ducks with good bone structure mixed in with nicley laced ducks.
– Ducks with good length mixed in with ducks that are strong in the head and neck.
These are not a guide but more of an example. Your best to pick the traits you want most in your flock. A perfect Rouen Duck doesn’t always breed the perfect offspring. Putting ducks and drakes together with complimenting strengths is an efficent way to breed a solid show team.
In my years if trial and error I have found that flock matting with heavy breeds will give you the best fertility. Individual mating is good when it works… but in my experience valuable time is lost due to low fertility. As a guide I wouldn’t recommend group grading until your flock is at 25 to 50+. The larger your numbers, the more successful this will be. Once you get your flock to the standard you are happy with you can work with lower numbers.
3. Grouping Your Rouens
Once the offspring of your breeding season have coloured up you need sort them into 3 groups. Culling the ducks with defects will be detrimental to your future flock. Any birds with physical defects should be pulled before they colour up, physical defects don’t change.
Your main group will be primary flock. The primary flock will be the pick of the bunch weather it be for breeding, or showing. They will contain as many of the key features as possible. They will be the birds you feel like are the cream of the crop.
Your second group will be your spare parts flock. These will be the ducks that may not have it all, but have particular strong points like lacing, and/or colouring that you feel would be beneficial in the development of your flock for the future. This flock is detrimental in further developing your primary flock. In the years to come your ducklings may throw one way, or another and you’ll need birds with dominate traits the throw your flock back into balance
4. Rinse, and Repeat
Do the prior 3 steps every year, fine tuning your flock to become a force to be reckoned with come show time.
Sometimes it takes a couple of years to really build the numbers in your best Rouen Ducks, so you may need to utilise your ‘spare parts’ group for a while to build a strong foundation. Focus on the bells and whistles when the times right, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to remove the defected birds from your flock. If you don’t, you’re just going to run in to more trouble down the line and potentially lose a lot more birds then you would’ve otherwise.
Breeding top quality ‘Show Ready’ Rouen Ducks is not something you can do in a year, and sometimes it’s a 5-10 year commitment to really breed up top quality ducks, so be sure you’re in it for the long haul
N.B. These posts are only my thoughts and opinions, and you should always consult with your local vet on any medical issues, or defects. I have been breeding waterfowl since 1962 and with the wins I’ve had I have also had many challenges in flock development and some tough lessons learned. I only hope that my insight can help develop people’s flocks for the love of good quality birds in the many years to come. There nothing better in life then looking out and seeing a beautiful flock of birds you’ve developed and grown.