Ancona Duck: Complete Breed Guide

Ancona Duck: Complete Breed Guide

The Ancona duck is a large dual-purpose duck breed that’s beautiful, friendly, excellent at foraging, and has recently been experiencing a surge of popularity. For a long time, they were listed by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) as “critically endangered.” However, a census taken by the ALBC in 2015 has found between 1000 and 1500 breeding birds (compared to only 125 in 2000), bumping their status up to “watch.” They are a wonderful breed and their popularity will likely continue rising.

Anconas originated in England in the 20th century. They were bred for the express purpose of being a homesteading duck for people who wanted a few family ducks for eggs and meat.

They’re always pied, like pinto horses and Holstein cattle, with random color patches that are usually either black, buff blue, chocolate, lilac, silver, or lavender, with black-and-white being the most common. You can see a variety of Ancona colors here.

ancona duck

Their feet are orange and bills are yellow, and often covered in spots and dark patches.

They’re similar to the Magpie duck, although stockier.

They are excellent layers, producing 210-280 large blue, green, gray, cream, or white eggs a year.

They’re not the best broody ducks, but they do sometimes go broody, and when they do, they’re usually decent mothers.

Anconas make good meat birds, as they grow fast and have meat that isn’t as fatty as Pekin meat.

Ancona ducks weigh approximately 5 (2.3 kg) to 7 (3.2 kg) pounds, with drakes generally weighing slightly more.

They are considered to be one of the friendliest breeds of ducks, and they’re also usually quite calm, don’t wander far from home, and are very hardy and disease-resistant. Moreover, they’re excellent foragers.

Their flying ability is poor and their normal lifespan is approximately ten years.

They are one of the best possible choices for any duck raiser.

ancona duck breed infographic

Photo and Video Gallery
three ancona ducks outside
Photo credit: “DucksGrownUp” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Miles Away Farm
ancona duck breed
Ancona Ducks
ancona duck
Ancona duck

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    1. I think you should either get another adult, or a juvenile. A duckling would have a hard time because the other duck would not adopt it, so it would be alone and abandoned until it got older. If you opt for a duckling, you would need to get more than one so they won’t be lonely while they grow up. You would also need to provide protection and a heat source, since they won’t have a mother.

      Hope that helps!

    2. How can I tell a male from a female Ancona. I must received one so I have a few questions. How do I get it use to me, it seems to not have had much contact with people it runs from me.

      1. Hi Janet,

        Male ducks often have a curly “sex feather” on their tail. Female ducks also have a distinctive quack, while males have a hoarser, softer quack. You can hear several examples in this video:

        To get a wild, fearful duck used to you, start by simply spending time in the enclosure with it. If you have time, you could read a book in their pen or check emails or something. If not, you can perhaps at least sit in the pen while you feed the duck. Find out how far away you have to get before the duck is comfortable, and then try to slowly reduce that boundary. For example, if the duck is comfortable eating while you’re ten feet away, then start while sitting and watching the duck from ten feet away. The next day, you can sit nine feet away. Eventually, you should be able to be very close to the food bowl while the duck is eating, and from there you can slowly progress to letting the duck eat out of your hand. Touching a fearful duck is difficult, though. I have two ducks who flew away from their home and somehow landed at my place. I don’t know where they came from, so I kept them. They were extremely fearful, and I still can’t touch either one without them freaking out and running away. But if the duck has handled everything so far fairly well, you can start moving your hands around it and gradually getting closer until you touch it on the back for just one second. Keep it distracted with food while you do this. In general, though, you never want to go too far outside your duck’s comfort zone, or you’ll terrify them. You just want to nudge at the borders of their comfort zone and slowly push those borders back over the course of a few weeks without overwhelming them.

        Anyway, sorry that was long, but I can give you more tips if you’d like.

        If this is your only duck, please get a second. Ducks are social animals and don’t do well without others of their kind. Good luck with your new duck!

        Hannah Miller

  1. My husband picked Anconas as our backyard duck, we have a small flock, and it was definitely a wise decision. They got along with the geese, mostly ignoring them, they lay plenty of eggs, and love to get out every morning to bug hunt at dawn, or as early as we can get to them and let them out. I haven’t had an issue with predators going after them except coyotes so the ducks go into their kennel at night when we feed them. I raised Khaki Campbell’s as a kid and don’t think they’re quite as hardy as the Anconas. I have one female that broke a foot as a duckling that I didn’t see early enough to splint but she pulled through. She hobbles around everywhere, when she was younger I had to free her from roots and things she’d get her leg stuck in but she is now in her second year going strong. She doesn’t keep up with the flock but she has herself all worked out and even contributes to the egg laying. If you raise them you’ll find at least a few with their own personalities and habits apart from the flock (in addition to their own color markings). I’m so glad we chose Anconas.
    To Donna’s question, ducklings require special care but Anconas do grow fast. An adult will mean less work for you but cost more to purchase. It’s really up to your needs and situation. I’d probably get an adult unless I wanted to get a few birds, then I’d get ducklings.
    Think of it as an opportunity to diversify your flock. 🙂

  2. I thought these ducks had been taken off the endangered list? Is there really only about 200 breeding ones left still??? I have a good mama duck that is laying 12 to 13 number egg batches. She has hatched two already this spring! So my flock of one pair has quickly ground to nearly 30 within a couple months!

  3. Sorry this comment is repetitive, but I haven’t seen it post. Are there really still only about 200 breeding ones?? I had a pair, and my mama duck has laid TWO batches of eggs and hatched them already this spring? Large batches, too. Now I have nearly 30!

    1. Comments don’t show up on the site until I approve them. 🙂

      You’re right, that data is outdated. I just visited the Livestock Conservancy website, and they are now listing Ancona ducks under the status of “watch” rather than “critically endangered.” The Livestock Conservancy defines “Watch” as: “Fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the United States, with ten or fewer primary breeding flocks, and estimated global population less than 10,000.”

      Their latest census, from 2015, says that there are between 1000 and 1500 breeding birds, mostly from private breeders, but also a few from large hatcheries. I guess “breeding birds” doesn’t include casual/hobby backyard breeders or duck owners like you, only official “show quality” birds that meet the breed standard, so the entire population is much larger.

      You can read about the census and its information here:

      Thanks for bringing this up. I have updated the article.

  4. I have a question. Do Ancona ducks mate for life? I only want 4. We have a small farm and a pond. Not really into raising them but I didn’t know if I should get 2 males and 2 females.

    Robin L Jackson
    1. Hi Robin,

      No, ducks don’t mate for life (although geese do). A better ratio would be one drake and three females. (More than one drake, in a small flock, may cause fighting and overmating.) Or, better yet, assuming you don’t want to breed, go for four females. There is no reason to have a drake unless you plan to breed. Drakes don’t protect their girls the way roosters do, and the ducks will happily go about their lives and lay eggs just the same without a drake.

      Hope that helps!

      Hannah Miller

      1. Hi, this is my first time ever hatching baby ducks. I currently have a momma duck that has successfully hatched one baby so far. There are 3 other eggs that have made a small hole in their egg. The first baby started to hatch yesterday. I feel like this is a silly question, but when i let my ducks out this morning( I have a flock of only 2 girls and 3 drakes, not that combination on purpose) the momma duck just walked out and is out foraging with the other ducks. I’m worried the baby that just hatched and the babies that are trying to hatch, will get cold. Should I put a heat lamp outside on them? Also, I feel silly asking, but what will the baby ducks need for food? Will they eat the big duck food I put out? And should I give them a low dish for water?

        Thank you!

        1. Hi Catherine,

          Walking out and leaving her babies is strange. I don’t know why she would do that, but some ducks just aren’t very good mothers. Yes, yes, the babies definitely need heat. If you can’t get her to sit on them again, then you need to quickly transfer the eggs to a makeshift incubator with a heat lamp. The temperature should be about 99 degrees during hatching. Hopefully she’ll take care of them after they’re all hatched, but be aware that it’s possible she has just given up on being a mother, which will require you to care for the babies yourself.

          It would probably be best to buy food specifically for baby ducks or chicks. Layer feed for adults has too much calcium for ducklings. And they will need a low dish, yes. They shouldn’t be able to climb into it, though, because ducklings can get cold and drown very easily. They can have supervised baths once or twice a day (once they’re a little older), but their waterer shouldn’t be able to double as a bathtub for safety’s sake. A chick waterer is ideal.

          Here’s an article about feeding ducklings:

          Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

          Hannah Miller

    1. He’s a bit big for them, but I think you can probably mix them, at least if you have more than just two or three Runners. But keep a close eye on them and separate him if it becomes necessary.


    2. Hello.. My male duck also lost his mother recently. My wife and I are very sad. We gave birth to them in the incubator… Now we don’t know what to do. I should reject the duck or get a mate for it.