The Cayuga is almost umistakable, with its solid black bill and feet and its beautiful black feathers that gleam luminescent green in bright light.
These unique, stunning ducks have been classified as “Threatened” by the The Livestock Conservancy for many years, but in 2020 were upgraded to the “Watch” classification. This means that there are likely fewer than 5000 breeding birds in the United States and likely less than 10000 globally. However, they have been rapidly growing in popularity.
Cayugas are a dual-purpose breed, being well-suited for both meat and egg production, and are also used for ornamental purposes. Males typically weigh around 8 lb (3.6 kg) and females typically weigh around 7 lb (3.1 kg).They are classified as a heavy breed by the Poultry Club of Great Britain and as a medium breed by the American Poultry Association.
For several decades, the Cayuga was the most popular meat duck in the United States. However, when the Pekin was imported, it quickly monopolized the duck meat market, as it was not only larger and faster-growing than the Cayuga but also had white pinfeathers. The Cayuga’s black pinfeathers can make for an unsavory carcass appearance.
Nevertheless, Cayuga ducks are still one of the best duck breeds for meat. Their meat is considered high quality and tasty with a good, strong beefy flavor.
Cayuga ducks are also moderately good layers, producing 100-150 eggs a year. They are also one of the only poultry breeds that can lay black eggs. In fact, their eggs are black or dark gray at the start of the season and gradually fade to white over the course of the year.
Another unique feature of the Cayuga is that they gradually become white. Every year that passes, they gain more and more white feathers, until eventually they’re almost pure white.
Cayugas are very hardy, docile, fairly quiet, and are extremely likely to go broody. They are usually good mothers.