Welsh Harlequin Ducks are a breed with a unique history, diverse uses, and a teetering endangerment status. This duck is well suited for a variety of uses, from meat and egg production to raising healthy broods of ducklings.
In addition to their practical uses, you won’t see a much prettier duck than the gorgeous Welsh Harlequin.
It’s no secret why many farmers with an interest in heritage breeds have chosen this duck for their homestead.
About Welsh Harlequin Ducks
A Khaki Campbell duck breeder located near Criccieth, Wales, noticed two mutant light-colored Khaki Campbell ducklings and decided to breed for the mutation. The Khaki Campbell color mutation was discovered in 1949 by Leslie Bonnet. From here, Welsh Harlequins were carefully bred for 19 years before a breeder named James Fugate imported hatching eggs to the US in 1968.
Unfortunately, after 12 years in the states, Welsh Harlequin breeding flocks didn’t have a broad gene pool and were in need of some new blood. In 1982, new Welsh Harlequins were imported to the US and the breed was available to the public by 1984.
In 2001, the Silver Welsh Harlequin was finally recognized by the American Poultry Association. Although the Silver Welsh Harlequin is the most common variety in the states, the UK also has a golden variety of the breed.
Welsh Harlequin Breed Characteristics
1. Size and Weight
Welsh Harlequins aren’t incredibly large ducks. However, they’re not the smallest and most petite breed out there either. You can generally expect a Welsh Harlequin to weigh around 4.5-5.5 pounds at full-grown weight.
The Welsh Harlequin duck is generally a very docile and relaxed breed with an easygoing disposition. You can expect excellent foraging qualities out of this duck and plan on giving them plenty of room to roam for their meals. In addition to their docile personalities and excellent foraging qualities, Welsh Harlequin hens make excellent mothers.
3. Egg Production
Just like the Khaki Campbells they descended from, Welsh Harlequins have outstanding egg production. A single Welsh Harlequin hen can lay 240-330 eggs in a year. For those looking for a reliable egg layer, you may not need to look past this overachieving breed.
4. Meat Production
Welsh Harlequins are listed as a dual-purpose breed, but they aren’t going to be the meatiest breed you raise. Nonetheless, Welsh Harlequins are hailed for their production of lean, beautifully colored meat. Many duck processors have also reported that the carcass plucks clean incredibly well.
Taking Care of Welsh Harlequin Ducks
1. Feeding and Nutrition
Although this breed is known for excellent foraging skills, they will need their diets supplemented with feeds that ensure they get all the nutrition they need. If you’ve ever raised ducks before, you likely already know what to feed ducks. However, if not, it’s a good idea to read up on all their food requirements.
When starting out with ducklings, they’ll need a good starter to make sure they start out life on the right foot. Waterfowl starter is ideal, but chick starter works in a pinch for feeding ducklings. As your ducks grow, they may require some feed transitions before settling into the diet they’ll eat for their adult lives.
2. Housing and Fencing
Many people start out with chickens and add ducks a few years later, just assuming the needs are about the same. However, ducks actually have much more demanding accommodation requirements than chickens.
Inside your duck house, provide a minimum of 5-6-square feet per duck, and don’t forget that extra space is always welcome. For the run, 12-15-square feet per duck will keep everyone happy. However, you can always add more space when building your run.
One lesson I learned early on in poultry keeping is that it’s always a good idea to add more space to your living quarters than you think you’ll need.
Unexpected additions always have a way of coming about, especially when you’re in the feed store and catch a glimpse of some adorable babies.
3. Health Issues and Care
You can expect your Welsh Harlequins to be robust and healthy ducks as long as you purchase from breeders with vigorous lines. However, keeping up with a healthy flock is up to you as a responsible animal keeper.
Parasite management, proper feeding, clean housing, and common sense will help to ensure that your ducks live long and healthy lives.
If you choose to breed Welsh Harlequins, you will be helping keep the population alive, which this breed could certainly use. When choosing your breeding stock for the next year, make sure to only select the most vigorous and hardy ducks. Don’t choose birds with poor production, large and blocky bodies, or Mallard-like facial markings.
Welsh Harlequin Breed Alternatives
1. Khaki Campbells
Like the birds that Welsh Harlequins descended from, Khaki Campbells makes a worthy breed alternative. Khaki Campbells are well known for their excellent egg production. When you add these ducks to your flock, you can count on them to lay plenty of good eggs for your farm.
2. Silver Appleyards
The Silver Appleyard is another heritage breed like the Welsh Harlequin and the two look remarkably similar. Silver Appleyards have slightly better meat production than Welsh Harlequins as well. On the flip side, you will find that Welsh Harlequins lay eggs more frequently than a Silver Appleyard.
Did You Know?
Welsh Harlequins are actually able to be sexed from hatch by the color of their bills! I’ve got five Welsh Harlequin eggs due to hatch in two weeks and I’m quite excited about trying out this method of sexing my ducklings. Male ducklings have lighter bills while female ducklings will have a darker bill with a dark spot on the tip of her bill.
I recently had the pleasure of farm-sitting for a couple with a charming trio of Welsh Harlequins. I fell in love with the beautiful plumage and sweet dispositions of these birds and I’m sure you will too! This is certainly an excellent bird to consider adding to any homestead.