Self-Color Ducks: Lavender and Lilac

Self-Color Ducks: Lavender and Lilac

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Story and photos by Craig Bordeleau  Among the self-colors of domestic ducks that come about from diluting extended black, lavender and lilac are unique. It takes a combination of dilution genes to achieve them. Extended black, a dusky base pattern, blue dilution, and the last being brown sex-linked dilution. Given the compound nature of the colors, they aren’t seen very commonly. It’s even difficult to find photos of what they look like on the internet. As someone who has developed a strain of lavender ducks, I can give information about how the genetics work and explain their appearance. These colors work the same genetically in chickens as they do in domestic ducks.  The information in this article can be applied to both species.  

Dilution Factors for Brown 

In order to achieve these two colors, you need both dilution factors to display. Blue dilution is the easier of the two. It is autosomal and can be displayed with one or two genes that come from either or both parents. As long as at least one is heterozygous for the gene, a portion of the offspring will display it. Brown sex-linked dilution is a bit different though. It is attached to the male chromosome. The fastest way to introduce it into non-brown birds is to use a brown male in mating. All of the female offspring produced by a brown male bred to a non-brown female will be brown. This happens because the males have two “Z” chromosomes and the females have only one “Z”, along with a “W”. All “Z” chromosomes need to have the brown sex-linked gene in order for the bird to be brown. The male can only give one to each of its offspring, so the female progeny will have what they need from their father while the males will only be halfway there. Male offspring will still carry the gene and can pass it on themselves. The same as if it had been a brown female bred to a non-brown male, only in that scenario the female offspring would neither carry nor display the brown dilution. Mating a chocolate (homozygous for brown sex-linked dilution) male to a silver (homozygous for blue dilution) female is the simplest way to produce a brood with all lavender females. Breeding these lavender females back to chocolate males will produce 50% chocolate and 50% lavender offspring of both sexes.  

Creating Lavender 

Lavender is chocolate with the addition of one blue dilution gene. Birds of this color are a very soft purple/tan. As ducklings, they’re as variable in shade as blue ducklings, often times appearing blue until reaching the juvenile stage. Once their feathers start coming in, they lighten rather quickly. Bills and feet stay the same slate blue or black you’d see in other blue diluted ducks that have no brown dilution genes. The males have lighter olive-colored bills and orange/brown legs and feet. There are bleed-through patches on females. These ink spots are chocolate rather than the black you’d see with self-blue. The chocolate in the patches is much more subdued and faded than the plumage of a chocolate bird with no other dilutions. Lavender birds also lack the green sheen seen with extended black and chocolate-colored ducks. Given blue diluted birds also do not display this feature, it’s safe to assume that gene is what is causing the lack of it in lavender. Aged white does occur in this color and increases with age. 

Lilac 

Lilac is built the same as lavender, only it has two blue dilution genes rather than just one. This further lightens the feathering, bills, legs, and feet. This color is to lavender what silver is to blue. In breeds that have a difference in shade between the sexes, the darker males have a very light purple/tan hue. The females are generally white looking while the bills, legs and feet maintain a light purple/blue color.  

self-color-ducks-lilac-and-lavender
Both Cayuga ducks, the darker one on the left is lavender and the lighter one on the right is buff lavender.

Buff Variations 

In the absence of brown sex-linked dilution, a version of these colors is still possible. Buff sex-linked dilution works in the same way. The big difference is the shade. Buff dilution makes for a much lighter bird than the brown dilution does. This applies to feathers, bills, legs, and feet. Buff-based lavender birds have a color that is close to straw but with a slight purple tinge to it. The color almost seems like watercolor paint over a very light blue surface. It is very unique and quite beautiful. What truly stands out on these buff-based lavender birds are the bills. They are a perfect example of the color lavender- a very soft purple. At the time of writing this article, I have not bred or seen a buff lilac duck. Although I’d venture a guess and say that they’d be lightened to the point of not having much plumage color.  

Both self-lavender and self-lilac are attractive and very rare colors. They are a bit of work to develop and maintain, but the effort is well rewarded. The years I’ve worked on developing and perfecting my lavender Cayugas are years I feel were well spent. And soon, lavender East Indies will be added to that sense of pride. If you’re looking for a unique color project that will turn heads — I would recommend trying your hand at developing lavender and lilac ducks. 

 
CRAIG BORDELEAU raises rare, threatened, and unique waterfowl in southern New England. He preserves heritage breeds, and researches domestic duck plumage genetics, as his main breeding focus points. 

Duckbuddies.org 

Email: Duckbuddiesandsidechicks@gmail.com 

Facebook.com/duckbuddiesandsidechicks 

Originally published in the August/September 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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