Tips for Raising Runner Ducks
Runner Ducks are Incredible Foragers and Egg Producers
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Keeping Runner ducks combines the benefits of raising poultry with the entertainment of watching penguin-like bowling pins forage around the yard. After dabbling in call ducks, I increased my flock to include Fawn and White Runner ducks. With their unique appearance and high egg production, Runner ducks were a great addition to our homestead. Now 20 some years later, I still have a small flock of Runners foraging about.
In ancient Javan temples, Runner-like hieroglyphics date back to 2,000 years ago. For many centuries in Asia raising and herding ducks has been a traditional homesteading practice. I have heard stories of duck herders taking their ducks out to rice fields during the day where the birds clean up fallen grain, weeds and snack on pests. Through artificial selection, farmers choose birds who were skillful foragers and could travel long distances with ease. The Runners must have been off the two weeks I was in Thailand last summer, as I did not see a single duck in or near the rice fields.
In addition to describing Runner ducks as a mix between a penguin and a bowling pin, breeders and judges look for a wine bottle shape with a head and legs. When foraging around, their posture is between 45 and 75 degrees. When standing at attention, show specimens stand nearly perpendicular to the ground. When choosing breeders, strong legs with a smooth running gait is desirable. Avoid low, short or stocky bodies and short necks and bills, contrary to heavyweight breeds such as Muscovy ducks.
Runner ducks are considered a lightweight breed with females weighing on average four to four and a half pounds and males weighing up to five pounds. Ducks are between 24 and 28 inches tall and drakes can measure up to 32 inches.
Runner ducks come in more varieties than any other duck breed. Standard and nonstandard colors include: Black, Blue Fairy Fawn, Blue Fawn, Blue-Brown Penciled, Blue-Fawn Penciled, Buff, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cumberland Blue, Dusky, Emery Penciled, Fairy Fawn, Fawn & White, Golden, Gray, Khaki, Lavender, Lilac, Pastel, Penciled, Porcelain Penciled, Saxony, Silver, Splashed, Trout and White.
In North America, the Fawn & White variety was the first to be admitted to the American Standard in 1898. In 1914, Penciled and White were added. In 1977 the Black, Buff, Chocolate, Cumberland Blue and Gray were admitted.
Showing Runner ducks in a ring has advantages compared to showing birds in a show cage. The ring allows the birds to show off their running gait and tall stature. A great Runner has smooth feathers, is slender and nearly vertical with an imaginary straight line running from the back of the head through the neck and body to the end of their tail. Tall birds with long and straight bills are ideal. Runner ducks have the tightest feathers of all ducks, allowing them to be disheveled easily in transport. If showing your birds, ensure that their flight feathers are folded back properly.
Raising Runner ducks is a valuable hobby due to their incredible active foraging lifestyle and egg production. Baby ducks are ready to roam quickly after they hatch and this is exemplified in runner ducks. Runners who can live up to 10 years old are said to be the most active foragers of all domestic breeds. They will happily eat snails, slugs, garden pests and weeds. Purebred Runners on average lay around 200 eggs a year. Duck eggs, which contain quite a bit of Omega-3 fatty acids, have the potential of making bake goods fluffier. Some Runner strains can lay up to 300 eggs a year.
Although Runner ducks lay countless eggs annually, they are not a broody breed. Since my flock has free range of my one-acre homestead I often go on a daily egg hunt searching for their 70g bone-white sized eggs. Some Runner strains like the Silvers, Blues, and Chocolates lay dark green to tan eggs. Younger birds seem to lay darker eggs, with the color lightening up as they mature. Many sources say that Runners lay early in the morning. If I would keep them in their night coop until mid-morning, I would not have to go searching; but what is the fun of that? My birds have a half dozen of their favorite spots to lay including in bromeliads, under bushes and right in the middle of the garden path. They are so busy foraging they don’t have time to go back to their pen and lay an egg. Many mornings when I let them out, they run right past the duck kiddie pool and food bowl around the chicken coop and vegetable garden and start digging in the dirt near the greenhouse. They are quite amusing to watch.
Do you enjoy raising Runner ducks? What’s your favorite color of Runner duck? Let us know in the comments below.
16 thoughts on “Tips for Raising Runner Ducks”
I have two runner ducks Donald & Daisy Duck. They are ducklings & the little girl is sick. We have been keeping them in the house under air conditioner, due to cats next door. Don’t want them hurt till we can build a pen. Could that be making her sick? She’s eating & drinking but not a lot. Can you please give me some advice on how to help her please. Love them dearly…
Thank you very much.
I have a fawn and white runner who at only 3 months old has his tail feather standing up already. His voice is very muted and still will occasionally peep when excited or scared. His companion, a female, who I’m not sure of her breed is my only female of my 3 babies. She is either a runner or Welsh harlequin – sometimes she seems to stand irrect, other times doesn’t and is white with dark ticking, has a steel gray bill and feet. I’m still researching her. Both were bought at TSC. I also have a khaki Campbell’s duckling drake that was hatched out by a Columbian Wyandotte. I got the TSC pair after losing my 2 day old hatchling, leaving only 1 lonely baby.
Well, it turns out my female is also a Runner but I can’t tell if she’s laying yet. I have a khaki Campbell’s duck and drake that I got in 2017 as a 6 month old who are the parents of a July 2019 drake. The 2 Runners were raised with the khaki Campbell by a Columbian Wyandotte hen. I noticed as they all got older, the khaki Campbell seems to stand and walk more like a Runner, he doesn’t carry himself like his parents. I know the pelvic structure is different in the 2 breeds but this drake definitely tries to copy how a Runner stands and walks. I wish photos could be posted on here to show everyone.
Sorry it seems I didn’t pay attention to what name I posted prior with. Wolfinator and catherenec are the same person, me.
Well, I’m back with another comment, umm update.
After raising my 2 Runner ducks over the last year, I tried getting more through local stores to no avail. I ended up ordering 10 females from a hatchery. They were hatched August 4, 2020 and delivered without problems. I have 4 chocolate, 4 blue and 2 fawn and white 6+week olds plus my 14 month old male and female. I also have 2 khaki Campbell drakes (lost female last month and another in spring). I’m staying with Runners, they are so great to watch. Mine are extremely skittish however I can only catch if I corner them in my extension pen. The Runner ducklings will later share the coops and pen with 48 chickens and 10 chicks of similar age. I prefer getting mid-summer hatchlings because come spring, I’m getting eggs already.
Hi I am new to ducks , but we are definitely interested in Runner ducks! Can you tell me what hatchery sold females only. All the hatcheries we have looked at only sell straight run. Thanks for the info!
Hi Karen, Metzer Farms sells sexed Runner ducklings! metzerfarms.com
Karen, I ordered my Runner females through CaliforniaHatchery.com. All arrived safely
And healthy, a little thirsty as the gel pac was done. I took some water with me for them when i picked up at postal office. They ship as few as 2 on up. I did end up with a drake but I got a full refund on him. I spent about $115 on 10 including tax and shipping. Shipping costs will vary on your location to the hatchery. When I got mine last year, they were 7.10 per female X 10 plus just under 50 for shipping being they’re in California and I’m on east coast. I found ordering under 10 cost much more for shipping through them, about 70 on just 2 ducklings. Some other hatcheries also have minimum orders of 15 and up. Compare individual duckling prices and shipping cost for quantity you need shipped.
I raised my runner with a large dog. It was my dogs pet. This made the runner more outgoing…:-) I also taught the runner how to use a plastic cat door, so she could go in and out of her enclosure instead of waiting for me . She’s just like a dog…;-)
Thanks for the tip for a dog door since the other doors are so much more expensive. I can leave it open in the day and close it at night. We do have coyotes near by qqso I can’t let them roam at night until we get a taller fence.
thank you for your responses! I appreciate all the information!
I had 6 baby runners all black and they would go all around our 3 acres, one night they all came back except the runt, the next day when we let them out we heard them peeping around and went into the woods and we haven’t seen none since that was 2 days ago, will they come back or are they gone forever
If you have hawks near by they may have swooped up the runt.
Hi,I have 3 female runner ducks,and 1 male.2 of the females are laying on eggs,probably 2 weeks now,my question,is it ok to keep putting the male in at night with them,as of now,he hasrn’t bother the 2 girls on the eggs.
Quick question with runners. Mine were born this last Easter. We had one girl from the batch. She started laying eggs, yet a f we w days ago stopped. She hadms a hearty diet and nothing has Changed in the penn. No stress etc. Is it that time of year for her to stop laying eggs as it is the end of October. I haven’t been able to find out info. The weather where I live Cali is about the same. Except not as hot. But still quite warm. Any knowledge would be greatly appreciated.
We have three male white runner ducks called Tom, Dick and Harry. We took them off our daughter who had too many male ducks, giving the females a hard time! My husband and I live on a Olive Grove and the boys free range during the day and are in a pen at night. We are down sizing and next week we are off to live in town. We have chosen a property with a large garden and a area to put in a large pond. The boys will love it. They provide us with alot of entertainment and are very funny. We live in rural New Zealand.