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When to Process Pekin Ducks

Not long ago, I posted a recipe for marinated duck. You probably guessed that the duck came from our backyard. And if so, you would be correct, because we have Pekin, mallard, and hybrid ducks. But I never covered when to process Pekin ducks. Or even how to cull them. However I get to that in another post.

a planner over a white table
Photo by PNW Production on

Processing Pekin ducks is different than chickens, because it isn’t based on the seasons. When I discussed culling roosters, we found out chicken people typically cull and process their birds in the fall. But again, that isn’t the case with ducks.

Pekin ducks on the grass
Photo by Vlado Krstevski on

Due to their large amount of feathers, waterfowl are generally slaughtered at 3 different times during their life cycle. And this is because it’s easier to pluck their plumage when there are no immature or pin feathers. So this is around 7, 12 1/2, or 18 weeks for ducks. Unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Best Times to Process Ducks

Pekin ducks put on weight faster than chickens, so you don’t have to worry about meat. But if you’re planning on plucking the feathers, then the best time to cull them is when there are no pin feathers. Again, that’s when the ducks are 7, 12.5, or 18 weeks old.

Small Flock of Ducks

However I mentioned that there are other conditions that could come up, prompting a desire for marinated duck. For example, at some point, you might have an excess of drakes compared to ducks. Or you could have an abusive drake, who needs to go. Which is what happened with us in both cases.

Two Pekin ducklings and 1 Mallard duckling

Two Pekins and a mallard made up our original ducks that we bought from Atwood’s, during the lockdown, last year in May. Though, after my husband incubated some eggs, we ended up with a surplus of drakes. 2 more to be exact. Kirishima was the most senior drake. But he was also the most aggressive. And we thought that, after mating season, he would calm down, however that didn’t happen.

When to Process Pekin Ducks

You can cull a duck at any time you want or whenever circumstances demand it. Furthermore, duck meat can be eaten at any age (of the bird), but, as expected, it’s more tender the younger the bird is. And just as with processing roosters, we don’t de-feather. Rather we just skin the birds, which is the easiest method. However then you mainly get the breasts. So if you prefer a whole bird that also looks nice, skinning your duck won’t be an option.

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Duck Mating Season

The breeding rites of birds usually involve complex dances and mating calls. Not to mention, multi-colored feather shows during which prospective, brilliantly feathered males strive to charm females. And duck mating season is no different. But that’s where the mating season similarities end with ducks and other birds. Below I list out 5 facts about duck mating season.

Five Facts About Duck Mating Season

  • Form seasonal bonds
Mallard-Pekin Hybrid Duck Mating season in kiddie pool

Similar to other animals, waterfowl form pair bonds to produce offspring. Though, within waterfowl, those kinds of pair bonds differ. Which means some waterfowl mate for life, like geese, while others form different bonds each year.

Ducks practice what’s called seasonal monogamy. It means they have to form new bonds each season. And almost 50% of all waterfowl species observes this kind of monogamy. However our drakes are polygamous. They don’t stick with one duck the entire mating season; they take all they can get. If any of the ducks are monogamous, it’s the females. They’re all faithful to the drakes they’ve chosen.

2021 year calendar

Typically domestic duck mating season lasts from spring to fall. However it can depend on where you live, climate, and breed of duck. For example, where I live in Oklahoma, the mating season for Pekin ducks is long. Spring to Fall.

But that doesn’t mean ducks mate exclusively during mating season, and not at other times. So far what I’ve witnessed is that the drakes, or males, act crazy with hormones. They too have testosterone, which is raging during this season. And our oldest drake Kirishima is full of angst.

Drakes, or males, attract the females, but it’s the females who get to choose their mates. It’s a very matriarchal society.

  • Females can hinder forced breeding
Pekin Duck, Mallard duck, and Black Ameraucana rooster in a yard.
This is our white Pekin with her favorite drake, aka the boss rooster.

Despite the fact that most birds do NOT have phalluses, drakes actually do. And so research done ~2007 showed that females developed corresponding complex genitalia to make forced mating difficult. If not impossible.

This is important, because it signifies not only that the female doesn’t like the drake, or his strategy, but she doesn’t want any of his offspring.

We personally witnessed this behavior with our white female Pekin when we incubated eggs this past spring. She doesn’t like her own kind for a mate. Because she has the hots for the boss rooster. But that doesn’t mean Kirishima didn’t forcibly mate with her. So when it was time to candle the eggs, hers were all duds. Which means he didn’t get to fertilize any of them.

Mixed flock of ducks
2 of those ducks are gone now; 1 female was killed by our senior drake, and 1 of the new drakes was killed by a dog.

During duck mating season, drakes can and will be aggressive to female ducks, people, and ducklings. If you don’t have the proper ratio of ducks to drakes, the females can even be killed.

And this is because hormones in drakes are extremely high. Drakes have nothing but mating on their minds during mating season. Thus they can’t think straight.

Our senior drake, Kirishima, is currently separated from the rest of the population. And this is because after doing everything required to introduce new ducks, he still wanted to kill the newest ducks. But it’s only because he’s overly hot and bothered. However my husband let him out a few weeks ago, and he killed a female by forced mating. The other drakes only recently started to mate, (after he was locked up again.) Though it was just the threat of their presence that caused his erratic behavior.

In Conclusion

If you have ducks and witnessed this behavior, but didn’t know what it meant, then I hope I’ve helped you out. Duck mating season is long. And even though females can choose their mates and prevent fertilization (if mating is forced), the drakes can still be very aggressive, chiefly due to testosterone levels at this time.

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