The Swedish Blue Duck Breed for Homesteaders

Chickens rule the roost when it comes to domestic poultry, especially for backyard keepers and homesteaders like us. But lately, ducks have been making a major comeback.

Lots of homesteaders are becoming enamored with the overall good health, self-sufficiency and hardiness of ducks compared to chickens, and more and more are getting turned on to the great taste and health profile of duck eggs!

a Crested Blue Swedish duck

It’s no exaggeration to say that ducks are experiencing something of a renaissance when it comes to livestock, and if the thought of owning them has crossed your mind then it’s time to get down to business, do your homework and see which breed will work for you.

Today I’ll be telling you all about the Swedish Blue, a super friendly medium-sized duck that is gorgeous and productive in equal measure. We’ll get right into it below…

What are Swedish Blues Kept For?

Swedish Blues are true dual-purpose ducks, but you might say they are multipurpose. Originally developed for, and today kept for, the production of rich, delicious eggs and succulent, fatty meat they are a utilitarian breed through and through.

However, that brings us to the third reason that Swedish Blues are often kept: wonderful, warm personalities and gorgeous good looks! They are one of the very best pet duck breeds you might get and are known to form strong bonds and long-lasting relationships with their human keepers.

Whether you want a flock to keep your family rolling in eggs and enjoying a freezer full of scrumptious duck meat, or you just want the enjoyment of tending to a small flock yourself, the Swedish Blue has a lot to commend it.

Breed Highlights

Swedish Blues are mid-sized ducks with plump, round and soft bodies. They also have uniquely photogenic proportions, as their bodies are always half again as long as they are wide, giving them that iconic shape that is just so pleasing- especially when they are gliding serenely through the water.

Their backs are almost completely straight, and the tail feathers appear slightly jagged and point upward at a slight angle compared to the back. The head is oval in shape, soft featured, and is typically carried close to the body.

The bills and eyes are dark, and often have a light-colored “eyeliner” that contrasts with their dark head, blue-gray bodies and the bright white “bib” markings that run from the front of their throats all the way down to the breast. The wings, too, have long stripes of contrasting white much of the time.

Notably, males and females look quite similar in overall appearance, and neither is particularly distinguishable except by the fact that females tend to lighten up as they age, and they also have slightly lighter beaks that are often a stony, bluish color compared to the dark blue-green that males have.

In moving down to the legs, we see they are a dark, ashy color that’s often punctuated by increasing amounts of lighter orange- and rose-colored patches the closer you get to the feet. The feet are, of course, webbed and they have very short, blunt nails on the end of each toe.

And as the name suggests, the Swedish Blue hails from Sweden, particularly the former Pomerania which is split between Poland and Germany today.

Although gorgeous and an important heritage breed that has been with us since the early 19th century, the Swedish Blue is quite endangered today, being threatened in its home country and variously marked as “threatened” or “on watch” elsewhere in the Western world by poultry associations.

Thankfully, they are still relatively common in the United States, though the American Livestock Conservancy doesn’t have great data concerning the disposition and numbers of these ducks in private hands. If you want to do your part to help keep these gorgeous birds around, you can still get them with a little searching.

What Colors and Patterns are Swedish Blue?

As expected, the Swedish Blue is a stereotypically blue duck, although the full story is somewhat more complicated…

These ducks can come in blue, black, silver, or splashed, the latter of which is either of the other colors with white accents. Notably, this coloration is the primary difference between the Swedish Blue and another domestic breed, and one that is nearly identical in all respects: the Pomeranian.

The iconic blue color is basically a dilution or translucency of true black, which gives the blue feathers a look anywhere from a pale, sea gray color to a smoky, almost iridescent charcoal gray.

The Trouble with Blue-feathered Swedish Blues

This is also a source of considerable consternation for breeders, and particularly people who would like to compete with these ducks.

That’s because breeding two Blue Swedish ducks will lead to a clutch of eggs where only half will hatch into true blue ducklings, while the rest will be made up of black and silver or splash ducklings.

This is an issue because only the blue Swedish Blue duck meets the breed standards in Europe and the US!

That means that if you want to show or breed the Swedish Blue for appearance, you’ll have a whole lot of ducklings that won’t even qualify, right out of the shell. Breeding black and silver ducks is the only way to obtain a clutch of nothing but blue ducklings.

Swedish Blues Also Come in Crested Varieties

For real duck fanciers, Swedish Blues also come crested, though this is one crested breed with many caveats.

For starters, drakes tend to have larger crests, and they’ll sometimes have a single or a double crest, meaning a smaller tuft growing on either side of the head, or a smaller one secondary one behind the main one on top of the head.

Hens typically do not have large crests, but they are noticeable. And even if hens do have a crest, it’s probably not going to stick around very long if you have drakes in your flock: they tend to rip out the crest feathers from females during breeding!

Yes, duck mating is a pretty harsh business, but we’ll get to that in a minute…

If you want a crested Swedish Blue, make sure you look for a particular hatchery that offers them specifically; don’t count on them having the standard variety.

Size and Weight

Swedish Blues are firmly in the middle of the medium category. Males weigh about 8 pounds at most, and females are only slightly lighter at about 7 pounds.

This makes identification of the sexes even more challenging because they are so similar in size compared to other breeds which are autosexing based on plumage, or because the males are so much bigger than the females.

Nonetheless, they are fairly heavy-bodied for their stature and can yield a good quantity of meat if that’s what you want to raise them for.

Can Swedish Blues Fly?

No, they cannot. Although they might make a few flapping leaps now and then, Swedish Blues are incapable of flight- both the males and the females. You won’t need to worry about clipping wings if you want to keep them in place.

Are Swedish Blue Ducks Friendly?

Yes, they are! In fact, Swedish Blues are famous for friendliness. They’re sweet, calm and not prone to flying. If you raise them yourself from hatching, you’ll have a devoted friend for life.

This makes them a great pet duck because they love to be affectionate with people and don’t mind petting and handling. They’re also agreeable almost to a fault, and this makes them really easy to handle for nervous or beginning duct keepers.

The Swedish Blue is just about the last domestic breed that you should expect to give you problems assuming you raise them right and treat them well.

Are Drakes Aggressive?

Generally no, though as with any duck they can get aggressive during the mating season, when their lady is sitting on a clutch of eggs or when they have ducklings around, as the males do sometimes help take care of their mates and young, especially in domestic settings.

However, they aren’t particularly large or strong, and they lack the substantial claws of other breeds like Muscovies. They might flog you, peck you and hiss at you, but they don’t pose much of a threat and with a little practice you’ll be able to handle them even when they are upset.

What’s the Ideal Drake-to-Hen Ratio for Breeding Swedish Blue Ducks?

Compared to most other domestic breeds, Swedish Blues are about average when it comes to an ideal drake-to-hen ratio.

Usually, you can get away with having 3 hens for every one drake, but if you want a larger flock or you want to go the extra mile to prevent problems, I recommend increasing this ratio to five hens for every one drake.

If you just wanted the smallest and leanest duck ownership experience possible while having one of each sex, a bonded mating pair will work as will two hens or two drakes.

Whatever you do, if you have a mixed flock you cannot take this ratio lightly. Even sweet and friendly Swedish Blue drakes will fight each other (and fight ferociously) over access to and domination of females.

Worse, if you have too few hens even for a single drake, he can mate with them too much and physically injure them! Like I said above, duck mating is pretty violent and the girls definitely get the short end of the stick.

How Much Room Do Swedish Blues Need?

It’s possible to raise a handful of Swedish Blues in a large backyard, but you’ll always be better off giving them at least a quarter of an acre and preferably more. The rule of thumb I use is a quarter of an acre for every five ducks.

For starters, this is because they need lots of room to roam if they’re going to get plenty of exercise, and also because Swedish Blues are excellent foragers. The more opportunity they have to find bugs and choice bits of plants, the happier and healthier they will be.

Swedish Blue Diet

Swedish Blues, like all ducks, eat a predominantly but not strictly vegetarian diet: They need animal protein, and they get it in the form of various critters, aquatic and terrestrial.

For starters, you’ll always do well by feeding your Swedish Blues a balanced waterfowl feed. Adults will thrive on an 18% to 20% protein formula, whereas ducklings must have more; a 28% protein waterfowl starter feed will fit the bill.

Beyond this, they’ll eat all sorts of plant matter in the form of grass, buds, flowers, roots, shoots and even the occasional berry, along with all kinds of insects, small fish, tadpoles, small frogs, snails, slugs and other slimy creatures that are often found near bodies of water and wetlands.

And again, as I mentioned up above when talking about their space requirements, you’ll find that Swedish Blues are really good foragers and so the richer and more diverse the “ecosystem” of your property the healthier they will be.

If you’ve got a garden, you’ll love Swedish Blues because they are really expert snail and slug hunters!

Are Swedish Blues Noisy or Quiet?

Swedish Blues are moderately noisy. They tend to quack and coo among themselves more or less throughout the day, and when they are agitated, anxious, frightened or feeling aggressive they will make a lot more noise. Drake’s have a particularly loud call and will hiss when they are upset.

Are These Ducks Productive Layers?

Yes, moderately so. Swedish Blues are known for being dependable, productive layers of eggs, averaging anywhere from $130 to 180 a year. Hens typically taper off after their fourth year, but you can expect lots of eggs for a long time with these ducks.

At What Age Do Swedish Blues Start Laying?

Swedish Blues are about average when it comes to maturity for egg laying, beginning anywhere from week 24 to week 28, or between 6 and 7 months of age.

What Color are Swedish Blue Eggs?

Swedish Blue eggs are typically white, but occasionally they will lay eggs of different colors, including various shades of blue and gray.

How Long Do Swedish Blue Ducklings Stay with Their Mom?

Swedish Blue ducklings take right at 4 weeks to hatch, and they will stay right by their mother for about 12 weeks until they are partially feathered.

At this point, they’re ready to leave her and join the rest of the flock properly or head out on their own. This, of course, assumes that they aren’t in confinement. Remember, they can’t fly!

How Long Does it Take for Swedish Blues to Mature?

Swedish Blues are fully mature, physically speaking, by 16 weeks of age or about 4 months. This is also the ideal time to slaughter them for meat as they will be highly tender, flavorful and fatty.

The longer you let them age, the more the quality of their meat will degrade because it will get tough, stringy and bland, and may take on an unpleasant gamey taste.

Overall Health

Swedish Blues, like most domestic ducks, tend to be pretty healthy overall, especially if you’re used to caring for chickens.

They’re reasonably resistant to most environments and conditions, though this is one breed that is decidedly happier when it is a little bit cooler. They will struggle and act a bit depressed if temperatures are scorching hot for a long time.

Also, some hens show a tendency to suffer from egg binding which might be caused from genetic abnormalities, dietary shortfalls and any number of other problems, so make sure you keep an eye out for your girls once they start laying.

Any sudden stoppage that can’t be attributed to broodiness should be investigated.

Disease Susceptibility

As mentioned, these ducks are pretty healthy all around, but they’re somewhat more vulnerable than other domestic breeds to certain diseases and conditions.

Arthritis is a big one, particularly in older birds, and respiratory conditions including bronchitis, aspergillosis and others can negatively impact them in warmer conditions, the less often when they are in cold climates.

Other than that, keep an eye out for bumblefoot and other common poultry maladies and as always keep your ear to the tracks from authorities for any news of bird flu or fowl cholera outbreaks.

One more thing: Swedish Blues tend to get pudgy quickly if they don’t get enough exercise. If you want them to stay trim make sure they have a sizeable water source to swim in and plenty of room to walk around.

Do Swedish Blues Have Many Predators?

Yes, they do, unfortunately. As medium ducks, they are on the menu for all kinds of predators; ground-bound and birds of prey alike.

Like always, you’ve got to keep a close eye out or take steps to protect your ducks from hawks, eagles, owls and potentially even ravens and crows in the case of ducklings and eggs.

All your usual terrestrial poultry predators like coyotes, wolves, dogs, cats, foxes, badgers, cougars, bears and more will all make short work of your Swedish Blues and they are particularly vulnerable because they aren’t that big and also they can’t even marginally fly to get away.

Secure fencing, preferably overhead netting and a strong coop or duck house is mandatory to protect them. Skimp on these countermeasures at your flock’s peril, especially if you live in areas with high predator populations.

Life Expectancy of Swedish Blue Ducks

Swedish Blues don’t have a particularly long lifespan compared to other ducks, though they can be considered very long-lived by the standard of chickens, lasting anywhere from 8 to 12 years if given very good care and nutrition.

Is the Swedish Blue the Right Duck for You?

The Swedish Blue is the perfect duck for your homestead if you want a continuous supply of delicious, rich eggs or meat, or if you just want a friendly and easy-to-handle animal.

If you ever wanted a pet duck that will be happy to see you, come waddling up to you and be thrilled to get some pets and the occasional treat from you, the Swedish Blue is one of the very best. And it also helps that they are one of the most beautiful birds around, one that any duck lover would be proud to own.

Swedish blue duck-pin image

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