I’ve come across several people who have bought crested ducks and ducklings and try to breed them without really knowing what they’re getting into. Crested ducks have become so popular, that unwanted ones are getting dumped in parks and lakes. The gene that is responsible for that crest is detrimental and there are many issues and serious problems with it. Adding this gene to the local wild population can potentially cause serious problems down the road. Here are a few things I’ve learned about crested ducks either from my own and other’s experiences or through research.
Crested ducks are crested because of a deformity in their skulls that all causes fat to protrude from an opening in it. It is from this fat pad that the crest forms. Crests can be of all kinds of shapes and sizes. The gene has been known to humankind for centuries. It can appear in any mallard-derived domestic duck breed. Most crested ducks are purchased for ornamental reasons or because people think they’re “cute”.
Many don’t know the dirty secret behind breeding these ducks. The secret is that large percentage of the ducklings, especially if two crested ducks are bred, die or have to be culled due to neurological issues. Many more have severe neurological issues that often require special diets and treatments in order for them to have a normal life. If only one parent is crested and the other isn’t, the chances for hatching successfully and normally are better. Here is a link to an interesting discussion about breeding crested ducks on Backyard Chickens.
Domestic ducks that are not crested can also carry the crested gene, especially if they have at least one crested parent. Releasing ducks with this gene into a park where there is a wild population is not only irresponsible, but can be devastating to the wild population down the road. If the gene spreads, it can result in high duckling mortality and low hatching rates. This may not be seen for several generations later.
Some crested ducklings don’t begin to show problems until they are a couple of weeks old. Many people buy them only to have them die later on. If you plan on buying a crested duckling, be prepared for potential issues down the road. Some people I’ve known have been successful in helping them through diet, vitamins, and medications. But, these treatments often take time and money. If you do buy crested ducks, even if they seem normal, you should not breed them unless you’re willing to take the risks and responsibilities.