Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch:
Indian Runner Ducks

Assorted Indian Runner Ducks Assorted Indian Runner Ducks
Assorted Indian Runner Ducks
Egg Laying Ducks at Lucky Hit Ranch
Assorted Indian Runner Ducks

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Indian Runner Ducks are incredibly prolific egg layers. If you want eggs, you will really be glad you chose Indian Runners. However, they rarely set their eggs and even when they do they may not have enough maternal ability to raise their ducklings successfully.

Indian Runners are hardy birds who are both very excitable and wonderfully social, with a strong urge to flock together. While excitable, they are timid but trainable. They are a naturally a high-strung breed. Indian Runner Ducks can be handled by people without problem, so they are often exhibited. They do particularly well if they are calmly socialized after hatching. However, they still remain easily excitable and are prone to panic if cornered.

Runners have this excitable temperament from the moment they hatch and have to be handled carefully so they don't panic. They can climb over a two to three foot enclosure for food or to flee something that scares them.

Runners are the most active foragers of all breeds. They range over a large area eating insects, snails, slugs, weeds, forbes, and other edibles.

Indian Runners live from eight to ten years.


Because of it's unusual upright carriage and bottle-shaped body, the Indian Runner Duck is one of the most identifiable duck breeds. With sloping shoulders and long and cylindrical body, the Runner looks very much like a bowling pin. It funnels gradually from body, to neck, to a trim head with a long flat wedge shaped bill. The Runner's wings are quite small and close to the body and they overlap in the rear. It's upright carriage allows it to run rather than to waddle like other ducks do. The Indian Runner's extreme body shape and upright posture gives it a unique and appealing look.

According to James Carson, APA - ABA Judge and Grand Master Exhibitor of White Runners, "one of the most important points to consider is the birds body conformation and size." He believes a predominate Runner conformation fault is heavy shoulders, or “chestiness,” seen when a duck’s lower neck and body don't blend smoothly. Carson describes many of the poorer birds as looking like “a head and neck stuck on to the end of a shoebox.”

Excellent Runners, on the other hand, have a long slim neck that gradually tapers into a trim and refined body... i.e. they have the classic "wine bottle" shape. A trim and refined body doesn't mean bony! The best-bodied Runners are not heavy and have a body with a moderately small round girth. Heavy Runners often develop a small, rounded, and undesirable “paunch."

Carson further clarifies the classic “wine bottle” shape, as not only referring to the tapered blending of the neck and shoulders but also the roundness of a wine bottle. He says that "Many of the otherwise superior Runners being shown have flat backs and “triangular” shaped bodies, and these are faults in the breed." Carson clarifies that Runners should have a straight (or “flat”) line from head to tail, but not from shoulder to shoulder – in the front or back they must be round.

Carson cautions us to remember that while Runners need to be tall they must maintain correct proportion. In fact, he indicates that the taller the better as long as their other features are in the correct proportion , meaning he wouldn't chose the tallest duck as best if another was stronger overall and “tall enough." In this regard, we have to consider what is creating the height. Runners are out of proportion if they have extremely long necks with short little bodies or visa-versa. Correctly proportioned Runners gain height from the combination of both length of neck and length of body.

Carson also is concerned that Indian Runners maintain the correct “stance”. He says "It is my opinion that Runners don’t have to be 'pushing themselves' constantly, and by this I mean that they don’t have to be standing straight up all of the time with their tail stuck down between their legs." Carson cautions that many of these permanently straight standing birds "often show leg weakness, tremble in the ring, and even often lay down." While Carson wants good exhibition type birds "to be very straight in the ring with their tail carried in line with their back," he has seen birds "in the ring with their tails pushed in past their legs, with their bodies not even overly erect," which he does not prefer and notes is often a sign of weakness. The opposite of this tail-tucked-in trait is seen in birds with persistently cocked-up tails, which is a fault.

The Indian Runner's head must be quite slender ... long, flat, and trim. Placing a pencil on the skull can be used to determine how flat the head is and can measure the head's length. (A dished bill is a breed defect.) A trim head does NOT have much depth between the top of the head and the bottom of the jaw.

The Indian Runner's eyes must be placed very close to the topline of the skull. In the best birds the eyes should appear to be slightly protruding up through the top of the skull. Lower set eyes, like the set in a Pekin or Call, takes away from the desired refined look. A low eye makes the entire head appear coarse.

The Indian Runner's legs are set far back on their bodies, allowing the upright carriage characteristic of the breed. Typically, they hold their bodies between 45 degrees to 75 degrees above the horizontal. However, when upset or excited, excellent Runners stand perpendicular to the ground. The best Runners don't waddle like other ducks; instead they “walk” or "run" with quick steps. Breeder ducks must have strong legs that produce a smooth running gait.

The Indian Runner's wings are very small, eliminating its ability to fly. However, some excited Runners can sustain short bursts of modified flight a few feet above ground for as far as 15 or 20 feet.


Indian Runners are a relatively small breed of duck. The Runner weighs an average of 4 and 4 1/2 pounds (ALBC) when adult. Their slim bodies and long necks give them the look of a "wine-bottle with a head and legs."

Generally, the drakes weigh 3.5 to 5 pounds (1,600-2,300 grams) and the ducks weigh 3 to 4.5 pounds (1,400-2,000 grams). However, some sources indicate drakes weigh as much as 2,000 to 3,000 grams while they suggest that the ducks might weigh between 1,000 and 2,000 grams. I would avoid the extremes, as overly large and weighty birds might not be as efficient at egg laying and the particularly small birds may lay relatively small eggs.

When considering weight, one must also remember that, when correctly proportioned, the taller the Runner the better! However, the average drakes are generally 26 to 32 inches (65-80cm) and the average ducks are generally 24 to 28 inches (60-70 cm). The correct proportion of neck length to body length should be 1 to 2.

Because the Indian Runner duck is small and produces large quantities of eggs, it is primarily valued as an egg layer rather than as meat bird. Nevertheless, many assert that Runners have a delicious flavor similar to wild duck and with enough flesh on them to feed two people. It is also reported that their meat is less fatty than other duck breeds.


Indian Runner Ducks have a large number of color types, maybe more than any other duck breed. Varieties recognized in the American Standard of Perfection are: Fawn and White, White, Penciled, Black, Buff, Chocolate, Cumberland Blue, and Gray(Mallard). Nonstandard varieties include Fairy Fawn, Blue Fairy Fawn, Golden, Saxony, Blue Fawn, Pastel, Trout, Dusky, Khaki, Cinnamon, Silver, Lavender, Lilac, Blue-Brown Penciled, Blue-Fawn Penciled, Emery Penciled, Porcelain Penciled, and Splashed. And Breeders are attempting to develop additional new color varieties.

The Black, Chocolate, and Blue ducks often lose color, especially in older females. Males are succeptible to developing white feathers after injuries and/or fights with other drakes. Solid colored males (such as blue,chocolate, and black) should ONLY have white feathers from fighting - never from age . White feathers in colored plumage is a breed defect EXCEPT white around the bill, which is a sign of age in females.

Link to Standard Colors of the Indian Runner Duck
from the British Waterfowl Association's Indian Runner Standards Review held
between February and May 2006

These pictures show some Indian Runner ducklings in the process of shedding their baby fuzz.

One month old ducking shedding baby fuzz.
One month old ducking shedding baby fuzz.
One month old duckings shedding baby fuzz.
One month old duckings shedding baby fuzz.

As cute as these Indian Runner babies are in a still picture, they are even more delightful to watch in person.

I love providing them fresh water to play in, as they seem full of joy playing in clean, fresh water.


Egg laying ability
I believe that, above all other traits, egg laying ability must be the primary trait selected for in breeding stock. Breeders must come from families with a strong history of excellent egg laying ability.

Foraging ability
In order to be an effective egg layer, a bird must have excellent foraging ability.

Body type
When choosing breeders, Holderread advises to "avoid ducks that have low body station" and to "avoid short stocky bodies with prominent shoulders and chests." He also advises to avoid round heads with prominent foreheads, to avoid short bills and/or bills that are concave at the top line, and to avoid tails that are constantly cocked upward, even when the bird is excited.

Water for Breeding
The Indian Runner, unlike some other duck breeds, does not require water for breeding, although they really love breeding in abundant fresh water! When a pond is available, breeding occurs both in and out of the pond. (However, fresh clean water is an absolute necessity for drinking!)

Setting and Hatching ability
Although the Indian Runner is extremely fertile, most Runners do not sit on the eggs to hatch them and many that do set the eggs kick out the newly hatched ducks with the empty shells. Therefore, some breeders without access to an incubator place the eggs under another “broody” duck. Runner eggs take 28 days to incubate. While they have a reputation as being non-fliers and non-sitters, there are exceptions to the latter.

When allowed to hatch her own eggs, a Runner should set somewhere between six to nine eggs. If you allow too many eggs under a bird, they will not be able to keep all of them at the correct temperature and you might lose most or all of the eggs.

Number of males to females
While some sources say keep Indian Runners as a trio or a pair, I disagree. My experience is that Runner males are active breeders and my breeding females lay fertilized eggs with only one drake for five or six females. With this ratio my females aren't "overworked" by the drake, which I hate to see. Some authorities say you only need one drake to around eight females for good fertility. For the sake of your females, I'd say it's better to keep fewer males than keep too many!

Raising Ducklings
Ducklings are best raised in small flocks on fresh soil with abundant fresh water and high quality non-antibiotic crumbles at all times. I have been satisfied with a 30% protein crumbles (NO ANTIBIOTICS) that was formulated for growth and plumage development for the initial feeding and slowly move them to grazing and bug hunting during the day with a smaller amount of food in the evening to encourage them to return to the night time pen. My ducks lay between 6 and 10 in the morning, so I don't let any Runners out until after 10 AM.


Properly managed for egg production, good strains of Indian Runner ducks are prolific layers who commonly lay 200 or more eggs a year. Some lay as many as 300 eggs yearly. (The worst egg laying Runners, I've read, lay no less than 100 eggs annually.) Each large hen-sized egg weighs 70 grams and are generally blue-green but can be bone colored as well.

As far back as 1912 to 1914, Indian Runner ducks capable of laying 300 eggs a year were described and illustrated in the poultry press. As stated above, 200 eggs a year is an expected average today. This rate compares well against a good laying chicken, which lays 150 eggs yearly.

One of the biggest contributions of the Indian Runner Duck has been the creation of twentieth century ‘Designer Ducks’ like the excellent egg laying Khaki Campbell, among others. The Khaki Cambell's egg laying ability was produced by crossing Indian Runners to other domestic breeds. However, I'd rather own the real thing ... the Indian Runner. I've owned many different breeds of chickens and have been astounded and amazed by the number and consistency of eggs laid by Indian Runners, even during weeks with high temperatures of 100+ degrees, temperatures that caused any chickens I've ever owned quit laying! I also was surprised by how clean they keep their eggs compared to chickens!


Like all domestic ducks except for the Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), the Indian Runner was developed from wild mallards, (Anas platyrynchus platyrynchus). The original Runners carried many interesting and varied plumage color mutations. For instance, they carried alternative genes (alleles) of the mallard pattern called the recessive dusky variant. They also carried sex-linked color dilutions, like the recessive brown and buff variants, and an alternative light phase gene (a gene found in most Runners except Fawn-and-whites).

Runners also carry the black, blue and pied genes. Pied genes have been referred to by F M Lancaster as the ‘runner gene.’ A wide variety of color factors are available in Runners. As in Call Ducks, Indian Runners can be found in a wide range of stable color forms without crossing to other waterfowl breeds. Learning about waterfowl genetics is important, however, because certain color forms do not breed true, For example, blue expresses incomplete dominance. The blue heterozygotes produce chromotypes like Cumberland Blue, Blue Dusky, Blue Trout, etc. These colors only breed a proportion of offspring who look like the parents.



The Indian Runners' Country Of Origin is generally listed as the East Indies (Bali, Indochina /Malaysia, East India). Like most breeds of domestic duck, the Indian Runner initially developed from domestication of the wild mallard. In the last 2,000 years or so, Runner development has been guided by human influence rather than natural selection. Runners are set apart from other domestic ducks not only by the geography or origin but also in their unique shape, bone structure, and blood proteins.

According to Holderread, Indian Runners have a long history as a domestic breed. Ancient Javan temple carvings depict images of Indian Runners. For example, temple carvings on the stones of the temple of Boeroe Boeddha, Java, (Indo China) carved 2000 years ago show Runner-type ducks.

Indo-Chinese peoples have maintained duck herds for hundreds of years. There, flocks of ducks which were trained to remain in sight of the duck herder's bamboo pole, which had cloth strips attached to one end. The ducks were taken to rice paddies and other fields in the morning to eat grain, weed seeds, small plants, insects and insect larvae, snails, and small reptiles. At night the ducks were brought home and kept in a protective enclosure made of bamboo or clay. Eggs were gathered prior to each day's foraging. These conditions favored ducks that were good walkers, excellent foragers, and prolific layers.

Europeans noted Runner ducks in the mid 19th century in Malaya in 1851 and in Lombok, Indonesia, in 1856, where Alfred Wallace said they 'walk erect, like penguins.' Tradition has it that ducks descended from many generations of the selective pressure mentioned above were first brought to the United Kingdom from Malaya by a ship's captain around 1850.

Other sources say they were first found in the Cumberland and the Dumfries, Scotland area of the UK. J. Donald's first reference to Indian Runners in the UK indicates that a drake and a trio of ducks and were originally brought to the UK from India by a sea captain to Whitehaven and presented to some friends in West Cumberland some time around or before the 1840s and again a few years later. Professor Dr Wolfgang Rudolph documents records obtained from the Surrey Zoological Gardens showing imports of Runners to the London Zoo on October 31, 1835 by the 13th Earl of Derby.

I received an email dated April 2, 2010, from J.M.Thompson stating "Please excuse my forthrightness in pointing out that you copy one of Ashton's errors in stating Prof. Rudolph obtained records of the Penguin Duck's arrival at the 'Surrey Zoological Gardens'. I advised her of this error some time ago, but the error persists. It is the London Zoological Gardens that the records relate to. The two establishements were quite seperate."

Mr. Thompson included an attached file, dated 31st March, 2010, which states....

Dear Erick,

I have read, with interest, your most comprehensive web-page accounts on the Indian Runner Duck & the Pilgrim Goose.

I have been in correspondence with Prof. Wolfgang Rudolph for over 28 years now. In the late 1970’s I commenced sending him copies of articles & books that were not available to him in Rostock ~ as it was then behind the Iron Curtain. I recall how he questioned the date of the second edition Willughby (1678) I had sent, & was even more surprised to be informed of the first edition – Latin text – of 1676.

Wolfgang & I have always had a great fascination with the Indian Runner & Pekin ducks, & are not completely satisfied with all that has been written about their histories ~ not that there is any fault with your texts.

You may be interested to know that Penguin Ducks are mentioned in the popular British Press in 1837.

1838 was a good year for the Penguin Duck as Eyton mentions it in his monograph.

Heinrich Zollinger first wrote of the ducks in a publication of 1847 ~ the 1851 copy often cited is a translation of the earlier piece from the Dutch; although, quite contrary to popular lore, Zollinger was Swiss by nationality, not Dutch as so often given.

Penguin Ducks were already in the US by 1850. They had been sent by the Earl of Derby to Dr. John Bachman. Bachman had visited England in 1838 & was in correspondence with Derby that year ~ although no mention is made of the ducks. & I do not know whether the two ever met. Although it is stated hundreds were reared annually, what became of them is un-known.

Prior to the Dumfries Show of 1896, there had been a class, which included White Indian Runners, at the Dairy Show held at Islington, Oct. 1895.

In England, Henry Digby, secretary of the Waterfowl Club, published the first descriptive standard in 1897. A coloured print of his winning drake appears in Feathered Wings 1900.

I hope this may be of some interest to you.

With best regards,

Jonathan M. Thompson

However, circumstantial evidence suggests that oriental Runner type ducks reached Western Europe much earlier than the nineteenth century. Supporting the idea of earlier importation, Kenneth Broekman points to late sixteenth century Dutch records showing that van Houtman’s ship, the Ysselstein, carried a cargo of salted ‘pinguin ducks’. Runners were called ‘Penguin Ducks’ by Dutch explorers and some of the early importers. Another indicator of earlier importation is seen in a number of Lowland breeds, such as the Huttegem, because they carry color genes similar to Indian Runners. Examples of these color mutations are displayed in seventeenth century Dutch paintings like those of the d’Hondecoeter family.

Indian Runner ducks quickly became popular because of their high egg production ability and their unique and attractive appearance. They were such good layers that by 1896 there was a special Indian Runner class in the Dumfries Show. The standard was recognized in 1907 in the UK when the Fawn and White was noted. By 1913 the Fawn was noted and in 1926 the Black and the Chocolate. Cumberland Blue was mentioned in various literature around that time.

After they were imported to the UK, they were quickly crossed with other domestic ducks to produce quick-growing egg-layers and also to add cross-breed vigour to the traditional table breeds, like Aylesbury and Rouen. Cross breeding with indigenous domestic and wild ducks became so routine that by 1901 purebred Indian Runners in Britain became difficult to find. As a result of of this extensive cross breeding, Runners were used to create Khaki Campbells, Buff Orpingtons and a variety of 'Light Ducks' found at commercial farms and in exhibition pens.

The original Fawn Runners which had been imported had died out in favor of the pied (Fawn-and-white and Grey-and-white), which were standardized by that time. In 1909 Joseph Walton imported new birds from Lombok and Java and completely rejuvenated the UK bloodlines, making a major contribution to the modern development of the Indian Runner.


A domestic breed originating in Malaysa, the Indian Runner Duck's status is listed as "WATCH" by the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy).

ALBC's 2000 census of domestic waterfowl in North America identified 2,916 breeding Runner ducks. Twenty-six people reported that they bred Runners. There were twelve (12) primary breeding flocks with 50 or more breeding birds.

Runners can be excellent show birds and entertaining pets. They can be kept as wonderful pest controllers and amazing egg layers. Indian Runners are a wonderful addition to my ranch.


Indian Runners are also known as "Corritrice Indiana" in Italy, "Le Coureur Indien" in France/Belgium, and have sometimes been called the "Penguin Duck," "Baly Soldiers," and the "Bowling Pin Duck."

Their Scientific Name is Anas platyrhynchos. They are classified as follows:

Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Anas
Species: playrhynchos


With their incredible egg laying ability and hardiness, I believe that Indian Runner ducks are the perfect breed for a family farm's egg laying flock.

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