If you’re a big fan of domesticated ducks, you probably love learning about all the different species. Today, we’re going to talk about a breed of duck from Scotland called the Shetland duck. Critically endangered, these ducks are quite a sight to behold, with their broad black coloring and white markings.

You might wonder why this breed is critically endangered and what you can do to revamp the breed potentially. Let’s talk a little bit more in-depth about the breed’s personality and general uses.


Quick Facts About the Shetland Duck

Breed Name:Shetland
Place of Origin:Scotland
Uses:Eggs, ornamental
Drake Size:4.4 pounds
Duck Size:4 pounds
Color:Black, white
Lifespan:8 – 9 years
Climate Tolerance:Cold hardy
Care Level:Easy
Production:150 large white eggs

Shetland Duck Origins

As the name might signal, the Shetland up comes from the Shetland islands in Scotland. Even though they were once very popular ducks, they are now pretty endangered, landing themselves on the critically endangered status list.

Even though these ducks are a rare sight to behold these days, poultry lovers can still really appreciate them for their beautiful composition and rich history.

There seem to be some discrepancies on how the breed began. But due to their appearance, it is seen that they likely have blue Swedish duck and Pomeranian dog in their lineage. They have an incredibly distinct color which makes them stand out among other poultry.

Interestingly, it’s rumored that the Shetland duck was brought by the Vikings. It’s considered an indigenous breed to Scotland, but one with unfortunately dwindling numbers.

Today this poultry breed is so endangered that they were actually thought to be extinct in the 1990s. It’s unclear at this point if the revitalization of the breed is an option. However, many groups across the globe make it their mission to try.

Shetland Duck Characteristics

The Shetland duck is really a prize-winning pick for virtually any setting that’s duck friendly. These little guys are very active and efficient foragers, always on the move to find new food items in the grass. They are typically very low maintenance, so they work well for experienced and novice owners alike.

The Shetland duck might be small, but it is very cold-hardy and can survive and thrive in several environments. Owners would also describe the Shetland duck as calm and friendly toward keepers. They might prefer to be off to themselves rather than in your company, but they don’t seem bothered or aggressive towards people.


The Shetland duck is used mainly for eggs or ornamental use. They seem to be pretty scheduled layers; some of them can lay up to 150 eggs annually. They are not suitable for meat birds as they have low body weight.

Although, it is not necessarily always that high of a number. Their eggs are very large and are grayish white and color. Depending on their diet, they can have a green hue to the shell.

While they might not be master layers, they often go broody and hatch eggs—regardless of the mother. So, these ducks would make great hatchers if only you could purchase one.

Appearance & Varieties

The Shetland has a very distinct and beautiful appearance. They are shaped a lot like a mallard duck but larger in size. They have a very dark black plumage with a green cast, like a Cuyoga. But instead of being one solid color, they have a white plate on their breast.

Something exciting about the Shetland duck is that they turn white as they get older. Sometimes they can turn wholly white, but most of the time they keep some color.

All drakes have green beaks. All ducks have black beaks—that’s the telltale gender sign. Ultimately, males have more color to them than the females. Females tend to retain a very black feathering while males have a greenish cast.


Shetland ducks are considered critically endangered. That means that you probably won’t see one hanging around anywhere. While it is very unlikely that you’ll meet one of these ducks in your lifetime, it means no less about how much you can appreciate the breed.

As with most species, some breeders work very diligently to populate the breed to prevent extinction, and we hope that the same fate awaits the Shetland duck. They are a very interesting breed that deserves a second or third chance.

Not to worry, certain groups of people are fighting to keep this breed alive. If you would like to own Shetland ducks, you can get in touch with one of these groups who can help you get started preserving the braid. It might not be available in all areas, and of course, there might be exceptions and restrictions, but it’s worth checking out.

As we mentioned earlier, the Shetland duck is a cold hardy breed that can thrive in frigid climates. However, they need constant access to a freshwater source to clean out their nostrils and exercise their bodies.

In addition to foraging, they need supplemental grain or commercial feed. They are pretty self-sufficient ducks but still need a solid daily diet, especially in the winter when vegetation is sparse.


Are Shetland Ducks Good for Small-Scale Farming?

If you use ducks for eggs, the Shetland duck would have been a wonderful addition to add to your flock. However, with the extreme rarity of the breed, it is doubtful that you’ll ever get your hands on a hatchling.

If you are interested in revamping this breed, you can get in touch with certain rescue organizations that work exclusively on issues like this. There might be several hoops you have to jump through. And in a lot of cases, it might be impossible. But if you’re a poultry lover passionate about revamping old, forgotten breeds, give it a go.