Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Duck dreams!

A few days ago my daughter ask me what was the biggest breed of duck.We went to the Internet of course and found out that the Aylesbury duck is considered one of the largest breeds along with the Pekin. I found the information from The American Livestock Breed Conservancy, This website lists heritage breeds for farm animals that are critical,threatened or on watch status.One of the best things you can do for your farm is decide to raise heritage breeds,call the ALBC , find a breeder and give them a call.Help save these breeds from disappearing!
This is what we found about the Aylesbury duck.  "In the Vale of Aylesbury, forty miles north of London, Buckinhamshire 'duckers' were renowned by 1800 for the production of England's finest white-skinned market ducklings.Ó (Holderread, 68) Aylesbury ducks were held in high esteem not only for their for their white skin and unusual pink bill, but also for their large size, ability to produce eggs in the winter months, fast growth, light bone, and high percentage of mild-flavored meat. (Holderread, 68) This duck breed was one of the first to arrive in United States from Europe. Ayelsburys were exhibited in 1849 at the inaugural poultry show in Boston, Massachusetts and were included in the first publication of American Standard of Perfection published in 1874 by the American Poultry Association. The Aylesbury duck is a superior meat breed with pure white plumage, white skin, (a unique attribute since most ducks have yellow skin) orange feet and legs, dark grayish blue eyes and an unusually long, straight pinkish-white bill. It has a long body, horizontal carriage, and a characteristically straight, deep keel that nearly reaches the ground. The Aylesbury is described as "slow moving, and exceptionally tame.There is a critical need for more conservation breeders of Aylesbury ducks. Their large size, white skin and white plumage make them an excellent market bird and a great addition to any small farmstead or backyard producer's flock.
 When I called the ALBC I was told that there was only one breeder of these ducks in the US.I think they consider a breeding flock one that has 50 birds or more.I was given the name of Frank Reese of the Good Shepard Ranch in Kansas, . Mr Reese spent some time talking to me and gave me a lot of information on Aylesbury ducks and poultry in general. I learned that if you want a breed true to standard then buy from a breeder that is raising heritage birds,not from a hatchery as those birds have strayed from the breed standard. Mr. Reese's advice was to join the American Poultry Association, and if you are serious about raising heritage birds then also subscribe to The Poultry  Press, to the state fair and checking out the poultry is also a good idea. We talked about feed and what should go into it. Mr. Reese blends his own feed for the ducks,chickens,turkeys and geese that he raises. Duck feed should be high in fiber and fat(fish meal is good for the fat).Contacting a commercial bakery and getting their stale remains is great for the birds also as it has vitamins already added to it.I found out that if you have chickens picking on each other then give them tomatoes with salt and the picking would stop(good to know)
 Mr. Reese said the best books on waterfowl to read were the black and white version of The Standards of Perfection,anything by Dr. Marsden(haven't found much info on him yet) Oscar Grow who wrote Modern Waterfowl Management and Dave  Holderreed, .
 I asked Mr. Reese if he brought new birds in to strengthen his flock or just eggs to hatch. He only brings in eggs to hatch as he has to much to lose if a new bird brought in has a disease or something.One diseased bird can wipe out an entire flock (scary thought),He vaccinates the chicks right after they hatch to prevent this from happening.
 I was told that there was another breeder of Aylesbury ducks in the US and he was actually here in Arkansas. Mr. P. Allen Smith is also a breeder and had bought his large flock from Mr. Reese.I was very excited to hear this! I had just found Mr. Smith on facebook and it seems that everyone I talked to knew who he was.Evidently he is a celebrity, I am in contact with his farm and hopefully by spring I will be a beginning breeder of Heritage Aylesbury ducks!
 When we started this farm journey I figured we might have a couple of ducks along with the chickens,never dreaming I would fall in love with these funny little birds. We have 3 Muscovy's, 1 Black Swedish and 6 Pekins at the moment,I really need to build a pond!
These are our ducks,

                      Do you raise ducks or are you thinking about it? What breed tugs at your heart?

Blessed Be!
one innocent question can set your feet on a different path!

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