Breed of the Month: Silver Appleyard

This month’s duck breed of the month is the pretty Silver Appleyard, a reasonably rare but brilliant all-purpose duck. Their silver, white, dark green, and claret plumage makes them one of the most attractive and distinctive breeds of duck available.

the_silver_appleyard-12The Silver Appleyard originates from the UK and is named after their first breeder, a Mr Reginald Appleyard who was known as a writer and breeder of domestic waterfowl.

He first developed the breed in the 1930s with the aim of producing the perfect all-round utility duck that would make good eating and also be a prolific layer. They became popular as a pet, exhibition bird, and as “gourmet roasting ducks”.

The breed was made available to the American public in the 1980s but never really gained much support. A 2000 census in the United States found that there were only 128 breeding Silver Appleyards in North America, with only 5 breeders keeping the breed.

The modern Silver Appleyard is a “heavy” variety of duck, weighing between 6-8lbs when fully grown, but is unfortunately not as dual purpose as it once was.

Sadly good utility stock birds are now hard to find, although they are still one of the better large breeds of duck if you want a large number of eggs. The Silver Appleyard produces roughly 250 large white eggs per year.

They are known to be easy to keep, docile, and friendly. Silver Appleyard’s prefer to free range, although they tend to stay close to their duck house so they don’t need acres of land to be happy.

The Jim Vyse Guide to Showing Ducks

Duck_ShowShowing your ducks (or chickens) can give you a great sense of achievement, even if you don’t win. After all, it’s the taking part that counts! However, if you’re new to showing poultry it can be daunting and it’s hard to know where to start.

If you’re looking to show a specific breed of duck, for example Muscovy, then it’s worth contacting the breed society or club for breed standards and dates of shows. You can also look on the Poultry Club of Great Britain website for advice, show dates, and showing guidelines.

Ducks are categorised into Heavy Duck, Light Duck and Bantam Duck at shows. You may also find classes for juvenile ducks, trios, rare breeds, and eggs.

But once you have this information, how do you make sure your duck puts its best foot forward?

Here’s our advice on showing your ducks:

Does your duck make the grade?

First things first, check the breed standard for your duck and see if they make the grade. For example, does your bird have the correct colour legs?

If your bird doesn’t quite meet the breed standard you can still have fun showing but you’re unlikely to come home with the top prize.

Start preparing early

Show preparation should start a few months before you plan to attend the show, it isn’t as simple as giving your duck and bath and sending off your entry fee. It’s a good idea to separate the duck or ducks you intend to show from the rest of the flock and keep them somewhere clean to prevent mud stains taking hold.

Correct feeding ensures good bone and muscle, it can also change their leg colour if you feed maize (too much maize will give white legs and yellowish tinge).

Regular use of louse powder or spray will ensure good feather health and stop you transporting any unwanted “guests” with you when you attend shows.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on your duck’s general health and keep their claws trimmed to a reasonable length.

Get your entries in on time

Entries for shows usually close a few weeks to a week before the show starts so make sure you don’t miss the deadline. Check your entries and keep a note of the classes you’ve entered.

If you do need any information you can usually contact the show secretary and their contact information can be found in the Poultry Club Yearbook.

Bath time!

The week before the show is the time to give your duck a thorough bath, including grubby legs and feet, as this allows time for the natural oils to return to the feathers. It’s important to mention at this point that you shouldn’t use any kind of soap to bath ducks as you’ll wash all of the natural oils out of their feathers.

If you’ve kept them in a clean enclosure with access to plenty of fresh water they should have kept themselves fairly clean.

To give them a final spruce up the day before the show use warm water to give their feet, legs, and bills a gentle scrub with a nail brush.

Once they’ve had their bath you might want to put a light coating of coconut oil or Vaseline on their legs and feet for extra shine.

Next week we’ll look at transporting your ducks and what happens at a poultry show.

 

How to stop ducks eating their eggs

Egg eating is usually more of a problem with chickens but sometimes you’ll have a duck that gets a taste for eggs. This behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged as it can lead to the whole flock eating their own eggs.

duck-eggsFeeding your ducks egg shell is a good form of calcium and you can also feed them the egg, but make sure you feed it cooked so that they don’t get a taste for raw egg.

Some ducks will only start eating their eggs if the shell is already cracked, but once they get the taste for egg it can cause them to deliberately crack their eggs to get inside.

Here are our steps to stop your ducks eating their eggs:

Make sure your ducks are getting enough calcium

Egg eating can be a sign that your ducks aren’t getting enough calcium in their diets. Feed a good quality layers feed and provide extra sources of calcium such as oyster shell to ensure your ducks are getting everything they need.

Provide multiple nest boxes

Overcrowding in nest boxes can cause eggs to be broken and your ducks may find they like the taste. At least one nest box per four laying ducks is usually recommended but the more nest boxes you provide the better.

Clean up broken eggs quickly

Cleaning up broken eggs as soon as you spot them doesn’t give your ducks a chance to eat them.

It’s also important not to feed any cracked, raw eggs to your ducks when you collect them. If you do want to feed eggs or shells for extra nutrients, make sure you cook them first.

Remove egg eating ducks

As we said, one egg eater can encourage the others to join in, so watch your ducks and see if you can spot the offending fowl.

Break the habit

Try replacing eggs with fake eggs or even golf balls! Once your ducks realise they can’t break the fake egg or golf balls to eat the egg they should get out of the habit and stop trying with real eggs.

Stop ducks getting bored

Some ducks start breaking eggs out of boredom so give them plenty of things to entertain them.

Vegetables, cubed in a bowl or hanging from their run, will keep them occupied and provide a healthy snack. You can check last week’s article on Healthy Treats for Ducks to get ideas.

Delicious duck friendly treats!

As well as their usual daily feed of commercial duck food you can also feed your ducks a variety of delicious treats and snacks. Some treats, like vegetables, can be fed every day and other treats, like fruit or meal worms, should be saved for more special occasions.

ducktreatsIf you’ve been wondering what you can feed your ducks to supplement their usual diet just check our list below before feeding:

Vegetables

As we said above, vegetables can be fed daily; however it’s best to limit the amount of carbohydrate high vegetables and only feed treats once their normal feed has been eaten.

Lettuce, Kale, and Cabbage should all be shredded and ducks seem to prefer raw over cooked. Ducks can eat both the stalks and tops of Broccoli and Cauliflower either raw or cooked.

  • Lettuce (except Iceberg)
  • Cucumber
  • Corn (on the cob, cooked, or uncooked)
  • Peas
  • Carrots (raw or cooked diced into small pieces)
  • Beans (must be cooked until they are soft as raw beans are toxic to ducks)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Beetroot (fresh is better for ducks than tinned)
  • Asparagus (ducks seem to prefer cooked to raw)
  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Turnips (cooked only)
  • Courgette (great shredded and placed in a bowl of warm water to make a warm winter “soup” for your ducks)
  • Bok Choy

Fruit

Fruit should only be fed occasionally as fruits contain a lot of natural sugars. Top tip: halved cherry tomatoes are a great way of getting your ducks to take medication. Simply halve and hide the pill in the tomato – then feed to your duck!

  • Tomatoes (only the flesh – vines and leaves are toxic)
  • Aubergine
  • Pears
  • Apples (applesauce is an easier treat for ducks to eat and can be mixed in with other treats. Do not feed ducks apple seeds as they contain cyanide and even small amounts can be toxic)
  • Bananas (mashed or diced – not the skin)
  • Peaches
  • Cherries (fresh and seedless only – not jarred or tinned)
  • Strawberries

Protein/dairy treats

High protein treats will often give duck manure a stronger smell so only feed these treats occasionally.

  • Worms (best when found from your own garden – be careful of worms bought from bait shops as they have sometimes been chemically treated)
  • Crickets
  • Eggs (cooked only – try hard boiling and dicing with the shells on as an extra source of calcium)
  • Plain yoghurt
  • Cottage cheese

Other supplements

With a healthy, balanced diet your ducks shouldn’t really need any extra supplements but sometimes duck keepers like to include things in their ducks’ diet to promote good health.

  • Electrolytes – these are especially useful during the hot summer months or if you have a dehydrated duck. Follow packet instructions for dosage requirements.
  • Grit – free range birds should get all the grit they need but if you keep your ducks in an enclosure you’ll need to provide them with grit to help grind up food in their gizzards.
  • Oyster shell – this is an important supplement if you having laying ducks as the oyster shell provides them with enough calcium for good egg production.
  • Brewer’s Yeast – brewer’s yeast contains Niacin, an essential nutrient that promotes good health, particularly good foot and leg health.
  • Apple cider vinegar – only use raw apple cider vinegar and add 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Apple cider vinegar promotes general good health, particularly good gut health.

Hidden dangers: Could your garden harm your ducks?

Astrid and IndiaLast week we showed you how to create the perfect duck friendly garden that caters to both your, and your ducks’, needs. Keeping ducks doesn’t have to mean having a muddy patch where your beautiful garden used to be, you can have pretty plants and still keep your ducks happy.

However, not all of the plants you can find at your local garden centre are safe for ducks and if you’re going to be using any kind of chemical fertiliser or compost it’s important to read the label carefully before using it in your garden.

Here’s a list of harmful plants and common garden chemicals to avoid if you keep ducks:

Plants

Ducks aren’t stupid and usually poisonous plants taste bitter so ducks won’t eat them. However, the following plants are delicious but deadly to ducks:

  • Laburnum seeds
  • Potato sprouts
  • Deadly Nightshade
  • Henbane
  • Iris
  • Privet
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Rhododendron
  • Oleander
  • Yew
  • Castor bean
  • Sweet pea
  • Rapeseed
  • Corn cockle
  • Clematis
  • John’s Wort
  • Meadow Buttercup
  • Vetch
  • Ragwort
  • Some fungi

Garden chemicals

Ducks are great at pest control so you shouldn’t need to use chemical pesticides, but there are other chemicals that can be found in your garden. It’s important to read the packaging of any garden purchases carefully before using them in your garden.

  • Arsenic
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Lead
  • Zinc
  • Mercury
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrates
  • Phosphides
  • Bicarbonates
  • Sodium chloride
  • Potassium permanganate
  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides:  chlorinated hydrocarbons, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, DDT, lindane
  • Organophosphorous compounds: diazinon, dichlorvos, malathion, parathion, dimethoate.
  • Carbamates
  • Molluscides
  • Rodenticides
  • Phenolic compounds: these form the base of many disinfectants, wood preservatives, coal tar products and creosote.
  • Formaldehyde
  • Mycotoxins

How to create a duck friendly garden

White Call Duck Drake

White Call Duck Drake

One of the things that puts people off poultry, especially ducks, is the thought of the greedy birds wrecking their beautiful garden. However, with a little bit of planning and selective planting you can keep your beautiful garden and your ducks.

Ducks are great pest control and letting them free range is the ideal way to keep the bugs down without having to use harsh chemicals. Plus, duck manure makes great fertiliser so you’ll want plenty of it to go in the compost bin!

Here’s our guide to landscaping your garden in a way that keeps it pretty and provides your ducks with a healthy environment:

Protect your bushes

Unfortunately ducks don’t know the difference between a weed and your prize Hydrangeas so it’s important to protect your bushes if you want them to survive.

Invest in chicken wire, or other form of fencing, to create a “cage” around the plants you want to protect. You can then anchor the cage to the ground with large rocks or stones.

Choose the right grass seed

If you’re determined to have a luscious looking lawn you’re going to need grass seed that is sold for high traffic areas. Unlike chickens, ducks don’t scratch or yank up grass, but they will dig holes in search of tasty worms.

You’ll probably find you need to re-sow your lawn once a year, but it shouldn’t be particularly high maintenance.

Keep roots safe with rocks

Ducks love digging, so you’ll need to protect the roots of your plants using rocks or stones. Not only will the stones protect your tender plants but they’ll also provide a nice decorative addition to your garden once the plants have matured.

Invest in evergreens

One of the few plants that ducks don’t seem to find delicious are firs and other evergreens. However, they do provide ducks with shelter from the elements and a hiding place for predators.

If you’re looking for plants to disguise ugly perimeter fences then evergreens would be a good, duck friendly option.

Be careful about your choice of plants

Unfortunately not all plants are good for ducks so it’s important to consider the things that grow in your garden carefully. We’ll be discussing plants that are toxic to ducks next Wednesday, so if you’re planning on buying anything new, check our list first.

Top duck friendly plants: the top ducks friendly plants chosen by many duck keepers are Hawthorn, Juniper bushes, Butterfly bushes, and Climbing Roses.

Next week we’ll be looking at plants, and other items you might use or find in the garden, that are toxic to ducks.

Keeping ducks in an urban area

urban duck pondAs much as we’d all like to live on a farm surrounded by animals it isn’t always possible and sometimes you find yourself living in an urban area. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the joys of duck keeping, you just have to think outside the box!

If you’re living in the UK it’s worth checking with your local council to make sure there aren’t any restrictions on the animals you can keep in your garden. This also applies if you’re living in rented accommodation.

If you live in the USA there are many states that don’t allow poultry and other livestock animals to be kept within the city limits so you’ll also need to check with your local authority before purchasing any animals.

Regulations aside, here’s our guide to keeping ducks in an urban area:

Which type of duck is right for you?

Keeping ducks in an urban area requires a little more thought than if you kept ducks on a far, especially when thinking about the amount of noise they make.

If you’ve only got a small garden you might think that a smaller breed, such as the Call duck, might be better for you. However, as their name suggests Call ducks can be rather noisy and your neighbours might not appreciate their constant ducky noises!

Quieter breeds such as the Pekin, Cherry Valley, or Muscovy might be a better option for those of you with close neighbours.

Housing

Ducks aren’t fussy creatures when it comes to housing. As long as their house is dry, clean, and protects them from the elements they’re happy.

From a human point of view you want something that is attractive, robust, and practical. The more money you spend the longer the working life of the duck should be.

Cheap houses might look like a bargain but you’ll probably find you need to repair or replace them every year or so.

A note about predator protection: You’ll also need to consider adding extra fortifications to your housing to protect your ducks against urban predators such as foxes, cats, and dogs. Burying wire in a 6ft trench around the house should stop predators digging their way in and make sure the enclosure has a roof to stop danger coming from above.

To free range or not to free range?

The size and style of your garden might mean that you’d rather your ducks didn’t free range. Ducks are excellent foragers and will happily graze on your lawn or in your plant pots/flower beds to supplement their diet.

If you’d rather protect your garden from hungry ducks it’s worth investing in a large duck run or enclosure so they still have room to carry out their natural behaviours without trashing your outdoor space.

Water

If you live in an urban area it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a pond in your back garden. Luckily this doesn’t matter as ducks don’t really need a huge amount of water to be happy. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are happy just to have a bucket to dunk their heads in!

As long as ducks have access to water that is deep enough to submerge their entire head in then they’ll stay healthy. Ducks need to do this to clean their eyes (as they don’t have tear ducts) and help them wash their food down.

Of course, the more water you can give them the better, but many people choose to use a child’s hard plastic paddling pool or other large plastic container. Be sure to provide small steps or a low ramp to help them in and out of the pool.

A note about water: it’s worth providing other water sources around your garden/the enclosure that aren’t big enough for the ducks to get in. This should stop the water getting too dirty and give them something else to drink from throughout the day.

Remember, drinking water should be changed daily and their pond every other day depending on how quickly it becomes dirty.

Next week we’ll be looking at how to make a duck friendly garden. Keep an eye out for our duck posts which will be moving to Wednesdays!