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:


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 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.

Duck Breed of the Month – Pekin

In this new feature for Jim Vyse Arks Chicken Chat we’ll be looking at a different breed of duck every month. To kick off the breed of the month we’re looking at the Pekin – popular both commercially and as pets.

snow ducksThe Pekin duck is most famous for its commercial use, particularly in America where 95% of the duck meat eaten comes from Pekin duck. However, the breed is also popular as a pet and show bird because of their cream feathers and bright orange feet and bill.

The breed was originally developed in China from the Mallard breed and where small with black feathers. Eventually the breed grew bigger, developed white feathers, and was domesticated by Chinese farmers.

In 1873 the first small group of Pekin ducks were exported to America and became immediately popular for commercial purposes. The breed was also introduced to the UK in the 1870s and entered the British breed standard in 1901.


Although Pekin ducks look white they should actually be cream, white feathers are considered a defect according to breed standards. Their feathers are thick and fairly soft so they should be kept away from too much mud in the winter months.

They have bright orange feet and beaks, meaning that they are often confused with the Aylesbury and Cherry Valley ducks that look similar.

European Pekins have an upright stance, similar to penguins, whereas the American Pekin is closer to the ground.

They are classed as a “heavy” breed with drakes weighing 4.1kg on average and females weighing 3.6kg.

Egg production

Despite being bred for their meat rather than their egg laying abilities the Pekin produces a fair number of  eggs, around 60 – 140 large white eggs per year.

Female Pekin ducks aren’t particularly broody so if you’re planning on breeding them you may want to consider artificial incubation methods.


Pekin ducks are usually calm, friendly, and enjoy being companions both to other ducks, humans, and other breeds of animal. Just like geese they can make excellent guard animals as they will make loud noises should predators or strangers approach.

Pekin ducks are also very intelligent and enjoy foraging and exploring their surroundings as well as swimming.

They are usually too heavy to fly, although they may be able to lift off the ground for short bursts. Clipping their wings is the best way to avoid them flying if you do have a particularly determined flier, although this is normally unnecessary with Pekins.

Keep an eye out next month when we’ll be looking at the beautiful Silver Appleyard!

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:


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.