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Ardchattan parish : Benderloch, Barcaldine, North connel, Bonawe - Past and Present
Waterfowl : Utility Breeds of Duck: Aylesbury ducks
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THE AYLESBURY DUCK
Aylesburys are one of our common domestic ducks - seen for 150 years or more around the farmyards of middle England from whence they spread around the country.
As with the majority of our domestic ducks, except the Muscovy, they are derived from the Mallard, one of the genetic sports that Man has manipulated over the centuries to stablise a large white duck, which had great meaty qualities in the 1800's and much of the 1900's.
There are two very distinct kinds of Aylesbury duck : - the utility bird and the exhibition bird.
The latter sticks to the current British Waterfowl Association breed standard more closely but the former is what you want if you want a table bird and ducks that lay a reasonable number of eggs. These are not so easy to get hold of nowadays.
Most strains of Aylesbury ducks in the UK have been bred to neither quality, they are common as large white ducks but would not be considered show worthy and make very disappointing birds for either egg numbers or as a meat carcass. They are fine garden pets and most new owners do not realise the lack of quality until too late, which is why so many breeders can get away without doing the work to improve their breeding stocks. Always ask what breeding / selection strategy a supplier is using before you buy birds, particularly if you are looking to get a reasonable supply of eggs or meat in the future, or looking to enjoy campaigning your birds at local or national shows.
You may find help Finding Breeders here.
In days gone by, most white farm ducks were either utility Aylesbury's or White Campbell, maybe with a bit of Pekin thrown in (and often a mixture of the three).
Image is of some young Utility Aylesbury's at about 12 weeks old
Information about the breed :
ORIGIN : Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Great Britain
: Records of the first poultry show in 1845 show classes for 'Aylesbury or other white variety' and for 'Any other variety'. Since that date the particular characteristics of the breed were standardised and selected for to create a good meaty bird. Later the standard diverged so the exhibition quality bird is now very different to that of the utility. The attraction of the Aylesbury for development as a table bird was its large frame, which careful selective breeding would fill with meat, but now is lost in most, and equally importantly its white feather and skin. The white feather stubs leave less of an obvious residue after plucking so making the resulting carcass much more attractive to the general market.
EGGS : White; Good utility lines should produce around 150 eggs a year, these are now VERY rare. Ask the breeders you contact for their production records.. Aylesburys nowadays tend to vary from 35 - 120 eggs a year. We need many more breeders, large and small, to work to improve production.
SIZE : heavy;
drakes :- should weigh about 10-12 lbs. (4.5-5.5 kg); again most are not so well covered.
ducks :- could be about 9-11 lbs. (4-5kg)
MEAT : The old utility types were very efficient converters of feed to meat with a less pronounced bony keel than exhibition stock. It is said that at 8 weeks they would be at their best, weighing around 4-5 lbs. You will need to ask the breeder what weights their birds have at this age to compare the strains available to you. The results you get will depend entirely on what selection has taken place in the past 5 generations. Its a real shame but few will be able to tell you as so few record anything about their birds. Its not enough to say "aylesburys ARE good meat birds or they should be Xlbs, if THEIR birds are not selected for the productive qualities then the youngstock will tend to be mediocre quality. It takes work to improve / maintain good birds and there are no large breeders left to buy in new stock.
TEMPERAMENT : Lazy, eating machines who enjoy their pond.
From our experience so far their main activity is eating - and if their breeding is right, they will convert food into meat at an amazing rate. In fact one has to be careful with young birds that they don't over do it. If you keep the youngsters free range, and do not feed ad-lib they do very well.
Tim and Jill Bowis
Kintaline Mill Farm,
Benderloch, OBAN Argyll PA37 1QS Scotland
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