Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Duckling of a Different Color

November of last year, we made the decision to add ducks to the farm.  As with the chickens, we did not want just any duck.  We settled on the Silver Appleyard ducks because they are large ducks which makes them good meat birds, and they are excellent layers. After looking around, we found our ducks.  We bought 15 ducklings to get started.  We had no idea how messy ducks are, but they are a joy to watch.  They grow incredibly fast as well.  Around five months of age, they started to get the beautiful coloring common to the Appleyards.  My husband, Willy, and our youngest son, Tristan, built a nice duck "crib" in a nicely shaded and fenced corral which would become their home.  Willy also converted some barrels into nice nest boxes in anticipation of the hens beginning to lay.

Our ducks grew into 8 magnificent drakes and 7 gorgeous hens.  We soon saw them begin to pair up with preferred partners.  We made the decision to go back where we had bought these and get another hen to make it an even 8 pair.  We now realize that you don't need pairs so much and have thinned out the drakes some.  However, when we picked up the extra hen, she gifted us a lone Silver Appleyard duckling that had hatched.  Soon we began to find our first eggs.  These eggs are "eggcellent" (sorry but I could not help myself) for baking and great for breakfast.  They are very large eggs and since our ducks are allowed to roam some, they are very rich eggs.

At last we started getting eggs from all the hens every day.  We decided to start hatching upon returning from vacation in July.  We already had some hens displaying "broody" symptoms.  However, the poor hens would attempt to brood not be able to stay on the nest due to the heat. The incubator became the obvious choice.  We set our first group of about 40 eggs in the incubator.  Unlike chicken eggs that require 21 days of incubation, duck eggs require 28 days.  Of course, we were beyond excited when they began to pip and hatch.  Patience is required here as well because it takes them a little longer to actually hatch once they pip.  Silver Appleyard ducklings, we have since learned, should be mostly yellow with a black "Mohawk" and the tip of the tail should be black as well to be considered "standard" for the breed.  Much to our surprise, we also had a few solid black ducklings, a few solid yellow and a few that were dark with yellow markings (more like a mallard duckling) along with our beautiful standard ducklings.

This has been quite the puzzle since:
No. 1 We purchased Silver Appleyard ducklings that were standard
No. 2 We have NO other ducks on the place (so no accidents)
No. 3 No other ducks (even wild) have access to our ducks

We started reading about this strange phenomenon and found that duck's colors have standard "phases".  Some ducks are "light phase", some are "dark phase" and then there is the occasional "rare phase".  Rare phase are just that - rare and treasured.  "A rare phase duck is a purebred duck with an unusual unstandardized color variation within the breed.  Rare phase ducks are hard to find, particularly because they must be purebred to be true." (quoted from

Silver Appleyard ducks are a standard light phase duck, but they do have instances of "rare phase" associated with the breed.  The rare phase characteristic of the Silver Appleyard is that it is dark, which is noticeable as ducklings.  There are several other qualifying criteria that have to be met for these to be considered "rare phase".  These require that they mature, lay and hatch ducklings and that some of those ducklings are "standard".  It seems we have unwittingly embarked on a "wild duck chase", but we have made the decision to see this through on the chance that we have a "rare phase" on our hands.  Stay tuned for future updates.

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