AYLESBURY & SHETLAND DUCKS, PILGRIM GEESE, NORFOLK BLACK TURKEYS & BLACK ORPINGTON CHICKENS
These are for our own use and enjoyment; we do not sell hatching eggs or birds
Debbie’s books Keeping Ducks and Geese – A Practical Guide (October 2021) and Keeping Goats – A Practical Guide (2022) are both published by The Crowood Press. You can buy the books direct from us, from The Crowood Press, in bookshops and from the usual online retailers.
Keeping Ducks and Geese – A Practical Guide is stuffed with all the things we’ve learned about how to keep and look after these great birds (good and bad) in our thirty plus years of having them. It covers the legal stuff, choosing breeds and bringing them home, housing and fencing, nutrition, breeding and hatching, health and welfare, security and pest control, dispatching, raising for meat, using for craft and even some favourite and unusual recipes. Rammed with our own colour photos (those of you who have been to the farm will recognise all kinds of things) and by other brilliant keepers from all over the place, it also includes information on 80 breeds of ducks and geese to be found in the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to include wonderful historic black and white photographs by James Ravilious too, my favourite photographer, thanks to Beaford Archive. 192 page hardback with 290 photos.
Utility Aylesbury ducks
Our Aylesbury ducks are reared for both meat and eggs; after years of duck keeping, a duck egg is now far preferred to those of the hen for their taste, not just through sheer greediness for their superior size. The Aylesbury is a fabulous meat breed, with a dressed weight of 6-8lbs, and they aren’t slack in the egg department either, producing an egg a day throughout the laying season; the eggs are very large and creamy white. These are the Jemima Puddleducks of the waterfowl world.
We keep a small breeding flock of Shetland ducks, the rarest duck breed in the UK, and a priority breed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust at risk register. Our birds were hatched from eggs sourced from the Island of Trondra, in the Shetland Islands, where the birds were saved from extinction by Tommy and Mary Isbister. We have been surprised and delighted that the ducks lay almost year round – they must find our Devon weather a doddle in comparison to their Shetland origins. Although laying is prolific, the breeding season is still limited to spring and early summer.
Black Orpington large fowl chickens
We have kept various chickens (and guinea fowl) for many years but hadn’t had any clucking around for far too long. In 2010 we decided to remedy this and have developed a small flock of rare breed Black Orpington large fowl. They are the best tasting meat breed we’ve ever had and are on the Rare Breed Survival Trust at risk register.
Pilgrim geese are a light weight auto-sexing breed, their colour indicating their gender (the gander is white with some grey speckling, the females a light grey with some white). Pilgrims are on the Rare Breed Survival Trust at risk register.
Norfolk Black turkeys
We keep a small breeding group of Norfolk Black turkeys. The stags (males) having wonderfully dramatic fleshy wattles, caruncles and snood showing bright red to bright blue, often at the same time, and fanning their tail and wings and strutting just like a peacock. They take about six months to reach meat weight and have marvellous meat; very well flavoured and moist. A mature stag weighs up to 11 kilos and a hen around 6 kilos. They lay around 70 cream and brown speckled eggs a year. Norfolk Blacks are on the Rare Breed Survival Trust at risk register.
NORFOLK BLACK TURKEY STAG
BLACK ORPINGTON CHICKENS