Heritage Poultry: Goose and Duck Breeds for Your Farm
Ever thought of adding geese or duck breeds to your home farm flock? While the chicken craze continues to sweep the country, lesser-known fowl species, such as ducks and geese, are also growing in popularity. Ducks and geese are useful, charming, and great additions to the small farm or homestead. They’ll do your yard work — offering free pest control and weeding — in addition to producing high quality eggs. They can further boost your output in the form of meat and feathers. Take a look at some of these endangered breeds of ducks and geese, and see where they might fit into your plan.
Looking for a good all-around duck for the farm or homestead? Look no further than the Saxony duck. Originally developed in Germany in the 1930s, Saxonys were left almost extinct after World War II. During the aftermath, the breed’s original creator, Albert Franz, began developing the breed once again. This time the breed survived, and, in 1984, it was imported to the United States by Holderread Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center. Today, the breed is a triple-threat, providing quality meat, large eggs and beautiful feathers.
Many breeders suggest that the Saxony is one of the most attractive and useful of the large duck breeds. Saxony ducks average 6 to 8 pounds when mature. Male Saxony ducks have blue-gray head, back and wing markings; their breast feathers are a rich chestnut-burgundy; and the underbody and flanks are cream-colored. Female Saxony ducks are buff-colored with creamy white facial stripes, neck rings and underbodies. The breed is an active forager and quite self-sufficient, which can lead to slightly longer maturation times than some commercial breeds. Farmers can expect 190 to 240 large, white eggs each year. Despite its many great qualities, the Saxony breed is again near extinction, with fewer than 500 breeding birds existing in the United States. Consider Saxony ducks for your farm and reap the benefits of their utility while helping to preserve the breed for the future.
In the 1800s, Mrs. Adele Campbell of England developed the Khaki Campbell duck. Mrs. Campbell wanted to provide her family with a consistent supply of roast duckling, so she crossed several breeds to develop the modern Campbell. Today, the Campbell duck is reputed for its prolific laying ability. Farmers can expect 250 to 340 eggs each year, all with superb flavor and texture. In addition to being a noted layer, the Campbell is an excellent forager, consuming slugs, insects and even mosquito larvae from ponds. Thanks to its origins, the Campbell also makes a respectable table bird with high-quality meat.
While the original Campbell duck was khaki in color (the only color recognized by the American Poultry Association), the breed does come in a variety of additional colors, including white, dark and pied. Campbell ducks weigh an average of 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. This duck variety adapts to a range of climates and has thrived in tropical and cold climates as well as deserts. Farmers considering Campbells should ensure there is plenty of space for the ducks to graze and forage, as they can be somewhat energetic. With the current growth in popularity of duck eggs, Campbells are becoming a more regular sight in small poultry operations. If eggs are a consideration, be sure you have true Campbells when choosing stock — many crossbred strains have lost their egg production qualities.
As their name suggests, Swedish ducks originated from stock found in Sweden. In Europe, blue-colored ducks were thought to be more hardy and superior meat producers, making this blue-toned beauty a popular choice for centuries. Today, the Swedish duck is still considered a utility meat bird for the farm, but it also makes a good pet and ornamental bird for the pond. Their relatively calm nature makes them a good option for beginning duck raisers.
From a market standpoint, the Swedish duck will be more difficult to dress-out as cleanly as a white-feathered bird, but its coloration has the advantage of hiding unsightly dirt and mud stains. The breed is
medium-sized, averaging 6 1/2 to 8 pounds. Blue is the only color recognized by the American Poultry Association, but the breed can be found in black, silver and splash color patterns. With this breed, you can expect 100 to 150 white, green or blue-hued eggs each year. Swedish ducks need room to forage, and they generally don’t thrive in confinement. Because of their adaptability and good egg-laying nature, Swedish ducks are making a comeback on small farms and homesteads, which has helped to improve their numbers.
American Buff goose
Looking for the perfect holiday roasting bird, or maybe just a friendly pet for the farm? The American Buff goose will meet those needs — and more. As its name suggests, the American Buff goose is an American original, though its exact origin and history is difficult to pin down. The breed is famous for hardiness and calm nature. The American Buff goose’s beautiful fawny-apricot color makes it one of the most colorful and attractive geese. In addition to being excellent foragers, American Buff geese are ideal roasting birds because their coloration allows them to dress almost as cleanly as white geese. The Buff’s coloration has yet another advantage: The birds don’t soil as easily as white geese.
The American Buff is the largest of the medium-weight goose breeds, with females averaging 16 pounds and males averaging 18 pounds. The breed’s orange bill and feet and brown eyes are a stark contrast to its buff-colored body. For the farmer looking for a well-rounded goose, the American Buff’s temperament, mothering abilities, and easy-keeping make it a good choice. Expect 25 to 35 eggs per year. Today, the American Buff goose is critically endangered, with fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States. Help restore this American original and enjoy keeping a pair on your land.
While the name might make it seem that this breed is straight from the plains of Africa, that isn’t strictly true. Though the breed’s history is not clearly documented, it’s thought the African goose is a relative of the Chinese goose, both having descended from the wild swan goose of Asia. The African goose has a distinct appearance, and it is sometimes referred to as the “stately gentleman” of the goose world.
African geese are quite large, weighing 18 to 22 pounds, which classifies them as heavyweight geese. Their massive size reflects strength, power and vitality. They are also known for the well-developed distinguishing knob on their foreheads and the dewlap that hangs from their lower jaw and upper neck. African geese produce some of the leanest meat of the heavyweight goose breeds, making them popular with many producers. The breed is also known for being hardy and fairly cold-tolerant, though shelter is needed when temperatures are near freezing to protect from frostbite. This brawny beauty comes in gray/brown and white. African geese have a deep, melodious voice, and can sometimes be a bit noisy — but if you are looking for a guardian animal, this could be advantageous. African geese, with their great foraging abilities and ornamental good looks, make great additions to the farm flock. Today, African geese are improving in number as more and more breeders are discovering their utility.
Read more: Check out these other awesome heritage poultry breeds in Heritage Breeds: Keeping Ducks and Geese.
Carolina born and raised, Jennifer Kendall resides in Raleigh, North Carolina, and dreams of one day owning some of these heritage breeds.
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