Welcome to Heritage Breed Focus, an occasional series where take a more in-depth look at the breeds we raise here at Nine Yards Farm- their history, qualities and what we like about them.
It feels appropriate for our first Heritage Breed Spotlight to focus on the newest additions to our farm- six Buff Ducks!
Buff Ducks (the only instance in which the color is used as the breed name) were developed by the same man who bred the Buff Orpington chicken: Mr William Cook in Kent, England. Around the turn of the 20th century there was a big trend among poultry fanciers for “buff” colored birds and so he worked to develop a duck of that color (the Khaki Campbell duck was an alleged attempt at this, but instead ended up capitalizing on the love for British Army uniforms!) Mr Cook used Runners, Cayugas, Aylesburys and Rouens in the development of the breed. It’s said he bred runners with the other three breeds, then interbred the offspring of those until the buff color was fixed. He first exhibited them in the United States in 1908.
Buff ducks are a dual purpose duck, being good egg layers (around 150 to 220 eggs per year, similar to many dual purpose chickens) and growing to around seven pounds. One reason they were popular for meat in their early development is that the buff colored feathers plucked very cleanly, and they were renowned for having a great flavor, but they lost out to much faster growing breeds such as the Pekin. One of the main reasons we are keen to keep these ducks is that they are listed as threatened by the Livestock Breed Conservancy (estimated global population of less than 5000) and we believe strongly in preserving older, less industrial, breeds of animals (and vegetables for that matter) for the sake of the genetic diversity of our planet.
We’ve only had our ducks about a week or so but they seem right at home. They’re a bit friendlier than our Khaki Campbell ducks, but still don’t exactly come running up for cuddles (though I’m working on changing that by tempting them with delicious treats so they’re easier to handle). They are absolutely beautiful animals and adore the creek, and run straight down there every morning as soon as their door is opened. They have a reputation for going broody, and I’m hoping that they will hatch out a few little ducklings in the spring to help keep this awesome breed going.