Heritage Poultry Expert Frank Reese on Aylesbury Ducks

Aylesbury ducks have an intriguing history, and they’ve been around for a long time. And at one time there were many of them. But now they’re considered a very rare breed. Earlier this year, Frank Reese, with the good shepherd poultry ranch, came to visit me at the farm to discuss the history and importance of preserving the heritage of these beautiful birds.

Allen Smith: Frank, I can’t believe how windy it is today. I’m so glad you’re here.

Frank Reese: Well, thank you.

Allen Smith: you know, the Aylesbury duck has been around for a long time, hasn’t it?

Frank Reese: Yes, it’s a very old breed. It’s so old, we don’t even know for sure their complete history. But it’s an old English breed of duck.

Allen Smith: You know, we have been fortunate here to be able to collect three genetic lines of that duck. I was stunned when I began to collect these birds, how few there are left in the country.

Frank Reese: Yeah, you probably have one of the bigger flocks that’s even in existence in North America. There’s just hardly anybody left breeding them, especially in any numbers. So the work you’re doing here is extremely important. And they’re not the only bird in trouble. There are many of our varieties of standard-bred poultry — the Jersey Giant, the Barred Rock, the Silver-laced Wyandotte, the old, original meat birds. And there are many, many other varieties of poultry that are in great danger.

Allen Smith: Now, you’ve raised poultry your entire life and know a lot about all the different species. But with the ducks, any advice as we move out of winter into spring?

Frank Reese: Well, you know, this time of year for ducks, they do quite well in cold weather and just getting ready for spring and that they have all of the water and feed and nutrition they need to lay good, healthy eggs. The majority of the time we get in trouble with a little duckling is because we let him get cold, and we let him get wet.

Little ducks, believe it or not, drown very easily. And so you do have to just watch them. You are their mother. They’re babies. They need to be watched. And you need to help keep them warm and dry and have good bedding and clean water.

Allen Smith: Well, my hope with this series of strains, these three that we have, that we’ll be able to hatch a lot of ducklings and really bring up the population of Aylesbury and be able to offer them to other farmers.

Frank Reese: Yeah, and hopefully you’ll also become the center of teaching, a place in which people can come and learn what an Aylesbury is about and why that duck needs to be preserved and be part of our future.

Allen Smith: Frank, so good to have you here. Thank you.

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