Breed Profile: Silver Appleyard Duck
A Beautiful All-Rounder Among Heavy Types of Domestic Ducks
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Breed: Silver Appleyard duck
Origin: The Silver Appleyard duck was first developed in the 1930s by Reginald Appleyard, the renowned British poultry breeder and writer, in Ixworth, England.
History: Reginald Appleyard was a skilled poultry breeder with a project for a great all-round utility and farmyard duck. He aimed for a beautiful breed of duck, with a “combination of beauty, size, lots of big white eggs, white skin, and deep, long, wide breasts.” He achieved his goal, but died before submitting a standard. Nevertheless, he produced birds that won at shows and ducklings ready for the table by nine weeks old at 6.5 lb. (3 kg), cold and plucked. Artist E. G. Wippell painted a fine pair of his birds in 1947 which became an important guide for a standard. Appleyard also developed a Miniature Silver Appleyard in the 1940s from mating a White Call with a small Khaki Campbell duck.
After 1945, the original line declined due to lack of interest in duck breeds. In the 1970s, Tom Bartlett in Gloucester, England, was largely responsible for recreating and popularizing the breed. He bought birds from market with the desired traits and selectively bred them to resemble Wippell’s painting. As a result, the British Waterfowl Association accepted this standard in 1982. Bartlett also developed a miniature version in the 1980s, first shown at the British Waterfowl Association Champion Waterfowl Exhibition in 1987. The Miniature Silver Appleyard duck was standardized by 1997, and is approximately a third of the weight of the large breed. Appleyard’s Miniature Silver Appleyard duck was reclassified as the “Silver Bantam” in the UK.
The Silver Appleyard was imported into the United States in the 1960s, where the breed became available to the public from 1984. The large version was accepted into the heavy class of the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1998. The miniature versions in the United States are likely to have descended from Appleyard’s original Miniatures.
Biodiversity: As a composite breed developed to a standard, genes originate from a variety of sources.
Description: Stocky, broad, compact body with slightly erect posture. The coloring is basically Mallard, except that they express two dominant restricted genes and two recessive light genes, which limit pigment on the face and body, resulting in a silvered effect.
The drake’s head and neck are dark green with distinctive silver-flecks above the eyes and on the throat. He has a silver-white ring around the neck. His chest is chestnut-brown with silver flecks. He has a pale belly, brown-gray back and wings, and a black and white tail. The colors change with age with a tendency for the head to become more silver with age and chestnut tones to darken.
The female has a silver-white head and neck. Brown-gray feathers extend from the crown over the back, wings and tail. Her chest and belly are pale. She is generally paler while young.
Both sexes have an iridescent blue-green-violet speculum, which becomes larger and brighter with age. The female’s beak is orange, while the male’s is greenish yellow. They both have orange legs. Silver Appleyard ducklings are yellow with a black “mohawk” stripe along the crown and a black tail.
Varieties: Silver in large and miniature. The original Appleyard miniature, which is found in the U.S., differs visually and genetically in coloring to the large breed. The miniature expresses dusky and harlequin genes, while the large breed shows restricted and light. Large breed ducklings may appear in darker or lighter versions, and occasionally all white or crested.
Skin Color: White.
Popular Use: Dual purpose for meat and eggs. Also valued as a show breed due to ornamental plumage.
Egg Color: White.
Egg Size: 2.5–3.7 oz. (57–85 g).
Productivity: 100–270 eggs per year. The large breed is fast growing and maturing, with flavorsome, lean meat and a full meaty breast.
Weight: Drake 8–10 lb. (3.6–4.5 kg); duck 7–8 lb. (3.2–3.6 kg). U.S. miniatures: 30–38 oz. (0.9–1 kg). British miniatures: drake 3 lb. (1.4 kg); duck 2.5 lb. (1.2 kg).
Temperament: Calm and easily tamed. They are active foragers with a large appetite who settle in where they are well fed.
Adaptability: Silver Appleyard ducks need plenty of land to forage, and a good quantity of well-balanced feed to lay well. They also need water to bathe. Females normally incubate their own eggs and have good maternal instincts.
Quote: “Appleyards are one of the best all-purpose large breeds of ducks and adapt to a wide range of environments.” Dave Holderread, Corvallis, OR.
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks. 2011. Dave Holderread.
- Holderread Waterfowl Preservation Center.
- British Poultry Standards, 6th Edition. 2009. Ed: Victoria Roberts.
- Domestic Duck. 2014. Mike Ashton.
- British Waterfowl Association
- Photos © The Livestock Conservancy, Heather Butler, Duck Creek Farm, and Holly Occhipinti (preening and keeping watch, CC BY).
Originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.