Khaki Campbells…now these I have actually touched!

I was looking around for a particular breed of duck to focus on for this entry, a month after the last post, so an epic fail on the duck-a-week front. Not even going to try to defend that one.

Anyway, the duck I’m going to write about tonight is the Khaki Campbell. My main reason for this is that I got to hold one! The other week, my girlfriend and I went to pick up her new motorcycle, and the lady she bought it from breeds quails, hens, grouse…and a couple of ducks. Well, she focusses on the others, but had been given two Khaki Campbell duck eggs as a gift, in the hope that they would hatch. They did, and yours truly got to hold the tiniest little ball of fluff he’s ever seen. Noisy little bugger it was too, but lovely nonetheless. It was strange to see the breeder handle the birds actually. I was very gentle, wary of hurting them. She, one the other hand, grabbed them up with the kind of confidence that comes with years of experience, knowing exactly how hardy the little blighters are.

 

Khaki Campbell

So, the Khaki Campbell. It got it’s name from the khaki colour of its down, and the name of the 19th century breeder who developed the breed: Adele Campbell. Having developed this colour, it reminded her of the khaki colour of British army uniforms. It is one of three varieties Campbell bred, all named after her: the Khaki, Dark and White. They were developed through interbreeding the Mallard, Rouen and Runner ducks, all common domestic breeds. They are very popular, the Campbells, because their egg laying capacity is apparently higher than a lot of domestic hens. The ducks are known to produce an average of 300 eggs a year. That’s pushing one a day.

This leads me on to the interesting fact of these ducks. They often don’t hatch their own young. They produce so many eggs that they can’t tend them, so leave them. To hatch the eggs, breeders use artificial incubators or broody hens in place of the ducks, which is what the breeder we met did. She had the eggs placed in a mechanical incubator and hoped for the best. Both eggs hatched and, at the time of writing, are thriving.

The breed is also apparently perfect, having been added to the American Standard of Perfection in 1941, although probably not for their parenting habits.

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DOWN!

The Eider Duck.

So a friend of mine said he saw one of these on the canal outside his apartment. For the record, I don’t believe him (mainly because it amuses me not to), but it did afford me the opportunity to write about it.

Everyone knows that the eider duck is most famous for its down, the soft feathers taken from the breast of the female eider duck. When “harvesting” eider down, it’s taken, not from the ducks themselves, but from their nests once the ducklings have left, with no harm done to the birds. Nowadays however, eider down has been largely replaced with synthetic alternatives and down from farmed geese.

The birds are sea-ducks and inhabit North America and Eastern Siberia and the coasts of northern Europe, wintering in more temperate climates. It’s therefore perfectly possible, and indeed quite probable, for my friend to have seen one in Edinburgh. Like I said though, it amuses me to disbelieve him.

The Common Eider

The Common Eider

The drakes are black and white and identified by their wedge-shaped head, giving them a very distinctive shape. The female ducks are a mottled brown, much like a female mallard, and have a less conical bill an head.

The down has been used form many centuries to fill quilts and pillows and it is very soft and very warm, and the whole skin of the duck has also been used to make clothing.

The interesting fact about this particular species, aside from the well-known warmth properties, it that they were the subject of possibly the first bird protection order in the world. In AD 676 a hermit who later became Saint Cuthbert protected a large breeding colony on Farne Island, Northumberland. The birds still flock there in their thousands every year, 1385 years later.  It’s as if they hadn’t even noticed.

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Home is where the Egg is…

The Buff Orpington Duck is the subject of this era’s article. I chose it simply because I used to go to school in Orpington, Kent, where this duck hails from. It was originally bred by one

Buff Orpington Duck, care of poultrykeeper.com

Buff Orpington Duck, care of poultrykeeper.com

William Cook, as a domestic breed for eggs and meat. I’m not sure what the technical term for blending duck genes is, but this one was created by mixing the Cayuga, Runner, Aylesbury and Rouen duck varietes.

It’s name comes from the one surviving breed. There were black, white, blue and “chocolate” but these breeds have apparently disappeared over time. Cook presented the duck to the Dairy Show in Islington in October of 1897, according to the Poultry Journal of that year. The Buff Orpington was officially certified as a duck breed in 1914, although this event may have been overshadowed by other, more significant ones that year!

The interesting fact about this domestic breed is that, were you to actually breed them as a hobby, the blue variety would still crop up in the brood due to the presence of a “blue dilution gene”. From my limited understanding of genetics, this is similar to the red-head gene in people. It’s recessive and pops up every now and then. While the actual true-blue variety may no longer be with us, the gene apparently survives in the remaining Buff, which is an unstable variety.

Now, I must confess that this is a wee bit of conjecture, but from what I’ve read it makes sense. That said, if anyone can prove me right, or wrong in the interests of science and accuracy, please do let me know.

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Why have I not seen this before?!

I challenge you all get this out of your mind after seeing it!

Evil evil evil!

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Going Dutch…

So…back to the ducks.

Today’s duck of choice is the Dutch Hookbill.  As the name suggests it’s a native of Holland.  There are quite a few interesting facts about this one, first and foremost that it’s the oldest breed in Europe.  Hookbills trace their ancestry back to the 17th century, when they were bred in the Netherlands alongside the newly build canals.  The first written evidence of their existence is in the 1678 book Ornithology by Willughby (sic.) according to breeders Chris and Mike Ashton.

Dutch Hookbill Duck - Image from www.backyardchickenshickens.com

Dutch Hookbill Duck - Image from http://www.backyardchickenshickens.com

The ducks are apparently very friendly, which makes them ideal pets and, while they do fly, they never stray far from home.  In fact, they were easy to breed in the 1700s as they would be let out to the rivers and canals, and return home of their own accord.

Although they are now called ‘Dutch’, the common consensus is that they arrived from East Asia on Dutch trading ships, and bred quite happily in the temperate European climate.

Finally, everything I’ve read about them suggests that they’re good eating, which means I’m quite keen to find one!

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No excuses…

Right…so much for a post a week.  I think I need to concede defeat on that, regroup and re-start the campaign: at least get stuck back into it.  Basically I need to get something up here!

On the plus side, an amusing anecdote: my girlfriend and I had dinner at my friend’s flat the other day, he of the challenges.  His wife had just completed her first half-marathon and in celebration of this fact (and because none of us really wanted to cook properly), we ordered in pizza.  My friend set himself his own wee challenge.

If you order pizza online (on the face of it, a new low for communication and conversation, as you now don’t even need to speak to someone to order, let alone go and collect the pizza), there is a section on most websites for “any other instructions.”  This is for things like “ring buzzer marked 6”, or “use back door to avoid dogs” or other things to help the delivery wallah get to where he needs to be.

My friend had heard that you could put practically anything in there, like “put the pepperoni in a smiley face shape” or “draw Santa on the box”, and the pizza company would oblige.  Probably.  Well, within reason.

As a quip, I suggested that we ask them to draw a duck on each of the boxes.  We had had more than a couple of Pimm’s by this point, and that was the most hilarious suggestion ever.

Never before have four adults been more excited about the prospect of receiving pizza!  We waited with bated breath…

…for these!

Needless to say, the delivery wallah was met with four very happy campers and got a big tip!

I’m sorry but this says something about this particular company.  They clearly have a sense of humour, and it made our night.  My friend’s wife was very pleased with herself and her celebratory meal.  And we will certainly order from them again, just because they drew ducks on the boxes, regardless of the fact that they made very good pizzas.

So now a challenge for any readers out there: next time you order pizza, do it online, and put something special into the “special instructions” box.  Let’s see who cam come up with the most outlandish, and successful suggestion.

Good luck!

P.S. I know this challenge has nothing whatsoever to do with ducks, just in case anyone wants to point that out…

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If ever there was an anthem…

A friend showed me this.

Made me laugh…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_VejNkH6Fc

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