term Aylesbury Duckling is misguidedly used by many people to describe
all white table ducks; this is far from correct as the vast majority of
ducks available are hybrid breeds. The exception is the exhibition
or show Aylesbury which is still bred by enthusiasts. This duck is
derived from the Aylesbury strain but is bred purely for show points,
that is, length of neck, depth of keel etc; it is not as ours - the true
Aylesbury table duckling.
The Strain of ducks which we still produce are a direct descendants of those bred by my ancestors back in the late 1700’s as according the family tradition the blood line has not been lost but has been added to by buying or swapping good stock with other breeders over the last two centuries. My father had the foresight to buy stock from many of the old duckers he knew around the villages as they retired or gave up the business in 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I myself can remember as a very small boy going with him to buy ducks from a breeder in the village of Meadle who had become too old to cope. (The old boy died some months later and I remember my father saying that once he had given up his ducks he had sadly, nothing more to live for.)
These birds would be kept separate from his own stock until he had hatched eggs from them, only then if he thought they were suitable would he incorporate them into his breeding régime. This would be done by crossing the ducks (females) with his own drakes (males) if the progeny was not up to expectation the whole batch would be discarded, he was a perfectionist.
By having this large gene-pool and very careful breeding we have been able to continue to produce the REAL Aylesbury Duckling.
From the time they are hatched our ducklings are reared inside for the first two weeks, then free-ranged for the remaining six weeks of their lives. They are killed at the age of 8 weeks; this is traditional as they change feather at 9-10 weeks so they then would be classed as ducks not duckling. The average oven ready weight of these ducklings 50 - 60 years ago would have been 5 1/2 – 6 lbs. We now can attain weights of up to 8 1/2 lbs (3.86 kgs) oven-ready. This is due to the almost perfect formulation of the feed ration we now use, and many years of careful breeding by the family (average oven-ready weight now being 6 1/2 - 7 1/2 lbs – (2.9 -3.21 kgs).
All of our ducklings are of course bred, hatched and reared by us on our farm, we also kill and process on the farm. They are fed on a ration made to order especially for us by Gro-Well Feeds of Melksham, Wiltshire which contains no growth promoters, or antibiotics and no meat or fish proteins; it is cereal-based with only the essential vitamins and minerals included.