The Silver Appleyard Duck
Silver Appleyard Duck (female) 70 cm X 60 cm, painted paper collage and gold leaf on panel
The Silver Appleyard duck was first developed in the late 1930s by renowned British waterfowl breeder Reginald Appleyard at the Priory Waterfowl Farm, near Ixworth, Suffolk, in England. Besides being a respected breeder of waterfowl, he also developed the Ixworth breed of chicken, and was the author of several books on the husbandry and breeding of ducks and geese. In a promotional pamphlet he produced in 1936, he described his goal with the Silver Appleyard duck as:
An effort to Breed and make a beautiful Breed of Duck. Combination of beauty, size, lots of big white eggs, white skin, deep long wide breasts. Birds have already won at Bethnal Green and the London Dairy Show and ducklings killed at 9 weeks, 6 ½ lbs cold and plucked. (Reginald Appleyard’s pamphlet for the promotion of the Silver Appleyard breed as excerpted in The Domestic Duck by Mike Ashton, The Crowood Press Ltd. 2015)
The Silver Appleyard was meant to be an ideal dual purpose duck: an active forager that was fast growing, combining excellent egg production with a meaty carcass. The white skin of the Appleyard was considered more visually appealing than the dark ‘gamey’ skin of breeds such as the Rouen. And the Appleyard’s egg production exceeded that of the white skinned Pekin. By most accounts, Reginald Appleyard succeeded at his task; the duck he produced did indeed meet all of those practical requirements, as well as being rather beautiful.
Pair of early Silver Appleyards from “The Domestic Duck” by Chris and Mike Ashton, The Crowood Press Ltd, 2015 e-book edition)
Reginald Appleyard continued to develop his excellent duck breed until his death in 1964, but he never standardized it. Nor did he mention the breed again in any of his published writings after the 1940s, which seems odd given both his skill as a breeder and the utility of the bird. Some waterfowl experts speculate that the reason Appleyard ceased to promote the duck which bore his name was because the colouring of the bird was not stable, and that both light and dark coloured ducks appeared. Nor did he ever make public the breeds he used in the Silver Appleyard’s development, although it is suspected that he may have used Rouen Clair, or possibly Mallard, and perhaps Pekin. So re-creating the breed from scratch would – in pre-DNA test days at least – have required some guess work.
Two Silver Appleyard males (miniature version) (photo by Anna Maria Barbieri, Wikimedia Commons)
The Silver Appleyard is a large, heavy duck, and one of the best layers in the heavyweight category. A female can lay between 220 and 265 good-sized eggs per year. The weight of the bird ranges from 3.6 – 4.1 kg for the drake and 3.2 – 3.6 kg for the female. The Silver Appleyard has a slightly upright posture with a gentle slope down the back to the tail. The male has a green head with silver ‘eyebrows’ and silver at the throat. The breast of the male varies in colour from claret (red-brown) and chestnut to light fawn. The wings are grey and white with a blue cross-stripe. The tail is dark bronze; the legs and feet are orange; the bill has a slightly green colour with a black tip. The female’s overall colour is mostly silver-white with brown and fawn markings. She also has a blue cross-stripe on the wings. Her bill is yellow to orange with a black tip. Her legs and feet are also orange.
In the years after the second world war when poultry and waterfowl breeding and husbandry grew less popular, the Silver Appleyard nearly disappeared . Some ducks were sent to the US in the 1960s, but the breed was never widely distributed. It wasn’t until waterfowl breeder Tom Bartlett of Gloucestershire, UK, took up the cause of the Silver Appleyard that the duck experienced any kind of resurgence. Bartlett‘s breeding program made it possible for the breed to be standardized in 1982, and he also developed a miniature variety which was standardized in 1997. The Silver Appleyard was recognised by the American Poultry Association in 1998.
The first significant importation of Silver Appleyards in North America was made by Dave Holderread at the Holderread Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Centre in Corvallis Oregon in the 1980s. Holderread made the birds available to the public in 1984.
The number of Silver Appleyards in Canada is unknown, although likely to be very small, and it is not used for commercial production. So far as anyone knows, the birds which are currently in Canada derive from the stock at Corvallis. The breed is listed as endangered in Canada.
Sources: Ashton, Mike, The Domestic Duck, The Crowood Press Ltd. UK. E-book 2015
The British Waterfowl Association (www.waterfowl.org.uk)
Dohner, Janet Vorwald, The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds, Yale University Press 2001
Holderread, Dave, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks. Pownal, VT: Storey Publishing, 2001.
Rare Breeds Survival Trust, The Silver Appleyard, www.rbst.org.uk
Personal email correspndence with breeder Brad Metzer of Ontario, Canada