We have raised a number of different duck breeds. Among the layers were Blue Indian Runners and Golden 300 Hybrid ducks from Metzer Farms. Rouen ducks were purchased from Metzer Farms in Gonzales, CA and Muscovy and Cayuga ducks were purchased from Cripplecreek Farm in Gardiner, NY. Our runners and Rouen lay green tinted eggs, Cayuga lay grey eggs. We chose birds that lay tinted eggs, to easily distinguish them from the large white Muscovy eggs which are brooded by our Muscovy hens and the white eggs of the Silver Appleyard.
A French heritage breed with a rich and complex flavor. The original birds from France were re-derived in the USA by Robert Rosenthal of Stone Church Farm in Rifton, NY and John Metzer of Metzer Farms in Gonzales, CA. These birds are pure white, and therefore similar in appearance to Pekin, but are significantly smaller and slower to reach full size. They are gentle talkative birds, and are excellent flyers compared to other domestic breeds. New for 2017, we are proud to offer a new variant of the traditional Duclair duck developed by John Metzer of Metzer Farms as part of his continued improvement of the breed. We raise the Duclair on contract for local farm to table restaurants and local retail customers and CSA members. Fresh and frozen birds are available in season, May through November. Please inquire.
A French heritage breed which closely resembles the wild mallard in color, adapted by the French to a larger size. The flavor is complex, slightly gamey and reminiscent of the mallard. Rouen are slow to mature. We primarily raise these birds for our own table, but contract orders may be arranged.
Originating in South and Central America, the Muscovy is likely related to both ducks and geese. It is a distinct species, and although Muscovy will mate with other Mallard-derived ducks, the progeny are sterile. Muscovy hens are similar in size to our other ducks, but the drakes are almost twice as large. Muscovy are highly intelligent (for ducks), very social, and extremely calm. We walk among them, and they lift their heads to say hello. They are also almost silent, unlike mallard-derived breeds, which can be quite talkative. Muscovy are raised for meat all over the world. The meat is very lean compared to other ducks, and the large breast is often seared or grilled, sliced into medallions and served with a fruit sauce. The legs are most commonly cooked long and slow as a confit. We keep a flock of breeders and have whole and quartered birds available in summer and fall. As with all our birds, CSA members are given priority when fresh birds are available, and Members of the Flock, our website subscribers, are notified of each harvest.
This is a video of Muscovy ducklings playing in water. Almost all our Muscovy are brooded and raised by their mothers. This is highly inefficient from a farming prospective, but Muscovy are excellent mothers and we enjoy watching them raise their young.
An American heritage breed listed on the Slow Food Arc of Taste. These ducks lay very dark eggs, have a very gentle disposition and make excellent pets. They are strikingly beautiful- the females are black with purple accents, and the males are black with an iridescent green head and neck. The Cayuga is named for the city in New York State where it was developed. Because the bird has black pinfeathers that are very difficult to completely remove, we will not raise this bird for meat in 2018, but may maintain a small flock as egg producers, and for their beauty.
A heritage dual purpose duck developed by Reginald Appleyard in England with very flavorful meat. We raised a small number of these ducks this year and our preliminary tastings were very encouraging- we find the birds to be higher in fat content than the Duclair, with a milder yet interesting flavor. We feel it provides a larger, fattier bird than the Duclair, but with significantly greater complexity compared to the Pekin. The birds themselves are beautiful and sweet tempered, and this breed will replace the Pekin, or Long Island Duckling in our flocks. Silver Appleyard ducklings were purchased from John Metzer of Metzer Farms.
In 2018, we have incubated and hatched out several hundred ducklings. The Appleyards roam the property during the day, and sleep in a closed shed at night, where they lay their eggs in nests. In May, we left their eggs in the shed for ONE day, and created a dedicated flock of brood hens. We now have 6 hens on nests in the shed.
We have a limited number of Silver Appleyard ducklings available for purchase as pets. As per NYS law, all birds under 8 weeks of age are sold in groups of at least 6 baby birds. Please inquire via email.
Why Do We Raise Heritage Breed Pastured Duck?
The commercially available ducks in your local grocery store are frequently called “Long Island Ducklings” because commercial duck farming arose on Long Island. The ducks are the Pekin breed, originally from China, and were selected to grow very rapidly, have a large breast, high body fat and mild flavor. These commercial ducks, like commercial chickens, are raised indoors in large buildings on metal or plastic mesh floors, and drink water through small metal nipples originally developed for chickens. The birds grow rapidly and are harvested at 7 weeks of age. The timing is important because after 7 weeks removing feathers and down is more difficult. The birds are kept clean, dry, well fed, and watered. However, they never get to be ducks.
When ducks are raised by their mothers, like our Muscovy ducks, they live outside from the time they are born and their mother protects them from rain and cold by huddling them beneath her body and wings. When ducklings are hatched in incubators and raised without their mothers, they need protection from cold or wet weather until they are about 5-6 weeks old and fully feathered. (Remember that the Pekin ducks are normally harvested at 7 weeks of age.)
Ducks love to play in water, and especially mud. They put their bills deep into water to clear their nares (nostrils). This keeps their eyes and noses clean. Ducks can live without dunking their bills, but they are much happier and healthier when they can do so. Unfortunately, for commercially raised ducks this is a rare luxury. Our ducks enjoy these simple pleasures on a daily basis.
Ducks are also champion poo-ers, hence the slotted wire or plastic flooring in commercial duck farming. Our brooders have raised slated floors, but older birds are completely free to wander through pasture during the day, and at night are sheltered in wood sheds with hay for bedding. As they grow, they are pastured either at our home or Stone Ridge Orchard, with trees for shade and protection from weather.
Because our birds are pastured they enjoy a very active life compared to commercial birds. Heritage breeds are not harvested at 7 weeks, but at 10-17 weeks. For these reasons, pastured heritage ducks are significantly lower in fat and richer in flavor compared to commercial ducks. They are also more muscular, and while they are delicious roasted, the legs and wings are more tender when prepared as confit or via sous vide.
Our First Birds
Our first birds were Muscovy ducklings. They lived in a pen in our study at night and spent their days out of doors in large mobile pens on grass. They had free access to food and water in bowls or simple feeders. Every evening we carried them 1 or 2 at a time indoors and talked to them. Every morning, we carried them outside to their pen. Meanwhile, we built a shed to house them. They moved into the shed at about 2 months of age. We taught them to go into the shed at night when we said “nighty night.” During the day, they had the run of the yard and woods over several acres. They liked to hang out on the patio outside our kitchen, waiting for left over vegetables and fruit, and would tap on the glass doors with their bills to get our attention. Muscovy are very friendly and personable ducks. They are calm and nearly silent. The exception is a nesting mother, or a mother with ducklings. It is a very bad idea to try and touch a Muscovy duckling if the mother is anywhere near, and she is always near. Our Muscovy practice communal child rearing- often two hens will raise a group of up to 20 ducklings together, their own ducklings and other ducklings that gravitate to the good mothers.
From those original birds and six hens purchased to provide genetic diversity, we now have a colony of approximately 25 birds. Our birds are not from the Muscovy lines typically raised as meat birds. Commercial Muscovy lines are white and selected for rapid growth. Our birds are predominately chocolates and blues, and we select breeding stock for their temperament and parenting ability first, as well as coloration and size.