Wild­fowl are not just for Christ­mas

Country Smallholding - - Feature -

Morag Jones, pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion, ad­vises cau­tion when con­sid­er­ing cer­tain breeds of wild­fowl for a new col­lec­tion I AM a sucker for any­thing bright and shiny. Be­ing the fes­tive sea­son, it is easy to get car­ried away this month in par­tic­u­lar and jus­tify an im­pulse pur­chase to your­self.

Plan­ning ahead is def­i­nitely the key to suc­cess when de­vis­ing a wild­fowl col­lec­tion and it is cen­tral to the ad­vice of­fered by the Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion (BWA). This in­cludes giv­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion on what to keep.

As the owner of a small house­hold flock of chick­ens, I vis­ited a breeder and I met my ‘gate­way’ duck. My eye was caught by a gor­geous crea­ture stand­ing on a straw bale. His mate was sit­ting tight in a box nearby. From that mo­ment I was hooked. He was a Man­darin, a species that has been the inspiration for many a col­lec­tion and ideally so. Man­darin are easy to keep, prop­a­gate and rear. Sadly this is not the case for all birds that might be con­sid­ered eye candy.

What­ever species you take on, you must know the spe­cial con­di­tions that are re­quired by your birds. There are many species that are not for the be­gin­ner. Even if you have the abil­ity to pro­vide state- of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties from day one, what you can­not buy is ex­pe­ri­ence.

So what makes some species so tricky? We should re­mem­ber that wild­fowl are just that — wild. They have never been do­mes­ti­cated and are di­verse in har­di­ness and tem­per­a­ment. In gen­eral, a species that is easy to keep and breed will be read­ily avail­able. If sup­ply is plen­ti­ful, birds are not ex­pen­sive to pur­chase. With these birds you will gain valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and come to un­der­stand the nu­ances of spe­cial­ist avi­cul­ture.

The other side of the coin in­volves species that are dif­fi­cult to prop­a­gate. The laws of sup­ply and de­mand nat­u­rally mean that there will be a premium to be paid. It could take you many years to breed these species suc­cess­fully, if in­deed they sur­vive at all.

Some may not only be rare in cap­tiv­ity, but they could also be sig­nif­i­cant in world pop­u­la­tions, so we have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as well as rights when it comes to what we do.

Vis­it­ing and lis­ten­ing to an­other ex­pe­ri­enced breeder is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant part of your fa­cil­ity plan­ning. But re­mem­ber, what­ever you start your col­lec­tion with — wild­fowl are not just for Christ­mas.

Morag Jones is pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion and edi­tor of Wa­ter­fowl Magazine.

A Carolina Wood duck is the ideal choice for any­one new to keep­ing wild­fowl

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