The Buff Orpington duck is a popular breed among poultry enthusiasts. Known for its charming personality, hardiness, and beautiful plumage, it was originally developed in England in the late 1800s. These ducks have since spread to many other parts of the world, including the United States, where they are widely kept for their eggs, meat, and ornamental value. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Buff Orpington duck, exploring its history, characteristics, care requirements, and other interesting facts that make it a fascinating addition to any backyard flock. Whether you’re an experienced duck keeper or just starting out, you’ll find plenty of valuable information and insight to help you appreciate and care for these delightful birds.
Table of Contents
- Easy to keep
- Great for beginners and children
- Dual purpose eggs and meat
- Good mothers
Background and History of the Buff Orpington Duck
The Buff Orpington Duck originated in England in the late 1800s. It was developed by William Cook, who also created the Buff Orpington chicken breed. Cook’s goal was to create a duck breed suitable for both egg and meat production, as well as for show purposes. To achieve this goal, he crossed Rouen, Aylesbury, and Runner ducks to create the Buff Orpington.
Development of the Breed
The breed was first exhibited at the London Dairy Show in 1897, where it was highly praised for its beauty and utility. Their popularity spread quickly in England, and soon they were being exported to many other parts of the world, including the United States. By 1908, they were recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA), although they do not currently recognize the Buff Orpington as a separate breed from the standard Orpington duck.
Throughout the early 20th century, this beautiful duck breed remained popular for its eggs and meat. However, with the rise of industrial farming practices and the decline of small-scale farming, the breed’s popularity waned and it became relatively rare. Today, the Buff Orpington Duck is still considered a heritage breed and is prized for its hardiness, docile nature, and ornamental value.
William Cook was not the only person to develop an Orpington duck. A breeder named A.H. Gillett developed the Blue Orpington duck in the early 1900s by crossing the Buff Orpington with Blue Swedish and Black East Indian ducks.
The Orpington duck breeds contributed to the development of other duck breeds, such as the Cayuga and Welsh Harlequin. The Buff Orpington was also used to create the Khaki Campbell duck, which became one of the most popular duck breeds in the United States.
Despite their decline in popularity, these ducks remained an important part of poultry history and contributed to the development of many other duck breeds.
This heritage breed is still prized by backyard poultry enthusiasts and hobbyists.
However, the Livestock Conservancy Organization, which promotes the conservation of endangered livestock and poultry breeds, lists the Orpington duck (which includes the Buff variety) as an “endangered” breed. This means that while the breed is not currently considered critically endangered, it is at risk of population decline and could benefit from conservation efforts.
Buff Orpington Duck Temperament and Behavior
Buff Ducks, as they are commonly called, are known for their calm and friendly disposition. They are often referred to as “lap ducks” because they love to sit on their owner’s lap and be petted.
Children & Beginners
Buff Ducks are generally considered to be a good breed for children and beginners to keep because of their docility and friendly nature, which makes them easy to handle and interact with. They are also relatively hardy and adaptable to a variety of environments.
They are great foragers and love to eat bugs and other insects. They also enjoy snails and slugs, making them excellent garden helpers for removing unwanted pests.
If you want to keep ducks of any kind, it’s important to check your local zoning laws to make sure ducks are allowed in your area. There may be restrictions on the number of ducks you can keep, or you may need a permit to keep them.
In Great Britain, Buff Orpingtons were sometimes used as decoys to lure wild ducks into hunters’ traps. These live decoys would be placed in the water to attract the wild ducks with their calls and help them to be caught by hunters waiting nearby.
Some other more unusual uses include the use of these gentle beauties in therapy programs where they are used as emotional support animals due to their calming and friendly nature.
Activity and Dominance
Buff Ducks are less active than some other breeds, making them a good choice for those looking for a duck that’s relatively easy to manage.
As social animals, they tend to get along well with other ducks. They are often kept in small flocks and typically form close bonds. The occasional squabble or disagreement is always to be expected, but overall Buff Orpingtons have a peaceful and easy-going nature.
Whether you’re a duck enthusiast or just learning about them for the first time, the Buff Orpington is a fascinating and delightful bird.
Broodiness and Mothering
This breed is known for its broodiness and they make good mothers. Broodiness is a natural instinct in ducks, and some breeds, like the Buff Orpington, are more prone to it than others.
When a duck becomes broody, she will often stop laying eggs and become very protective of her nest. She’ll sit on her eggs for about 28 days until they hatch, and then take care of her ducklings until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.
Because of her nurturing and protective instincts, she is very attentive to her young, keeping them warm and safe while teaching them how to forage and swim.
Compared to some other duck breeds, Buff ducks are not generally considered noisy. While they do produce a range of vocalizations, including quacking, hissing, and grunting, these are not typically as loud or frequent as those of some other breeds.
The Breed Specifics and Traits of the Buff Duck
Buff Orpington males (drakes) have an average weight of around 8-10 pounds, while hens typically weigh between 7-9 pounds. Their lifespan is usually about 6-8 years, although some may live longer with the proper care.
In overall appearance, they have a stocky, medium-sized body with a round head, short bill, and orange or pink legs and feet. They are plump with a broad back and full breast, and their plumage is a soft, golden buff color with a slight sheen. Their eyes are brown and they have a calm, friendly expression.
Drake vs. Hen
The main differences between male and female Buff Orpington ducks are in their physical appearance and behavior. Male ducks are typically larger and more colorful than females. They have a larger head and a more pronounced greenish-black iridescent patch on their head and neck that is absent in females. They also have a more erect posture and a curled tail feather that females don’t have. Males are generally louder, with a hoarse, raspy voice.
Behaviorally, males are generally more aggressive and territorial than females, especially during the breeding season. During this time, males may become very protective of their mate and territory, and may exhibit aggressive behavior toward other males. Females, on the other hand, are typically more docile and social.
The extent of these differences will vary greatly from bird to bird, as some males may be very sweet all the time, while sometimes a dominant female may be a little more bossy than others.
Baby Buff Orpington Ducklings are adorable little balls of yellow fluff with a dark stripe down their back and a lighter belly. As they mature, their buff feathers gradually grow in, starting on the head and neck.
Plumage and Colors
The breed is known for its beautiful plumage, which ranges from a soft yellowish buff to a deeper reddish brown. Their feathers are also very soft and fluffy, making them popular for down production.
While buff is the most common color variety, there are several other variations including blonde, brown, blue, black and white. Each color variety has its own unique appearance and characteristics, but they are all known for their gentle and friendly personalities.
The breed is known for being very hardy and able to withstand cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions. Unfortunately, they are not well known for their ability to escape from predators. Like most domestic ducks, they were bred for their docile and friendly temperament rather than their ability to flee in the face of danger.
Without proper shelter and housing, ducks can be vulnerable to predators such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and birds of prey. It’s important to provide them with a safe and secure coop or shelter at night to protect them. In addition, ducks should be kept in a secure area during the day to prevent them from wandering too far.
Predator deterrents such as fencing, motion-activated lights, and predator-proof netting can help keep ducks safe. With proper precautions and protection, your Buff Orpington ducks can live happy and healthy lives.
Despite their large size, this breed is an excellent flier and can fly up to 100 feet, so it may be necessary to clip their wings if you don’t want them to fly away.
An interesting characteristic of Buff Orpingtons is their affinity for water. Like all ducks, they enjoy swimming and bathing, and will even dip their heads and bodies under water to forage for food. Watching them splash and play in a pool or pond can be a delightful and entertaining experience.
Buff Orpington Duck Health and Disease
As with any duck breed, Buff Orpingtons can be susceptible to various diseases. However, they are known to be relatively hardy and seem to be resistant to certain common duck ailments. For example, they are less prone to respiratory problems and cold weather than some other duck breeds.
They are known for their strong immune systems, which can help them resist disease, especially when provided with proper care and nutrition.
Unfortunately, no breed of duck is completely resistant to all diseases, and maintaining good hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent the spread of disease is very important. If you suspect that your ducks may be sick, consult a veterinarian or poultry specialist as soon as possible for advice on diagnosis and treatment.
Some of the common diseases that affect ducks include:
Avian Influenza: Also known as bird flu, avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease often fatal for ducks. Symptoms include respiratory problems, swelling of the head and neck, and sudden death.
Duck viral enteritis: This is a highly contagious viral disease that affects ducks and other waterfowl. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and a decrease in egg production.
Botulism: A type of food poisoning caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. It can be fatal for ducks and other poultry. Symptoms include paralysis, difficulty breathing, and sudden death.
Fowl cholera: This bacterial disease affects ducks and other poultry. Symptoms include respiratory problems, fever, diarrhea, and sudden death.
Aspergillosis: A fungal disease affecting ducks and other birds. It is often caused by poor ventilation or damp conditions. Symptoms include respiratory problems, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
To prevent these and other diseases, maintain good hygiene and sanitation practices, provide clean water and feed, and keep your ducks in a clean and dry environment. Vaccines are available for some diseases, advice on this can be given by a veterinarian or poultry expert.
To keep your ducks healthy, they require a balanced and nutritious diet that includes:
Commercial duck feed: A good quality commercial duck feed should make up the majority of their diet. Choose a feed that is specifically formulated for ducks and provides adequate protein, carbohydrates, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Vegetables and fruits: Offer a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, such as leafy greens, peas, carrots, corn, cucumber, watermelon, and grapes. These foods provide important nutrients and can help to prevent boredom and encourage foraging behavior. Be careful never to give them any fruit, veg, or other food that has any mold on it, as this is toxic.
Grains: Whole grains like wheat, barley, and oats can be added to their diet in moderation. However, it’s important to avoid feeding too many grains as they are high in carbohydrates and can lead to obesity.
Insects and worms: Buff ducks are natural foragers and enjoy hunting and pecking for insects and worms. Offering live or dried mealworms or crickets can be a healthy and protein-rich addition to their diet.
Clean water: Clean and fresh water should always be available for your ducks to drink and bathe in. Make sure to change their water regularly to prevent contamination.
All ducks are sensitive to certain toxins and should not be fed bread, chocolate, avocado, or any food that contains caffeine or alcohol, as these can be toxic to them. Additionally, offering too many high-fat or high-carbohydrate foods may lead to obesity and health problems.
Buff Duck Eggs
Buff ducks lay large, creamy white or tan eggs. The exact size of the egg can vary somewhat depending on the individual duck, but on average they weigh about 2 ½ to 3 ounces.
In terms of egg production, they are known to be good layers, with an average of 150-220 eggs per year. However, egg production can be affected by factors such as age, diet, and seasonal changes.
Ducks don’t lay eggs consistently throughout the year. Some may lay more eggs in the spring and summer months when daylight hours are longer and the weather is warmer, while others may slow down or stop laying altogether in the fall and winter months.
Where to Buy Your Buff Orpington Ducks
You can purchase Buff Orpington ducks from several sources in the United States, including local breeders, hatcheries and online poultry suppliers. Some popular hatcheries that offer these ducks include Cackle Hatchery, Murray McMurray Hatchery, and Metzer Farms.
The cost of Buff Orpington chicks can vary depending on the supplier and the age of the chick. Typically, day-old chicks can cost anywhere from $5 to $15 each, with older chicks or pullets (young female ducks) costing more.
Purchase ducks only from a reputable supplier to ensure they are healthy and free of disease. When choosing a supplier, check their shipping policies and the conditions under which the chicks are shipped.
Do some research and compare prices and reviews from different suppliers before making a purchase. It is also a good idea to contact the supplier directly to ask any questions you may have about their ducks and breeding practices.
The Buff Orpington Duck is a beautiful breed with a rich history dating back to the late 1800’s. Developed by William Cook. Known for its hardiness, dual purpose meat and egg production, friendly and docile temperament, and ornamental value, this duck is a great addition to any flock.
Although the breed’s popularity has waned with the rise of industrial farming practices, it is still considered a heritage breed and is valued by backyard poultry enthusiasts and hobby farmers. A favorite of beginners and children due to its friendly personality and easy-to-handle nature, the breed is also a great forager and is often kept for its bug and pest control abilities.
These ducks are known for forming close bonds with other ducks and make great mothers due to their natural broodiness and nurturing instincts.
Questions & Answers
Q: Are Buff Orpington Duck Friendly?
A: Yes, the Buff Orpington Duck breed is considered to be very friendly and easy to tame. They make ideal ducks for first time owners and children.
Q: Are Buff Orpington Ducks rare?
A: Sadly their numbers are in decline so we need to do all we can to promote and protect this beautiful breed. They are not able to compete with commercial ducks in respect of meat and egg quantity, but they are perfect for homesteaders.
Q: What color eggs do Buff Orpington Ducks lay?
A: Buff ducks lay white to off white eggs and can produce up to 220 per year.
Q: What are Buff ducks good for?
A: They make ideal dual purpose birds, providing you with high quality meat and large eggs.