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Mrs. Adele Campbell of Gloucestershire, England, developed this breed late in the 1800s with the goal of providing her husband and son with a consistent supply of roast duckling. She crossed her Fawn and White Indian Runner, an exceptional layer, with a Rouen to create offspring that would lay well and have bigger bodies. From this humble foundation, one of the world's most prolific egg laying breed, the Campbell, was developed. The breed was introduced to the public in 1898 with these original Campbells resembling poorly colored Mallards. In an attempt to create a buff duck (buff colored feathers were a fad at this time), Mrs. Campbell mated her original Campbells back to Penciled Runner ducks. The resulting color, not quite buff, reminded Mrs. Campbell of British army uniforms, so she named these new ducks "Khaki Campbell." (Holderread, 37) Campbells made their way to the United States in 1929 through importation by Perry Fish of Syracuse, New York. By 1941, they were recognized by the American Poultry Association in its American Standard of Perfection, but their numbers languished for many years. This changed in the 1970's when Khaki Campbell numbers increased dramatically in the United States due to a back-to-the-land movement, a surge of duck-egg-loving Asian immigrants after the Vietnam War, and the importation of a particularly productive strain of Khaki Campbells in 1977. (Holderread, 38)
The Campbell duck is a medium sized bird that on average weighs 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. They are active, streamlined birds with a modestly long head, bill, neck, and body, and a sprightly body carriage of 20 to 40 degrees above horizontal. (Holderread, 38) There are four color varieties of Campbell ducks in North America: Khaki, White, Dark, and Pied, with Khaki being the most common. (Holderread, 39) The Khaki drake has a green bill, rich dark orange legs and feet, and dark brown eyes. Its head, upper neck, lower back, and tail culverts are brown-bronze while the rest of the drake's plumage is a warm khaki. The Khaki duck has a green bill and dark brown eyes and its legs and feet are brown. The ducks head, upper neck, and lower back are seal-brown and the rest of the plumage is khaki. (Malone et. al., 316) Dark Campbells, developed in Europe in an attempt to provide sex linkage, are a darker version of the Khaki. The White Campbell, bred as a "sport" variety, is pure white, with vivid orange legs, feet, and bill. (Batty, 72) The Pied has fawn plumage. (Malone et. al., 316)
Campbells are prolific layers and active foragers. Most Campbells lay their first eggs when 5-7 months old and will average 250-340 eggs of superb texture and flavor per year. With an age staggered flock, one may have eggs year-round. Campells are high-strung and energetic, and need plenty of space to graze and forage. (Ives, 228) "If they consume an adequate diet, are kept calm, provided sufficient space, and run in flocks consisting of no more than 50 to a maximum of 200 birds, Campbells have proven to be amazingly adaptable. They have performed admirably in environments ranging from arid deserts with temperatures of 100oF. to humid tropical rainforests with more than 200 inches of annual precipitation to cold Northern regions where temperatures can remain below 0oF for weeks at a time." (Holderread, 41)
When choosing breeders, select robust, active, strong-legged birds with a history of good laying and foraging ability. Make sure you acquire authentic Campbells that have been selected for egg production. Crossbreeds with telltale signs of facial stripes or weights above six pounds may be sold as Campbells, but they do not lay well.
ALBC's 2000 census of domestic waterfowl in North America found 2,613 breeding Campbell ducks. Nineteen people reported breeding Campbells, and there are 9 primary breeding flocks with 50 or more breeding birds currently in existence. (Bender, 4) Consider this adaptable, excellent layer for a lovely and useful addition to your flock.
Status: See CPL
Holderread, Dave. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications, Inc., 2001.
Ives, Paul. Domestic Geese and Ducks. New York: Orange Judd Publishing Company, Inc., 1947.
Malone, Pat; Donnelly, Gerald; and Leonard, Walt. American Standard of Perfection. Mendon, MA : American Poultry Association, 1998.