I first encountered Aylesbury ducks when I lived in England. I studied herbal medicine in England and did my PhD in herbal medicine there too. I fell in love with these big fat mild mannered ducks in their native terrain. When I came back to America, I tried to find Aylesbury ducks and that proved quite challenging. I managed to get ahold of a starter flock of 5 ducks and 3 ganders and was off the races. Operation big butt duck went well for two years but in year three I ran into trouble. My hatch rate dropped to about 10% and I had a large number of hunch back and sway back ducks. I have been doing this long enough to recognize inbreeding depression. My ducks were inbred and I had to do something about it.
I got with some people in England and figured out what to do. I outcrossed my ducks with Grimaud Freres jumbo Pekin ducks. I then spent the next couple of years breeding back to type. So, I now have a healthy flock that lay upwards of 200 eggs a year. My fertility is 95% and I have no deformed ducklings.
What I have seen is this. Americans import 10 ducks, or cats, or geese from Europe and then start a "breed" in this country. But the breed was started with 10 or sometimes fewer foundation animals. Surprise surprise, when you breed back to the same animals, for generations and generations, you end up with inbred birds or dogs that teeter on the edge of extinction. Inbreeding works until it does not work. And since it is very difficult to import birds from Europe, whatever breed you are working with, you better be thinking about outcrossing to maintain the health and vitality of your flock.
I bought a flock of silver Ameracaunas with hens that did not lay eggs and roosters that were sterile. I had hook bills that laid four or five eggs a season and dropped dead walking across the pasture. All evidence of inbreeding that had gone too far.
So, I repeat myself. If you are breeding anything in America, there will come a time when you have to outcross or watch your birds or cats decline. I get a lot of emails from these purists and I just laugh at them. It's my experience that when you start with a very small gene pool and making smaller over time, bad things happen. Start planning your outcross plan.
My Aylesbury's are fantastic. Big, healthy, heavy layers, pink billed and pink skinned ducks that are a pleasure to keep. I think they should be good for another five years but then I will outcross again. Yes, outcrossing and breeding back to type takes some time and energy, but that is what breeding is all about