Duck and Goose Care

Ducks are wonderful birds to raise for meat, eggs, insect control and they are entertaining as pets. The average lifespan of domestic ducks is 10 years.

hatchery-ducklings

Geese are very hardy and raised primarily for meat, weed control, to stand guard and as pets, but people also enjoy using their large eggs for baking. Geese live on average 10-15 years.

Shopping List: Waterer, mesh platform for water, feeder, heat lamp reflector, heat bulb, pine shavings or straw, paper towels, electrolytes and vitamins, thermometer, draft-free enclosure, coop, waterfowl starter feed, grit. For the beginner, we offer the chick starter kit which includes everything you need to get started.

Suggested Reading

Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks

The Book of Geese

At the Post Office: Promptly pick up your package and get your birds into the prepared brooder as soon as possible. Inspect your package, if you have any losses during the first 24 hour period, please call, email or fill out the Live Arrival Guarantee form on our website so we can reimburse you. You have 48-hours from when the birds arrive to report losses. Please let us know if you prefer store credit or a refund.

Identification: Use the Duck and Goose Sexing Guide found on our website to identify the gender of your birds. For geese, the males have tape on the right leg and females on the left leg.

Brooder Requirements: Each baby needs 0.5 square foot of floor space. Brooder environment must be sterile and draft-free. Make sure the brooder area is big enough so that the ducklings and goslings can get away from the heat source.

Temperature: One heat lamp is enough for about 35 ducklings or 20 goslings. A thermometer is a baby birds best friend. Start your ducklings and goslings off at 99 degrees for the first three hours. Then 95 degrees the first week. Reduce by 5 degrees each week until around 6 weeks of age and 70 degrees. They can begin exploring outside for short periods during the day as they begin to grow. Once they are fully feathered out at about 7-9 weeks they can stay outdoors all day, but be sure to provide shelter from the sun and rain.

Water: As soon as you get your birds into the brooder, immediately dip their beaks in water. Make sure they are tipping their heads back to drink. Ducklings, especially Mallards, Calls, and Muscovies dehydrate much sooner than other poultry. For these breeds to prevent over consumption that results in waterlogging and death, provide water for 15 minutes, remove it for 10-15 minutes and then return the water to them. Repeat 2-3 times the first day only.

Birds need to have access to drinking water at all times. Use a 1 gallon waterer for each 35 birds. Initially, water levels should be minimal to avoid drowning; clean marbles in the dish will help. Warm water for the first few hours is beneficial. On the third day, include vitamin or electrolyte powder in the water. Place the waterer atop a plastic or wire mesh platform that the water can fall through, to keep the water clean and their bedding dry.

Swimming Water: Ducklings and goslings from a hatchery do not have oil on their feathers as those who get oil from their brooding mothers. They are easily waterlogged and chilled when placed in swimming water at an early age. As early as 1 week they can be very closely supervised in shallow warm water. They need to be able to walk in and out on their own to find their heat lamp easily. Early exposure to water helps to speed the development of their oil glands and they will be swimming on their own by 5 or 6 weeks.

Feed: Waterfowl feed is best. If you cannot find a waterfowl starter feed, use a game bird or chicken starter crumble of at least 21+% protein up to two weeks of age. Pellets should be fed after that.

Litter: The best option for bedding material is 2 inches of large size kiln dried pine shavings. Use paper towels above the shavings for the first few days. Do not use sawdust or cedar shavings. Bedding must be changed regularly and kept clean and dry.

Angel Wing: A condition in ducks and geese where the last joint of their wing feathers is twisted and points away from their body. Causes may include high protein, high carbs, or lack of exercise. Feeding excessive carbohydrates such as bread, popcorn, corn is a leading cause. Human food is not recommended.

Twisted Wing: All geese can get twisted wing that is caused by too much protein and not enough room to exercise. Decrease protein levels and increase living space to alleviate this problem.

Coop and Run Considerations: When housing your ducks only at night to avoid nocturnal predators, provide 4 square feet per duck. If the ducks do not free range during the day, the run should provide 12 square feet for ducks.  If you keep ducks inside continuously during severe weather, provide ducks with 12 square feet of floor space. Provide half that amount for bantam breeds. Covered nest boxes must be provided for Muscovy ducks. For geese, provide 10 square feet of indoor space and 40 square feet of outdoor space.

Safe Handling of Poultry: After handling poultry, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Do not let young children, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch live poultry. Do not snuggle or kiss your birds. You can get Salmonella from touching live fowl. Your birds can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean. Regularly clean your poultry equipment. Read more about the safe handling of poultry.