Geese and Ducks in Cold Weather
Geese and ducks are cold hardy and resilient birds that make a great addition to a farm, but they have some special needs once winter rolls around. Covered in feathers with an interior lining of thick, fluffy down—the kind that we use to stuff our bed pillows, comforters, and duvets—geese and ducks can resist the coldest temperatures as long as they are given proper care.
Provide Proper Shelter
An enclosed shelter is important for any farm animal to keep them healthy through winter. Walls help to keep out cold and blowing wind, and keeping birds close together within an enclosed space increases heat from shared body warmth. Even when you’ve let your fowl out in the open weather for the day, it’s a good idea to leave the access to the shelter open so that they can get in out of the wind if they so choose.
Clean Their Bedding
Deep bedding helps to keep their bare feet warm, so freshening the bedding is paramount, especially in winter. Soiled bedding is not only messy, but droppings will turn into ice cubes and prevent your birds from being able to stay warm enough on long winter nights.
Allow Room To Roam
Waterfowl, especially geese, naturally won’t want to stay cooped up during the winter days. They prefer wandering around in open spaces. In winter, they will even pretend to bathe in drifts of snow, as if the white powder was actually water.
Give Winter Treats
Geese and ducks will munch on crumble or pellets for the majority of their fat and protein, but birds used to pasture appreciate any additional greens you can give them. Foraging for green grass is impossible in snow, but a duck or goose can be kept amused by a handful of lettuce or spinach.
Provide Access To Water
The key with waterfowl is making sure they always have access to water. Ducks and geese have trouble swallowing without water: Their nostrils can become plugged with feed if they can’t rinse them thoroughly while feeding, so even if your feed trough is full, it won’t help them if they don’t have fresh, unfrozen water to swallow with their meal.
Watch For Frostbite
If it’s bitter cold, geese will often warm themselves by sitting with their feet tucked into their thick stomach down and their bills under their wings. Some varieties are especially prone to frostbite, such as the Chinese and African geese. These breeds have large, fleshy knobs at the tops of their beaks that can be damaged by frost. You’ll be able to tell if African or Chinese geese have been frostbitten because there will be orange spots on their otherwise black beaks and knobs. To prevent frostbite, these breeds of geese need to be kept within the shelter on particularly cold or windy days. Applying petroleum jelly to their beaks can protect against frostbite and can be used to treat a case that has already developed.
Geese and ducks don’t need as much attention in the winter as some other poultry varieties, but they still need special care when the days get cold.
original author is Kirsten Liee-Nielsen