15 Tips for Raising Waterfowl
15 tips for raising waterfowl, ducks and geese, which all poultry keepers should know. Discover everything necessary about raising waterfowl prior to adding them onto the property. Make keeping waterfowl enjoyable by setting yourself up for success and being prepared for this amazing poultry breed.
Keeping waterfowl is extremely enjoyable. The wiggly waterfowl tails, the quacking, the incredibly quick waddling from location to location. Even the snotty personality of waterfowl is enjoyable. And trust me, they are quite snotty.
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With these enjoyable traits comes necessary information which every waterfowl keeper needs to know. The following tips for raising waterfowl will need to be remembered to not become frustrated with the species.
15 Tips for Raising Waterfowl
Prior to incorporating waterfowl onto the property make sure to comprehend these 15 tips for raising waterfowl. These tips are specific for raising domestic ducks and geese.
Feed and Water for Raising Waterfowl
Compared to chickens, waterfowl receive a higher protein of feed with a higher amount of niacin. They must also have access to water during their waking hours.
Young waterfowl require a high protein feed to accommodate their growth, whereas, chicks consume a lower protein feed. Depending on the feed type the crude protein level will fluctuate between 22 to 19 percent.
Begin by offering a high protein feed the first two weeks of life. The protein level will range between 22 to 20%. At the age of two weeks the crude protein level then decreases to 17 to 19%.
Because we believe in the benefits of fermentation, our waterfowl, along with the other poultry, receive a fermented whole grains diet. Fermented whole grains allows the poultry to consume a natural probiotic and more of the feed is absorbed into the body. Additionally, the amount of waste is reduced and the birds become fuller faster.
The process of fermenting a whole grain feed is quite easy, and again, your birds will love it.
Waterfowl must have water readily available during daylight hours, whereas, it is not necessary during the evening hours.
Because ducks and geese consume feed by scooping it and swallowing it rather quickly, water is needed to help prevent choking. Providing multiple waterers in various locations will help to prevent the issue of choking.
Prevent Niacin Deficiency
First and foremost, one must be aware of the signs of niacin deficient duckling or gosling. Chicks, unlike waterfowl, are less likely to become deficient in niacin.
This does not imply that chickens chicks or turkey poults are resistant to becoming niacin deficient.
The following signs are an indication that young poultry need additional niacin in their diet.
- lack of weight gain
- failure to thrive
- reluctant or unable to walk
- deformity of the leg(s)
Many feeds do contain niacin, however, often not enough. Adding Brewer’s yeast to the feed daily will help supplement the amount needed.
Prior to purchasing this product online check to your local feed store. Also, one other tip, it is not necessary to purchase the Brewer’s yeast with garlic powder. It is more beneficial to offer fresh garlic than garlic powder.
Personality Traits and Growth of Ducks and Geese
Unlike chickens, guineas, and turkeys, waterfowl are mature at a much quicker rate. Another fact about waterfowl, this species has a stronger probability to imprint onto humans.
Exponentially Fast Growers
Unlike chickens and turkey poults, waterfowl grow exponentially fast. Almost two times faster than chickens or turkeys. Because of this it is essential to offer a high protein feed to support the rapid growth.
Expect ducks and geese to feather much quicker than other poultry. In addition to this the brooder temperature is much cooler than what turkey poults, chicks, and guinea keets require.
Be prepared, duck and geese are not always the friendliest poultry species out of the bunch. The key is getting them to enjoy your company is to encourage them to imprint onto you.
Ducklings and goslings are more likely to imprint than chicks. However, turkey poults are a very close second to waterfowl.
I am asked often how I get my waterfowl to imprint onto me and the answer is simple, handle them often. Sit with them for a few moments as fresh water and feed are being offered. Speaking softly and create a call specific to addressing your ducks or geese.
Setting-up a Coop and Run for Ducks and Geese
An appropriate coop and run space can house both ducks and geese. However, a space not large enough will reek havoc and potentially harm to the small breed.
Ideally, a run consisting of 10 square feet or more will help to ensure ducks and geese cohabitate nicely. For best practices, a coop this size is also ideal, though 8 square feet per bird is the minimal one should construct.
Waterfowl do not Roost
Ducks and geese do not roost, whereas, chickens and other poultry do. Domestic ducks and geese prefer to sleep on the coop floor.
However, this is not necessarily so for Muscovy ducks. Unlike other fowl Muscovy ducks prefer to roost. More often than not, Muscovy ducks not trained to return to the coop can be found roosting on the lower branches of trees.
With that said, Muscovy ducks, along with other waterfowl, will return to the coop nightly when properly trained to do so.
Keeping Waterfowl is Messy
This a very true statement. Waterfowl are extremely messy. With or without a water being available.
- Because of the amount of water they consume their waste is extremely watery.
- When given the chance, waterfowl will create a mud puddle with the smallest amount of water available.
- Ducks and geese love to splash water around. Even a bucket of water is emptied in minutes. Hence, creating mud puddles.
In order to minimize the amount of mud and waste, allow ducks and geese time to free range. Also, do not place water within the coop at night. This will prevent the coop to become saturated with water by the wee hours of the morning.
Myths Associated with Raising Waterfowl
There are quite a bit of myths revolving around raising waterfowl. Make sure to know these facts prior to incorporating them onto the property.
A Pool is Required for Raising Waterfowl
Ducks and geese do not need a pool, pond, or creek to be healthy. What they need is a waterer which is deep enough to rinse their nostrils and wash their eyes multiple times throughout the day.
Water must also be available for ducks and geese to preen themselves. The uropygial gland (the preen gland) is located at the base of the tail. This gland releases oil which is spread over the body, making the feathers water-resistent.
In fact, without the ability to properly preen themselves ducks and geese would not be able to stay afloat in water. In addition to this, they would become and unable to maintain their body temperature.
All Ducks Fly
Domesticated ducks, unlike wild Mallard ducks, do not fly. However, they are capable of catching wind and lifting themselves off the ground, flying for very short distances.
With that said, there are duck breeds which are very capable of flying. For example, smaller, lighter weight ducks such as Call Ducks and few other specialty breeds are capable of taking flight.
As previously mentioned, Muscovy ducks are also capable of flying. To minimize flight time, trim the flight feathers from one wing. This will prevent the bird from catching air under both wings, making flying difficult for the heavy bottom bird.
Tips for Raising Waterfowl In the Garden
Ducks are excellent garden helpers and are an ideal poultry member for a permaculture garden space.
Great Garden Helpers
Ducks and geese are excellent garden helpers. They love to consume slugs, flies and other nuisance bugs.
Waterfowl also enjoy consuming the garden’s vegetation. Do not add them to the garden until the plants have matured and can tolerate being pulled at.
Waterfowl do not Scratch the Ground
Unlike chickens and other poultry, ducks and geese do not scratch at the ground. However, these birds will cause their own level of destruction, though nothing as horrible as scratching.
When given the chance ducks will dig deep holes into the ground. This process occurs when the ground is wet, slightly damp, or when water has had the opportunity to pool.
Ducks and geese will sift the mud through the strainers in their bills, allowing them to absorb all edibles found in the dirt. They will continue to work the hole until they are unable to do so.
The Benefits of Raising Waterfowl
There are many benefits to raising waterfowl, and in truth, they are much easier to raise than chickens. Take a look below to see what I am referring to.
Ducks and Geese are Less Prone to Illness
Waterfowl are less prone to illnesses. However, this does not imply they are unable to contract common poultry illness.
Ducks and geese have a hardier immune system than other poultry. This allows them to ward off many bacteria which would otherwise prove deadly to other poultry.
With that said, here are some common issues associated with waterfowl.
- Ascites in Ducks and Chickens (Waterbelly)
- Duck Botulism and Treatment
- Angel Wings (Wing Disorder in Ducks)
Because of the amount of time they spend in the water, ducks and geese are less susceptible to getting lice and mites.
Cold Weather Hardy
In regards to poultry, ducks and geese are quite tolerable to the cold. Their body fat and down-feathers allows them to remain warmer than chickens and turkeys during the winter months.
In addition to being cold weather hardy, ducks and geese tolerate the summer months just as well. By simply providing water and shade waterfowl are capable of remaining cool during the warmer months.
Ducks are prolific layers. However, some breeds are more prolific layers than others.
In addition to being great layers, some breeds make excellent broody duck hens. Make sure to research which duck breeds are great layers prior to incorporating them onto the property.
Geese and ducks, much like turkeys and guineas, are seasonal layers. Laying eggs from early Spring to early Fall.
*UPDATED TO READ – ducks, like chickens, will molt heavily after their first year of life. In addition to a long molt, the lack of daylight hours means you are more than likely to not see duck eggs between Fall to early Spring. This is a common know fact, hence, why many refer to waterfowl as seasonal layers.
Because of the short laying season the eggs are prized. More times than not, fertilized eggs are sold or allowed to be hatched by a broody hen.
Many poultry keepers will pay top dollar for a guardian goose. Yep, there’s such a thing!
Great Source of Protein
Both duck and goose eggs are an excellent source of protein. Containing a higher amount of protein than chicken eggs.
Overall, waterfowl meat is a great source of protein. The meat is very nutrient dense and much healthier to consume than other poultry meat.
Additionally, rendered duck fat is much healthier than butter or other animal fats.
15 Tips for Raising Waterfowl
There you have it, 15 tips for raising waterfowl and why you need to raise these amazing poultry breeds. I would truly encourage individual to raise waterfowl prior to raising other poultry.
The entertainment these birds offer is great, however, not as great as the healthier option of consuming waterfowl eggs and meat!
Ducks actually lay year round. They are not seasonal layers like geese. Its best to research before writing an article.
Maybe you have some powerhouse duck layers, but during molting season and in the dead of winter, my flock, along with many others do not lay year round. My research is based of of almost 10 year of keeping ducks.
Great information. Hard to find decent info online for geese. We bought 2 this spring and wow did they grow fast…And so messy! They are in their second week free ranging during the day. They make us so happy! Do you have any books on geese that you recommend?
Books by Story Publishing are excellent resources for waterfowl.
Trying to raise pilgrim geese. Two hatched last spring but didn’t make it. Husband now on board. Grandma says I need to take goslings away once hatched. One gander three geese. I like chickens but I love the geese. Would like very much to be able to raise them.
We have hatched geese with both a broody goose and an incubator. I hope you try again, they do make excellent additions to any property!