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With the increased interest in raising backyard chickens, more people are also raising ducks and geese. Both ducks and geese can provide meats and eggs for the small homestead. Ducks are generally easier to care for since geese are large and can sometimes be more aggressive. While geese and ducks do not require a large water source (pond or lake), they will be much happier with a place to swim. Whether you’re raising ducks for eggs, raising geese for meat, or simply want backyard poultry for entertainment, read below for everything you need to know to raise your own ducks and geese.
Pros and Cons of Raising Ducks and Geese
Like any backyard farm animals, there are pros and cons of raising ducks and geese in a small backyard farm.
• Produce Eggs
• Can provide meat
• Can be kept for ornamental reasons
• Eat bugs and do not scratch up the garden as much as chickens
• Provide lots of poop that can be composted and used in the garden
• Are often noisy, although some breeds are quieter than others (look for Muscovy ducks)
• Can smell or attract pests
• Can be aggressive (especially geese)
• Have many predators and must be protected
• Provide lots of poop (which means they are messier than chickens)
Ducks and geese should be raised in groups of two or more since they form strong pair-bonds. Although they do not require water to swim, they will be much happier with a water source and need a place to get their heads wet, however small water areas will become quickly dirty even with only a few ducks or geese. You can keep ducks and geese in a coop similar to chickens, however geese will need significantly more space than chickens or ducks. Unlike chickens, most ducks prefer to sleep on the ground instead of roosting.
If you’re planning on raising ducks with chickens in the same coop, make sure they both have place to sleep, access to clean food and water and you maintain a balance of females and males. At one point, we lost several ducks and ended up with a male duck with 5 chickens. This situation did not work as the duck became aggressive with the hens. If you have mixed poultry you should plan to monitor them for any issues.
5 Tips For Raising Healthy and Happy Ducks and Geese
Many people move onto raising ducks and geese after starting with backyard chickens. If you are already raising chickens, you will find raising ducks and geese to be very similar. Ducks and geese are both hearty animals that are great additions to your homestead. If ducks are your first foray into raising backyard poultry explore the tips below for everything you need to know about how to raise ducks and geese.
1. Provide the Right Housing
Ducks and geese need an indoor space like chickens to escape bad weather and stay safe from predators. The duck housing can be built on the ground with a solid floor to protect the ducks and geese from predators that might try to dig under the coop. Most coops that work for chickens will also work for ducks and geese. The flooring should also be gentle on the birds feet since the smooth feet can get cut more easily than a chickens. It’s important to note when raising ducks and geese that you don’t need roosting posts.
Ducks and geese don’t need a place to swim but they will be much happier with a place to at least get wet. This can be a kiddy pool or even an extra large bucket. They do need a place to completely submerge their heads to keep their nostrils and eyes healthy. Very young ducklings and goslings may not be able to swim to make sure to monitor them when you first give them access to water.
2. Select the Right Ducks and Geese Breeds
Just like chickens there are a number of different duck and goose breeds you can raise on your backyard farm. Some breeds will provide better eggs and some are considered meat birds. If you are raising ducks for eggs, consider how many eggs they lay each year and do some research on whether they go broody and sit on their eggs as this will lower production.
Pekin Ducks – originating in China, this classis backyard duck is mostly raised for meat. The are typically about 8-9 pounds and lay between 150-200 large eggs per year. They are friendly, white birds and fun to raise.
Indian Runner Ducks – Originating in India, most people raise Indian Runner ducks for the 150-200 eggs they lay each year. These active ducks run more upright and are energetic and light.
Muscovy Ducks – these large ducks look more like geese. They are kept as both meat and egg laying ducks. Despite their size, they can be good flyers and are very quiet.
Mallard Ducks – easy and fun to raise, Mallards lay only about 80-120 eggs a year and are energetic and good flyers. You will need a covered run to keep them contained.
Saxony Ducks – a newer breed bred in Germany, these ducks lay about 200 eggs each year and weigh about 7-8 pounds. They are pretty and energetic and more difficult to find than other breeds.
Swedish Ducks – Originating in Scandinavia, these birds weigh about 5-6 pounds and lay 120 – 180 eggs each year. They are more mild than other breeds and not great flyers.
Khaki Campbell Ducks – a combination of several other breeds, these birds are great layers (laying up to 300 eggs each year). They are small so better for laying eggs versus meat birds.
African Goose – this large breed can get up to 20 pounds and are considered large and good egg layers. They can be aggressive.
Embden Goose – a large white goose that can get up to 28 pounds, these birds are raised mostly for meat and are quieter than other breeds
Toulouse Goose – these quintessential goose are fast growing and can reach up to 30 pounds. These geese are mild and more docile than other geese.
Buff Goose – these smaller birds can be raised for both meat and eggs. Their orange color makes them different than other geese and they are generally mild mannered.
Chinese Goose – this good is loud and a better choice for a rural setting. They are helpful gardeners and considered small meat birds weighing only about 10 pounds.
3. Raising Baby Geese and Raising Baby Ducks for Beginners
If you’ve raising chickens from baby chicks, you already know some of the important aspects of raising ducklings and goslings. The basics care includes keeping them safe from predators, keeping them warm, and providing the right food and water. Even though you can keep ducks and chickens together, it’s not a good idea to raise baby ducks and chickens in the same space. Ducklings and goslings should also be kept separate from adult birds.
You can house your baby ducks and geese in the same housing you would use for adult birds (but not in the same space as your adult birds), or you can use a brooder like you would for baby chicks. Even young waterfowl make a mess so be prepared for lots of wet and water in the bedding. Freshly hatched birds should be kept at 90 degrees with supplemental heat. Make sure your ducklings or goslings can also move away from the heat source if it’s too hot. Decrease the temperature by about 5 degrees/week until the birds are fully feathered (usually about 6-7 weeks depending on where you live).
If you are raising ducks or geese in a really cold environment, make sure you cut down on drafts and you may need to provide additional heat.
Feed your baby ducks and goslings specialized food. You will want to select a poultry starter feed with about 20% protein for the first 2 weeks and then unless you are raising meat birds, lower the protein to about 16%-18%. You can use a chick start, but make sure it is unmedicated. I also like to add brewer’s yeast to the feed since ducklings need about 10mg of niacin per day.
Ducklings and goslings should all get fresh water changed daily. They will not be able to swim yet, so make sure the water is shallow so they don’t drown. They will make a mess so be prepared. They also smell much worse than chicks. We try to move our ducklings outside as soon as possible for everyone’s sake!
Provide the Best Duck Feed and Goose Feed
Ducks need free access to fresh water and food outside their coop. If you’re raising ducks and geese, you will notice how much messier than chickens they are and you’ll notice that if you keep their water inside they will make a mess. You can keep a few water options outside for the birds including a small pond or bucket so they can get their heads wet.
Ducks are great foragers, so if given the space they will find lots of things to eat. They are also great in the garden since unlike chickens, they don’t scratch up the plants. You can feed ducks and geese specialized duck feed although they typically do well with chicken feed. You can also give them a good supply of treats, although they do best if they are cut up a bit. Here are a few of our favorites to feed them:
- Chopped kale, romaine lettuce or Swiss chard
- Fruits – they love watermelon when it’s hot
- Cooked squash
- Vegetable scraps such as Peas, carrots, cooked green beans
- Bread products – You should actually AVOID feeding your ducks bread products!
5. Maintain Your Flock
Keeping an eye and maintaining your ducks and geese is important. You should check food and water daily and do a quick inspection of your flock for any problems so you can address them quickly. Watch how your ducks and geese are walking and look at their feet and legs where they often have problems. If you see a problem, try to address it right away – for a quick reference of duck health and care – you can visit this site.
You should also assess housing and run structures for any evidence or damage from predators. When possible, ducks and geese should be given time outside of their run for supervised free time – this benefits the ducks and geese, and also helps with bug and slug control.
Ducks and geese are a fun and productive addition to a backyard farm and learning about raising ducks and geese is a great way to build your homesteading skills.