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Farm Animal Care

Physiology
The average lifespan for domestic ducks is estimated at 6 to 8 years, and geese from 8 to 15 years. Ducks and geese may be bred to grow very large, and may be raised in intensive confinement systems, which can result in later health problems and shorter life spans. Though weight varies by breed, mature female geese weigh between 10 to 18 pounds, and mature male geese (ganders) weigh between 15 to 25 pounds. Mature female ducks weigh between 5 to10 pounds, and mature male ducks (drakes) weigh between 7 to 15 pounds. A duck or goose's normal body temperature is 107.5° F, with young birds ranging between 102° F to 106° F.

Nutritional Needs
Water - Clean, fresh water must be available at all times. The use of a poultry fountain is recommended to avoid spilling and to keep water as clean as possible. In warmer weather, check water often throughout the day. For colder weather, the use of a water heater is recommended if you live in an area that has freezing temperatures. Water heater pallets are available for metal poultry fountains. Water is essential for ducks and geese, and if they are permitted to eat without water, they can choke to death.
Feed - We highly recommend buying "chicken scratch" (1/3 cracked corn, 1/3 oats, 1/3 wheat), available from feed supply stores, and adding whole black oil sunflower seeds (very important for calcium). You can also buy the ingredients separately and mix the food yourself. Always use non-medicated feed, as many common drug additives can be fatal to waterfowl. Ducks and geese will generally self-regulate their food intake. However, if you notice that your bird is exceeding his/her normal weight, restrict the amount of feed per day. Greens supply up to 25% of the nutritional needs of your ducks or geese. Ducks and geese are also great foragers, and during seasons when pasture is available, will eat a large amount of plant-based foods. Ducks and geese do not like alfalfa or narrow leave, tough grasses, and prefer clover and more succulent grass strains. If you have your ducks and geese on pasture, be sure to never use fertilizer or any other chemicals that will harm your birds.
Feeders - Choose a container that is heavy enough to avoid tipping and small enough to prevent your birds from walking or standing in their feed, as this can lead to contamination by feces. Ducks and geese may like to get their food wet, so always supply fresh food on a daily basis, and discard old feed. Wet feed tends to sour and spoil and can cause illness.

Handling
Herd ducks into a small pen (i.e., 10' x 20') to minimize excessive chasing. Corner birds into as small an area as possible (using straw bales). Place one hand gently but firmly onto the duck's back, while putting the other hand in front of the bird's chest to prevent forward movement. Then move both hands firmly over the wings to limit wing movement, and lift the bird. If you lose a wing, put the bird down immediately and start over. Allow the duck to calm down during restraint before starting treatments or grooming. For geese, fold your arms and upper body over the wings and back of the bird, hug firmly, and lift. If you lose a wing, put the bird down immediately and start over. If your goose is struggling or seems very stressed, set her or him down for a moment and start again. Allow the goose to calm down during restraint before starting treatments or grooming.

Shelter Requirements
Building - A garage or shed makes a fine home for ducks or geese. A good size is 10' x 12' as this is high enough for you to be able to walk comfortably inside. The shelter must be waterproof, predator-proof and well ventilated. Plenty of clean, dry straw should always be provided for bedding, and wet and soiled bedding should be removed on a daily basis. Cleaning the entire building on a weekly basis is recommended (i.e., scrub floors, walls, etc.). The shelter should also be equipped with roosts. An unopened straw bale makes a terrific roost for ducks and geese. For protection from predators, your birds must be kept safely in their shelter at night.
Pond - Ducks and geese need water to bathe and swim. This is necessary to keep them both happy and healthy. If you don't have a pond or small lake that you can fence in, buy a low-cost "kiddie pool" (preferably one with a drainage hole). The water will need to be changed (at least) every other day, or else contamination and disease will result. Horse or cattle waterers make good "ponds," but you would need to build a small ramp for your birds to get in and out of the water. If you have a natural spring or stream on your property, you can build a pond. Though costly and a lot of work initially, it will save you years of constant water changes. If you live in an area with freezing temperatures, you will need to close off the pond in the winter to prevent the ducks and geese from freezing into the water, or use an aerator to keep the pond from freezing. Even with a pond, ducks and geese should be locked safely into a shelter at night.
Fencing - Fencing is necessary to keep predators out and ducks and geese in. A four to five-foot high woven, no-climb fence is recommended. If you are planning on constructing a fence, shop around for the best buy, as prices and styles of fencing vary greatly. DO NOT USE CHICKEN WIRE ALONE AS FENCING. It is too flimsy and predators can easily break through it.

Health Care
Maintenance - Ducks and geese are normally not as prone to disease and parasite problems as other birds, and if given clean shelter, proper nutrition and basic health care, they do quite well. Every 5 to 7 weeks it is a good idea to check your birds individually and to do a few basic maintenance procedures. These include: Check toenails and trim as needed; check feet for dry, cracked areas or abscesses; check face and eyes for swelling, bruising or nasal discharge; clean nostrils; check bottom and vent, and clean as needed; check for weight loss; and feel the keel area for scabs or sores. Also, this can be a good time to clip the wings, if necessary. As with all animals, sanitary housing, clean pasture, nutritious food, and plenty of sunshine will reduce health problems. Like dogs or cats, ducks and geese may need to have their toenails clipped, especially if they are not very mobile.
Trimming Nails - Nail trimming is very similar to trimming dog or cat nails, and your veterinarian can show you this procedure.
Clipping Wings - If ducks are getting over fences too easily, their wings need to be clipped. If they are out of their fence, they are easy targets for predators and, in a panic, sometimes are unable to fly back over if necessary. Usually, wing clipping only needs to be done annually, but can be done more often if required. To clip the wings, hold the wing by the wrist bone (never by just the feathers) and extend fully. Always check for blood feathers (these are pink at the base and not completely grown in yet). Never clip a blood feather. Using large, sharp scissors, cut about ¾ total length off the flight feathers (up to where coverts end but feather shaft is still solid) and leave three outer primaries. Then, cut the next eleven feathers or so inward. Cut the same amount for both wings. For more information and an illustration on wing clipping, see our shelter website.
Common health problems

Coccidiosis - Coccidiosis is a protozoan parasite. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea and listlessness. Keeping the bedding clean and dry will help control this disease, as wet bedding is one of the predisposing factors. If you suspect your ducks or geese have this disease, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Worms - Worms are generally not a problem with small flocks of ducks and geese; however, we recommend having a fecal test done every 3 to 4 months and worming twice a year as a preventative measure. If worms are detected during a fecal exam, your vet can prescribe an appropriate wormer. Many worming medications can be purchased at farm supply stores in easy-to-use formulas that are added to water. If adding wormer to water, make sure that this is the only source of water available or the wormer will not be
effective. Always check that medications are made for ducks and geese, as many drugs are life threatening to waterfowl. Loss of weight and greatly increased feed consumption are signs of worm infestations. As with any animal, if new ducks and geese are going to be introduced to your flock, they should be isolated until a fecal exam can be completed, and any parasite infestations can be treated.
Bumblefoot/Foot Abscesses - Duck and goose bumblefoot is different than bumblefoot in chickens. Ducks and geese suffer from abscesses on the footpads that resemble corns. The infection typically follows an injury to the footpad and there usually is no pus present. If there is pus, it should be cultured to determine the bacteria involved and the antibiotic treatment required. Some cases of bumblefoot are mild and can be treated with wraps alone. Because ducks and geese bathe and swim, they should be isolated away from a pond or pool, and their wraps should be kept clean and dry. Check our shelter website for treatment options.
Respiratory Infections - Respiratory infections are often indicated by gurgled breathing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you notice one or all of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for treatment.

Note: Most antibiotics, sulfa drugs and other medications are toxic to ducks and geese. Consult a veterinarian before using any drugs or other substances on ducks and geese.

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