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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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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