Brooding and rearing ducks and goslings | Living the Country Life

Brooding and rearing ducks and goslings

Raising baby ducks and geese isn't a whole lot different from chickens. A warm, dry brooding area, and quality food and water allow young waterfowl to grow into beautiful adults.

Radio interview source: Phil Clauer, Extension Poultry Specialist, Penn State University

Domesticated ducks and geese don't always make the effort to sit on their eggs. If this happens, you'll have to find another way to hatch them. 
Phil Clauer is an extension poultry specialist at Penn State University. He says it's possible to set the eggs under a broody chicken. Another option is an incubator. Keep in mind that waterfowl take longer to hatch than chickens and require a higher humidity level.
Once the waterfowl eggs hatch, they should be put into a brooder box with a heat lamp at 90-to-92-degrees for the first week. Clauer says ducklings and goslings should not become excessively wet until they're full-feathered.
"A lot of people don't realize this. Because they're waterfowl they think water is good for them," he says. "But, even wild ducks, the mother keeps them out of the water, the pond, and so forth after a certain period of time because they can become saturated. And if they do get an excessive amount of like a downpour from a thunderstorm on their back, they get chilled, they'll pile up, and a lot of times suffocate each other trying to get warm."
Clauer says fluffy pine shavings on the floor of the brooding area make good litter. Put down something like a cheesecloth over the shavings so the birds don't eat them until they become familiar with their food. 
Provide a quality starter feed, and also offer granite grit early on before the young birds start eating grass.
"The problem with grass is it's a long fiber," says Clauer. "And if they start eating too much of that, they'll actually bind up their crop in the gizzard. There's nothing there to really grind it in the gizzard, so it sort of balls up like a hair ball almost, so it's like a grass ball that gets in that gizzard. And if that occurs, they can basically block up and keep eating, and never pass anything through the digestive tract. They'll basically starve to death and die."
Clauer recommends keeping geese and ducks off grass for the first three-weeks of life, then offer fine clovers and alfalfas. They are leafy greens and break down in the gizzard easier than grass.

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