Housing for Post Brooder Geese and Ducks

If you have just a few adult waterfowl, you may be able to keep them with your chickens. Unlike chickens, ducks and geese don't roost but like to sleep on the ground or floor. On the other hand, chickens may peck at ducklings and goslings, so provide them with some small pen within the coop that the chickens can't get into.

There are 3 distinct schools of thought on the subject of shelter for waterfowl. One is no shelter at all, or only a windbreak of bales of straw. A second concept is shed-sheltering, allowing them a place with 3 sides and a roof, but an open front. The third concept is a complete building—which may be a small, possibly portable, mini-dwelling—with or without attached pen or yard, in which they can be confined just at night or all the time.

No shelter: Waterfowl always need access to shade, but once they are 6 weeks old they can do without other shelter (unless there is a long spell of chilling rain or stormy weather). By 8 weeks of age they can pretty well take care of themselves. Adult waterfowl seldom require shelter. This is because their outer coat of closely packed feathers has been waterproofed. Ducks in the wild build their nests near water on the ground. A flock of ducks can do well and lay without formal houses or nest boxes.

Nevertheless, some fancy breeds are less hardy or less disposable than others, and some climates have worse winters than others. Ducks, who do not roost but sleep on the ground, have been known to become frozen to the ground by their own moist droppings. (Ducks that have access to open water may spend the night there.) Uncon-fined ducks (especially the breeds with poor mothering instincts) are likely to lay eggs all over the place—on the ground, even in the water. If you have foraging, unsheltered waterfowl, be vigilant against predators, keep them in the territory where you want them, and consider shelter at least from severe storms. If baby ducks are being raised by you or their mothers near any body of water that is halfway natural, you may take some hard losses. Bullfrogs and other critters like to eat baby ducks. You might do better bringing the young ones into the house to raise until they've attained a good size.

A 3-slded Shelter: Some waterfowl raisers prefer this system that protects the flock from wind and rain but otherwise allows them freedom. Waterfowl dislike wind, and such a shelter (built broadside against the prevailing wind direction) can at least protect them from wind and precipitation. Waterfowl like fresh air and dislike poorly ventilated quarters. They are nervous and like to be able to see what is going on about them at night. And if crowded into a small house they may startle and pile in a corner. There's no need to make the 3-sided (with a roof) shelter any taller than the birds it is designed to protect (which saves on lumber). Waterfowl confined indoors a lot may not be as healthy as those allowed to live outdoors. Like Chinese geese, African geese are susceptible to frozen or frostbitten knobs (on their beaks) in winter and would be better off with at least this minimal shed-type shelter. If it will be below 20°F, these knobbed fowl need even more shelter to protect their knobs. If, however, the knobs do freeze, it merely results in a discoloration of the bill and knob, which will return to normal by the following fall.

total Shelter: Waterfowl can be housed just at night or all the time. Ducks adapt well to housing at night only because their egg-laying habits are so precise (almost all lay their eggs before 8am, 9am for sure), and because their habits are so regular (they can be trained to return home to be fed and be confined at a precise time). Duck and goose owners in areas where night predators such as rats, raccoons, skunks, weasels, and ferrets are active prefer to confine their birds at night—or even all the time—in a building similar to a chicken house. Call, Mandarins, and Wood Ducks are not as hardy as the others and do need winter shelter, though they can go outside and get in the water at 40°F and warmer. African, Chinese, and Egyptian geese benefit from winter shelter (in temperatures below 20°F). Ducks will start laying earlier in the year if housed; it does not make any difference to geese. If you do confine ducks at night, be aware that they are nervous creatures and can damage themselves by panicking and running in circles. If you leave on a low-wattage night light, you will minimize this danger.

Waterfowl housing can be small and portable and frequently moved to keep the ground underneath tolerable. Such housing may be set into sizable, well-drained, well-shaded fenced runs that (ideally) have access to clean, running water. Small ducks such as Calls, Indias, and Mallards can be raised sun-porch-style. A graveled duck yard that can be cleaned when hosed daily at high-pressure and is sloped somehow to drain, can help keep clean the quarters of a large spring flock being raised for butchering. Without gravel or concrete, you risk a sea of mud.

Totally Confined Waterfowl: Allow 4 square feet of floor space per duck for ducks that are let out during the day. If ducks are kept confined at all times they'll need 6-8 feet of floor space per bird. If you limit the total number of fowl and have a loose, deep (1-foot) litter layer, you can keep them confined and it can be manageable. Large (15 inches square), shallow nesting boxes located on the floor in the corners of their housing will attract the egg-layers. Confined ducks need excellent ventilation in hot weather and plenty of water, always. Shutting them up together with chickens can be a problem if there are too many birds for the space, because ducks have such exceptionally copious and liquid droppings. If the waterfowl housing is to be permanent, the ground underneath should slope to one side for drainage and the floor should be made of pea gravel, which can be hosed and drained, or concrete with a center floor drain. Waterfowl kept completely on hard, dry ground, however, can sometimes develop bumblefoot, which is a warty local infection of the foot that causes limp ing. Isolate such a bird in a place with a soft straw flooring. Treat the foot with antibacterial ointment. After the skin has softened some, lance and drain if appropriate. The birds don't get bumblefoot on grass pasture.

Treating Bumblefoot Geese

of Flying and Waterfowl: The flyers are Muscovies, Indies, Calls, Mallards, Canadas, and Egyptians. To keep these at home you'll have to clip the long feathers on 1 wing side with heavy scissors when the feathers first develop and after each molt, if you keep the birds that long. Or you can "pinion" them—which means to amputate the tip of the wing (the part below and outward from the "claw" extension just beyond the last wing joint) on 1 side. The pinioning operation is done when the duckling or gosling is a week old. The cutting is done with a sharp knife, razor blade, or debeaking machine. And use 4-foot-high fencing.

Continue reading here: About Feathers

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