How to Start Raising Ducklings and Goslings in Your Backyard

With few housing and supplemental feed requirements and resistance to parasites and diseases, ducks and geese are the easiest domestic poultry to raise.

  • If you are an urban or suburban homesteader new to animal raising, “The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals,” edited by Gail Damerow, is the book you need. This compendium of information is the perfect introduction to raising chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, and honey bees — all of which are suitable for small-scale backyard food production.
    Cover Courtesy Storey Publishing
  • A brooder box has a warming light, good ventilation, clean litter, and plenty of food and water.
    Illustration Courtesy Storey Publishing

Geese make terrific watch birds, and both geese and ducks make excellent sausages and roasting birds. Plus, they’re incredibly easy keepers — the easiest of all poultry to raise. In The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals (Storey Publishing, 2011), editor Gail Damerow shows you how to select the right breeds for the space and resources you have available, feed and house the birds, and know when it’s time to call the butcher. The following text comes from “Chapter 3: Ducks and Geese,” and will teach you how to start raising ducklings and goslings in your backyard.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals.

Keeping ducks and geese is a relatively simple proposition. They require little by way of housing; in a temperate climate, a fence to protect them from wildlife and marauding neighborhood pets and to keep them from waddling far afield will suffice. They prefer to forage for much of their own food. They are resistant to parasites and diseases. In short, they are the easiest to raise of all domestic poultry.

So why doesn’t everyone have waterfowl? Well, for one thing, they like to have at least a small pond to splash in to help them stay clean. Their quacking and honking can get annoying, especially to neighbors. And, while ducks are basically gentle, geese can be decidedly aggressive. But any downside becomes irrelevant if your purpose is to raise a few ducks or geese for roasting or sausage making. Besides, many keepers of ducks or geese enjoy listening to the sounds their birds make, and aggressive geese make terrific watch birds.

Raising Ducklings and Goslings

Like other barnyard poultry, waterfowl hatchlings are precocial, meaning that soon after they hatch they are out and about, exploring their surroundings. Their downy coats offer some protection from the elements, but if they have no mother duck or goose to shelter them from cold and rain (not to mention fending off predators), they must be housed in a brooder until they are old enough to manage on their own.

The Brooder

A brooder is a protected place that provides a growing bird with safety, warmth, food, and water. A homemade brooder can be made from a large, sturdy cardboard box. Line the box with newspapers then a layer of paper towels for the first week, to provide sure footing. A sheet of small-mesh wire fastened across the top of the box keeps out rodents, household cats, and other predators. An empty feed sack or a few sheets of newspaper covering the mesh guards against drafts.

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