Food & Water
Ducks and geese must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
A clean, adequate supply of water must be supplied at all times. Water should be placed in a cool shaded area in hot weather. If automatic drinkers are used, they should always be fitted with a failsafe mechanism.
Ducks and geese require large quantities of water and even from a young age should be supplied with a large trough with access to water ad-lib. A pond of water, deep enough to enable the ducks to dabble regularly, is an advantage. If there is no access to a pond, a water container which is large enough to enable ducks to immerse their heads and dabble is required.
Water needs to be cleaned out regularly as ducks do have a tendency to put dirt and food into the water. When supplying water for very young ducklings or goslings in a small cage, care must be taken to ensure the water is quite shallow so that there is no risk of drowning. A swimming area can be provided for ducklings and goslings however there MUST be multiple easy points where they can get out of the water and the water must be shallow. Ducklings and goslings get tired easily when swimming and if they cannot find an easy exit point quickly there is a risk of drowning. Newly hatched ducklings and goslings also do not have waterproof feathers and can get too much water in their down feathers. Once they have lost their down and grown adult feathers they can have unrestricted access to swimming water.
A covered water trough, which automatically refills, mounted outside on the shed wall is recommended for drinking water supply to avoid wetting the litter. Try to keep the swimming area well away from the bedding and nesting area. The drinking trough should be long enough to allow each bird in the flock to drink at the one time (15 cm per bird and if less, than two or more drinkers are needed). There are a variety of automatic waterers available from poultry equipment suppliers.
Water medications should be introduced gradually and closely monitored to ensure correct dosage and consumption of adequate water quantity.
Ducks and geese must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Quantity and quality of feed should be based on:
- Bodyweight and/or fat/ body condition score
- Extra demands based on growth and egg laying.
- Prevailing/predicted weather conditions.
Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the ducks and geese in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing the birds and performing visual assessment of their condition.
Ducks and geese are naturally foraging animals and so for optimum digestion should be provided with a variety of feed and vegetation. While they can be fed entirely on purpose made concentrate like pellets, ducks and geese gain both physical and behavioural enrichment from having access to vegetation such as grass, seeds, grubs, insects and food scraps in addition to their daily ration of concentrate. Suitable foods for ducks and geese daily ration include commercial pellets, crumbles, mash, grain, green feed and grit. Crumbles and mash should be used for young ducklings and goslings and grit is important to enable healthy gut function as it aids in their ability to break down food. Grit and feed high in calcium is important for egg laying ducks if they are to produce quality eggs with strong eggshells. Geese particularly will thrive and appreciate a grazing area and grazing will reduce the amount of commercial pellets required. If commercial duck rations are unavailable, domestic chicken feeds will suit.
Food scraps from kitchens, canteens and staff rooms can be given to ducks and geese as they provide the animals with a variety of foods that not only aid their health but also supplies opportunity for natural behavior as the animals can forage and scratch amongst the scraps as they would do in a natural setting. But they should always be in addition to the provision of a commercial ration.
When changing feeds, the rule is to introduce the new food types slowly and carefully.