Ducklings & Gosling from Hatchery
Baby ducks and geese are a joy to raise; at least for the first three days. Raising ducklings from the hatchery is a messy business indeed from day four through day twenty-eight. In my experience, ducklings and goslings are more fragile than baby chicks. They seem to not do as well without a mother to raise them. They have less situational awareness and a less instinctive nature. While most poultry babies seem to know how and when to eat and drink and seem to have bodily awareness, ducklings have less of these life-savings skills when they hatch. Great care must be shown while raising a flock from a hatchery successfully at these beginning stages. Protecting your investment (waterfowl are more expensive than chicks) by implementing a good plan of action can mitigate the issues that arise.
Duckling & Gosling Shelter
A brooder's box made by creating a 2-1/2 foot tall frame box placed on a garage cement floor is perfect. Lay down tough, landscaping garbage bags under the frame. The bags help you with clean up later on. Apply 2 inches of hay for bedding at the bottom and mat it down as much as possible. Hay prevents the ducklings and goslings from eating something that they cannot digest as they need a little help in this area. Create a simple lid of hardware cloth with holes no bigger than 1/4 inch and a 2 x 4 frame works wonders. This prevents predators from killing your ducklings and goslings (mice, rats and snakes). Place a brooders lamp on top of the lid and turn it on prior to picking up your ducklings arriving. If your garage is particularly cold, place two brooders lamps on your lid. Most hatcheries like to ship their ducklings in the cooler months as that is when duck egg production is at its peak. Your ducklings and goslings may arrive cold if you pick them up by mail. So it is important that you get them warm as soon as possible — BLAST that heater in your car! Once you get them home, take out each duckling or gosling and dip their bill into water and place them securely under a heat lamp. Keep your ducklings and goslings in this shelter until they are 4 weeks old and are starting to get their feathers. Do a spot check and switch out the bedding daily, especially the wet spots.
Duckling & Gosling Food & Water
Ducks and goslings immediately take to water. DO NOT LET THEM SWIM or get too wet. They do not have the ability to regulate their internal temperature yet and do not have a mother's down to dry and insulate them. Put glass marbles into the lip of the waterer to ensure that they do not take a bath, because take a bath they will! Ducklings and goslings, while hatching, suck up the yolk as nutrients directly into their stomachs, which feeds them for about 72 hours. After that, ducklings should eat a game bird food mix or you may also sprout for them and provide grit. For their first 4 meals, if you sprout, grind up their sprouts then add grit directly to their ground up sprouts. This will help the ducklings as it is what their mom would have done for their first meals.
Ducks and geese are a great addition to your homestead. They will give you delicious eggs well into the winter and are great to eat too. They also aerate the pasture with their bills and eat lots of nasty insects and slugs. Geese will defend your flock from most predators and eat mostly grass when fully grown.