Activities with ducks and geese

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using ducks and geese in schools.

Ducks and Geese – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from ducks and geese.

Ducks and Geese – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
body weight 2
growth 2
body proportions 2
pulse or bloodflow 2
respiration 2
temperature (non-invasive) 2
mild dietary effects — high/normal protein 3
mild dietary effects — high/normal energy 3
mild dietary effects — high/normal fat 3
palatability 3

Any feeding trial must provide the normal nutritional needs for the stage of growth/production of the bird(s). The trial period must not be longer than is necessary to achieve a clearly observable result.

Measuring body weight

Only birds accustomed to being handled should be used for measurement of body weight.

Young birds can be weighed directly on a triple beam balance. Older birds may need to be restrained in a cardboard box. (Weight of box can be subtracted from final weight).

For growers and adult birds a spring balance with a suitable scale is required for weighing. A small loop of rope can be attached to the shank of both legs and connected to the balance. Ensure the bird’s head is kept down to avoid flapping. Readings should be taken as quickly as possible and the bird returned to its normal position to avoid prolonged stress.

Weighing and recording provides an example of how this activity can be completed in the school environment.

Measuring growth

Growth is measured by body weight changes. Recording regular measurements of weight can give an accurate measure of a bird’s growth. Growth can also be shown by photographing or drawing a bird against an appropriate background scale.

Image: Ducklings grow very quickly and make ideal subjects for collecting growth data over a short time period.

Measuring body proportions

Two handlers are required for the measurement of body proportions. One handler is required to restrain the bird while the other measures. Do not distort a bird excessively to take measurements of body parts. A soft plastic tape measure can be used to measure different body parts of the animal.

Measuring pulse/blood flow

Due to birds very high pulse rate, pulse rate is difficult to measure and a stethoscope is required. One handler should restrain the bird while a second handler measures the pulse.


This can be measured by observing birds in warmer weather conditions as indications of respiration become more obvious. Observe and record a bird with its bill naturally open and tongue moving, recording the number of tongue movements.


Restrain a bird by the hand and arm method and insert a clinical thermometer into the vent or cloaca. Slide the thermometer in carefully and wash after each bird. Warm the thermometer in cold weather.

Measurement of mild dietary effects

A variation in diet can be achieved by using commercially prepared foods which use a different formula than the usual one provided. Any variation in the diet should be an enhancement to, rather than deprivation of, the diet. The minimum level of protein, energy or fat selected for the trial must be the minimum acceptable for the life stage of the particular bird type. The trial period should not be longer than is necessary to achieve a clearly observable result. Ten to fourteen days is sufficient for young birds, after which the birds should be returned to their normal diet.

Where comparative food trials are being undertaken, no less than the minimum protein levels should be fed to birds. The maximum amount of protein permitted is 20% above the minimum levels.


For adult birds, use a variety of commercially prepared layer pellets and mash, ensuring a plentiful supply of clean fresh water. Observe two adult birds in separate pens and record the food selection of the birds.

Collecting samples from livestock.

Ducks and Geese – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
Collection of samples from livestock:
1. Faeces (non-invasive) 2
2. Blood 5

For collection of faeces, place the bird in wire-floored pen, elevated off the ground, so that faeces can be collected. Do not force faeces from a bird.

Ducks and geese husbandry practices.

Ducks and Geese – husbandry

Wing clipping

Wing clipping involves trimming the primary feathers of adult birds wings to prevent them from flying. Sharp shears can be used to trim off ONLY the first ten flight feathers of ONE wing. This causes the bird to lack adequate balance to be able to fly. A very experienced person should only carry out this procedure and inexperienced students should never do it unassisted as incorrect wing clipping can result in pain and severe injury to the bird. Wing clipping will allow birds to be kept in a pen or run without a roof, as they will not be able to fly out.

Leg Banding

Leg bands can be used for identification of ducks and geese. The school farm may use different coloured leg bands to identify birds born each year. Leg bands must be checked regularly and loosened appropriately or removed if they begin to become too tight. Legs bands that become too tight can cause pain and severe injury to birds.

Ducks and geese breeding activities.

Ducks and Geese – breeding

Approved activities Category
27. Artificial insemination 5
28. Semen collection 5

Semen collection and artificial insemination in poultry requires skill and experience. If the teacher or farm assistant wishes to demonstrate the collection of semen and/or artificial insemination to students, they must first seek approval from the SACEC to demonstrate these category five activities. This approval is conditional upon the operator being able to demonstrate appropriate qualifications and experience. Application is made by completion of Application form 4 and submission to the Schools Animal Welfare Officer.

Hand raising ducklings and goslings

Although ducks and geese have the natural ability to become broody, hatch their eggs and raise their young, it is common practice to take the fertilised eggs away and hatch them using an incubator, raising the ducklings or goslings by hand. This method ensures much higher success rates and an increased production level.

While this is done for production purposes, many schools also choose to hatch and raise ducklings or goslings by hand to provide students with an opportunity to observe the process and learn to raise and care for a baby animal.

In general, ducklings and goslings can be raised in very similar conditions to chickens and most methods of chicken raising can be applied. Duck eggs take approximately 28 days to hatch depending on the breed and goose eggs take 35 days to hatch. Eggs are placed in an incubator, which keeps the eggs warm, at a suitable level of humidity and rotates them as the mother hen would turn her eggs to ensure warmth all over. The period from hatching until the ducklings/ goslings no longer require supplementary heat is called the ‘brooding period’ and usually lasts for 3–6 weeks. Ducklings and goslings need supplementary heat when they first hatch, because they are unable to maintain their body temperatures. The heat can be supplied by a broody goose/duck or when being hand raised, with a heat lamp.

As the ducklings and goslings grow, they develop adult waterproof feathers instead of down and the brooding temperature can be gradually reduced, until supplementary heat is discontinued at about 3–4 weeks. Before adult feathers are developed, caution must be taken when letting ducklings and goslings swim as their down is not waterproof and they can drown easily. Swimming should be restricted to a shallow trough with easy exit points and should be monitored. During the brooding period, the ducklings and goslings need warmth, shelter, fresh air, proper food and clean water. It is very important to have a brooder well prepared for the ducklings and goslings prior to hatching.

Brooding and rearing ducklings

Brooding and rearing goslings

Space requirements

Age/type of bird Birds/m2
Ducklings to 10 days 50
Ducklings to 8 weeks 8
Goslings 1-2 weeks 10
Goslings 3-4 weeks 5
Goslings 5-6 weeks 2.5

There are commercial companies that provide a clutch of fertile eggs, the necessary equipment to hatch and brood the eggs and information to support the activity within a school, in return for a fee. Teachers need to consider the fate of the hatched ducklings/goslings, the type of ducks/geese used and the ethical issues of producing animals for the sole purpose of education, prior to engaging with such a program.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals

Ducks and Geese – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of an animal provided there is no disease risk posed. They may also watch a dissection of an individual bird that has been euthanased by the teacher or farm assistant, not in the presence of students.

Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:

  • To achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
  • As part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.

In the case that the demonstration of euthanasia is justified, on the above grounds, the teacher or farm assistant must seek written approval from the SACEC prior to the demonstration. Application is made by completion of Application form 4 and submission to the Schools Animal Welfare Officer.


Ducks and geese may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

It is illegal to kill any animal and sell the meat for human consumption unless it has been slaughtered and prepared in a licensed processing facility.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Ducks and Geese – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of birds owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual show animals
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each show animal or group of birds
  • Disposal details and dates for each show animal or group of birds
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving school poultry and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

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