Ducks and Geese – environment
Housing requirements for ducks and geese.
Fences, enclosures, gateways, gates and all facilities used to secure ducks and geese must be constructed and maintained to reduce the risk of injury and attack by predators.
Ducks and geese may be housed or kept in intensive conditions provided the following conditions are met:
- At least 0.2m² of floor space per bird or 5 birds/m²
- Bedding must be provided at least 7 – 8cms thick
- The diet composition and quantities of feed must be recorded
- Nesting material needs to be provided
- 12 cm per bird of feeder space must be provided
- Faeces and urine accumulations must be removed daily
- Effluent must be treated and/or removed in accordance with local council regulations
- Normal diurnal pattern of lighting must be provided
- Opportunities for appropriate exercise must be provided
- Air must be of acceptable quality with respect to dust, chemicals and smells
- All waterfowl must be observed standing and moving during daily inspections.
Where ducks and geese are kept in schools, it is not recommended to keep them in intensive, caged conditions. Hand raising ducklings and goslings are an exception, and the young birds can be housed in cages while they are growing. An outdoor enclosure with plenty of space and environmental enrichment is always recommended.
In confinement, ducks must have a minimum space requirement of:
|Age/type of birds||Birds/m2|
|Ducklings to 10 days||50|
|Ducklings to 8 weeks||8|
In runs ducks have a requirement of:
|Age/type of bird||Birds/hectare|
|Ducklings at 8 weeks||5000|
Geese kept under shelter should be provided with a minimum of 1m2 floor space per bird.
Large enclosures are preferable to house ducks and geese with an area of at least 2m2 per animal. The more space that can be provided for each bird the better.
Waterfowl will also thrive in a free range system with access to a pond or body of water large enough for them to swim in or at least submerge their head and shake water over their bodies.
Where ponds cannot be constructed large containers of water will provide sufficient water source. Geese require more dry area in their enclosures while ducks can be kept in enclosures with large sections of water for swimming.
Waterfowl can easily suffer from heat stress if they do not have access to bodies of water where they can adequately cool themselves down. For this reason, during summer and hot periods it is recommended to install a sprinkler system that can be turned on to cool down the birds and wet the area of the enclosure. A sprinkler system on the roof of the shelter over the nest boxes is also recommended to prevent waterfowl from suffering heat stress while nesting.
Preferred range of temperature is 20–28ºC. Temperatures below 10ºC and above 32ºC cause stress.
Shedded birds must have equivalent to natural light and not be kept in the dark. Water fowl should have a light and dark cycle. Keeping birds in the light all the time can have an adverse effect as ducks and geese can panic and smother themselves in the event of a blackout. Light is not an issue in a free ranging system and natural light cycles are always preferred for ultimate health and wellbeing.
Avoid draughts and chilling winds. Ventilation is also required to prevent ammonia build up in intensive situations. Ammonia causes distress to poultry as much as to humans. Steps must be taken to prevent ammonia building up to the level where it becomes unpleasant. This can be achieved by reducing the number of birds in a given area, improving ventilation and regularly replacing dirty bedding to ensure it does not become damp or build up with faeces.
Shelters must be sufficient to protect from extremes of climate, e.g. temperature, wind, rain and direct sunlight. In locations where hot weather is experienced, shelters should be fitted with a sprinkler system to cool the area on hot days. This reduces the incidence of heat stress, which ducks and geese are very susceptible to. Shelter needs to be provided with purpose built sheds and trees and bushes for shade.
Clean, dry litter of rice hulls, shavings from non-treated timber, straw or sand about 7-8 cms deep.
Little required, if deep litter and kept dry, however if litter becomes damp its MUST be removed.
Ducks generally require little assistance in setting up their nests. Suitable nesting material such as clean dry sand, rice hulls, straw or wood shavings can be provided. Nesting boxes should be provided to keep eggs clean and protected and encourage the birds to lay in one spot. 15-25cm plastic drums can be cut down and used as nest boxes. The nest should be reasonably dark and sufficient to isolate one bird from another to avoid egg damage and aggressive behaviour from some birds during nesting time.
Fencing and security
Fencing and security for ducks and geese is a very important aspect of keeping waterfowl. Ducks and geese are a very vulnerable prey species who are very susceptible to dog, fox, cat and hawk/eagle attacks due to their small size and inability to defend themselves.
Enclosures must be designed to ensure that there is no way a dog, fox, cat or large bird can enter. To ensure this, fences should be dug into the ground and concreted in approximately 20cms deep at least to prevent animals from digging into the enclosure. Fences should be constructed entirely of good quality/condition chicken mesh, at least 2 metre high with a fully enclosed roof made of either mesh or a solid structure. Reinforced wire and posts should be used to provide support and strength for the mesh. The door to the waterfowl pen should meet flush with top, side and bottom of doorway to prevent animals from entering here.
Where ducks and geese are kept in a free-range system with an area too large to have an enclosed roof, standoffs with a hotwire should be constructed on the exterior of the top of the fence to prevent animals climbing or jumping over. Where there is no roof, fences should be extra high to minimise ducks and geese flying over the top.
Shelters and trees must be provided in free-range areas to provide waterfowls with cover and protection in the case of an eagle or hawk swooping. This is particularly important when there are ducklings or goslings. Most ducks and geese are of sufficient size to protect them from an eagle attack but ducklings and goslings are an easy target for predator birds. Due to the ability of ducks and geese to fly, there is a risk of injury for birds flying into the fences of the enclosure. The risk of this depends upon the bird’s flight zone and how they react to a handler approaching as well as the size of the enclosure. Waterfowls used in schools should be tame and accustomed to handling so this should not be a problem however wing clipping may need to be considered if birds are able to fly out of the enclosure or they appear to be flying into the fences.
Where waterfowls are kept in a free ranging system on the grass, it is important to perform regular paddock rotation, resting one paddock and keeping no stock on it to prevent the grass from being damaged beyond recovery. Frequent paddock rotation also reduces build up of faeces and the risk of worms as any worm eggs on the ground die off once the stock are removed for an extended period of time. When ducks and geese are kept in small portable pens on the grass these should be moved regularly.
Due to waterfowl’s tendency to scratch and dig in the dirt, foraging for grubs and plants, they are very hard on the ground and can degrade an area quickly by digging up roots and dislodging topsoil. It is also a good idea to fence around the base of young trees or place netting on the ground to prevent waterfowl from removing soil from the roots and damaging them. A sprinkler system installed in a grass area is also recommended to settle dust created by scratching and aid the grass in recovering.
It is very important when keeping any type of poultry to implement strategies to control rodents. Due to bedding materials required for waterfowls and their tendency to spread their pellets on the ground, enclosures are often an attractive spot for rats and mice to forage for food and nesting. Outdoor enclosures are very easy for rats and mice to get into and this can become problematic if rodents come to live, nest or feed regularly in the fowl’s enclosure.
Rats and mice can carry ticks, lice and diseases that can infect fowls as well as nesting in their bedding, eating their food and consequently rapidly multiplying and infesting an area with large populations that become hard to control. In order to prevent rodent infestations feed in outdoor enclosures should be kept in a feeder off the ground and covered or enclosed at night when ducks and geese are sleeping. Any feed that is on the ground and not eaten should be removed and bedding should be refreshed regularly to ensure there are no nests. Where ducks and geese are kept in sheds, rodent baiting stations can be used to control rats and mice. These should be safe, enclosed baiting stations that can be purchased from a local farm supplier outlet and should always be checked, maintained and correctly signed to ensure safety to students and teachers. Ensure that baiting stations are kept well away from all animals to prevent poisoning. Any holes that are found where rats and mice are digging into enclosures should be filled to reduce attraction and ease of entry to rodents.