Ducks and Geese – handling
Information about handling, training and showing ducks and geese.
Schools that keep ducks and geese must have the use of suitably constructed pens and cages that would allow the restraint of an animal, if required. These pens may be portable but must be solid in construction and erected in a way to be safe for both humans and ducks and geese.
|Observation of normal animal behaviour of birds||1|
General handling information
When handling ducks and geese always be very patient as birds do not like loud noises or sudden movements. Being prey animals, they have very sensitive hearing and vision and have a very strong flight response. This means their first response to possible danger is to run or fly away. When entering the enclosure, do so slowly and quietly, giving the animals plenty of time to see you. This will prevent them taking flight and causing injury from flying into the enclosure fences. Students can observe one bird for individual behaviour and two birds, a male and a female, for breeding behaviour however in order to observe fowls undertaking natural behaviour it is important to remain still and quiet as they are very easily frightened.
Hand raised ducks and geese will be exceptionally tame. Usually ducks will not show aggression towards handlers, however drakes can become aggressive during mating season and will be protective of their flock. Female ducks will be protective over a clutch of eggs that she is brooding or over her ducklings. Avoid disturbing a duck that is incubating her eggs or has ducklings, as this will cause stress. Care should always be taken when entering an enclosure with drakes and if individual birds begin to regularly show aggression they should be removed from the school.
Care must be taken when entering an enclosure with geese as they can be quite aggressive animals and will commonly try to attack a handler by flying up at them, pecking and scratching. Ganders are very territorial particularly in breeding season. They will usually try and attack any intruder who goes into their territory during mating time. Female geese can also become very aggressive when they have a clutch of eggs or goslings. Geese that become particularly aggressive towards handlers should not be kept in schools. Students should not enter an enclosure where there is a gander or goose that is known to be aggressive
Capture and restraint
Poultry must not be carried by the head, neck, wings or tail.
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When handling ducks and geese of any age, care must be taken to ensure they are always handled calmly and gently, especially young duckling and goslings, as they are very fragile. When students are handling very young ducklings and goslings it is recommended that the students stay seated when possible to keep the bird lower to the ground. Falls can be fatal for very young birds. When young birds are being moved to another area or cage they can be placed in an enclosed box to prevent them escaping and falling.
Ducks and geese should be captured and handled only when necessary. Schools should always use birds that have become accustomed to handling from a young age. Avoid chasing birds as this agitates them and causes them to pile up in corners. If a catching hook is used, a bird should be drawn towards the handler firmly but not so quickly as to damage shank, leg or joints. Firmly and quietly transfer the bird to the holding position. The holding position involves restraining one hock joint between the index finger and thumb, and the other hock joint between the third and fourth fingers. The bird’s breast, or keel bone, sits comfortably on the palm of hand with the bird’s head pointing towards the handler’s body and the vent away.
When walking with a bird, its head can be tucked under the carrier’s upper arm. The non-holding arm can be used to assist with restraining the bird and prevent the wings from flapping.
Waterfowls should not be kept in isolation and when in single cages should always have another bird in sight.
Where birds are kept in a free-range system, it is more difficult to catch them. The best way to catch ducks and geese in a large area is to slowly walk behind the birds, holding a long stick as an aid for directing them. Herd the birds into a corner, or preferably a smaller enclosure where an individual bird can be selected and captured. Do not chase the birds around a large area. This will only result in the birds becoming stressed, injured and scared of handler in future.
Ducks and geese should be acclimatised to handling to help make working with them more efficient and safer for the animals and the handlers. Familiarising birds is typically used for better outcomes in a variety of situations and for different purposes and generally occurs with consistent handling from a young age. These include:
- For pen cleaning and daily management
- For showing and preparation
- Movement between pens and facilities
- Routine husbandry procedures (drenching, leg banding, washing, skin treatments, lice dusting).
Routines make familiarising and handling ducks and geese much easier and time efficient. It is not so important when birds are housed in smaller enclosures, but in a free range system, routine feeding will encourage the birds to go to a particular area at a particular time and also when they recognise handlers approaching. This can aid in being able to catch the birds or in locking them into a smaller pen for handling, movement or security.
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|Showing animals at school and away||3|
Time and effort needs to be put into training and preparing animals for showing. Training is best done slowly from a young age. Extensive handling from a young age will ensure that birds are comfortable with being handled and surrounded by people which will reduce stress levels when they are taken to a show.
Birds need to be accustomed to spending time in a small show cage prior to the show. When washing birds in preparation for a show, care needs to be taken that birds are thoroughly dried and not left exposed to draughts, particularly in cold weather.