Keeping any poultry can be immensely rewarding but it can also be a challenge when you live in an urban environment and have foxes or raccoons to contend with. Mackenzie from Simply Human Blog tells us all about her ducks, their home and the challenges she’s faced setting up her ducks in the city of Colarado Springs in the US.
“Mackenzie from Simply Human Blog here. I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to our ducks. This is our duck pen. It’s 150 square feet down on the ground and we have a lot of raccoons and foxes in the area, we buried the fencing down one foot to make sure nothing was able to dig under it. As you can see it’s one inch by half inch at the bottom, and the top is one inch by two inch mesh so it covers the whole ceiling so nothing can get down in there. Our ducks are now about two months old, we got them on April 4th, well they were hatched on April 4th. And they’re gonna be quite noisy as I move around here as they think I’m gonna feed them weeds. The beauty of ducks is all I do is weed my garden and throw em in there with them, in addition to the feed I give them. The feed is an organic corn, like a meal type of a thing, it’s been working out great. I feed myself organic, so I wanted to feed these guys organic. It costs me a little bit more. You can see the ramp that leads up to their main housing. And i have two buckets down here for them to play in and drink. They need to be changed about twice a day, and long term I’ll probably put a third bucket out there so they don’t need me to do that. Also I’m gonna put a platform in here, where the floor drains into some tubs. I’ll show you the floor in their main house, with the water and that drains in to some tubs and makes the clean up really easy. If you know anything about ducks, they are very messy, they dig around in their water and spit it out all over the ground, dig down into the ground. And in an effort to keep that cleaner, I’m going to build a platform here.”
“OK, let me take you into the cage. They’re gonna get loud for a minute, but I wanna be able to show you the inside of their pen. This is the main part of their house. I only put them in here at night and sometimes they come up here during the day, but not very often. This is the light I used when they were younger. I haven’t used it in a while so I should probably pull it out of there. Colarado Springs law requires that we have 4ft of indoor space per any fowl. So that’s why I have such a large indoor space for them. And I’ll take you round the backside of the pen here. This door is for clean out. It makes the cleaning out of the pen quite easy. This door is where their food is kept when they’re inside their pen. It’s just a small room that leads into their main house, and there’s a door on this side that leads into their water. I did this because that way they won’t be able to drag that much water from their water dish into their sleeping quarters. It keeps it drier and it works out splendidly. This is their water shed. This is a 5 gallon self waterer. I clean it out and fill it every other day. The floor is wire mess and underneath it is a slanted tin floor, that helps keeps the water draining out into the tubs that I have. It keeps the smell down. I can just spray this clean, it works out very nicely for it’s purposes. Here are the tubs. And I empty them out about every other day. They don’t get very full unless I leave them for several days. When they’re full I empty them on the compost pile. It keeps the moisture level in my compost up. This is the HOT compost right now, when I clean out the cages, I’m surrounded by neighbours on all sides, and to keep the smell down I always dig back the compost pile and put their old bedding underneath and cover it up with the old compost, that helps to keep the smell down. It’s done a great job so far; no complaints from the neighbours. I worry more about the noise than I do about the smell. I hardly have a problem with the smell at all, I keep em pretty clean.”
“The floor of the pen is covered with straw, that only need to be cleaned up every two months, it doesn’t get too bad in there. The inside has wood chips And I use wood chips and wood shavings, and those I clean up about once a month otherwise the ammonia smell gets too strong. They are not supposed to be able to fly, these breeds, at least any distance. Well as you can see they’re quite entertaining. My husband and I have enjoyed having them in the yard and watching them play. It’s just been a great time. There’s a lot of discussion about whether to have ducks or chickens, we did ducks specifically because we could have a male here in the city limits. With chickens, because of roosters being so loud, we’re no allowed to have a male, that means we can’t raise our own young. And it’s cheaper probably, in the long run to raise our own young, so that’s why we went with ducks. A little more work in the interim, but we rather enjoy them. They’re very meditative. I love watching them play in their water. As you can see they’re quite rambunctious. Anyway, until the next time”.
So far we’ve been concentrating on everything to do with keeping chickens, but if you’re after a bird that is full of charm, character and can guard your house like a dog, then geese are the answer! These wonderful creatures also make great pets and in the coming articles we’re going to look at everything you need to know about keeping them successfully.
Did you know?
Did you know that geese can live to be more than 20 years old, so is certainly something to consider when deciding on keeping them. They are also sociable animals and like to have each others company, so you should be thinking of getting more than just one!
What do you need to start?
Just like keeping all types of poultry, geese need space to roam. Geese are by nature, a free ranging breed, and need space to move around, so a large garden for a smallish flock is ideal.
Housing Your Geese
Just like any other pet, your geese need a safe, sheltered spot that they can retreat to at night and when they want some relief or protection from the sun, wind or rain. A stable, shed or small building will provide suitable housing. If purpose-built, the house does not need to be huge, but should be at least 6ft high and 4ft at the back and give each goose at least a square meter of floor space. An area of 8ft x 6ft will comfortably house 4-6 geese. A good wide door should be provided and most of the front should be wire mesh. The house should face away from the prevailing winter wind. A higher roof makes cleaning easier, as does a concrete or wooden floor. Sections partitioned off will encourage your geese to make their nests in a secure place, as well as preventing them from stealing each other’s eggs when sitting. Make sure the house is well ventilated and dry and that the floor is covered with a dry material such as sawdust or wood shavings, which you replace when necessary. Straw makes the best bedding and needs to be changed regularly.
As geese eat grass and the insects that live in the grass, you’ll find that the small areas of you garden the geese graze will become messy and bare, and the geese will need to be moved onto a new grassy patch as time goes on. Make sure the grass is kept relatively short; less than 4 inches high. But grass isn’t their only food source and you’ll have to make sure they get the protein, vitamins and minerals they need in their diet too. You can supplement the grass with a mixture of wheat and pellets, given dry in a bowl. Geese will also happily eat vegetables such as cauliflower trimmings, carrots and potatoes, but you need make sure that these are more of a treat, rather than a staple part of the diet. Like any bird, they will also need grit in their diet and you can provide this by supplying a dish containing coarse sand or mixed poultry grit.
Of course water is vital! If you have a pond (it must be clean) it will supply the geese with a consistent and fresh source of water. Geese are a type of waterfowl, so will want to be able to play in water, doing things such as preening and dipping their heads. Of course even if you don’t have one, they will need fresh water every day, which can be provided with special water hoppers. How about a child’s paddling pool? You’ll find the geese, like most waterfowl, are rather messy creatures, so will have to empty, scrub, and refill the water containers and tidy up their enclosure on a daily basis.
Don’t Forget to Check With Council
Finally, don’t forget to give your local council a call before you bring any geese home to see if there are any limits or restrictions on how many geese you can keep. There are more likely to be restrictions in urban areas.