Our Ducklings and Goslings

We ordered new ducklings and goslings this year. We got 15 gold star hybrid ducklings–6 for a friend, 6 for us and 3 they sent extra– to replace our current ducks, who are getting along in years and are going to be turned into dog food before the end of the summer. They don’t know it yet, though.

We also ordered 4 white emden  geese and got 5. This will, once again, be used for meat and slaughtered come fall.

They all arrived in the same package, peeping pitifully, the goslings already twice the size of the ducklings.

2014-06-06 15.15.40
The ducklings’ and goslings’ first day out, happily swimming in their water pan.

We kept them in their pasture pen for the first few weeks in order to keep them safe for predators and, more importantly, our other birds. But yesterday I decided to let the goslings out to see what they’d do. And they did basically what geese do: wandered around eating grass and looking pretty happy. A few chickens tried to attack them, but one of the goslings fought back and bit the chicken. Then I broke up the fight and that was the end of that.

But once the goslings were out, the ducklings started peeping plaintively and loudly, looking for their lost comrades. I’m beginning to wonder if they view the goslings as their parental figures since they’re so much bigger than the ducklings. There are 15 ducklings, so they can’t have been lonely. One duckling managed to escape out of the pen and immediately ran to the goslings and happily grazed with them while the remaining ducklings kept peeping loudly until we relented and let them out as well.

Then the entire group wandered around our property, grazing happily:


My husband was worried they were going to go down to the pond again. The last time they were out of their run, when we had to lift the hole thing up and move it across the yard to fresh grass, they were all out and our children toughtfully herded them down to the pond so they could swim in it the first time. My husband ended up having to wade in and get them out, leaving both shoes behind stuck in the mud. But they didn’t. They were far more interested in the grass, clover, and what I’ve decided must be wild kale growing in the yard. Not to mention the shrubbery on the part of the geese.

This weekend we will pull out the electric fencing stuck in the back, overgrown part of the property around the house and put it around some poison ivy. Then we can stick the gosling and ducklings in there to graze in the day. Either we’ll build them some sort of shelter from predators in there or just hunt them out and put them back in the pen during the day. We haven’t quite decided yet.

But eventually the ducklings are going to have to join their free ranging relatives in the wide open fields and stop hanging around the geese all the time.









Do not brood ducklings in the house

There. That’s the advice I have for you if you decide to get ducklings.

We are currently brooding 11 ducklings (Khaki Cambells) in our upstairs bathtub and it is a smelly, wet, poopy disaster. Last year we brooded our chicks there and that worked out fairly well, until they started flying out of the bathtub and wandering around the bathroom. And in case you were wondering, that bathtub doesn’t work and it’s an old clawfooted bathtub with tall sides, so it’s really quite ideal. We used it last year to brood our chicks in there and it worked fairly well.

But ducklings stink. We read a bit about brooding them before we got them and the comments ran something along the lines of “ducklings are messy.” Talk about an understatement. Yes, ducklings are messy. Really freaking messy. They like to splash. They prefer to eat their food wet. So they poop. Then they splash in their poop and make it wet. Then they spill food in all of that until they’re hanging out in a nice wet, food and poop filled bog. And it’s all upstairs in our bathtub. Add a heat lamp to the mix and it is truly disgusting.

The plus side is that ducklings are ridiculously cute. They love to swim around in our downstairs bathtub. They have tiny little duckbills and can’t peck like chicks, which meant they’re at a bit of a disadvantage when they’re outside with our chicks and the chicks try to put the ducks into their pecking order. They also have tiny little claws on their webbed feet, which was news to me. And they are expert swimmers.

We had wanted to brood our chicks upstairs this year as well but within a few days it was clear the situation was not sustainable. Not only was there less room with so many ducks, but the poor chicks were getting wet and covered in food. I never thought I would call chicks clean, but here we are. Compared to ducks, they are extremely clean animals. So we built a nice little brooding area for them in the basement where they can stay just as dry as they like and have plenty of room to roam around and poop, which seems to be their number one hobbby.

Fortunately it’s getting warmer here and soon we will be kicking out all the animals and they can fend for themselves in the outdoors where they belong. Next year, we’re taking a break and not brooding anything, human, poultry or otherwise.