Ducks and geese are hardy and fairly easy to raise. Their brooding requirements are simple and they don't need special housing or equipment, but they can be MESSY! No joke, they are as messy as they are adorable. Luckily, because of their rapid growth and early feathering, they do not require as long a brooding period. The easiest way to raise goslings is of course by a broody geese, or even a willing broody chicken (as can ducklings):
Raising goslings artificially can be an equally rewarding pastime, not least because baby waterfowl are surely some of the cutest creatures of the poultry world. This article breaks down their basic needs and help you prepare and care for for your goslings.
BROODERS AND HOUSING
If you are raising your goslings artificially, you will need a brooder to keep them in. Brooders need to be big enough to comfortably accommodate the goslings for a few weeks (depending on the weather) and have a heat source to keep them warm until they have enough feathers to help them regulate their body temperature.
Though many people prefer to brood goslings in their house, an outside brooder house, for example a partitioned off section in a barn or outbuilding, would be easier to manage (think: mess). For the brooder house a wood, concrete, or dirt floor is good. Allow about 1.5 square feet of floor space per gosling and cover the floor with about four inches of absorbent litter, for example wood shavings, ground corn cobs, cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls or peat moss. (**Do not brood goslings on newspaper as the slippery surface can cause foot and leg problems). For the first few days, I'd put some old towels in the brooder, followed by thick pine shavings.
Dampness tend to be more of a problem with ducklings and goslings than it is in brooding baby chicks, so regular removal of wet litter and frequent additions of clean, dry litter is recommended.
For brooder ideas, browse through this thread: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/6233/brooder-thread-post-pics-of-your-brooders/210_30
Goslings need to be kept warm enough for the first few weeks, until they have sufficient feathers to help maintain and regulate their body temperature. For the first week aim to have a warm area in the brooder, maintaining the temperature there at around 85*F. This temperature should be reduced about 5*F per week until 70*F is reached. Artificial heat is usually only required for first 5-6 weeks and in good weather, the young goslings can be taken out to pasture from a very young age.
The behavior of the young goslings will be an even better guide than a thermometer. When the brooder temperature is too high, you will notice the goslings crowd away from the heat source. Too high temperatures may result in a slower rate of feathering and growth, so if you see this kind of behaviour, adjust the heat source and temperature as needed.
When the temperature in the brooder is uncomfortably cold, goslings tend to huddle together under the brooder heat source or pile up in corners. Keeping a heat lamp on the goslings at night and during the day, when it's chilly, will discourage this. When the brooder temperature is just right, the goslings will be comfortably distributed over the floor of the brooder house.
The best food for growing goslings is a formulated starter feed that will meet their nutritional requirements. UNmedicated chick starter can be fed, if waterfowl feed is not available, but take note that the feed you are using contains only those additives approved for ducks and geese and that you will need to supplement it with niacin as needed. (Brewers yeast added to the feed or water is a good safe source of niacin for growing goslings.)
Please note: Certain types of drugs that are sometimes included in chick starting and growing mashes for coccidiosis control can be harmful to goslings. They may cause lameness or even death.
Whether you buy a commercial feed, or mix your own home-made rations, make sure the feed you are using meets he minimum nutritional requirements for goslings, which are:
According to Storeys Guide to Raising Poultry insufficient or imbalance of calcium, vitamin D, or phosphorus can cause rickets. Symptoms are weak birds with stiff or swollen joints, soft beaks, and soft leg bones. Slipped tendon is a leg weakness usually caused by a deficiency of manganese. Choline, niacin, and biotin deficiency may also have a part in it. The shank and foot remain flexed and extend laterally from the body and there is flattening and enlargement of the hocks. Vitamin E deficiency causes staggering, incoordination and paralysis. Curled toe paralysis is caused by a deficiency of riboflavin. Vitamin A deficiency may cause pustules to develop in the mouth, esophagus and crop and cause death. The best and safest feed for growing goslings is a specially formulated waterfowl starter and raiser.
Goslings can be fed fresh grass clippings from when they are a few days old, in addition to their regular feed, not as a replacement. Make sure if you feed this, that you provide grit.
Make sure your goslings always have fresh, clean water available. They will make a huge mess of it, so be prepared for this! Geese need to be able to put their heads in water to clean their nares, so it's always good to have water deep enough for them to do this, even tiny goslings. Don't put deep bowls of water in the brooder that are big enough for the gosling to climb into, or attempt to climb into. Remember these are waterfowl. They love water and they love swimming. A plastic bowl with a lid, with a large enough hole cut in the lid that the goslings can get their heads into, will make a perfect waterer.
PASTURE FOR GOSLINGS
When the weather is mild enough, goslings can be let out and allowed to graze on pastures or lawns when they are only a few days old. Grass is the natural food of goslings and you can save a lot of money in feed by providing good pasture throughout the goslings' growing period. At five or six weeks of age they can feed themselves entirely on good pasture, although some supplemental feeding is recommended until the birds are completely feathered.
If you are in a position to plant a pasture or area specially for grazing geese, Ladino clover makes fine pasture for goslings. Other types of white clovers also are very good, as are most varieties of grasses. In Missouri, bluegrass, orchardgrass, timothy and bromegrass can be use. Small grains such as barley, wheat and rye can make excellent early or fall pasture. Goslings or geese are not fond of sweet clover, lespedeza or alfalfa (lusern).
For large numbers allow about one acre of pasture for each 20 to 40 geese. The amount required varies on the size of the goslings and quality of pasture, but whenever possible, more is always better. When the pasture is poor quality, feeding supplemental grains will be necessary.
Keep goslings out of the rain and off wet grass for the first few weeks, especially when the weather is cool. If the weather is hot, make sure they have adequate shade.
Make sure that the pasture and green feeds you use do not have any chemical treatment that would be harmful to your flock.
Swimming can start during their first week, if brooded inside where temperature can be regulated. A good place to let them have their first swim is in the bath tub, or in a large enough pan, or tub. For the first week, fill it with enough nice warm water (not too hot!), just enough to reach the top of the goslings' legs. After the first week, make the water deep enough to allow them to dive underwater. Let them play for about 5-10min to start with. Do not let them swim unattended! Stay with them until their play-time is up. After swimming, pat them dry and place them right back into brooder to finish drying. If they are brooded outside and by mothers are brooding some recommend waiting until the goslings are 3-4 weeks before setting up a pool that they can get in an out easily. It is very important they can get in and out of their swimming pools easily (place bricks inside the pool and out stacked or provide ramps). If they tire out and get cold they can die.
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