Many of the welfare issues that you would need to think about when caring for pet chickens also apply to pet ducks and geese. Therefore, please also read our information on pet chickens, along with the more specific advice about ducks and geese, below.
Both ducks and geese are waterfowl and, in the wild, spend some of their time in and around water. Both ducks and geese will spend time during the day performing water-related behaviours, such as preening and head dipping. We believe that as ducks and geese are waterfowl, they should be provided with access to hygienically managed open water sources that enable them to carry out their water-related behaviours.
Shallow water troughs should be provided for the first few weeks of the ducklings’/goslings’ life, as young birds should not have access to deep water for swimming in until they have developed adequate waterproofing on their feathers. After this time, appropriate water facilities can be introduced with water deep enough to allow the birds to at least fully immerse their heads under the water and splash their feathers. Ducks and geese should also be able to get into the water.
Water containers need to be cleaned at least once every day before refilling with clean water. It is also important that ducks and geese have plenty of fresh drinking water. Often this is forgotten about when the birds have access to water for other reasons, such as preening and bathing, but this water can become dirty very quickly.
Ducks will spend much of their time feeding in and around water, whereas geese will spend far more time grazing and need to be provided with plenty of grass for this reason. However, both ducks and geese need a balanced diet that satisfies their requirements for protein, vitamins and minerals.
Although ducks and geese like water, they will seek protection and shelter from adverse weather, such as driving rain, direct sunshine and strong winds. Suitable accommodation and shelters on the outdoor area should therefore be provided.
There should be plenty of space in the accommodation for the birds to move around easily. We recommend allowing at least one square metre of floor space for every two or three ducks, or one goose.
Female ducks and geese may seek an isolated position to lay eggs, and prefer somewhere safe and secluded, such as an individual nest box.
It is very important that the outdoor area is well managed, especially around any water facilities where the ground is likely to become wet and muddy. This can be reduced by regularly moving the water facilities to allow the surrounding area to recover, or by placing the water facilities over a well-drained area, such as a bed of shingle. Geese are grazers and therefore need a particularly good-sized grassy area.