Backyard Poultry

Growing Your Flock with Different Types of Ducks and Geese

Flock Management : Flock Health

Flock Management : Layer Nutrition

Flock Management : Egg Production

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Raising waterfowl, like different types of ducks and geese, can be a fun addition to a backyard flock. These water-loving birds are happiest when they have a grassy area to roam and a large pond or pool for splashing in. Ducks and geese thrive best on a feed designed specifically for them.

Whether you’re looking for a new poultry adventure or just starting a flock, baby ducks and goslings can be a welcome addition to your backyard. Waterfowl like ducks and geese can be raised separately or along with your backyard chickens.
Ducks and geese are growing in popularity because they help control insects and weeds in backyards and small acreages and can be wonderful companions. Similar to chickens, many types of ducks and geese can lay healthy, nutritious eggs for your family.
If you’re considering raising ducks, geese or both for your flock, you likely have some questions: Do ducks and geese need different food than chickens? What do I feed if I am raising them for eggs?
We’ll answer those questions and more in this beginner’s guide to raising ducks and geese.

Raising ducks 

Let’s start with the basics of raising ducks. A baby duck is called a duckling, a male duck is called a drake and a female duck can be referred to as a duck or hen. Many of the standard rules when raising chickens also apply to ducks – provide 2 to 3 square feet of indoor space, 10 square feet of outdoor space and ensure they get 16 hours of daylight each day if they are egg layers. Differences include ducks preferring to lay eggs lower to the ground and, of course, they have feathers that will keep them dry when in the water.
Some flock raisers choose to raise ducks simply for companionship. Given their friendly personalities, it can be common to find your pet duck waddling after you in the yard. Others raise ducks for eggs and meat; this is known as dual-purpose.
Choosing backyard duck breeds to raise depends on your flock goals:
  • Duck breeds for eggs: Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner, Ancona, Welsh Harlequin, Magpie
  • Duck breeds for meat: Pekin, Ayelsbury, Rouen
  • Dual-purpose duck breeds: Muscovy, Cayugas, Orpingtons, Blue Swedish, Saxonys, Crested

What to feed ducks 

Whether you choose to raise ducks as pets or for eggs and meat, a complete feed should provide all the nutrients they need to start strong and stay strong.

For baby ducks, one of the most important nutrients is niacin. Ducklings have a higher niacin requirement than chickens, which is why providing your ducks with a duck feed is vital to their success. Purina® Duck Feed includes all essential nutrients – especially niacin – for healthy growth.
Keep in mind ducklings and goslings should not be fed a medicated starter-grower feed, like you might choose for your chicks. Medicated starter feeds include amprolium, a coccidiostat that is not approved for use with ducks or geese.

Raising ducks for eggs? Great choice! A duck egg is typically larger than a chicken egg with naturally stronger shells and bigger yolks. Many families also enjoy the rich taste. When your female ducks begin to lay eggs, they will search out additional calcium sources, which is why we recommend providing a supplemental feeder with Purina® Oyster Shell in addition to their regular feed. When your ladies are no longer laying eggs, they will ignore the oyster shell.
If you want to treat your ducks to a special food, follow the 90/10 rule: 90 percent complete feed and 10 percent treat foods, like cracked corn, grapes cut in half, earthworms or mealworms, or chopped lettuce and greens. For ducks, this could be up to 3 tablespoons of treats per day. 

Raising geese 

If you’re looking for birds with distinct personalities and interesting sounds, geese might be the right fit. Geese do best in pairs or trios and will often wander the backyard side-by-side. As compared to other poultry, geese are known for their natural guard-dog instincts and can be great flock protectors.
Common backyard breeds include Embden, African and Chinese, all of which can produce high-quality, lean meat. These breeds are excellent converters of nutrients to meat and can reach 20 to 26 pounds at maturity. For fancier geese with unique feathering, consider the Sebastopol, Toulouse or Pomeranian breeds.
Although not typically raised for eggs, goose eggs are double the size of duck eggs. They are seasonal layers and start laying in February or March, continuing through early summer. Depending upon breed, geese lay between 20 to 50 eggs per season. 

What to feed geese 

Feeding geese is very similar to feeding ducks. Complete feeds like Purina® Duck Feed, Purina® Flock Raiser® feed and Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner feed are all great options to feed your geese throughout most stages of life. The only exception would be during periods of egg production, and then you would provide a source of oyster shells for added calcium. Geese take longer to reach sexual maturity than ducks or chickens, so expect your geese to start laying eggs around 9 months of age.
All Purina® duck and geese feeds are formulated to help your geese develop properly early in life and maintain their health through adulthood. Ensure your geese always have access to a complete feed and fresh water for the best finishing results.
Want more tips for raising backyard ducks and geese? Download our free e-book.