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September 21, 2018

Flight Training for Ducks and Geese

One of the most common question we get from customers is if their ducks are going to fly off when they are older. No, they will not. Except for the Mallard, none of our ducks inherently know how to fly. They especially will not fly off if they associate you and the area as a place of safety and food.

However, your ducks can be taught to fly.

Meet brothers Joel and Jacob. Back in 2016 they taught their 8-week-old goslings and a handful of ducklings how to fly with amazing success. Here is their fascinating story.

At first, when they were ducklings, we didn't ever expect anyone but the mallards to fly. The mallards kind of taught themselves, when we would go on a walk, they would stop until the rest of the ducks were some distance away and then fly to them. Now they circle the yard for long periods!

The domestic ducks: 3 Khaki Campbells, 3 Fawn and White Runners, and 3 Buff Orpingtons needed a little more help to fly, but not much. We started by walking one or two ducks a distance from the flock, always going so that they could fly into a headwind. At first when they started flying, they couldn't take off by themselves, so we would toss them into the wind. This should ONLY be done if you have a very strong wind (20 mph or more). That way flight is much easier and the landing is soft even for a heavy weak-winged duck. When we tossed them, at first they would simply land, but they eventually learned to fly to the flock. Over time, they needed less and less wind, until they could do it without any headwind at all. Then one day instead of tossing them into the wind, we simply walked some distance from the flock, then turned around and ran back to the flock. The duck(s) hesitated, and some didn't get it a first, but most would start running and fly back!

Now when we take them on walks, sometimes they get excited and will fly to the destination, or after they have eaten all they want, they fly back to the barn for a drink! They definitely love to fly, and get very excited both before and after they fly. All of the ducks but two (the two Buff Orpington hens) have flown. Right now only the drakes are flying, except for a Khaki Campbell hen who loves flying even though she lays. The most impressive flight ever by one of the ducks was when on a kind of windy day, the Khaki Campbell hen Mildred took off on the opposite side our property from the barn, flew really high above our trees, and because of the wind she wasn't able to land, so she circled 2 times 50 feet in the air, then glided down like a mallard! I had never dreamed a domestic duck could fly like that, but she can! 

Training the geese was a bit different. For the geese we also took them a little ways from the flock and ran into the wind, but we never tossed them up. We simply started running, and when we run, they get extremely excited, honk, and then run after us, quickly overtaking us to fly to the flock. We started training them at 10 weeks, and they are now 8 months old
[at time of writing]. It took about 4 weeks of daily training until they could both fly, and like the ducks at first they needed a strong headwind, and by strong I mean about 35mph. I think they could have flown quicker than that, but they had gotten used to simply running along the ground, instead of flying.

Many times they would go 6 inches into the air, then get scared and come to a halt. But then first the female goose, Elizabeth suddenly rose up one day, flew about 200 feet, and landed perfectly! After that she took off every time, she had conquered her fear. James the gander started flying about 2 weeks after Elizabeth, and he was very very proud when he finally did. Now they are so much stronger and don't need any wind at all to get lift, James has flown a little over a fourth of a mile, and Elizabeth has flown at least a half mile. James is not quite as daring as she is, he hasn't ever gone any higher than 20 feet or so from the ground, but she likes to go as high as she can in a flight. Elizabeth can take off with a single leap and flap, and rise to 60 feet in the air, then float down gracefully to the ground. The geese definitely LOVE flying, if we don't take them out for a flight every day, they follow us and honk until we do! We don't give them any reward after flying, just a lot of praise. They also praise themselves quite a bit when they land, they stick their wings out, honk joyfully, flap, and then preen. 

It's hard to know what ducks and geese other than the breeds we own could fly. I don't think a
Pekin could fly, but you never know. I didn't believe our Buff Orpington drake would ever fly, he just seemed too heavy, but after months of training my brother taught him how, and now he flies everyday and loves it. Runners definitely can, and quite easily once they realize they can't fly in a vertical position, but have to flatten out. I think that most Rouens, Welsh Harlequins, Swedish, Cayugas and Anconas could. I'm referring to the normal farm birds, not show quality. For geese it's harder to know, but I am quite sure by talking with others that production Toulouse, Romans, Pilgrims, Buff, and Embdens can fly if they are not too overweight. Super Africans, Dewlap Toulouse, and Sebastapols really would shock me, I don't see any way they would. If a Sebastapol had normal wing feathers, it could a little bit.

Training ducks and geese to fly is definitely rewarding for both the trainer and the waterfowl. It's amazing to watch them fly, and it keeps them healthy, safer from predators, and they love it! 
-Joel and Jacob”

September 07, 2018

Cayuga Ducks

There is no definitive origin of the Cayuga, but traditionally it is believed that a miller in Duchess County, New York caught a pair of wild black ducks and decided to raise them for eggs and meat for both his table and the marketplace in 1809. It is then said that John Clark obtained some of these black ducks in Orange County, New York and introduced them to Cayuga County, New York in 1840 where the Cayuga got its name. Should the traditional origin be true, this would make the Cayuga the first duck originating from the United States.

The Cayuga was added to the American Standard of Perfection in 1874. A very hardy duck with great utility, they were very popular for meat purposes until the Pekin was introduced to the market in the 1890’s. Today they are considered a threatened species by the Livestock Conservancy.
Adult Cayuga Male
Cayuga are a medium weight duck, about 4¾ to 6 pounds, and have meat that is considered quite flavorful. Due to the dark pin feathers and the dark coloring they leave in the skin, however, the carcass is not as clean appearing as a Pekin. They can lay about 150 eggs a year with egg color ranging from black to light gray. Cayuga are quite docile and easily tamed making them excellent pets. While their plumage can be considered a greenish black, they shine iridescent green in the sun and start to turn gray or white as they age. Sometimes this change starts in one year and sometimes it takes several years for the white feathers to begin appearing. Interestingly, some flocks originating from the same parents will molt to white feathers sooner than others. We breed our Cayuga exclusively on our farm and sometimes at the end of some years we have a lot of whitish birds, and other years there are none. Therefore, change must be induced by something in their environment. What that something is we have not been able to determine.

Freshly laid Cayuga eggs

Egg Production
Bluish Eggs
Egg Size
4.75 - 6 pounds
75-90 grams
APA Class
Foraging Ability
Conservation Status
Our Show Quality
Flying Ability
Excellent Color, Good Type

August 24, 2018

Duclair Ducks

A very good multipurpose duck would have to be the Duclair. It was first developed in France and was named after the city Duclair in Normandy. It became a part of the American standard in 1923. In 2012, Metzer Farms in conjunction with Stone Church Farm in New York developed a strain of Duclair which Metzer Farms has continued to breed.

What a usual Duclair looks like.
A search for Duclair ducks will usually produce a duck that looks like a cross between a Rouen and a Black Swedish duck. The strain that Metzer Farms and Stone Church Farm developed, however, is completely white. It is a great egg layer at 130 – 200 eggs a year. At full growth it averages at 4.5 – 6 pounds. It has a calm personality making it a great starter duck for kids.

Today, the Duclair is prized for its meat and can be found in many high-end restaurants. We ship Duclair on a weekly basis for raising and processing to New York and several other growers across the states.

What our Duclair look like.
Whether you are looking for a pet, an egg layer, or a meat bird, the Duclair is an excellent choice all around and would make for a beautiful addition to any flock.

Egg Production
Foraging Ability
Conservation Status
4.5 - 6 pounds
No Rank

August 10, 2018

Broody Ducks

Any experienced waterfowl owner has seen the signs of their females going broody. To new owners, however, it can be alarming. We regularly receive frantic phone calls saying that their females have started behaving strangely and that they do not know what to do.

Broodiness is basically a biological clock that tells a female bird that it is time to sit on her eggs full time. When she lays eggs, she is not broody as she does not sit continuously on the eggs. She merely lays her eggs in the nest and then leaves. Once she has a full next of eggs, she will start sitting on the eggs to hatch them. Only in extreme instances will a female become broody without eggs in the nest. During this time she leaves her nest once a day to eat, drink, and do her business. As it is her instinct to protect her eggs, she will become territorial and grumpy. This will continue until the eggs hatch.

Most birds that become broody take care of themselves while on the nest, only leaving once or twice a day to eat and bathe. As such, they are more susceptible to predators, mites, ants, and other bugs and pests. In extreme cases of those that continue to sit on eggs that will not hatch they run the risk of malnutrition, dehydration, and even death.

If you think your bird will go broody, it is important to encourage her to nest in a safe place. This can be done by providing nesting boxes in advance. Waterfowl have a tendency of choosing a spot for their nest and sticking to it even if the nest is moved. (We had a customer call us once at her wits end. Her goose had built a nest in the middle of a high traffic walkway and was plugging up a pipe. We told her to move the nest since she did not want to destroy it, but when she did the goose rebuilt the nest in the exact same place as before!) Chris and Mike Ashton suggest in ‘The Domestic Duck’ to leave the bird alone while she is sitting and to separate her from any males. To help with exercise, Dave Holderread in ‘Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks’ suggests placing food and water just out of reach in order to entice her to leave the nest in order to take care of her needs. We suggest switching from a layer feed to a grower feed while she is broody. In the situation that a bird goes broody, but there is no possible way for the eggs to hatch (no males in the flock), it is possible to slip fertile eggs under her or even ducklings/goslings and trick her into thinking the eggs have hatched.

There are some instances in which you do not want your bird to remain broody such as when they go broody without eggs or you rely on her for egg production. Once they start sitting, they stop laying. The best way we find to stop brooding is to take away any eggs and destroy the nest. To discourage her from attempting to make another nest, make sure there are no materials available to her to make a nest. In large-scale turkey farms they have small pens in the laying buildings that have cement or wire floors in which they put their broody hens. After they appear to have lost their broody instinct and no longer want to sit, which can take about 3-4 days, they are returned to the rest of the flock.

We find there are some breeds that are broodier than others. Sebastapol geese are the worst of the bunch on our farm, followed by the African and Buff. On the duck side, the Cayuga seem to be the broodiest followed by the Rouen. On the opposite end, we do not really know who is less broody out of our geese, but our Runner are the least likely ducks to be broody.

A bird going broody is perfectly natural and some breeds can be more broody than others. There are steps you can take to help them through it or to stop it. Hopefully these guides will help you with your broody birds.

August 03, 2018

Bird Shippers of America and Salmonella

Shipping poultry across the US is a very big industry. All across the nation, people are ordering birds and picking them up at their local post office throughout the year. Thanks to the internet, the industry is growing daily and information is being constantly shared. Because of this, everyone with access to a computer or a phone is able to bring poultry on to their property as pets and farm animals, yet many are unaware of what raising poultry entails.

Other than the obvious care and management required to keep poultry, many, especially those looking to keep birds as pets, are unaware of the health risks associated with the task. That is where Bird Shippers ofAmerica (BSOA) comes in. BSOA is an online organization dedicated to the education and safe practice of raising fowl. It endeavors to be a vital source of information for all of your bird raising needs and “ - to improve the Backyard Poultry Industry”. This includes information of different breeds of birds, various tips and tricks in raising them, and making people aware of the dangers of Salmonella and how to protect you and your loved ones.

Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths every year within the US according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Most Salmonella infections come from food, but there are some strains of Salmonella that do not harm poultry but are carried by them and can infect people. It is because of these strains of Salmonella that those handling poultry must be careful.

To help educate our customers, we include a pamphlet from the CDC attached to the back of each invoice about the dos and don’ts when handling fowl.

  • Wash hands after handling live poultry
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children
  • Use sanitizer if soap is not available until you are able to wash your hands
  • Do not let those with weak immune systems, the elderly, or children under 5 handle live poultry
  • Do not keep live poultry in the house, bathroom, or any area where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored
  • No snuggling
  • No kissing

We invite you to read about Salmonella from the BSOA site and to continue to use its resources for any current and future poultry projects.

If you are involved with the mail-order poultry shipping industry, we also you encourage you to join the organization. Membership benefits includes the sharing of information within the poultry industry, access to updated information on research for the caring and shipping of day-old poultry, an avenue of information and response to any legislative changes that would adversely affect the industry, and a discount on postage for shipping your poultry.

Below is an infographic provided by the BSOA regarding precautions against Salmonella.