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December 28, 2011

Hints for First Time Poultry Exhibitors

The following blog was written for us by James Konecny, who is the president of the International Waterfowl Breeders Association and keeps and shows ducks and geese.  The pictures were taken at the Eastern Iowa Poultry Show in Iowa City, IA.

For successful showing, birds need to be conditioned prior to the show. All waterfowl should be fed a well-balanced, pelleted poultry feed, cleaned oats and black oil sunflower seeds and very little corn. Fresh bathing water daily is a must - as is clean bedding such as straw or pine shavings. Keep them away from mud.
Proper transport to the show is very important so as not to ruin the time and effort spent in the weeks leading up to the show. Handle the birds with care, never catch them by the wings or tails. Each bird should be crated individually if possible with each crate being an appropriate size for the breed. A nice bedding of shavings in each crate will help keep the birds clean.
At the show prepare the show cages before you place the birds in them, add additional shavings and place appropriate water and feed containers to fit each breed. I recommend bringing your own feed and a watering can with your name on it.

On the day of judging give your birds just enough water for a few quick sips, too much water will encourage waterfowl to try to bath and your birds could be wet during judging. Use a spray bottle and mist them in the morning to encourage preening.

A bit of house keeping should also be done. Remove any litter and feathers then add a few fresh shavings on top of the old ones. Waterfowl love to pull and eat the coop tags, if this happens contact a show official to have them replaced.
A nicely cleaned and conditioned bird should not need too much preparation before judging. Cleaning the bill and feet and wiping off any soiled feathers with a damp cloth is advised. You do not want to interfere with the natural lay of the feathers. Some breeds require more prep than others. For example, using an oil product such as baby oil or Vet-Rx on Brown Chinese and Brown African knobs certainly improves their appearance. Don’t fuss with the birds too much as this can have an adverse effect.

After judging is completed talk with the judge if you can, and other exhibitors. When judging of your breed is complete remember to feed and water your birds.
Be a good sport, it is only one show and one opinion. Just because a bird wins one show doesn’t mean its going to win in another.
When the show is over be responsible when cooping birds out. Remove coop cups and dump any excess drinking water in the bedding not on the floor. Coop out with the same care used to coop in. Before you remove a bird from the show cage, check your exhibitor number on the tag, make sure the bird you are removing is your own. Take the coop card either right before or right after you crate the bird. Remember to close and latch the coop door when you are done.
I do not recommend watering and feeding the birds during transport. If your trip is twelve or more hours stop and give the birds a quick snack and beverage. Many times you are going to arrive back at your farm after dark. Know your birds. If your birds get stressed and frightened in the dark, wait to put them away until morning. Before all birds are returned to their home they should be sprayed with a quick shot of Frontline or Adams Flea and Tick spray. This will remove any lice or mites the birds may have picked up at the show.
All practices mentioned are what I have observed and used over the years. Enjoy your birds, have fun at the shows. Observe, Learn and Participate.
If are interested in writing a blog on waterfowl for Metzer Farms, email us. For more information on our Metzer Farms ducks and geese, please visit our website.

December 16, 2011

9 Steps for Taking Blood Samples from Ducks and Geese

We blood test annually for pullorum for our NPIP membership, quarterly for Avian Influenza and for other diseases as required for exporting to different countries.  The following directions will work for taking blood samples from chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys or any type of poultry.  You should check with your veterinarian and/or laboratory to ensure these methods will meet their requirements.

1)  We use 1” needles that are 20 gauge.  They are attached to a syringe that holds 3ml (3cc).  You can typically purchase these at a veterinary supply company.  We purchase ours from VSI in boxes of 100.  They cost about $16 per box of 100.

2)  You need to ask what type of tube to use for the blood.  We always use “red top” tubes that can hold 3 cc.  The red top indicates it is sterile inside the vial and no additives have beenadded.  One hundred tubes come per box and costs about $15.  If you are doing quite a few samples, you can mark the box with numbers around the perimeter and you do not need to remove and mark each individual tube.  This makes shipping easier and safer.  The lab can label the individual tubes as they remove them.

3)  We remove the blood from the brachial artery on the inside of either wing.  Have your assistant hold the bird on its back.  Spread one wing out and pluck the feathers from the inside of the “elbow” until you see the darker brachial vein going over the wing bone.

4)  Remove the cap and sleeve of the syringe.  Twist and remove the needle cover.  As the needle is threaded on the syringe, twist the needle cover clockwise so it is tightening the needle as you are removing the cover.

5)  Pull out the plunger of the syringe about ½” and push it back in.  You want to do this now as it “breaks the seal” and makes it easier to pull slightly on the plunger when you are actually drawing blood.

6)  You want to have both hands on the syringe when you draw the blood.  One hand steadies the syringe and the other controls the plunger on the syringe.  The needle should enter at a very slight angle (almost parallel) to the vein.  Be careful you do not go all the way through vein as it is more difficult to find that “sweet spot” as you pull it back out through the vein .  As soon as you insert the needle into the skin, pull back very slightly on the plunger so when you do enter the vein, blood will immediately enter the syringe.  Once you start to get a good flow of blood, FREEZE!  Any movement may remove the needle from the vein.  Just gradually pull  back on the syringe.   Do not pull back hard on the syringe as the resulting suction may collapse the vein from which you are trying to get the blood.   Typically 1.5 cc is plenty for diagnostic work.  Once you have sufficient blood, remove the needle, press briefly on the puncture spot and release the bird.  Only rarely does the bird bleed enough to notice it on the feathers after its release.

7)  Sometimes you cannot get a good flow of blood and you must remove the needle to try the other wing.  Oftentimes the blood pools on the wing.  Check with the laboratory to see if this blood is acceptable for the tests you are doing.   If so, just suck up sufficient blood from this pooled blood.

8)  As the tubes have a slight vacuum, all you have to do is stick the needle into the tube and the blood will be sucked out of the syringe and into the tube.  The best way to dispose of the needles is to put them in a “sharps” container, which can typically be purchased from the same company from whom you purchased the syringes.  Do not put the syringes in the sharps container with the needles.  The syringes can be disposed of as typical garbage.

9)  Set the tubes at a 45 degree angle and put them in a refrigerator to slightly cool them.  Use freezer packs to keep the blood cool until it arrives at the lab.

Visit our website if you need a list of laboratories or avian veterinarians in your area.  We also have another blog on shipping veterinary samples.

December 06, 2011

The Livestock Conservancy - A Valuable Organization

The Livestock Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.  Its mission is to protect the genetic diversity in livestock and poultry species through the conservation and promotion of endangered breeds. These rare breeds are part of our national heritage and represent a unique piece of the earth's bio-diversity.

Karakul Sheep
I have been a member of the Livestock Conservancy (formerly the American Livestock Breed Conservancy or ALBC) for many years and became a board member in 2012.

Each year a conference is presented with extraordinary speakers presenting fascinating topics.  I would encourage you to attend each year's conference.  This year's conference is November 18&19, 2014 and is in Austin, Texas.  A few examples of previous year's presentations:

Handspinners and Knitters Want to Buy Your Rare Breed Wool!
Tail to Snout: What It Takes to Be Successful With Heritage Hogs
Rare Breeds Farm Tours, The Delight is in the Details
Tradition and Techniques: Learning to Cook with Heritage Breed Meats
Uncommon Fare: People Want Interesting Food
How Heritage Chickens Can Help Save the World! 

I would also encourage everyone to become a member.  Annual dues are only $45 and the four main benefits are:
1) You are supporting an organization with a vital mission of saving rare breeds of livestock and poultry
2) Quarterly newsletter/magazine with excellent articles on how people are saving and using rare breeds throughout the USA
3) Rare Breeds, Breeders and Products Directory
4) Access to the technical and research staff of the Livestock Conservancy.  I have used them myself!

Watusi cow and calf

You may own some rare breeds of poultry now!  Following is how the Livestock Conservancy ranks different breeds of livestock and poultry.  For each category, I have listed the breeds we offer.

Critical: Fewer than 500 breeding birds in the US and five or fewer primary breeders
    Ducks - Welsh Harlequin
    Geese - Buff, Pilgrim and Roman Tufted
Threatened:  Fewer than 1000 breeding birds in the US and seven or fewer primary breeders
    Ducks - Buff and Cayuga
    Geese - Sebastopol
Watch:  Fewer than 5000 breeding birds in the US and ten or fewer primary breeders
    Ducks - Khaki Campbell, Rouen, Black Swedish and Blue Swedish and all our Runners
    Geese - African, Brown Chinese, White Chinese, Large Dewlap Toulouse
Recovering: Breeds that were in another category but have now exceeded Watch numbers
Study: Breeds that are of genetic interest but do not qualify otherwise

Buff Geese - Critical
I was very impressed with the professionalism and passion the staff has with their mission.  It is not a large staff but it is a very dedicated group of believers.

Jeannette, Ryan, Angelique, Chuck, Jennifer, Michele, Anneke, and Alison at a recent Conference

The Livestock Conservancy realizes one of the the best ways to preserve a breed is to make it a profitable animal to raise and sell.  Only then will there be more demand for that breed and more breeders.  Hence the emphasis is on the unique attributes some breeds have in terms of meat taste and texture, capacity to handle challenging environments, ability to reproduce and care for their young, wool quality, etc.  Consumers want a choice in what they purchase.  Heritage breeds of livestock and poultry provide that alternative.

The main activities of the ALBC are:
Research on breed characteristics and populations, and publish an annual Conservation Priority List
Education about genetic diversity, breed attributes, and the role of livestock in a more sustainable agriculture.
Technical, marketing, and promotional support to a network of breeders, breed associations, and farmers.
Assistance to gene banks to identify important genetic materials that should be collected from endangered breeds.
Genetic rescues of threatened populations.

The Livestock Conservancy is a valuable organization to farmers and consumers - now and in the future.  Please consider joining this vital effort to preserve rare livestock and poultry breeds.   I am a member and director and wholly support the mission of the Livestock Conservancy.

November 30, 2011

Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl?

Can medicated feed be given to ducks and geese?  Many people say No.  I will explain why I feel the answer is Yes.

First of all, there are four drugs (medicines) that are approved by the USDA for the use in ducks.  These have been used successfully for years to control a variety of waterfowl diseases.   They are Chlorotetracycline, Neomycin,  Novobiocin and Rofenaid. 

The bigger concern, however, is sacked feed sold at your local feed store.  Some of these sacked feeds (especially starter feeds) have medications in them to control coccidiosis.  Coccidiosis is an internal protozoa parasite that can harm chickens, turkeys, game birds and occasionally waterfowl.  As coccidiosis is a common problem, and most people have chickens, the feed manufacturers will often include medication in starter feed to better control this disease.   But what about waterfowl?  Will it harm them?

Non-medicated Starter Feed by Ace Hi - though I would prefer a starter as a crumble, not a mash

We have contacted all the feed mills that we could find that make sacked poultry feed in the US.  From material they have sent us or from their website, we have learned that these 29 mills make 59 different starter feeds for chickens, waterfowl and game birds.  Of these 59 starter feeds, 19 have a medication in them to control coccidiosis.

Four drugs are used.  Fifteen of the feeds contain Amprolium, 1 has Monensin, 1 has Lasolocid and 1 has BMD (Bacitracin methylene disalicylate).

Medicated Starter Feed with amprolium by Kalmbach Feeds

To investigate this further, I asked for the assistance of Dr. Larry McDougal of the University of Georgia and Dr. Alison Martin of the Livestock Conservancy.  Both of these individuals have done extensive work with coccidiosis.  They found research that had been done here in the United States and abroad on the effect of these four drugs on waterfowl.   As Dr. McDougal said “Not one of these papers described any harmful effects to waterfowl except where the normal dosage was significantly overdosed.” 

Non-medicated Grower feed by Southern States

Many of you have heard of Dave Holderread, of Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm in Oregon.  Dave is an expert on waterfowl and an ultimate waterfowl breeder.  He conducted research on coccidiostats with Oregon State University in 1982 (1).   His paper states “Frequently publications pertaining to waterfowl state that medicated feeds should not be fed to ducklings and goslings.  In some localities, producers and hobbyists who raise a small number of ducklings and goslings can only purchase medicated chick, turkey or game bird starter and grower feeds.  Because of the lack of documented information on this subject and the numerous requests for advice on this matter, anticoccidial drugs zoalene, sulfaquinoxaline and amprolium were mixed in mash feed and fed to ducks up to four weeks of age.”

His conclusion was “From this experiment, it appears that sulfaquinoxaline, zoalene, or amprolium at the manufacturers' use levels for chickens and turkeys did not cause mortality, stunted growth or cripples when fed to Khaki Campbell ducklings to 4 weeks of age."

Therefore, it appears research shows these drugs do not harm waterfowl if used at the rates commonly used with chickens and turkeys.

Medicated Chick Starter using amprolium by Lone Star Mills

Have there been coccidiostats used in the past that were harmful to waterfowl?  Probably and that is why the myth began. But those drugs are no longer allowed or no longer used in the United States.

What if you have the choice of medicated or non-medicated starter feed of equal nutritional value?  My recommendation would be to use the non-medicated feed.  There is no point in feeding medication when it is not needed.

HOWEVER, if the choice is nutritionally correct medicated starter feed (20%+ protein) or non-medicated feed that does not meet the nutritional needs of the ducklings and goslings, I would definitely recommend the nutritionally correct, medicated starter feed.  Research shows the medication will not harm the waterfowl.

(1) Holderread, D., Nakaue, H.S., Arscott, G.H. 1983 Poultry Science 62:1125-1127

November 25, 2011

Can You Move Laying Ducks During Egg Production?

If you move ducks that are laying eggs into a different pen, will it adversely affect their egg production?  If you had asked me this question three weeks ago, I would have said "Absolutely! Yes, egg production will drop dramatically!".  Well, I would have been wrong.

In late fall we have to clean a lot of our buildings in preparation for next year's duck breeders.  Normally we move all the breeders from a building to our sell pen and start cleaning out one years worth of manure and bedding.  Our Khaki Campbells were still laying fairly well in a building that was scheduled to be cleaned.  My breeder manager, Guillermo, decided to move them into an empty pen in another building so we could get another two to three weeks worth of eggs from them before that building had to be cleaned, too. 

If he had asked me prior to the move, I would have said "It won't work, but go ahead and try if you want.  They will stop laying within a couple days of their move."  I encourage employees to try new things but I knew how this was going to work out.

The ducks were walked into a trailer and driven to their new pen, about 80 yards away.  The construction of the buildings is exactly the same, though their new pen was a mirror copy of their first pen (for the new pen the water was on the west side and nest boxes on the east side instead of east and west in the older pen).  In addition, they have new neighbors on both sides of their new pen.  Now, look at the egg production of that Khaki Campbell flock.
Nov.  15       86
          16       90
          17       97
          18      103
          19       92
          20       99
          21       98  The ducks were moved this day after their eggs were collected.
          22     102
          23     107
          24     100
          25     110

You can see they have not gone down in egg production!  The move was a stress but there were many things in common between the old pen and new pen: same feed, same feeders, same nipple waterers, same bedding, same lights, and same light schedule.  They are a bit more nervous but otherwise have taken well to their new pen.

I still do not recommend moving breeders while they are in production - especially if they are early in production and you are getting more eggs each day - but I have learned you can move older flocks if you have a real reason to do so and the new pen is very similar to the old pen.

See - you can teach an old duck farmer new tricks!

November 04, 2011

Crossroads Poultry Show Report

I attended my first large poultry show this past weekend - the Crossroads Poultry Show in the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.  It was a great experience!  There were over 10,000 poultry from 40+ states and Canada.  Each bird is judged using the Breed Standard for that particular breed - feather coloring, structural correctness, style and balance.

This is how many birds were entered:
  1747   Ducks
    395   Geese
      68   Guineas
      42   Turkeys
  8024   Chickens
10,276  Total Poultry - with about 20% being Junior exhibitors

Half of the Champions Pavilion with Large Dewlap Toulouse in the front.  In the back is the sales area where exhibitors can bring birds they are not showing and sell them during the show.

The Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion. The cages were double high in the far half of the building because of the number of birds - as each bird gets its own cage.

Along with their volunteers, these are the people that dreamed up and brought this show to fruition - twice!  Bill Wulff, daughter Jennifer Wulff-Frank, granddaughter Samantha and son David.  I tried throughout the show to get the whole family together for a picture.  I finally had to go with these four as Bill's wife, Joyce, was taking someone to the airport!  Always working!  This show took a tremendous amount of planning, organization and management and all net proceeds go for youth awards and scholarships.  10,000+ poultry and their caretakers owe the Wulff's a big Thank You.  A show edition will be printed up in the January issue of the Wulff's Poultry Press.

We had a booth at the show and handed out literature and answered waterfowl questions.  We also brought our Waterfowl Sexing video and played that throughout the show.  There always seemed to be someone watching it!  It was very rewarding meeting many of our customers at the show.

P. Allen Smith and Kathy Hopkins
Kathy, of Silver Spring Farm, won Best of Breed with her Buff goose, which she purchased as a gosling from Metzer Farms.  Kathy loves her Buff geese and wants to share their special attributes with everyone.  With Kathy is P. Allen Smith,  who has become well known nationwide with his GardenHome television spots, is also a poultry advocate.  He was at the show to present an award for the best display of a heritage breed from his Heritage Poultry Conservancy.

The Super Grand Champion Bird was Danny Padgett's Male Black Muscovy.  This was judged to be the best bird over all the chickens, geese, turkeys and guineas.  It is rare for a waterfowl to be judged the best bird in the show.  Congratulations to Danny!

For those of you not familiar with the judging process, if a bird wins in its class (young female Pekin duck for example), it then competes against all other Pekin winners (male and female) to determine the Best of Breed.  The Best of Breed then competes against all other Breeds in its Class (Heavy Duck).  The Best of Class then competes against all other ducks for Champion Duck.  The Champion Duck then competes against the Champion Goose for Champion Waterfowl.  The Champion Waterfowl then competes against the best chicken, turkey and guineas for Super Grand Champion Bird.

If you have an interest in showing birds, check with your local county fair and see what they have to offer.  Talk to the person in charge of poultry as they usually know of all shows in your area.  We also post an extensive list of poultry shows on our website.  We have another blog that gives instructions on how to prepare and handle your birds for a poultry show.  Time to start a new hobby! 

October 21, 2011

The Absolutely P.C. Calendar

I was recently intrigued by an advertisement in Practical Poultry, a poultry hobbyist magazine published in England.  It was for  "The Absolutely PC Calendar featuring Fancy Chicks as you’ve never seen them before."  I couldn't resist and ordered a copy.  It is fantastic.

Clare, Miss June, Secretary of the British Poland Club

The calendar indicates that the idea was conceived at a National Show on a Saturday evening while celebrating a winner or two.  That is quite obvious.  The reasoning was the Poultry Club, which sponsored the calendar, tends to be dominated by men.  Some of the ladies and their fowl involved in the fancy decided to make sure they got noticed.  This calendar is the result.

Miss May, Sue, Judge and Vice Chair of the Rare Poultry Society

All the ladies featured in this calendar are exhibitors and keepers of poultry.  They are experienced in the handling of chickens and the birds (feathered variety) are tame and are used to being handled regularly.

All proceeds from the sale of calendars will go to The Poultry Club of Great Britain which is the United Kingdom’s only charity devoted to the conservation of rare and pure breed poultry, including large fowl, bantams, ducks, geese and turkeys.  The calendar itself was sponsored by Cotswold Chickens.  Its cost is about $14 and to order, contact the club by email at My copy only took a week to arrive and I think it would make a great gift for any poultry enthusiast.

My only complaint is that there are no ducks and geese featured!  I will not take it as an insult, however - just a simple oversight.  Maybe next year.

One more thing - these two pictures are just samples.  You should see the rest of the months!

September 29, 2011

Will Incandescent Heat Lamps For Brooding Be Banned, Too?

I am sure you have read that many incandescent lamps have been banned.   But I am also sure many of you use heat lamps for brooding your young birds.  Were incandescent heat lamps banned, too?

In December 2007 the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act  which requires all general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310–2600 lumens of light (a typical 100 watt incandescent light bulb puts out 1150 lumens) to be 30% more energy efficient starting in 2012. The efficiency standards will start with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014.  As current incandescent light bulbs cannot meet these efficiency standards, they will no longer be sold.

However, light bulbs outside of this range are exempt from the restrictions. Also exempt are several classes of specialty lamps, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, stage lighting, plant lights.... AND HEAT LAMPS.  There are much more efficient bulbs that can replace the standard incandescent bulb - but there is nothing currently available to replace incandescent heat lamps.

So, don't worry, you will still be able to purchase standard heat lamps for brooding your ducklings and goslings (and chicks, keets and poults) - at least until a more energy efficient alternative is available.  

September 22, 2011

Will Postal Changes Affect Mail Order Hatcheries?

We are extremely dependent on the US Postal Service (USPS) to ship our ducklings and goslings throughout the US.   For large orders going to customers near an airport, it is cost effective to ship air freight.  But for everyone else, the only alternative is the USPS.

The USPS has been losing billions of dollars the past several years due to a variety of factors.  Therefore, they are looking at multiple cost saving measures.  When new rules are being proposed by the USPS, however, hatcheries start to worry.

Following are three major changes coming to the USPS and my estimation of how they might affect mail order hatcheries such as ours.

1) No Saturday Delivery    This has been discussed for quite awhile.  In fact, I went to a Postal Commission Hearing in May of 2010 to present the hatchery concerns - which I reported in my blog.   They are not proposing the closure of Post Offices on Saturday - just that there will be no rural deliveries.  If you did have birds show up on a Saturday, you could still go to the Post Office to pick up your birds.  This is the normal procedure for most customers anyway - they prefer picking their babies up instead of waiting for their mail carrier.  And, as most hatcheries mail on Monday or Tuesday, it would be extremely rare for a shipment to arrive on a Saturday.

2) Closing USPS Distribution Centers   Due to the lower volume of mail, the USPS will be closing many of their mail sorting and distribution centers.  We don't know how this will affect the speed of your delivery.  We mail on Monday and they arrive at your nearest major airport Tuesday afternoon.  From there they go through a distribution center and on to your local post office.   We trust that our ducklings and goslings will still get to you on time.  In fact some of the distribution centers near us have closed.  The effect is that on those busy Mondays when we cannot complete our mailing by 4:00pm, we must take our birds 80 miles instead of 15 miles to the nearest distribution center.  But this is not a big problem.

3) Changing Standards  The USPS has delivery standards (how soon you will get the mailed piece) that they try to meet with all their mail.  There has been recent publicity on the ability of the USPS to save $1.5 billion by delivering the mail one day later than now due to savings in overtime and air shipping expenses.  This was a major concern to hatcheries as our birds must arrive within about 40 hours of mailing.  It would not work if they arrived in 64 hours - one day later.  However, the proposal to add a day in delivery standards was not for Priority Mail, which is what we use for day old birds, but for First Class Mail and Periodicals.  Each of these will take an additional day if the USPS does change their service standards.  The only two classes of mail available to live birds are Priority and Express.  Neither of these are scheduled to change.

So, for now, we appear to be safe.  The changes proposed by the USPS to save money do not appear as if they will affect the safe and quick delivery of your ducklings and goslings  (and chicks, keets and poults).  For more information on the mailing of day-old poultry, go to the Shipping Options page on our website.

September 08, 2011

Sources of Poultry Flooring

In my last blog I wrote how much easier your life will be if you use plastic or wire flooring around the drinkers for your ducks and geese.  I am sure many of you said "That's great, but where do I find this poultry flooring?"  Well, in this blog I have listed a selection of manufacturers.

Unfortunately some of these may have minimums above your needs.  But you never know until you ask!  If you are a manufacturer that is not listed, notify me and I will add your information.

Plastic Flooring
These normally come in pieces that are about 2'x4' or 3'x3'.  Some interlock and some do not.  Some are impregnated with an antimicrobial agent, most are not.  Some are manufactured internationally but have North American distributors.  Some are white and some are colored. Ask if their flooring is appropriate for the age and type of your poultry. 

Gillis Agricultural Systems    Willmar, MN    800-992-8986

Double L Systems        Dyersville, IA     800-553-4102

CanArm    Brockville, ON, Canada    613-342-5424
                  Ogdensburg, NY, USA        800-267-4427   
                     This is the flooring we use in one of our brooder buildings.  It is
                     excellent for ducklings but does not work with goslings as they    
                     catch their hock in the holes.

Southwest Agri Products    Dallas, TX  800-288-9748

Farmer Boy Ag    Myerstown, PA  800-845-3374

Valco    New Holland, PA   717-354-4586    A listing of several Chinese manufacturers

Vencomatic    Calgary, Alberta, Canada  403-241-7692

FarmTek      Dyersville, IA    800-245-9881

Agri of Virginia   Broadway, VA   800-328-6378 

PVC Coated Welded Wire

You can use welded wire that is not covered in plastic, but it will not last as long and may be more abrasive on their feet without the cushioning of the plastic.  There are two ways to galvanize welded wire: before welding (GBW) and after welding (GAW). Before welding looks better but after welding lasts longer.  Ask which you are getting.  The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire (14 gauge is thicker than 16 gauge).

Wire Cloth Man   Mine Hill, NJ  800-947-3626
                       Houston, TX  800-947-3256
                       St. Petersburg, FL   888-947-3256                        Tulsa, OK    877-947-3626

CE Shephard   Houston, TX    800-324-6733

Riverdale Mills    Northbridge, MA   800-762-6374

Louis E Page, Inc.    Littleton, MA   800-225-0508

Valentine, Inc.     Lemont, IL   800-438-7883 

Gerard Daniel    Hanover, PA   800-232-3332
                            Fontana, CA   800-635-8296

Academy Welded Wire Fence    Orange, NJ   800-427-0854  

Good luck with your flooring changes.  Using wire or plastic flooring in your duck and goose pens around their drinkers will keep the pen much drier and cleaner.  Send us pictures of how you keep your pens dry!

September 02, 2011

How Do I Keep It Dry Around My Duck & Goose Drinkers???

For ducks, water is more than a nutrient.  It is a source of entertainment, a way to keep clean, a method to make eating easier, a way to keep cool in hot weather, an area to mate and a place to find great things to eat.  No wonder they spend so much time near water and make such a mess with it!!!

After speaking to hundreds of duck and goose hobbyists and farmers, problems with water is one of their major concerns.  "How do I provide it to them in the best way possible and how do I prevent a mess?"  It boils down to your drinker/waterer and the flooring around the water source.  I will discuss the different types of waterers in another blog.  For now, let us look at the best flooring around their water source.

No matter the type of waterer you use (bucket, bell waterer, nipples, or automatic float waterer) a slatted or wire floor under the waterer works wonders.  The objective is to not allow your ducks and geese to play in their spilled water.  This prevents mud from spreading throughout the pen, reduces your bedding bill and keeps the birds and their drinking water cleaner.

You can use many different types of flooring.  You want the openings large enough that the water and manure drop through but you want enough surface area that the birds are comfortable walking on it.  In fact, ducks and geese often prefer wire or slat flooring in warm weather as it allows cooler air to circulate below them.  The picture above is our breeder ducks on the wire flooring under their nipple waterers.  Below is a single flooring piece, 5'x10'.

We have great success with PVC coated welded wire flooring.  It is most commonly 1"x1" but we have also used 3/4"x2 1/2" and 1"x2" openings.  The PVC coating greatly extends the life of the wire but is more expensive and often difficult to find.   You want to get as thick of a wire as possible.  Remember that the lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire.  The main advantage of welded wire flooring is that there is very little surface area - any spilled water immediately flows through the flooring and out of reach of the duck or goose.  The only disadvantage of the welded wire is that it eventually rusts and you must repair or replace it before it injures the feet of your birds.  The picture below is the 1/2"x1/2" PVC coated welded wire we use in our smaller brooder room.

There are also many types of plastic flooring made for poultry.  Any of these should work well and they typically have a longer life than wire flooring.  Below is a 2'x4' plastic poultry flooring piece in use and individually.

For our brooder barn, we purchased a very nice flooring.... for ducklings.  Unfortunately the hocks of the geese became caught in the holes from about 3 to 10 days of age.  To prevent this we had to put 1/2" hardware cloth over it.  This is not good as the manure does not drop through easily and quickly builds up on the floor.  But if we only had ducks in there, and no welded wire - it would work great!

Prior to the introduction of plastic flooring, strips of oak were used in the United States.  In Asia, strips of bamboo are used. Below is a picture of a hardwood platform and another  gray plastic flooring we tried that was originally designed for swine.

No matter the type of flooring you choose, you will need to build a frame to hold it.   Normally this is made from 2"x4" lumber.  For extra longevity, use treated lumber.  For our wire platforms, we put a 2x4 support every 12".  Even then, the wire stretches and sags between the 2x4s after a couple of years.

If your waterer is over dirt, dig a pit and place the flooring over your pit.  You want that water to soak into the ground, not flow out from below the flooring into your bedding.   Normally a pit that is 1'-2' deep is sufficient.  If you decide to dig a deeper pit, you should probably build a wooden frame liner to prevent the sides from collapsing.  You only need to line the top 12" of the pit walls.  The picture below shows the pits we built for our new goose pens.  These pits were lined with plastic so the manure would not leach into the soil.

If your pit is lined with plastic or concrete, you will need to be able to pump it out periodically.  We have a manure wagon for our interior and exterior pits.  For smaller operations you can use a simple trash  pump to suck it out and spread it on your used bedding, a pasture or garden area.  If your pit is not lined and you don't have a large number of ducks or geese, it will probably soak into the soil and not require frequent cleaning.

You want to make sure the flooring is wide enough that it catches all the splashed water and manure your ducks and geese generate.  Ours are all five feet wide.

By using wire, plastic or wood flooring under your waterers, you will alleviate one of the biggest problems confronted by duck and goose hobbyists and farmers.  Your life will be much easier - less bedding to spread, fewer dirty eggs, and your ducks and geese will be happier as they will be cleaner and always have fresh water to drink.

Please refer to our blog on sources of poultry flooring, so you can find the flooring you need.

What do you use around your waterers to prevent mud and mess?

August 27, 2011

"Domestic Duck Production, Science and Practice" - The Book

I didn't know about this book until a customer told me about it. I am happy he did as we are
changing some of our management practices because of it.  Domestic Duck Production, Science and Practice is a book written for commercial producers. Much of the information concerns raising ducks for meat but the section on breeder management applies whether you have Pekin breeders to produce meat ducklings or Golden 300 Hybrids, White Layers or Khaki Campbells for egg production. Even if you are only a serious hobbyist, there will be information in this book that will make you say “Really?” and you will realize there might be a better way to care for your ducks.

The main change we are making because of this book is our use of light. Historically we have grown our ducks on natural day length and then increased the day length to 17 hours between 20 to 25 weeks of age to bring them into egg production. The authors' recommendation is to maintain the ducks on 17 hours of light their entire life and bring them into production with an increase in quality and quantity of feed when they are sexually mature. “Excellent results have been obtained by maintaining meat strain ducks and drakes on a constant photoperiod of 17 hours from day-old until the end of the breeding cycle. Since this programme is simple and applicable at all latitudes it deserves to be adopted as the standard method for rearing Pekin breeding stock.”
Research supports all the information in this book with some of that research being done by the authors.  There is a list of references at the end of each chapter if you want to do further research on a specific topic. There are many graphs showing the results of the research and quite a few formulas showing the effects of different variables on weight, age of maturity, etc.

This graph shows the increased egg production from Pekin breeders that were fed 80% of full feed (Controlled growth) up to 18 weeks versus those that were fed all they wanted (Ad libitum feed) their entire life.

The chapters in Domestic Duck Production, Science and Practice are:
History and Biology of the Domestic Duck
Systems of Production
Housing and Environment
Husbandry of Table Duckling
Nutrition and Factors Affecting Body Composition
Rearing of Parent Stock
Management of Breeding Ducks
Fertility and Hatchability
Genetic Improvement

This drawing shows the ideal duck feeder to prevent waste.  Divide these numbers by
25.4 to get inches.

A few other "Did you know?" items in this book:
  1. Prior to egg production, female mallards eat a diet predominantely composed of animal foods to satisfy their demand for protein for egg production. Males, in contrast, subsist mainly on a vegetable diet.
  2. Average weight of a 7 week Pekin in 1928 was 3.6 lbs. In 2011 it was 8.1 lbs.
  3. In Asia, ducks are grown in buildings above lakes stocked with fish. The slotted floors allow the droppings to feed the algae which feed the fish. Up to 2000 ducks can be grown on each 2.5 acres of pond using this method.
  4. There is true value in keeping the bedding thick in cold climates as the composting generates heat which reduces the heating bill and/or feed consumption.
The problem with a specialized book such as this is that there are few potential buyers and they have to charge more for the book. Yes, the price is $109.95 but for those of you earning money from your ducks, this can be paid back quickly with the valuable information in it. If you are a commercial producer, the other book we recommend is Nutrition and Management of Ducks by Dr. William Dean and Dr. Milton Scott, which emphasizes the nutrition of ducks. Both books can be ordered in the book section on our website.

Do you have any waterfowl books that you have found valuable but we do not sell?