Sunday, February 5, 2012

Are Your Ducks and Geese Overweight?

Waterfowl have a tendency to put on extra fat if given the opportunity.  A reasonable amount of fat on a duck or goose in the wild is acceptable as it helps insulate them in cold water.  It is also less dense than bone or muscle so they float easier in the water with extra fat.  But just as with most animals, a little fat is good but too much fat is bad.

Some breeds of ducks and geese are naturally lean, and some gain weight more easily.  For ducks, the Runners rarely carry extra fat.  Pekins are at the opposite end of the spectrum and can easily be too fat.  Khaki Campbells are closer to Runners in this regard but Rouen, Buff, Blue Swedish and Cayuga are closer to a Pekin.

An extremely overweight Embden goose.  Notice her abdomen between her legs.

There is less variation in geese.  But of all geese, the Chinese are the least likely to gain extra weight but the larger Embden and Toulouse are the most likely to be overweight.  Other breeds are in between the lighter Chinese and heavier Embden and Toulouse.

What is the problem with excess weight?  The bird's life is probably shortened and may make it more uncomfortable due to the extra weight they must carry.  Remember that the legs and feet of waterfowl are not terribly strong.  Add an extra 20-30% in body weight and those feet and legs will develop problems sooner due to the extra weight they are carrying.


A flock of fit Embden geese.  Compare their profile with the goose above.

Farms that have breeding birds must be extra careful in controlling the weight in their breeder birds.  Extra weight in a breeding duck or goose can greatly reduce egg production and fertility.
Our commercial Pekin ducks grow extremely fast and can weigh 7.5 pounds or more in seven weeks.  However, the breeder birds that produce these fast growing birds must be kept on a diet starting at two weeks of age.  Due to this restricted feed, a female Pekin  breeder should only weigh about 7.5 pounds at 23 weeks of age.  But due to this reduced feed, she will live longer and lay more eggs with increased fertility. 

So if you do want to control your birds' weight, how do you do it?  

1) Only feed them a certain amount once a day.
           Pekin - .33-.45 lbs per day per bird with the higher amount if they are in full egg production
           Runners - ..25-.35/day/bird
           Other duck breeds - .3-.40 lbs/day/bird
           Heavy geese .45-.6 lbs/day/bird
           Chinese  .35-.5 lbs/day/bird
           Other goose breeds  .4-.55 lbs/day/bird

2) Only allow them access to their feed a limited amount of time each day
           Pekin - 2-8 hours/day (8 hours is for breeders in high egg production)
           Runners - no limit needed
           Other duck breeds - 3-12 hours/day
           Heavy geese - 2-12 hours/day
           Chinese - no limit needed
           Other goose breeds -  4-24 hours/day



Birds that must forage for much of their feed are less likely to be obese.  Some people use a less dense feed (fewer calories per pound of feed) but this usually does not control the weight in a duck or goose as they have the ability to simply eat more.

If you have ducks and geese simply for pleasure, it is not critical you control their weight.  But if you are keeping them commercially, it is critical you monitor their weight for increased performance and improved longevity.

40 comments:

  1. Do you have protein percentage recommendations to go along with the other restrictions?

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  2. Growing ducks 15-18%, geese 14-16%
    Laying birds 17-18%

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  3. What about ducks and geese that are on green feed daily? I would presume they need just a very small amount of high protein feed to assure proper nutrient balance?

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  4. Always wondered.... Guess this is a good time to ask: ducklings that are still growing their feathers... Should we keep food available at all times? Im worried about rapid growth and angel wing for my pet duck. One of his wings seems to be turning out unaturally. Do they have to have food at night at this stage, or would removing the feed at night reduce the growth rate?

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  5. Similar question to Katie, any recommendations on providing grass or alfalfa to growing ducks and geese - concerns with angel wing. Great to see some answers about overweight birds! I wonder if I'm providing too much food in prep for breeding season. Now I'm noticing my geese coming off the water for grazing a lot more - is this related to breeding season and looking for nest sites and/or change in dietary needs and wanting to graze more? Thanks so much!
    Marilyn

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  6. Green feed is excellent for both ducks and geese. Geese can almost survive solely on growing, green grass whereas ducks merely use it as a supplement to a grain based diet. So geese need less supplement with grains than ducks if they have all the green grass they can eat.

    No, they do not need 24 hour access to feed during feather growth. Removing the feed for the night is fine and may limit their consumption a little bit. I will have to do some research to see if there are any standards that indicate how much consumption is reduced if they only have access to feed for 2 or 6 or 8 or 12 hours per day. - compared to 24 hour access to feed.

    I can't answer the question about why your geese are grazing more now. Maybe to find a nest? Or the water is colder now? Or there is a slight change in their dietary needs? The advantage of grass is it provides exercise and is lower in protein. Alfalfa is fairly high in protein so that may not have a net effect of reducing protein consumption. If you are feeding them once a day, they should clean it up within 6-8 hours.

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  7. I have a female peking, one year old now and she stopped laying in November 2011, especially after I put the chickens and the pair of pekings on Purena layena instead of the organic home made laying mash from a Farmer in the area. the egg procuction of the hens went down especially during the cold and snow and I still am not seeing any duck egg. I have been feeding a mixture of cooked pinto, brown rice and canned corn (until I can buy better) just before I locked them in thepen at night for about a month and the hens increased egg production and yester I collected 12 eggs out of 14 hens and still not duck eggs. Is there a possibility the female peking, Ms Bo Jangles, might start laying again when I put out their pool of water and they have more pasture to walk on?

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  8. I am also providing PUrena crumbles 24 hours per day and I noticed your feed schedule for ducks. Should I take the food out just before I locked them in for the night?

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  9. My guess is she hasn't fully finished her molt and winter rest. Are the crumbles a layer feed? "Crumbles" just indicates that it is a feed that is ground, made into pellets and then the pellets are broken for easier eating by baby birds. At this age they need a layer feed (proper nutrition for laying including higher calcium for egg shell formation). The layer feed can be a crumble or pellet. Waterfowl can eat a mash but there is more wasted. Why do you make your own feed if they have the Purina feed?

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  10. Last Spring my goose incubated her eggs and none developed to hatchlings. This year to my surprise I have found that the goose I thought was a gander, is laying eggs as is the other goose of last year. Both are the Toulouse, the gander is a Buff Saddleback Pomeraian with blue eyes, would like to find him a goose of the same breed. However, he has taken up with one of the Toulouse and the other goose walks behind the nearly 20 feet always. Is this common? Also one nest has been built into which both are laying eggs, I think there are close to 30 eggs. I would like to seperate some of the eggs and start another nest could that be accomplished and how would you suggest it be done?

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  11. If they are set in their ways, it might be hard to get one to move. But I would make another similar nest beside the first one and put some eggs in each. Hopefully one will decide to move. If you see them both in the nest at the same time, I would cut down the size of the nest box so it is impossible for two to sit in the nest at one time. It is not unusual for one goose to mate with a different breed. They aren't prejudice. Good luck with the nest splitting.

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  12. I have two 12 day old pekin ducklings and i love them very much and they love me also but how much should i be feeding them i dont want to over feed them or under feed them? any help would be great, kristen

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  13. I would give them there feed once a day and make sure they clean it up within an hour. Of course any grass or vegetables can be given throughout the day as treats.

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  14. I have an EXTREMELY overweight Pekin "Big Boy" is his name :) what do I do to help him lose the weight he is with 9 other ducks (1 pekin, 2 blue swedish, 2 cayugas, and 2 rougens, and 1 fawn & white runner) I feed them a full scoop (tsc scoop for grains) once a day also there are 2 chickens in the same area as well sometimes 4. am I feeding them the right amount?

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    1. I can help if you tell me how much that feed weighs. Do they get anything else to eat? pasture? kitchen waste? bugs in a pond?

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  15. So if your geese free range all day. They are more likely not gonna be overweight?

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  16. Yes, that is correct. Just like humans - if you are exercising throughout the day, you are less likely to be overweight.

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  17. I've had two duck die but the weird thing Was the guts came out of the butt. Is it a disease because I went in my ducks pen and they were fine and 2 minutes later my chocolate Indian runner was dead with its guts out. I don't want it to happen to the rest of my flock. Is it a disease or what?

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  18. It is not a disease. Might a predator have killed them? How old are your ducks? Was it females that died?

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  19. My geese don't have access to greens except for hay for my other livestock in the winter, should I feed them hay pellets with their grain mixture?

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  20. If they have access to hay, I would not bother giving them hay pellets, too.

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  21. One of my golden 300 ducks is fat. Her belly drags on the ground. I got her yesterday and I didn't notice she was like that until I got home. One of her pads is huge but the other one is normal. I got 6 other ducks along with her and they are all Normal what's wrong.

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  22. I doubt if she is fat. My guess is it is a fluid buildup in her abdomen. Does it feel like fluid or fat? The fluid buildup is typically due to a low level infection and her liver is damaged and cannot do its job. It is rare and we normally we see it in Pekins but have seen it in all breeds. There is no cure that we know of.

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  23. I had two goslings who were eating fine and drinking fine, they ate, pellets, grain and lots of grass and then one day the little girl was lethargic in the morning. She got worser as the day went on and then around midday she spasmed and was ... paralysed? It was as if her neck had broken and then she died.

    Her friend, the boy is now losing weight because he is not eating as much, could this be that he is too sad to eat? He get's really insecure when left alone and gets excited when he sees me, whereas before when his friend was alive, he didn't really care. Is there anything I can do to get his appetite back? I will be getting a new girl soon in a couple of days but I am worried that he won't make it as he is getting very boney. :(

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    1. I am sure he will survive until his new friend arrives. Unless they are sick, animals do not starve themselves to death. You can also try a different feed or snack to stimulate his appetite.

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  24. my 5 week old ducklings have tiny scabs on their pads. i dont think its bumblefoot because there is no swelling and there are no scabs anywhere else on their feet. they are very healthy and clean and we change their bedding every other day.i noticed they had the scabs when they arrived at my farm. i ordered the m on the 3rd of dec.
    what is going on?

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    1. In case anybody else has this problem and needs to know... My ducklings got little scabs on their feet and the feet peeled a bit around this age. I've been told it happens due to the rapid growth spurts they experience. They grow faster than the skin can stretch, so they often peel. I put a bit of aquaphor or Vaseline on them to ease any itchiness. :) They got better in a few days. They're all grown now with healthy feet.

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  25. I have no idea what is causing that. Can you take some pictures and email them to us here at metzinfo @ metzerfarms. com?

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  26. Hi I sent some pictures to you recently, hopefully this will help.

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  27. Hello Mr. Metzer;

    I was wondering if you know anything about feeding fodder to ducks. How it will effect how many eggs they lay, egg size, if fodder alone is enough nutrients,etc. I would sure appreciate if you could get back to me on that. Thank you very much

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  28. When you say fodder, I take that to mean hay, silage, chopped green material, etc. No, this is not enough for a typical laying duck. You can supplement with fodder but most of their nutrients must come from more "solid" feed - grains, minerals, bugs, slugs, etc. You might get away with fodder only from 9-16 weeks, but not any other time.

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  29. There is such thing as a flock of geese. There are gaggles of geese however. ;-) Captions to photos state a flock of geese. If they are flying they are a skein. On the ground a gaggle.

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  30. Five ducks and two geese from your June 24 shipments - all healthy and happy until two weeks ago my female black swedish was a little wobbly one day and the next morning she was dead! All the others were and still are fine. A sad mystery but wondering if I need to be worried about disease still two weeks on? Thinking maybe hardware disease - she was the most curious and best forager and I've only had this place five years - chickens keep digging up bits of glass and metal in their yard but they don't eat it. Any suggestions/hints/clues? Thanks for great service. FYI: I'm a first-timer with waterfowl.

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    1. I doubt if it was anything contagious or others would be sick by now. Probably hardware disease or she ate a poisonous plant or ingested something with botulism in it. I wouldn't worry - just keep your eye out for pieces of metal or stagnant pools or dead animals in their pen.

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    2. Four months later all birds doing well and started collecting eggs last week. The Rouen pair rehomed to a larger flock as the drake was too big and rough for the smaller females. All healthy and widely admired Thanks for the great selection, strong birds and helpful advice!

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  31. Dear Mr.Metzer,
    I have two pekin ducks, one is a drake and one is an hen. My female duck (the hen) seems healthy and happy, but I think she's overweight since she has fat hanging from her stomach and reaching near her feet, just like the one on the extremely overweight goose. I really like my ducks, and I wouldn't want their lives to be shortened by anything. So is there anything I can do to help my female duck lose her extra fat and help her maintain a good weight? Thank you for your time.

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    1. Reduce how much she eats. Just feed them a limited amount once or twice a day. If your female is overweight, your male is probably overweight, too, so limiting them both should not be a problem. Start with about 1/2 lb. per bird per day and go from there. If it sits around for awhile without them eating it, reduce it.

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  32. Thank you for replying. Actually, my Pekin drake is pretty thin, he spends more time playing with us when we interact with them then eating, unlike the female. Also, my pekin duck Daisy forages a lot, so if I limit their feed, will it even matter because of Daisy keep on foraging grass and such?
    Thank You For Your Time.

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    1. They get very few calories from grass, etc. so she can eat twice as much grass in her foraging and not get many more calories. She will get more calories from bugs and slugs but you would probably appreciate her eating more of those! So I would cut down on the grain/feed and see what happens.

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  33. Hello, i would like to add an idea for the overwieght ducks, my one crested white girl gets fat during laying because i seperate the breeds in pens, so she can't go outside and play. But when laying is done she has access to a kiddie pool. If people have space to put a small kiddie pool, the ducks will splash literally for hours on and off. But i find for ducks the smallest kiddie pool is best. With ramps on the outside and inside of pool. Bricks on the inside near the edge so the duck can get out and split logs or another ROUGH surface ramp on the outside so the fat short legged sweetie can feel safe getting in and out. If they are not used to water you might have to help them into the pool, but watch and make sure they can get back out. My crested's i bought as adults, they had never seen a pool before, they thought it was a waterbowl. I helped them in and they learned its a good thing, but i almost lost the drake to drowning, he never had cause to waterproof himself vigorously before and got waterlogged and too heavy to get out. He was also borderline hypothermic, shivering. He has since learned, and grooms prolificly.

    So pools are great exercise but use safety and sense, give access to ramps and some supervision untill the bird is up to speed on waterproofing themselves fully.

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