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November 09, 2018

Getting Your Ducks and Geese Ready for Winter


As the wind cools and the pumpkins start to smile, you know that winter is coming. Time to prep for the cold weather months.

Fortunately, getting your waterfowl ready for winter is much easier than prepping chickens. Unlike chickens, waterfowl are winter hardy. This does not mean that they don't need some additional help though.

Insulation

The requirement for insulation depends on your location. Most waterfowl coops do not need insulation unless your winter nights frequently get down to 15 degrees Farenheit or less. Otherwise your birds just need a shed that has plenty of bedding and protection from winds. Heating is only required to keep temperatures above 0 degrees.

While it is easy to go overboard and make the coop air-tight, you want to make sure that there is adequate ventilation. Moisture from body heat and runoff from the snow is far more dangerous to your birds than the cold weather as it can invite mildew and bacteria. If you can smell ammonia in your pen, it does not have adequate ventilation.

Visit our Ammonia page for more information.

Bedding

For really cold areas, an extra layer or two of bedding in the coop will help to keep your birds toasty at night. Duck farmers in Poland, for instance, rely on a deep layer of bedding as it adds heat as it slowly composts. Remember to add more bedding as it becomes dirty.

Water and Feed

All animals need a source of drinking water. If you have extremely cold weather, you need to provide drinking water every day or keep your waterer from freezing.

Make sure you protect their feed from rain and snow. Otherwise the moisture may spoil the feed and cause illness in your birds.

For some fun with their food, try hanging a head of cabbage or ball of alfalfa with wire. Do not use sting or twine as they will attempt to eat it. They'll have fun pecking at the vegetables or hay

while having a nice treat.

Snow

As mentioned above, waterfowl are very winter hardy. Their down, the same stuff used in our pillows and comforters, keep them warm. If their feet become too cold, they'll sit and bring their legs up close to their body to keep warm. Normally ducks would rather spend their day out in the snow than inside. You will be amazed at the amount of time they will spend out in the snow.

Fun!

Ducks and geese can get bored – especially if they are kept inside during extremely cold weather. With snow covering their usual play area and most of the foliage dead, there isn't much for them to do. Solve this by placing a pile of hay in their coop or any play toys like a hanging ball that they can investigate. The hay will give them an extra layer of insulation while giving them something to play with and eat. Get creative!

Predators

The winter months are a prime time for predators to try for your birds as there are fewer wild animals for them to hunt. Check the fencing of your run and repair as needed. If you do not have a top on your run to protect from air attacks, try to provide cover. Bushes and even picnic tables work great. Keep access to the coop available at all times during the winter.


The best thing to do during the winter months is to keep an eye on your birds and adapt as you go along. If you find it is too cold in the coop, take measures to warm it up. If the feed is spoiling, find a way to keep it dry. Don’t worry! Winter does not last forever and taking measures to protect your birds will make the time both pleasant and quicker.

October 26, 2018

Happy Halloween 2018!!!



Next week is Halloween! That means lots of trick-or-treating, dressing up, and having fun. Not a lot of room for anything duck related, right?

Wrong!

Aside from dressing up as a duck, you can have a lot of fun making treats anyone can quack for!

Here is what you need:

¼ cup butter or margarine
1 bag small marshmallows
5 cups rice cereal – or any kind of cereal you like.
Colored frosting
Small candies

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter on a medium flame.

Add the marshmallows to the melted butter. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted.

Remove from heat.

Stir cereal into marshmallow mix until everything is coated. Transfer to a metal or glass container and chill in the refrigerator over night.

After cooling, let sit at room temperature for an hour.

Using the cereal mixture, make whatever design you want! We decided to make ducks and eggs, but you can make anything you can think of. Pumpkins, ghosts, dinosaurs or whatever you would like! Then decorate your creation using frosting and candies to bring them to life!

Here is what we came up with. Not the best artwork (the duck covered in red was supposed to be a Mallard), but it was fun!



If you make a duck too, we would love to see it or anything else you make! Post a photo of your crispy duck treat on our Facebook or on Instagram using hashtag #metzerfarmshalloween18.


October 12, 2018

How much space should I have for my ducks?



Bigger is always better when it comes to duck enclosures. This holds true at all stages of a duck’s life from hatching to the end of its days. The following suggestions are for enclosed areas with a roof. If you plan on keeping your adult ducks in an open pen with no shelter, you need much more space than a covered pen or building.



Ducklings up to 3 weeks old need 1 square foot per duckling and a minimum of 5 square feet for small groups. This means if you have 4 ducklings, you need at least 5 square feet. If you have 10 ducklings, you need at least 10 square feed of space or more. If you have 100 ducklings, you need at least 100 square feet of space or more.



From age 4-8 weeks, the young ducks need about 3 square feet per bird and a minimum of 16 square feet of space. If you have 5 ducks, that means they need a minimum of 16 square feet. If you have 10 ducks, they need 30 square feet. With 100 ducks, they need 300 square feet.



From age 9-17 weeks, the ducks are now fully grown and will require a minimum of 3.5 square feet per bird and 20 square feet minimum. If you have 5 birds, you need a minimum of 20 square feet. For 10 birds, 35 square feet. With 100 ducks, 350 square feet of space.



Lastly, from age 18 weeks and up is when the ducks become sexually mature and start wanting to mate and lay eggs. This requires at least 4 square feet per duck and a minimum of 24 square feet. If you have 5 birds, they need a minimum of 24 square feet. For 10 birds, 40 square feet. For 100, then 400 square feet.



Keep in mind these are the numbers we highly suggest for enclosed areas with a roof. They can have outside areas during the day, but this is the amount of sheltered space they need, whether they spend their entire day in it or just their nights. Cramped areas can lead to not just health issues including leg and weight problems, but also a higher likelihood of fighting, wetter pens, more smell, dirtier birds, and pens requiring more bedding. We have found that by doubling the square footage per bird, your bedding needs will probably drop by 50%.



Please use the table below as a guide to determine how much space you need and how many ducks you can keep.



As geese are twice the size of ducks, at least double these recommended actions for geese. In other words, 2 week old goslings need at least 2 sq ft each. Guineas and chickens require 75% of the space for a duck.

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Square Footage for Duck Pen

Age



up to 3 weeks 4-8 weeks 9-17 weeks 18+ weeks
Enclosure with a roof* 1 sq ft per bird (min 5 sq ft) 3 sq ft per bird (min 16 sq ft) 3.5 sq ft per bird (min 20 sq ft) 4 sq ft per bird (min 24 sq ft)
Pasture with no shelter Should still be in brooder Should still be in brooder** 40 sq ft per bird 50 sq ft per bird





* Do not consider outside run when calculating enclosure size.
** Ducklings can go outside around 6-8 weeks depending on the weather and how well they are feathering.

October 05, 2018

Male to Female Ratio: How many males and females should you have for ducks?

Every now and again we receive orders for one male and one female of just about everything. Then 5-6 months later they are calling us saying they are having issues with their males ganging up on one specific female. We tell them right away that they have too many males and that their male to female ratio is completely off.

Here on the farm we have a 1:5 ratio of male to female since one male can easily ‘service’ 5 females. Problems typically occur when you have two or more males and an equal number of females or less.

For a backyard setup, look at our table for the maximum number of males to use. Of course, you do not need to have any males for them to lay eggs. You only need males for fertile eggs.

Males can become rather violent when it comes to mating, and if a female has multiple males trying to mate with her, she will be in danger of injury or even death.

As an example, we had one gentleman call us from New York and he had 3 male and 1 female duck. All 3 of the males were trying to mate with the female and she was not in good shape. She was suffering from losing an eye, bald spots, missing feathers, and trouble walking.

If you have too many males, there are a couple of things that can be done.
  1. Reduce the number of males. This means rehousing the male(s). Your local feed store might be able to suggest some farms in your area you can contact or see if they would allow you to post a note on their bulletin board. You can place them up for adoption or sale on Craigslist. There is also the option of processing them for meat if that is something that interests you.
  2. Get more females. To add females, check with your local feed store or Craisglist. You can also check with the person in charge of poultry at your local county fair and they can often recommend a farm. Hatcheries do not typically ship adult birds. If you get more female ducklings, remember they need to be 8-10 weeks of age before introducing them to the rest of the flock.
  3. Increase the pen size and add things in which the females can hide – bushes, stacked branches, bales of hay, etc. This will allow more room for the females to escape the males.
  4. Separate them.
Females can be put in danger if there are too many males trying to breed with them. The best thing is to not get too many males in the first place, but if you do have too many males, there are solutions to your problem.

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Maximum Males We Recommend



Females You Have Males in a Small Pen Males in a Large Pen*
1 1 1
2 2 2
3 2 2
4 2 2
5 2 3
6 3 4
7 3 4
8 3 5



For larger numbers, divide the number of females by 4 or 5. The result is the maximum number of males the flock can have.



*Typical backyard size of 6000 sq ft