Like newly hatched chicks, ducklings and goslings are not able to regulate their body temperatures until they are fully feathered. Ducklings and goslings grow extremely quick and are generally fully feathered by 7-9 weeks old. Since these little ones cannot regulate their temperatures a proper brooder setup is crucial for the health and safety of your birds.
During the first few weeks, after they hatch your little ones will need to be placed in a temperature controlled, draft-free environment. Your brooder or temporary waterfowl home should be set up 24 hours prior to their arrival. Your brooder should consist of the following materials:
- Brooder: A plastic tub, stock tank, wooden box, plastic swimming pool, or any other kind of container that is draft free. If the container you choose to use has previously been used, it is very important to properly sanitize it. We suggest scrubbing it clean with a 10% bleach solution and allowing it to dry before introducing your waterfowl to their new home. Initially, waterfowl need about ⅓ sq ft per bird.
- Bedding: 2” of pine shavings in the floor of the brooder is recommended for bedding. Do not use cedar shavings as their strong aromatic nature has been known to cause respiratory issues in poultry.
- Heat: Meyer Hatchery recommends a 125-250 watt heat bulb. Temperature is easily adjusted by raising and lowering your heat lamp. Typically, 18” above chick level is a good starting place but needs to be verified with a thermometer.
- Thermometer: A thermometer that is placed at bird level is crucial in order to keep your brooder the necessary temperature for the health and safety of your birds. Your brooder temperature should be 85-90 degrees for the first week decreasing by 10 degrees each week for their first three weeks of life. At this point, they will not need supplemental heat, as long as they are in a 70-degree climate controlled environment.
- Start waterfowl off with a 22% waterfowl starter feed for the first 0-2 weeks and then switch them to an 18-19% waterfowl grower feed until they are laying age.
- Once they are laying age, they need between 15-18% layer or maintenance waterfowl feed.
- If waterfowl feed is not available, you may use an unmedicated chick equivalent.
- Waterer: Waterfowl need to be allowed access to water at all times. It is important for them to be able to dip their heads in water to wash their eyes and nares (nostrils) clean of dust and debris.
- It is very important to note, however, that until they are at least 8 weeks of age, they do not have the waterproof oils on them they would have when raised with their mothers, and can drown or become waterlogged and chilled, which can lead to death. Make sure waterers are set up properly.
Once your birds have arrived it is important to quickly place them into their warm brooder. Dip their beaks in the water to show them where their water source is. Once you have placed your birds into the brooder and given them time to acclimate, stand back and observe their behavior. Are they huddled directly under your heat lamp or avoiding the heat lamp? This means that the brooder is too hot or too cold. Ideally, you want them eating, drinking, and equally distributed.
If your ducklings have leg bands, we recommend removing them or stepping a size, within about 3 days from their arrival.
Once your ducklings or goslings are a week of age, you can allow them playtime in a shallow, lukewarm pool. This will help stimulate oil production so that they become waterproof. Do this with caution--do not keep them in the water for too long and never leave them unattended. This exposure helps them though and can shorten your swim time to 5-6 weeks of age.
Once your waterfowl reach 7-9 weeks, and they are fully feathered, they are ready to be outdoors! If you haven’t already, acclimate them over 2-3 days period before moving permanently to their new home.