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Please help me out with my duck/geese/ chicken dilemma

 
pollinator
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I was hoping some of you could help me figure out and fine-tune my poultry plan.

I’m very keen on keeping a flock of birds next spring. I had my mind set on starting out with a few ducks, 2 geese and a couple of chickens.
The idea would be to let the ducks and geese free range during the day (Cooped up at night), mainly to keep the grass a bit shorter, the snail population in check and to give me some lovely eggs in spring.
The chickens would be kept in fenced rotating pastures to clear terrain for seeding, and to give us eggs. I had my plan all laid out, I knew what breeds I wanted to get and how the system would work. And then I went to visit the breeder where I intended to get my animals from and that shook up the whole plan a bit.

My initial idea was to get the few weeks old ducklings and two goslings at the same time so I could hand raise them together so the animals would both be very tame with me and also consider eachother as part of the flock. This is very important to me as I want to keep the geese as guardian animals for the ducks. I know some people only take 1 goose if they want it as a guardian, but I read that geese are very sociable animals and that keeping just one is just plain sad for the goose. But having two of them might cause the pair to just head out on their own and not bother about protecting the ducks, which is why I think it is so important to raise them together.
Now aside from getting the timing right of receiving the ducklings/ goslings at the same time, here is where I encounter my first dilemma:

For now, I only want to keep females. I don’t want the aggressiveness of the male goose during spring; and I don’t want a drake that simply keeps my lady ducks distracted from their important task of insect control (plus I read that having a drake around just a small number of females just stresses the females out). The breeder I wanted to buy from tells me he can only tell the sex of the geese (Sebastopol geese) and ducks (Indian runners) when they are about 3 months old.
I had assumed you could tell at a much earlier stage (I was hoping just a couple of weeks) by examining  the cloaca. I’m don’t have any experience with sexing birds so I didn’t want to start questioning the breeder to much, as I didn’t want to come across like I didn’t trust his experience.
Is getting your ducks and geese at 3 months too old to get them to really bond with you and with eachother? I fear it is, but please do tell me if I’m wrong about this.

So right now it looks like I have two options, and neither are ideal.
  • Either I get my animals at 3 months old, but am sure they are female, and possibly loose valuable time to hand rear them and get them to bond.
  • Or I get them at a few week old goslings/ ducklings, but then have to get more than I want, to take into account the possible amount of males. Seeing as I don’t want any males, I would then be stuck with a bunch of males on my hands that I would either need to be able to sell, or to kill them. In that last option I would need to have an extra coop where I can contain all of the ‘surplus’ males untill they are large enough to kill them for their meat. While having spent a lot of time on a farm as a child and seeing butchering, I never actually culled an animal before Myself and don’t know if it’s something I’ll be able to do straight away. I’m especially not keen on the thought of possibly having 5 or more surplus males on my hands where I basically lack the infrastructure for to keep them on longtime. As soon as they’d be big enough for slaughter they’d have to go, and I’m not sure if I want to have that time pressure behind me the first time I need to cull one. It just seems a bit daunting to me for the first time.
    On top of that, I don’t know what the odds are of getting a bunch of ducklings/goslings and having them turn out to be all males. That would be an unfortunate event.


  • What should I do? Is it true that you can only tell the sex at 3 months old? Is 3 months old already too old to get them to consider me and the other animals as part of the flock?
    Is there another option I’m not seeing?
    Does it ever happen that you can sell back surplus males to the breeder at a very discounted price?

    I would very much love your input!
     
    S. Bard
    pollinator
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    Just bumping my own post in the hopes someone might see this. Hope this is allowed! Please remove if not!
    Can you tell the sex from geese and ducks sooner then 3 months? And is taking in 3 month old geese and ducks and raising them together already too old to really tame them and consider eachother as part of the flock?
    I’ve tried finding info on this but can’t find a specific answer to these questions. Any help is welcome!

     
    master gardener
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    It's absolutely allowed. I know with ducks and I think chickens, there is a 1 or maybe 2 day window, right after hatching, where you can sex them, and after that, you have to wait until maturity. I know nothing about geese.
     
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    Other breeders are able to sex ducks the day they hatch by checking out the cloaca, so it is possible. But I imagine it takes a trained eye and I guess this breeder doesn't have it.
     
    S. Bard
    pollinator
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    Jake Esselstyn wrote:Other breeders are able to sex ducks the day they hatch by checking out the cloaca, so it is possible. But I imagine it takes a trained eye and I guess this breeder doesn't have it.



    I do know this breeder has only had his business for a few years. He's a really nice person who lost his job due to COVID and is now focussing solely on his animals, and he's from the same village so I'd feel bad not purchasing from a local like him.
    That being said, I really had my mind set on getting young ducklings/gosslings instead of 3 month old animals. Is 3 months still young enough that they can still bond with me and one another?
    Would a veterinarian be capable of sexing the animals for me? If I can find someone who is capable of sexing the ducks/geese, I could perhaps take this person with me when I go to purchase the animals so that this person can sex the animals for me?
     
    pollinator
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    I'd advise getting them as chicks, and get an extra goose. If one turns out to be male, murder it and eat it when it gets to a decent size. Even if you don't want to bother with evisceration, simply cutting out the breast meat is fairly easy.

    I never had any geese, but I raise free-range ducks, turkeys, and chickens together. My two huge dogs (mastiff/pyrenees) keep the birds protected.

    I'd suggest getting extra layer chickens. Different breeds vary in egg laying rates, but if you assume an average of a chicken laying 1 egg on four days of the week, and if you assume you use maybe two eggs per person per day, you'll want four layer birds per person. More like 5 layers per person, if you do any baking or anything else that uses eggs.

    Even then, you'll still end up having to buy some eggs each winter when their egg laying rates drop to 2/week or lower, depending on how cold and dark your winters get.
     
    S. Bard
    pollinator
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    If I get the birds as unsexed chicks, and for example I want to be sure to have at least 3 female ducks, how many chicks should reasonably need to buy to have enough chance to hopefully get atleast 3 females? Is it like big chance on a 50% divide, so if I get 6 there’s a good chance I’ll end up with 3 males and 3 females? Or is there really no telling what ratio you’ll end up with?
     
    master steward
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    The first batch of ducklings we got, there were 3 females and 7 drakes... .

    I would probably go with sex-linked ducklings and geese (basically, they breed them knowing that if you have a black drake and brown girl, then all their boy babies will be black, and all the girls will be brown). There's ways to do this with geese, too.

    I've never really managed to hand tame ducks, even when we had them in the house with us (they imprinted on a gosling). But, ducks are trainable, even if they aren't hand-tamed. They'll come for food, and be herded, and they aren't aggressive toward people. So, it's not nearly as important to have them be hand-tamed as, say, chickens or geese.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    One thing you can do with ducklings is to pick the loudest ducklings. Girl ducks are louder than males. Some people can easily tell the differences in their voices when they are ducklings. I've never been that good. But, by picking the loudest ducklings, we'd ended up with 4/5 ducks beings girls. Much improved odds!
     
    Jake Esselstyn
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    S. Bard wrote:If I get the birds as unsexed chicks, and for example I want to be sure to have at least 3 female ducks, how many chicks should reasonably need to buy to have enough chance to hopefully get atleast 3 females? Is it like big chance on a 50% divide, so if I get 6 there’s a good chance I’ll end up with 3 males and 3 females? Or is there really no telling what ratio you’ll end up with?



    If you get 6 birds and each has a 50% chance of being a duck and 50% chance of being a drake, then you have a 66% chance of getting 3 or more ducks.

    If you get 8 birds, then chances of 3+ ducks is 89%.
     
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    Depends on the breeds. Vent sexing can be done on day olds but it's not foolproof and takes practice. In my experience goslings are easier to do than ducklings. Some breeds of ducks and geese can be sexed by bill or coloring at birth or as they feather out. Welsh Harlequin ducks are fairly reliably sexed by bill color at hatch from a good breeder. Cotton Patch and Pilgrim geese are both sexed by down coloring I believe. There are probably other breeds those are just examples I'm familiar with.

    As to geese, two lady gossies raised alongside the ducklings is a good call. That doesn't guarantee no problems but it's less likely. Waterfowl are less brutal about pecking order in the flock than chickens but they do have an order.
     
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