Goose, Duck, Chicken, Game Bird Hatchery | Metzer Farms, California
Duck, Goose, Chicken & Game Bird Hatchery

Duck and Goose Management

Time to Prepare Those Duck and Goose Nests!

March 13, 2011

Now that spring is approaching, it is time to prepare your nests! Whether you have 2 ducks or 1000, you want to make a nest that meets the needs of the female duck or goose. If your nests don't, they will make their own nest somewhere else – and they may choose a spot inconvenient for you or unsafe for them.

The nest should only be large enough for one bird to get in, turn around and sit comfortably on their eggs. You don't want it so large that two birds can sit on one nest. It rarely works for two to share a nest as more eggs will get broken and if you want them to hatch the eggs, eggs may get cold between them, all eggs will probably not hatch at one time and there may be confusion between the two females on which babies are which. A duck nest should be about 12”x14” and a goose nest about 18”x18”.

Our duck nest boxes (above). A 1"x4" along the top and both fronts. Use screws, not nails to hold together.

The next box rolled to show the bottom. (below)

Notice how we have cut slots in the plywood so the nest walls slide into the nest back. No nails or screws are used to hold these parts together. It is just the 1x4s along the top and fronts that are screwed. Use at least 1/2" plywood.

Your birds may be very protected from predators but their instinct still tells them to hide their nest. For this reason you will want sides and a back on the nest. Back it against a wall or fence or put it in a corner. If it is outside, it will definitely need a top for protection from the weather.

We have tried various styles of goose nests and so far the plastic barrel is the best. The advantages it has over the wood A frame nests described below are:

  • It is inexpensive. We found these used barrels for $8 each.
  • They are easy to make. All you need is a drill and saber saw or sawzall.
  • It is easier to collect eggs from the barrel.
  • The bedding stays in the barrel.
  • They are almost indestructible.

Note that we use blue barrels as that keeps it darker in the nest - which nesting birds prefer.

We drill some holes toward the top of the barrel to allow air circulation and we bolt two barrels together so they are less likely to tip.

We have also used wooden A frame style nests for our geese. To keep the eggs cleaner, we have put burlap and plastic feed bags on the bottom of the nest. Unfortunately geese tend to shred it. If you have concrete or wood floors, make sure you have plenty of bedding in the nest. There is no need for a wooden bottom.

To keep the eggs cleaner, we have put burlap and plastic feed bags on the bottom of the nest. This is fine with ducks but geese tend to shred it. If you have concrete or wood floors, make sure you have plenty of bedding in the nest. There is no need for a wooden bottom.

An unbedded goose nest. It just needs a coat of paint. We use a layer of straw followed with shavings. Notice it is built for two geese, entering from either end.

The parts of our goose nests. The nest is 48" long. Plywood pieces are 36"x48". "Threshhold" is 31" long. To save weight, all is 1x4 lumber except the ridge (2x4) and support lumber (2x2) on center divide.

Kathy Hopkins, who commented below, sent us pictures of some of her goose nests.

Tractor Supply Tuff Tub, 28"x22" x 8" deep. About $20. Perfect size for geese.

Kathy's A Frame goose nests. Notice the tub for the goose.

Here she has nests set up between bales of alfalfa hay. If you have a sizable flock, you want one nest for every four females. If you want every bird to set, then you need a nest for every female. Anything soft can be used for the bedding: straw, hay, shavings, sawdust, peat moss, etc. It needs to be clean and dry. Depending on your weather and density of ducks, you will need to add bedding every one to three days if you collect the eggs daily. Start with at least 2” for ducks and 4” for geese. If they make their own nests, make sure they don't have any large sticks in there! Have the nests built and bedded at least two weeks before you expect the first egg. If you wait for the first egg, it may be too late to convince them to use a new nest when they have already chosen a spot for that first egg. What can be used for nests? For small quantities, use wooden boxes, tires (not the best as eggs may end up inside the tire), or basins. For larger flocks, you can build nests. The locking design of our duck nests works very well. The handles at the end enable you to periodically pull the nests up and out of the bedding.

When a flock starts laying, leave the initial eggs in the nests for a week so the birds are drawn to those nests and continue laying in the nests. Pick up any eggs not in nests and put them in the nests. Spread out the eggs. The natural tendency is for birds to lay an egg in a nest already with an egg. Inevitably half the nests don't have eggs and the remaining nests have one to five eggs each! Destroy any nests that are made in a high traffic or dirty area (near the water). We have our nests on one side of the building and the waterers on the opposite side so the nests stay as dry as possible. Do you have any nest suggestions or ideas for easy to make nests?

For more information on incubation (in incubators and with birds) go to the incubation section of our website.

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