Duck, Goose & Chicken Hatchery

Frequently Asked Questions

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Which breed(s) would make the best pet(s) for me?
First look at the colors and descriptions. Which appeal to you?
Look at our Duck Breed Comparisons to compare temperament, size, and other breed characteristics.
For ducks, the larger breeds (Pekin, Rouen, Blue Swedish, Buff, Cayuga) are normally the calmest. Remember that the Mallard and Muscovy can fly. We suggest you get several different breeds for a variety of colors and shapes.

For geese, there are no hard rules, but the Large Dewlap Toulouse, Sebastopol, Buff, Tufted Buff, Pilgrim and Roman Tufted seem the calmest. Chinese and African are the noisiest. For each breed of goose, we have had customers tell us that that breed of goose was the best goose pet they have ever had.
We also have a Goose Breed Comparison Chart to help you determine which breed(s) might be right for you.
I only want one or two birds, what do I do?
You have several options:
1) We can ship as few as two ducklings and/or geese.
2) You can order two or more and split the order with a neighbor or friend
3) Buy them at a local feed store. (If the feed store orders from us they can place a special order for you to include with their next order.)

Visit our Minimum Orders page for pricing & shipping information.
How do I care for the baby birds?
See our complete Growing Instructions for Our Birds under Rearing Instructions.
When can I put them outside?
This depends on the weather. If it is warm, they can probably venture outside during the warmer part of the day at one week of age. Keep them in a small area so they can get back to a warm, protected area if they need. They need to be protected from rain until they are about six weeks of age when they are almost completely feathered. If the weather is not warm, you may need to keep them confined until they are six to seven weeks of age. The best thing is to watch them. If they appear cold or huddle together, bring them back inside.
When do they become completely feathered?
By seven weeks, they should be covered with feathers. Please note that Rouens and Mallard males will not get their brightly colored feathers until about 15 weeks of age. Until then, males and females look alike.
When can I give them swimming water?
The safest is to wait until they are five weeks or more of age. Oftentimes they can handle it at an earlier age if provided water that is easy to enter and exit, it is shallow and the rest of their pen is dry.
When do they start laying eggs?
Ducks are sexually mature at 20-24 weeks of age. If they have the correct feed and lighting, they will start laying then. Otherwise they will start as soon as the days begin to lengthen and it warms up in the spring. Normally geese start laying the next spring. Occasionally they will lay a few eggs in the fall. When they start mating and laying, make sure you switch to a breeder/layer feed with more protein, calcium and vitamins. For more information see our Nutritional Information.
How long can my female lay fertile eggs after my male died?
They can easily lay fertile eggs one week after their last mating. After three weeks, however, there is no chance the eggs will be fertile.
How do I pick up a duck?
Necks are an easy catching handle but once you have them caught, you need to pick them up in one of two ways: 1) grab the wings together behind their back with one hand and then support them on their abdomen with the other or 2) put one hand on each side of the bird, holding the wings in place, and pick them up. Do not pick them up using their necks or legs as either will probably be injured. Once you have them picked up, then cradle it in your arms. Aim the back end away from you, hold the legs with your bottom hand and hold their wings down with your top hand. If it is a large male Muscovy, don't try #1 or #2, just grab one wing in each hand behind its back, hold on tight and watch out for those scratching claws! They are very strong!
How long does it take Mallards before they fly?
They start flying at about 12 weeks but are not accomplished until about 16 weeks. Other breeds of ducks have been domesticated for so long and bred for beauty or egg production that they have lost the ability to fly unless you train them to fly. Will the ducks fly away? The only breed we have that flies is the Mallard and they might fly away. Of course they may stay, too. But to ensure they stay, see the answer to the next question.
How do I prevent my Mallards from flying?
1) House them in a pen with a screened roof
2) Have us pinion the ducklings when they hatch. This is a permanent solution as it is a removal of the tip of one wing.
3) Clip the feathers on one wing. This is temporary as the feathers will grow back. But only do one wing as this leaves the bird unbalanced when they try to fly.
When should I switch from starter feed to grower feed?
At three to five weeks of age.
Is the floor surface important with ducks and geese?
It is very important. As babies, they need a surface they can grip until their leg muscles and hips are strong. This means no slick newspaper or cardboard for at least a week. The best bedding is wood shavings or straw or a 1/2 inch hardware cloth floor. You want to avoid slick surfaces for adults, too, to prevent leg injuries. You also want to avoid surfaces on which they can cut their feet. Circulation is not great in waterfowl feet and a minor cut can lead to a nagging, swollen infection in their feet.
Can I keep a baby Mallard duck/Canada goose I found in the wild?
Sorry, but you are not allowed to keep them legally. We must clip a back toe on our Mallard ducklings to prove they were hatched in a domestic hatchery. Yours won't have that. The best thing to do is call your local wildlife rehabilitation center or animal shelter and have them picked up.
Will a single duck/goose be happy living with me?
Yes, especially if it has not grown up with other waterfowl as it thinks it is human. For more details see our book DUCK! There is a Goose in the House! or The Ultimate Pet Duck Guidebook.
What size must my fish be so my ducks and geese do not harm them?
Ducks will probably not cause a problem with any fish over 3" long. Geese are rarely carnivorous but they might chase fish under 6" long.
Do ducks and geese get along?
This should not be a problem, especially if they have grown up together. If they are introduced as adults, they will have to work out their pecking order (who is dominant). If there is plenty of room, this should not be a problem. Watch them though when breeding season comes as the geese may become more protective of their nests and area.
Does anyone sell egg cartons for duck or goose eggs?
Yes, go to They have fiber cartons for duck eggs and specially designed clear plastic cartons for goose eggs.
Can ducks and geese survive on a pond?
It depends on your weather and food sources for them. If you have severe winters, they will need a supplemental food source during the winter. If not, they can probably thrive if there aren't too many waterfowl on the pond and there is aquatic life in the pond. Geese can do well if there is plenty of green grass to eat, too.
Do Runner ducks swim?
Yes, though they don't seem to like the water as much as other breeds.
Can ducks and geese be outside during the winter?
Yes, but they should have a shelter they can go in during especially severe weather. However, they will spend most of the time outside even if it is very cold.
Will they crossbreed?
Yes, any breed of duck will cross with any other breed. They will probably prefer ducks of similar size but not always. Geese of different breeds will also cross.
Do ducks and geese have to have swimming water?
No. The birds love it but you are making some headaches for yourself by providing swimming water. The biggest problem is what to do with the water after they have muddied and defecated in it so it becomes dirty. If you do provide swimming water, they don't have to have it every day. Limit it to a few times a week.
What causes eye problems in my ducklings?
A possible cause is dust in the air but the main cause of this is high levels of ammonia in their pen from their droppings. You need to increase ventilation and add more bedding. You can also sprinkle ferrous sulfate on the bedding before adding fresh bedding. Ferrous sulfate is a fertilizer that binds to the ammonia and prevents if from volatalizing. But the best is to increase ventilation.
Do you give tours?
No. We are concerned about the introduction of disease by outsiders that might inadvertently bring it in on their shoes or clothing.
Where do I get leg bands for older birds?
If your local feed store does not have what you want, contact National Band and Tag, 1-859-261-2035,
Why do my Sebastopol, Embden or Roman Tufted have black feathers?
It is not uncommon for these breeds to have a few gray or black feathers as they grow. They get a completely new set of feathers at 9, 15 and 21 weeks. By the time they are 21 weeks, those few colored feathers should be completely replaced by white feathers.
What is a mule duck?
Muscovy and domestic ducks (such as the Pekin - which were developed from Mallards) are very different as they have been genetically isolated for over 50 million years. They can be crossed but you get some very interesting results. If you cross a Muscovy male with a Pekin female you will hatch moulards (or mule ducks); if you cross a Pekin male with a Muscovy female the progeny are called hinnies. In Europe and in Asia many mule ducks are produced because of their large size, quality liver and reduced fat content in the carcass. Artificial insemination has been developed in ducks due to the desire to produce mule ducks. If left to mate naturally, the fertility is only 20-30%. Artificial insemination brings the fertility up to 80%. Whereas a Pekin takes 28 days to hatch and a Muscovy takes 35 days, a mule or hinny takes 32 days to hatch.

Approximately 60% of mule ducks are males. Some of their characteristics are like the Muscovy as they are large, quiet, slow moving and have long claws but are also like Pekin as they swim well, the males and females are much the same size and they do not fly. Hinnies are not grown commercially. Male hinnies are much larger than female hinnies, like the muscovy, yet the females look like Pekins but fly quite well. Mules and hinnies cannot reproduce. Both males are sterile and only the hinny females lay eggs (though they cannot hatch). If you have Muscovy and Pekin together, the chances are poor that they will cross but if they do, a hinny will probably be the result as Pekin males can catch Muscovy females more easily than Muscovy males can catch Pekin females. We do not produce mules or hinnies but thought you might enjoy this material on this interesting aspect of duck production and genetics.
What causes the black spots on my duck's bill?
Black spots on the bill and legs are due to melanin skin pigment. They are normally present (not harmful) but are covered with yellow colored xanthophyll pigment absorbed from feeds containing corn, alfalfa and other feed ingredients containing xanthophyll. In mature breeder ducks, after they have been laying eggs for awhile, more xanthophyll is absorbed by the egg yolk than the duck can consume in her feed. The bill and legs start showing melanin skin pigment due to the bleaching or fading of the xanthophylls
How do I keep ducks out of my swimming pool?
Try floating brightly colored objects or toys in the pool. If this doesn't work you will need to cover the pool.
Can my ducks and geese drink and swim in chlorinated water?
Are ducks safe around children?
Normally yes. It is extremely rare for a duck to attack a person. Their main defense is to run or fly away. There is a greater chance the child will hurt the duck in play than the duck ever hurting the child.
What is grit?
Grit is small bits of rock that birds consume. The grit lodges in the gizzard to enable the bird to grind up whole grains. If the birds are outside, they are finding all the grit they need. If you are feeding them mash, crumbled or pelleted feed, grit is not necessary as the feed has already been ground. If you do decide to feed grit, do not provide it until the birds are a month old and do not mix it in the feed. Just provide it in a separate feeder so they can eat what they want.
Should I provide oyster shell?
The main ingredient in oyster shell is calcium. Most layer or breeder feeds have sufficient amounts of calcium that you do not need to provide extra calcium in the form of oyster shell. However, if the feed has less than 2.5% calcium and the birds are laying eggs, you can provide a dish of oyster shell for them to consume. They will probably eat more than they need but that is okay.
How soon does an egg have to be put in the incubator?
Eggs do not lose viability unless they are held longer than 10 days after being laid. Remember that it takes a duck or goose about two weeks to lay a nest full of eggs in the wild before they start sitting on them. So that first egg may be two weeks old before it is warmed up and development starts. If you are holding the eggs yourself prior to incubation, a holding temperature of 55-60 degrees is best and turn them over every day.
What do I do about my duck's dull and ragged feathers?
Provide them with swimming water several times a week. They must also be receiving a well balanced poultry feed. If you are already feeding that, try adding some fresh greens and cod liver oil on a daily basis. Also make sure they are not infested with lice or mites. The bird's constant preening to rid themselves of these parasites may wear out the feathers. Also make sure they are able to stay clean. Muddy ducks do not make pretty feathers.
Where can I get native plants that ducks and geese love to eat?
There may be others but we are familiar with Wildlife Nurseries, PO Box 2724, Oshkosh, WI 54903, phone 920-231-3780. These plants can establish themselves in your ponds and provide nutrition and recreation for your ducks and geese for many years.
What duck breeds are best to train my dog for herding?
Most people either use Runners or male Golden 300 Hybrid ducks. For more information on training your dog, go to Duck Breeds For Herding by Dorothy Delisle. She uses our ducks exclusively.
How do I introduce new ducks into my flock?
Normally you can put them together and within a few days, they are fully integrated. But you should watch them initially. The alpha duck may be aggressive, especially during the spring and summer mating season. If the fighting is excessive, separate the newcomer but keep the pens beside each other so they can get used to each other without fighting. If you are trying to integrate an aggressive duck with a non-aggressive duck, put the aggressive duck in the non-aggressive duck's pen. Then at least the non-aggressive duck has the home field advantage!
What are the scientific names for ducks and geese?
Mallards are Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos, Muscovy are Cairina Moschata, all other domestic ducks are Anas platyrhynchos domesticus. Chinese and African geese are Anser cygnoides domesticus and all other domestic geese are Anser anser domesticus.
So, do geese make good pets?
Many of us have been charmed by a goose. Their elegant, almost royal bearing, is often contrasted in the next moment, by their silly antics. They are as personable as a pet parrot, or even a cat or dog, and similar in intelligence. Many people feel they bond more closely to humans than a pet duck or chicken does. The total experience is much like a dog or cat. Read some of our stories to get other's opinions.
But, can't geese be mean or aggressive?
Some are and some aren't, that's the short answer. While some breeds, such as the Sebastopol, Pilgrim, and American Buff seem to be more docile, the African and Chinese can be more aggressive, especially during the spring mating season. Generally, it can be said that the male goose (gander) is more aggressive, especially during the spring mating season. However, in some situations the females are very aggressive and the males are very tame. Some geese can be "trained" to be less aggressive. Often a very young "imprinted" gosling will still be very bonded to its owners as an adult. But, sometimes that very same goose will become aggressive since it doesn't have any respect or fear of humans. It boils down to the fact that each goose is an individual, and perhaps some luck is involved.
What about snacks for geese?
Geese do enjoy snacks and treats of people food, like lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, etc. in limited amounts. Vegetable and fruit peelings and leftovers can be fed to your geese instead of being put in a compost pile. HOWEVER, it goes without saying, never feed spoiled, moldy or rotten food. Bread or bread products, despite what you may see at your local pond, should really not be fed much at all. It is the "junk food" of goose food as it normally is of very poor nutritional value. Sharing "good" people food with your pet goose can be an excellent bonding process.
Will poultry lay eggs without any males present?
Yes. The eggs will not be fertile, however.
How can I get them to lay eggs in nests and sit on them?
The best nest provides protection from rain and sun and gives the female a sense of security. It should have three walls, a roof and a low front to keep the nesting material in the nest box. For ducks it should be about 15"x15", for geese it should be at least 24"x24". Fill it with straw, wood shavings or rice hulls. You can put a chicken or fake egg in it to further entice them. You cannot force them to sit on their eggs. The Muscovy, Mallard and Khaki Campbell are very good at sitting on their own eggs. For the other breeds, it depends on the individual bird. Most goose breeds will sit on their own eggs. They do not start sitting on the eggs until the nest is full, normally 12-15 eggs.
Read our blog post on nests.
What should I do with an egg I found?
If you want to hatch it, put it in an incubator or under a sitting hen. It is very difficult to incubate and hatch an egg with only a light bulb or heating pad. Remember, if the egg was not in a nest, it had probably not been sat on and no development had occurred since it was laid.
Do I have to use an incubator?
The best is to use the mother or a broody chicken. Second best is an incubator but success can vary tremendously. You can try to make your own incubator but it is more economical to purchase an incubator.
What is the normal incubation period?
Mallards 26.5 days
Muscovy 35 days
Runners and Crested 29 days
All other ducks 28 days
Chinese and African geese 31 days
All other geese 30 days
How do I know if an egg is fertile?
You need to shine a bright light through the egg in a dark room. If done infrequently, you can use a flashlight. Use a candling light as shown in our Equipment Section if you will do it often or you want to ensure accuracy. By seven days, you should see a darker yolk, veins under the shell and the beginnings of an embryo.

Go to our candling pictures to know how they should look. You can break a fresh egg to know if it is fertile but then you can't incubate it. If the white spot on the yolk is donut shaped, it is fertile. If it is irregular and solid, it is infertile.
Can I help a bird out of the shell when it hatches?
Once the duckling has started to break the shell in a circle around the large end of the egg, you can. But if it is just making a hole in one spot, you probably shouldn’t yet. Wait until it has broken the shell and turned several times inside the egg. Sometimes the bird will stick to the shell and cannot progress. You have to help them then but if you start to see bleeding, stop and wait a couple of hours before helping again.
What is the life expectancy of a duck or goose?
Ducks can live to 7-10 years and geese normally live 10-15 years. The main cause of death seems to be dogs or predators.
How do I tell males from females?
For ducks, the male is slightly larger with a heavier neck and head. They will also develop a curly feather on their tail. The easiest way to tell them apart is with their voice. Males have a deep, raspy voice. Females have the typical QUACK. For geese, the males walk a bit prouder and strut around a bit more. Their voice is also louder and shriller and they are slightly larger than the females. The only way to know for sure is to vent sex them which is difficult without a bit of training.
How many males and females should I have?
For ducks it depends on the space they have and the flock size. If you have 10 or less, you can have pairs. Over this, you need to provide plenty of room or reduce the number of males. Unless you have a large pen with plenty of hiding areas, the ratio should be one male for every three to five females if your flock is over 25 or 30. The problem with too many males is they will become very aggressive sexually and will harm some of the weaker females. Geese can be kept as pairs with far fewer problems. In a large commercial operation, however, you would have one gander for every 2.5 to 3.5 females.