Prior to birds' arrival:
You need to prepare a place for them that provides the protection and warm environment they need. Usually this is in a barn, outbuilding or garage.
If it has had poultry before, it is best to clean and disinfect it. Initially they need about 1/3 square foot per bird.
Start with 2 inches of wood shavings or straw for bedding. Place the water in the pen a day in advance so it is not too cold for them initially.
For the first several days you can add our Poult Vitamin/Mineral Pack (1/2 teaspoon per three gallons water) or sugar (1/2 cup per gallon water) if you want. Turn the heat on the day before you expect them so the bedding is warm for their arrival. One heat lamp can handle about 35 ducklings, 20 goslings, 40 guineas or 60 pheasants. The lamp is normally hung about 18" from the bedding where it should be 90-95 degrees. There should be some type of solid wall or partition around the pen to prevent drafts (which can be deadly). Make sure dogs, cats and rats are kept out.
They have arrived!
Normally the post office phones when your birds arrive and asks you to pick them up. When you get them home, dip the beak of each bird in water as it is the most important nutrient at this time. Make sure they tip their head back to drink. If they have had a rough journey and seem weak, you may need to check them every 30-60 minutes to give them more water and make sure they are not being run over by the others. If you do have a few that are weaker than the others, it is best to separate them to another part of the brooder until they regain their strength.
The best way to judge the comfort of the bird is to watch them. If they are all huddled under the lamp, they need more heat.
If they are all bedded down away from the lamp, the lamp is too low or it is too warm in the room. They should be spread throughout the pen with some eating, some drinking, some sleeping and some playing.
If your birds were sexed, they will be distinguished by colored rubber bands (we no longer use plastic leg bands). For an explanation of the band colors,
go to the back of your invoice or our Sexing
page on this website.
As they grow...
Poultry (and especially waterfowl) grow very fast. Make sure you enlarge their pen as they grow and add clean bedding as necessary. Typically it is better to add clean bedding on top of the old bedding instead of removing the soiled bedding every day. Clean it out once the birds are moved to a new pen. The bedding can be removed from their permanent pen every several months.
Typically the temperature can be dropped about 5 degrees a week and turned off during the day by 2-3 weeks and turned off completely by 3-5 weeks in cooler weather. If you are raising them in a warm climate, they may not need extra heat after a week or two. You will just have to observe them. As they grow and add weight you can allow them to venture outdoors for brief periods during the day. Once they are fully feathered they can stay outside all the time (7-9 weeks) though they should still have some shelter from the sun and heavy rains.
Waterfowl can also be very messy with their water. For them it is best to make a wire platform on which the waterer sits. For babies it can be 1/2" hardware cloth and for adults it can be 1" welded wire nailed on to wood cross pieces. This can be placed over a pan for the babies or over a pit in the ground for the adults. The platform should be large enough to extend at least 6" out from the edge of the waterer for the babies and 30" for the adults. With this platform, any spilled water goes through the wire and out of reach. They cannot track it back to the bedding or make a mud puddle with it. Their drinking water stays cleaner, too. All of our birds (from babies to adults) have some sort of wire or plastic platform under their waters to keep their pen or pasture drier.
Ducklings and goslings can be introduced to swimming water as early as one week of age but you must be very careful. It is safest to wait until they are 5 weeks old to allow them to swim. They must be able to walk in and out of shallow water very easily while the rest of the pen is dry. The water should not be too cold and they must be able to find their heat lamp for rewarming without difficulty. As they have no oil on their feathers at this age, they cannot be in the water for long periods or they will become waterlogged and chilled. Do not allow this to happen!