Precocial young from ducks and geese are instantly appealing. They are well-insulated with fluff and
designed to cope outside the nest after a short rest under the broody mother. It is this yellow fluff which
give the Easter chicks or goslings their wow factor; they are much more attractive than the naked altricial
hatchlings of the parrot or blackbird’s nest.
Spring is the main hatching time for geese and ducks in the wild. Although it’s now possible to hatch
ducklings at almost any time of year, it’s best not to, unless you have good facilities for them and well
understand their nutritional requirements. With geese there is less choice: they lay in spring.
Golden rules for success
- Use a turf as a nest base plus abundant, clean nesting materials.
- Make sure the broody bird is free of external and internal parasites.
- Choose a broody who is tame, and feed her once or twice a day, depending on her weight and
- Weigh each goose egg on digital kitchen scales on the day of setting. Half way through
incubation, check that they have lost 7.5% of their original weight. In an incubator, adjust humidity
if needed. Eggs getting too dry in a nest can rescued in a humid incubator. Also, water can be
added to the turf.
- Early season eggs have thicker shells and need a drier nest. Late season eggs have thinner
shells, need more moisture in the base of the nest and are more prone to bacterial infection.
- Keep a record of when the eggs started hatching.
- Candle the eggs. There is no point in a broody sitting on infertile eggs. Nor her sitting on eggs
which have started and then failed; these will go rotten. A laser torch is a very good ‘candler’.
It is essential to be around at hatching time – put that date in your diary.
- Get your rearing facilities sorted out before you incubate. Don’t improvise as it happens – especially with waterfowl. They create an awful lot of work if you are not prepared.
This article was taken from The Country Smallholder. For more articles like this, subscribe here.