Goose Leading Ducks


Goose in the Lead

Over the winter we cut our duck flock back to a single hen who became bonded with the geese. Previous to that the two water fowl had been fairly separate most of the time. This spring we got more ducklings. Once they were out in the field the geese took them under their wing. The ducks are often found following one or more of the geese around, grazing on the grasses out in the pasture.

Ducks spend more time in the water than geese. Their activity helps to stir up the ponds, aerate the water and they eat mosquitoes as well as slugs and potato bugs. The trick with them and insects in the garden is to just put a couple of ducks or chickens in for a short period. They chow down on the pests and then you remove them. This works well with mature plants but not seedlings. Ducks especially love pea seedlings.

We have had a dismal time in the past trying to grow the Cornish x Rock hybrid meat chickens. Three times I’ve tried and three times we’ve failed. The kids begged me not to do them again. Those hybrids just sit around demanding to be fed commercial feed and then die of heart attacks, break their legs and other troubles.

I find a better solution is Pekin ducks. They grow just as fast or faster than the hybrid meat chickens, have huge breasts, forage on their own all summer without my needing to feed them and they eat pests. Plus they’re designed to work – they have strong hearts, legs and such so they are naturally healthy.

Outdoors: 77°F/57°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/67°F

Daily Spark: She was so inclined she fell right over. -WillJ

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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19 Responses to Goose Leading Ducks

  1. Scrapple says:

    It’s interesting that you choose ducks over chickens. There’s lots of info about chickens being good pest control, but I hadn’t considered the benefits of duck pest control, especially with relation to the ponds. I know you have some heritage layers, have you tried heritage meat breeds?

    We’ve heard from a number of farmers that ducks are difficult to process on-farm. Typically the complaint is the amount of time and number of scalds it takes to remove the feathers. Do you have any recommendations for processing ducks?

    Thanks!

    • Oh, we don’t choose ducks over chickens. We have both. They are both excellent at all natural pest control but go after somewhat different pests. Chickens don’t go after slugs much. Ducks don’t go after dung flies much. Both will if they’re hungry enough. Chickens don’t stir up the pig ponds. Ducks don’t forage out as far and wide. So we have both, each doing their job. As a side benefit they both produce eggs which are a valuable free source of food for our weaner piglets, dogs and us.

      I’ve been told that the Kosher King’s are a good foraging meat chicken but we haven’t tried those yet. A project for another year.

      I’ve skinned and plucked. As to processing ducks, I’ve heard that wax works well to help the scald/pluck process but have not tried it yet.

  2. Scrapple says:

    Sorry, I meant “over” as in choosing ducks for meat over chickens for meat. I presume you’re referring to the layers for the chicken pest control, or do you still do meat birds, but just not Cornish X?

    • Hmm… I’m not so sure it’s a matter of choosing one over the other for meat but rather it was an observation that we have found the Cornish x Rock hybrid meat chickens (the only meat chickens we’ve tried) to be very hard to raise while the Pekin ducks (one of three types of ducks we’ve done) to be very easy. This observation came up this spring as we had gotten our batch of ducks after our chicks but the ducks massively outgrew the chicks. Most of all I want species that forage well on their own out on the pasture and don’t make me be their maid servant. I’m busy with other things and the whole buying of commercial feed thing just doesn’t work for me. I expect them to work for their daily bread. :) After all, we’ve got all those black flies, mosquitoes, dung flies and other great food sources out there all summer breeding for free. Sometime I hope to try the Kosher Kings and other meat chickens with the goal of finding something that will do as well as the ducks and heritage layer hens (e.g., RI Red, Araucauna, Buff Orpington) we have.

  3. Scrapple says:

    Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Any time you can keep input costs to a minimum it’s almost guaranteed to be a winning strategy!

  4. Sheila Z says:

    Cornish X are delicate and need high protein, high energy feed compared to a normal chicken. Even then they like to die just because they can. My sister and I call them meat blobs and after raising 2 batches we decided they weren’t for us anymore. I guess the only benefit is for those who want to have meat on the table in 5 to 8 weeks compared to raising them for months to get a smaller tougher carcass.
    Have you tried Freedom Rangers for meat? They have a decent sized carcass in 9 to 12 weeks and are pretty good foragers. A local pasture based farmer grew some last year and I ate a couple of their birds. The Freedom Rangers were not as tough as the older (6 month old) Barred Rock roosters I butchered. The Cornish X meat was kind of mushy and flavorless compared to the Freedom Ranger which while it took longer to cook to tenderness did have some substance when it was done. However, the flavor of the Freedom Rangers was excellent, it was some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Sadly this farm won’t be raising them again as the majority of their customers wanted the more typical larger breasted Cornish X carcass and wouldn’t pay as much for the Freedom Ranger birds. It seems American shoppers value white meat over dark meat and are willing to support meat blob raising.

    I think ducks are amazing, they lay well, have few health problems, forage like mad, eat slugs, and are ready to butcher at 8 weeks. The predators sure love them though. Foxes kept killing mine, even in the middle of the day. So I had to pen them in electric fence to protect them which confined their slug eradication program to a small area.

  5. ben says:

    We have had tremendous luck with Kosher Kings. They grow nearly as big and fast as the white brutes, and are much more active and hardier. Tastier, too.

    I have not been impressed with stories I’ve heard re: Freedom Rangers. Many stories of very small birds, even at 12 + weeks.

  6. Cowgirl says:

    Our next door neighbors have Pekin ducks. Recently they have had to be a bit confined as they have decided that the road is a fine place to “parade”. Their “parents” are creating a larger spot for them this weekend. They are “easy keepers” (other than the road incident) and have a good feed conversion rate. Besides, I love their hats!

  7. Paul Gotte says:

    Have you noticed how much more orange the egg yokes are from foraging hens than from ones raised inside? I believe they taste better too. It is nice to read about someone elses farm. We don’t have as big a farm as you but all of your ideas and incite still applies. Thanks Walt!

    • Yes, the color and taste difference as well as the firmness of the fresh yoke is noticeable. I don’t know if the firmness is because our eggs are so fresh perhaps, right out of the hen’s butt so to speak.

  8. Diane N. says:

    Thanks for more info on your poultry and waterfowl. Photos of ducks, geese, and chickens are always favorites of mine.

  9. Teresa Hobbs says:

    We had the same type of experience with Cornish X’s this spring. It was our first time raising chickens for meat and we were surprised by their laziness compared to our egg hens. They would literally just sit down next to the feeder and eat, all day. Next time we want to try these red rangers http://www.sandgpoultry.com/redranger.html

  10. Dave says:

    I agree that ducks and chickens are a good mix for pasture and my Moscovy’s have a special place in my heart given their ability to look after themselves. Haven’t processed any yet but the info I have is not making me dread it when the time comes. Plus, the Moscovy’s do like flies, a lot!

  11. Chris says:

    We raise Cornish crosses regularly here on our small micro farm and have had tremendous success with them. At first we experienced the same things you did: broken legs, displaced hips, heart attacks and other mysterious deaths, not to mention predators. We lost around 50% of our first batches. We were so discouraged that we almost gave up. But another pastured farmer we know told us they had minimal deadloss and when we tried their techniques we eventually got it right. Now we have less than 5% loss out of batches of 75 (often just 1 or 2). Our lawn and pasture is gorgeously thick and fertile and they get a diet full of natural forage. That said, you must use a commercial feed or design a ration yourself (not that hard actually) to complement what natural protein is available on pasture and you must remove the food source at night to keep them from growing too fast (a common problem in the free-feed commercial method). We do ours in Salatin-style chicken tractors but with your LGD/LHDs you could probably do them out in the open or within some poultry netting or similar.

    Our customers and we just love the intense chicken flavor and firm muscle of the finished pastured birds as opposed to the flavorless mush of the commercially raised version. Excluding our labor, the feed cost plus chicks equates to roughly $1 per pound of bird.

  12. Cowgirl says:

    Did anyone else see that NYC is planning on feeding wild geese to their homeless? Doesn’t seem too cost effective to me, especially when they are sending birds to Pennsylvania for slaughter then bringing them back.

  13. Nicola says:

    We killed our first poultry (too many roosters) last weekend. This weekend we would like to do two Rouen ducks but have found no info on whether it’s any different to slaughter them. Since this post have you slaughtered any? We used a cone to slit the rooster’s throat then plunged them into water that was 145-150, etc.

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