A few basic needs – you’ll need a feeder with enough room for all chicks, a waterer that can’t be tipped over; and if you’re raising ducks or goslings it will need to be deep enough for them to submerge their bills in without being able to get *in* the water. A brooder light is needed – you’ll need to adjust this before hand. There needs to be enough room under the light for all chicks to be able to stay at 95 degrees the first week then reducing it 5 degrees per week until they are feathered. There should be room to get away from the lamp if a chick gets too warm but plenty of warm room is needed. Chicks will pile and smother, and it’s often the strongest chicks killed because they’re strong enough to burrow under and get warm, but are suffocated for it.
Good starter feed is needed – if you’re starting ducklings or goslings make sure it’s non-medicated. Fast going chickens and turkeys need extra nutrition to sustain growth and health. Keep feed stored properly.
Decide on your situation and what you want. If you’re not wanting to listen to crowing and have a secure fenced area you might consider ducks – but remember to have a VERY good predator system. Ducks don’t roost in trees or on perches, but will need to be kept cool in warm weather. Chickens are a traditional egg bird but many duck breeds can lay as heavy or nearly so as a chicken. Chickens are apt to get over fences, even some persistent hens with wings clipped. Anything outside at night unprotected can fall prey to owls and other predators.
Before hatching a young bird draws the yolk as a source of nutrient rich substance – and this allows them to sustain a one day shipping flight without having food. When they arrive you should have the brooder ready and at the proper temperature, the feeders filled and the water either treated with an electrolyte or sugar. Take each chick individually and dip its beak in the water – they’ll automatically in most cases tip their heads back to swallow. Some will drink quite a bit some are content with that first drip. Before totally letting them go place them over by the feeder and dip their beak near the feed. This shows the young birds where food and water is and gets them off to a good start.
Attention to temperature is crucial – this can’t be stressed enough. If babies start clumping too close together you will lose birds.
If you want eggs decide what color you want. Chickens can lay white, brown or colored eggs. Araucanas are known for their blue and green eggs and some believe the eggs to be higher in vitamins. Brown egg layers are often the “heavy” breeds – Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires and Rocks (barred, buff, white, partridge are just a few varieties) are common. White egg layers it’s hard to beat the common Leghorn – but they are not just white! You can get silver, red, brown leghorns that are colorful but still produce white shelled eggs. If you’re interested in use and preservation of less common breeds check out Dominiques, Sussex, Brahmas, Anconas.
Ducks have fewer common breeds – many don’t realize ducks are anything but white. Anconas are spotted; Cayuga are solid black; there’s buff and Harlequins which are colorful. Campbell ducks – most commonly khaki but a few strains of white – are good layers. Many are fans of the muscovy ducks.
Geese have a variety of looks from the common Emden and Chinese (the ones with the knobs on their bills) to the Pomeranian, Pilgrim, Sebastopol (a frizzle breed) and Buff. Geese can be good weeders once they get started they’ll graze and a half dozen geese on a front fenced lawn can help “mow”. Be aware though if allowed to hang out on the porch or other entryway they will make a MESS.
Turkeys are often pictured as the wild or white – the bronze, Bourbon Red, White Palm and several other types of turkey offer a variety of sizes and types to raise for Thanksgiving or other meals or just enjoy. I had a Bourbon Red hen once who became something of a pet, following me around at feeding. Keep all birds protected – dogs can be deadly to a flock and the birds have little to no defense if they’re calm and gentle.
Any of these birds can be a good source of enjoyment as well as eggs. Chickens can “recycle” much in the way of kitchen scraps and love to scratch for bugs. Keep them protected and meet their needs and you will be rewarded!