Most people picture a duck and it’s either as the wild duck or the all white “Pekin” duck. The various other breeds of ducks don’t occur to many people because they never see them. Similarly geese are usually pictured as white mean domestic geese or the Canadian geese.
With this in mind it’s difficult to picture then the reaction to find there not only are breeds of ducks and geese that are distinctive but that there are some of the breeds that are endangered. Along with this are misconceptions about ducks and geese themselves.
Ducks and geese are messy to start – babies that are artificially incubated shouldn’t be allowed to be near water until they are well feathered. The naturally hatched ducklings or goslings have an oily sheen – without this they can actually become water soaked and drown. Additionally they need special attention to have a non-medicated feed. Due to the rapid growth and “bottomless pit” consumption they eat more than chicks and can consume too much medicated feed.
Once they are feathered ducks and geese are very hardy. You don’t have to worry about fancy housing but that isn’t to say they’re totally without care needed. They appreciate a windbreak and a place to get out of nasty weather. While a rain shower doesn’t bother them extreme weather they do like a windbreak and many enjoy a break from it even if a simple three sided shed or A frame. Additionally heat is a killer for ducks and geese. They must have shade and plenty of water. Both need water deep enough to get their entire bill into.
With the mention of breeds what are some considerations? For ducks there are two main types – the egg laying breeds and meat breeds. Some of the critically endangered ducks include the Ancona and Aylesbury meat breeds as well as the Welsh Harlequin. Anconas are stocky 6-6 ½ pound ducks related to the magpie duck, also endangered. The Ancona is pinto colored with spots that extend to the bill and feet where the Magpie is 4-5 pounds with a specific set of markings. The welsh harlequin is a breed that mutated from khaki Campbell ducks (normally khaki, white or dark in that breed) and were kept for eggs, meat and the beauty of them foraging in the grass. They look like a “spruced up mallard.”
Other rare ducks include the all black Cayuga, America’s duck, runners, Swedish, Rouen, Buff and call ducks – the latter are small ducks whose job was to call wild ducks close enough for hunters to get a clean shot.
Geese are commonly pictured as the large geese with the bump on the nose – Chinese which may be white or brown. The Toulouse, African, American Buff and Pilgrim are other breeds. The latter is auto-sexing – males are white and females are grey. There’s also the Sebastopol, with “frizzled” feathers, and the utility breed, Pomeranian, a beautiful spotted goose. Geese are grazers, once grown they’ll take grain but are most efficient foraging.
These are just a few breeds available and are worth giving a look. There are no roosters crowing, they’re hardy and with minimal provisions and protection they almost care for themselves. Almost!