Things to Consider Before Getting Poultry 

  • Check your local town and county ordinances. Many areas, particularly residential settings, have restrictions on the number and type of animals you may have.
  • Select a secure area where you can set up a coop and run that will meet the basic requirement of protection from weather (sun, wind, rain, snow) and predators (cats, dogs, children, wild animals). 
  • Chickens are social creatures and require being in a flock, plan to keep a minimum of three to six birds.  

Choosing the Right Breed

When choosing a breed of bird you need to consider several things:
  • Why do you want to raise birds? Eggs, meat, pet, therapeutic, competition or a combination of reasons.
  • How much effort and time are you willing to dedicate to the birds? Some breeds are high- maintenance and require more of your time. Average lifespan is seven years and egg production three years.
  • What is your local weather climate? Make sure the birds you choose fit your climate or they will require more of your time and a controlled living environment.
  • Egg Laying Breeds: These birds have been bred to produce large quantities of eggs through their short production lifetimes. Remember the color of eggs and the quantity of eggs laid depends on the breed of hen. 
  • Dual Purpose Breeds: These birds are the best of both worlds in utility terms. They are productive in the egg department and grow large enough to be used as a meat bird later in life. Remember, these birds do not lay quiet as well because they have a dual purpose. 
  • Meat Breeds: As the name suggests these breeds of chicken are bred for meat purposes. They grow very, very quickly. They put on weight at an alarming rate and are ready for slaughter at around nine weeks. The growth, meat production, flavor and tenderness depend on the bird's breed. Types of meat birds: game hen 1 to 1 ½ pounds, broiler, or fryer 4 to 4 ½ pounds, roaster 6 to 8 pounds, stewing dual purpose bird removed from egg production due to age.    
  • Waterfowl: Domestic Ducks and Geese are often raised for eggs, meat, weed and pest control, and feathers. Waterfowl eggs and meat are higher in protein than chicken eggs and meat.
  • Turkey, Game birds and other poultry: Turkeys, Guinea fowl, Quail, and Pheasants are often raised for show or exhibition, meat production or release into nature. 
  • Bantams: A diminutive chicken about one-fourth the size of a regular chicken.  Some Bantams are distinct breeds: other are miniatures of large breeds.  They are often raised for eggs, meat, pets, and exhibition. Excellent choice for small spaces.
  • Exhibition Breeds: Only breeds and varieties admitted to the American Standard of Perfection may compete for the American Poultry Association Inc special prizes and awards. Non-recognized varieties may only be awarded RV and BV, and non-recognized breeds may only be awarded RB and BB.  

Helpful Chicken Terminology:

Cockerel – A male bird under twelve months of age. (guaranteed a rooster). 

Straight Run – Chicks are not sexed (fifty/fifty chance of getting a rooster). 

Pullet – A female chick under twelve months of age. (future layer). 


Click To Learn More About Each Type

WATERFOWL

 Domestic Ducks and Geese are often raised for eggs, meat, weed and pest control, and feathers. Waterfowl eggs and meat are higher in protein than chicken eggs and meat.   


Step 1: Preparing For Your Birds’ Arrival

Brooder

When setting up a brooder, you will want to consider a couple of key factors: size, sturdiness, security & protection, and ease of cleaning. The goslings/ducklings will be in a brooder for about four to six weeks, then transitioned into a closed coop. A brooder needs to have at least 1 sq. ft of space per bird. This gives your birds plenty of room to run, squabble, play, explore, and groom themselves.


Bedding

Should be 2-3 inches deep. It should be kept clean and dry. Do not use cedar shavings or slick bedding material. Bedding should be changed weekly or when wet or dirty.


Heat Source

Start chicks at 95 degrees. Drop the temperature 5 degrees per week down to 65 degrees and/or until no heat is needed (fully feathered or outside temperature above 65 degrees). Keep a thermometer at chick level so you can manage the temperature accurately. Also be sure you have room in the area where they can all be under the heat source or out of the heat source if they need it. Pre-heat the brooder area 24 hours prior to your chick’s arrival.


Waterers 

Start small so the duckling/goslings can reach the water. Duckling/Goslings will play in the water, making a mess and splashing out their drinking water. Make sure you check often so they don’t run out of water.  When moving to the coop is a great time to add duck/goose water. Waterers should be available 24 hours a day. Refresh water 2-3 times a day.


Feeders

Start small no taller than 1 inch so the ducklings/goslings can reach the feed. When moving to the coop is a great time to add larger feeders.

Step 2: Feed And Supplements 

Supplements

Nutritional products are designed to provide extra nutritional support, prevent a weak immune system, or improve a specific concern about growth/development.


Starter Feed - Poultry feed comes in a wide array of choices that can be confusing, so here is the scoop. 

Non-Medicated Feed 

For vaccinated bird, waterfowl (duck, geese), turkey and mixed flocks (chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese). 


Duck Feed

Balanced with all the specific nutrients needed for growth and proper health. 


Meatbird Feed

Formulated for birds being raised for meat only (chicken, turkey, duck, geese, pheasant) 

Step 3: Training Your Birds

This is a great time to socialize with your ducklings/goslings.  By socializing with the birds, it can make interacting with them a lot easier, especially if they get hurt or need help and it’s a way to discover their individual personalities.  Can introduce them to water for swimming. Ducks need access to water for the following reasons: preen themselves and waterproof feathers, regulate body temperature during periods of heat stress, and maintain good health. 

Step 4: Moving Them Into The Coop

Whether you choose to buy a coop or build one remember the six essential features: nesting boxes on the floor, good ventilation, lockable doors, room for waters and feeders, and enclosed outdoor run with room for a small pool. Once the birds are adjusted to the coop you can open the door to the outside run and let them explore their new home. Remember ducks do not perch, so they need lots of floor space.  


If you have other birds, you will need to introduce them slowly.  The best way is to place the ducklings/goslings in a crate and place the crate inside the coop during the day.  This way they will become acclimated without the older birds picking on them.  After a few days of doing this, you will be able to go into the coop at night and place the new birds on the ground with the older birds. 


Waterers

Large capacity of water. Waterers should be available 24 hours a day


Feeders

Large capacity feeder. Check regularly. 


Small Pools

Ducks enjoy relaxing in the water. 


Step 5: Transition To Other Feeds At 7-8 Weeks If You Chose To

If you are raising meat birds continue feeding the meat bird feed.

All Flock

(chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese). complete and convenient feed for mixed flocks. 


Step 5: Transition To Layer Feed Adding Supplements And Treats

Layer Feeds

Are specially formulated to encourage healthy growth and production formulated by the species, type, and desired effect of feed. Many have additional vitamins and amino acids to maintain growing and adult flocks. 


Supplement

This is a great time to introduce oyster shell and girt to your flock for digestive support.