Profitable Poultry Production

by M. G. Kains

Chapter XIV
Water Fowl

Not a few farmers seem to be prejudiced against water fowl, especially ducks. Geese are tolerated because they forage for themselves very largely and live on what they pick up from waste lands such as marshes and wet pastures. They are essentially grass-eating birds. From the time vegetation starts in spring till killed by frost in autumn, geese demand almost no attention. Goslings, after they are four weeks old, will also shift for themselves. Ducks, on the other hand, will not stand neglect so well, and they are more likely to wander and get lost or be killed by prowlers, such as foxes; then, too, the ducklings, if allowed on streams and ponds, are likely to be eaten by turtles and preying fish. Another objection is that ducks improperly managed often lay their eggs in the water. Unless they have desirable quarters and are given proper attention they are rather troublesome to look after. Besides this, they are very noisy, especially if disturbed at night. The careless farmer is most likely to be prejudiced against ducks for the above reasons, and also because half-fed ducks will overeat themselves when they do get a chance at food.


As noted in Chapter II, it will not pay the farmer to go into duck raising on an extensive commercial scale unless he is situated within easy access of a large city not well supplied with ducks. On the other hand, many farmers who have a good local market can make very nice profits out of ducks, even on a small scale. There are no special difficulties in the way; in fact, anyone can succeed with ducks. The brooding time is only half as long as that for chickens and the ducklings do not need nearly as much heat in the brooders. Where only a small number are to be raised, hens will do the hatching very successfully.

Duck fountain. Wire frame over gravel pit. Waste water drains off quickly.
The duck has so many good qualities, it matures so early and furnishes such excellent meat and is so easily reared that every farmer should keep at least a few to supply his own table and make a little money from surplus ones. This applies especially where the older ducks can have access to a marsh, a pond or a stream, but where their wanderings may be restricted. Duck flesh is one of the greatest delicacies that can be raised on the farm.

A good deal of the trouble in raising ducks is due wholly to neglect, and to the unjust reputation of the duck as a gormandizer, a reputation based largely on irregularity of feeding. Half-starved ducks are not slow to take advantage of an opportunity to eat, so if grain or other food is accidentally left within reach they will surround as much of it as possible. On the other hand, if food is constantly before them, especially if they have a chance to forage, they will not, as a rule, eat more ravenously than other fowls. Usually under good management, especially feeding, they attain their growth in four months, though under commercial conditions they are marketed at two or three months. For best prices August and September is the favorable season when one has access to summer resorts. During October and November later broods may also be disposed of at a profit, but for the ordinary farmer it is best not to keep ducks for a later market unless they have been hatched late in the season. If ducks can be hatched during March they may be disposed of at good prices during June or even earlier.

Ducks need no more water than chickens until they are three months old. Neither pond nor stream is necessary until the ducklings have their feathers. In fact, until the ducklings are well feathered, it is best that they be not allowed to get their down wet. For this reason their drinking fountains should be such that the little ducks cannot get more than their bills into the water. Thrifty ducks can easily be raised on a yard one-quarter of an acre in extent. When properly treated they should be no more troublesome than little chicks.

Hens, especially the more docile breeds, such as the Cochin and the Brahma, make excellent mothers. Another advantage of these breeds is that their large size enables them to cover several more eggs than Plymouth Rock and Wyandotte hens or hens of the lighter varieties. They will easily cover nine or ten eggs. If set very early, however, they should not be given quite so many unless their quarters are warm. No special remarks need be made concerning the hatching of eggs under hens. The period of incubation is 28 days. The eggs should be aired oftener and longer than hens' eggs and not allowed to get as dry as hens' eggs while hatching. None but fresh eggs from healthy parent stock should be used. By fresh eggs is meant eggs not over ten days old. It is true that eggs, even three weeks old, have been set under hens, but these do not usually give as good results; the ducklings are likely to be weak. Preferably the hen should be taken from her nest at noon when the temperature of the air is warmest. A half hour off the nest will be sufficient for the hen to range, secure green food, grain, water and dust herself.

Care of Ducklings

As the ducklings hatch they should be put in a warm place, preferably near the kitchen stove, and kept warm just as little chicks are managed. When the hatch is over the ducklings may be put under the hen in a coop or in a brooder; preferably they should be kept confined for two or three days and then allowed to roam in a small yard as soon as the weather is warm. Many farmers who raise ducks on a small scale believe it absurd to allow a nice hen to run her legs off with a brood of ducklings. The ducklings are never still a minute. They care nothing for the mother except to use her at night as a hover.

If one has not enough ducklings to justify a brooder, a small box lined with old woolen or flannel goods will be found satisfactory. Heat may be supplied by a jug of hot water placed preferably above the heads of the ducklings. The little ducks may be fed at first with hard-boiled eggs, bread crumbs, clabber or other soft food. Mush and milk are also good, but preferably this food should not be given before the second week. After they are two or three weeks old raw cornmeal, moistened with milk or water, may be fed, also scraps from the table. When scraps are fed the ducklings may be given some fresh animal feed, chopped cabbage, turnips, etc. Liver and lights are very good when finely mixed. Ducklings and older ducks do better on soft feed than on grain. In the soft feed should be some grit not too fine. Grit should also be within reach at all times.

Localities for Duck Yards

Where one is situated on a tidewater stream or cove he should take advantage of the opportunity to raise ducks. There is in such a situation a constant succession of sea food which the ducks can secure with every ebb of the tide. All that is necessary is to supply a house or a pen on the shore, hoppers with ground grain and drinking fountains for the ducks to help themselves. When such are supplied the ducks will come home every night without trouble. Usually duck eggs are laid at night or in the early morning, and where the flock is properly managed there will be little danger of loss from laying in the water. If desired, the ducks may be kept shut up until, say, 10 o'clock, by which time practically all the eggs will have been laid.

Next to a tidewater situation comes a marsh, a stream or a pond, especially a marsh through which a stream flows. The ducks will pick up a large portion of their living, but in the absence of any of these advantages the farmer may easily keep ducks without trouble. He may make an artificial pond for the ducks to paddle in. This may be in any convenient place, preferably not too near the house. It need not be expensive. Concrete may be used where the formation of the ground is not suitable for making a pond by means of a dam across the spring. The depth need not be more than 18 inches, and even that depth is not necessary so far as the water itself is concerned. Probably a foot will be ample depth for the water. The pond need be supplied only for the breeding ducks which mate in the water.

While it is possible for ducks to get along without water to swim in, yet they certainly do better when supplied with a place to paddle, and best where they have a chance to forage. Foraging for a duck is what scratching is for a hen. It supplies exercise and interest in life. If not given water range, ducks should have fresh water to drink always within easy reach. The duck fountain, placed upon a gravel pit, is one of the best arrangements, because it does not allow the ground around it to become muddy. Ducks splash a good deal of water around their drinking fountains and some means of drainage must be supplied or the place will become very foul in a short time. In a general way ducks can be profitably raised wherever hens can be.


Cleanliness is essential at all times. The feeding and drinking vessels should be kept clean constantly, the floors should be littered with absorbent material such as shavings, waste hay or straw and this replaced before it becomes damp and foul. While it is a fact that ducks and geese also naturally spend time in the water, yet they like to have their sleeping and resting places dry. The yards where ducks are kept should be scraped from time to time and fresh sand or earth thrown upon them. It is a good plan to have the yards plowed or spaded and sown to rye in the fall, or in the spring where the fowls have access during the summer, but not in the winter, to water range. Not only does this purify the soil, but it helps to supply feed.

No special remarks need be made concerning the quarters for ducks. Houses and yards may be practically the same as for hens, except that nests and roosts need not be supplied. Preference should always be given to well-drained soil, so that when rain falls the yards may not be sloppy and so that the droppings may be washed into the soil rather than over it or made into puddles. Shade is essential in the summer time. If there is no natural shade, artificial shade must be supplied. Ducks are very sensitive to the sun's heat. They will naturally take care of themselves in a marsh where there is shrubbery, but where shrubbery is absent they should have a simple shed or canvas cover under which they may take refuge.

At all times it is essential that ducks be treated kindly and quietly. Gentleness and quietness are absolutely necessary to the best development of the duck. As a rule, ducks are fearless until they are once frightened. When one is frightened fear rapidly spreads among the flock. If it is necessary to catch any duck it should always be caught by the body, never by the neck, and the person who does the catching should never be careless or rough in handling the ones caught. The same remark made concerning visitors and dogs with respect to hens applies even more forcibly to ducks. Never should dogs or visitors be allowed in the breeding yard because the egg yield is sure to be reduced. After the breeding pens are once made up the groups should be maintained without change. Ducks quickly miss one of their companions, so if stock is to be kept for sale it should be separate from the breeding flocks.

Breeding ducks should be given free range or at least water in which to swim. They may be fed on almost any kind of mill feed. When they cannot have free range and thus pick up animal and vegetable life, they should be supplied with animal and vegetable food of some kind. Chopped clover, cabbage, kale, alfalfa; in fact, almost any vegetable, will do. This should be mixed with the wet mash to which bone meal or beef scrap and grit have been added. There is no reason why duck food should be cooked. Ducks do fully as well on raw feed. It is best that they do not have whole grain, because they cannot grind it as well as hens and turkeys do. At all times they must be supplied with water close to their feeding troughs. A reasonably full meal morning and evening is all that is necessary, especially where the ducks have free range. When ducks at range are to be fattened for the table, they should be removed from the general flock and fed only such food as will not give the flesh an unpleasant flavor. Fish and some of the vegetable matter that they might get in the marshes and ponds often impart unpleasant flavors to the flesh.

For breeding ducks Long Island growers use a mixture of one pailful each of wheat, oats, middlings, two pails of bran, four of cornmeal and two bushels of cut clover grass or other green thoroughly minced, mixed and wetted. The ducks are allowed to eat as much as they wish. It is necessary to feed some special formula like this only where it is impossible to give the ducks free range and an opportunity to balance up the food themselves.

Hatching in Incubators

Where duck eggs are hatched in incubators care must be given as to ventilation; since duck eggs are considerably larger than hen eggs they are more difficult to handle. The air space in the incubator is smaller proportionately for duck eggs than for hen eggs; hence, if one is going into the hatching of duck eggs, he should give preference to a machine with a larger air space than when hatching hen eggs. When such a machine is not used the ordinary incubator will do, provided it is run with greater care as to ventilation. Never should duck and chicken eggs, duck and turkey eggs, or duck and goose eggs be placed in the machine at the same time. Only one kind of egg should be used at a time. Duck eggs should be cooled longer than hen eggs. Some duck raisers believe in sprinkling the eggs with tepid water, especially during the last two weeks. Others think it advisable to dip the eggs in tepid water daily; still others do not practice either method. Much depends upon the way the machine is managed and the amount of moisture in the air of the egg chamber.

As a rule, ducklings break their shells 30 to 48 hours before emerging. If unable to get out without aid after the twenty-eighth day, they should be given some help. In this respect they are less sensitive than chicks. For at least 24 hours the ducklings should be allowed to remain in the machine. When removed they should be taken to brooders in flocks not exceeding 50. Forty would be better. Management is practically the same as for chicks, excepting that the ducklings, at first, must be kept closer to the heat. Usually they will not need heat after six weeks old when hatched in the early spring; three weeks will be all that is necessary when the season becomes warm. After weaning the management of ducklings is the same no matter how raised.

For market the ducklings should be confined in smaller yards than for breeding purposes. They may be fed more liberally of fattening materials. When about six weeks of age they may be put in the fattening pens and fed a mixture of two-thirds of cornmeal with equal parts of bran, middlings and greens. To this 10 or 12 per cent of beef scrap may be added. Preferably ducklings intended for market should not be given water range. For breeders ducklings should be given their liberty as soon as weaned. Most commercial duck raisers allow the ducklings to run together in close quarters until they are old enough for marketing, then the best are sorted out, the home flock given wider liberty, a grass range or a pond, and encouraged to develop strength rather than fat.

Selection of Breeders

In sorting out ducks for breeders, females may be recognized from the males as early as six weeks old. When caught the ducks quack loudly. The drakes, however, give a sort of a hissing quack or they may not be able to make a sound. Later on the characteristic curled tail feathers distinguish the drakes.

The usual method of killing ducks is the same as for chickens, except that after the veins and arteries are cut in the mouth, a sharp blow upon the head is given by striking against a post. This reduces undue movement and consequently soiling of the feathers from the blood. Since duck feathers command good prices they form an item of revenue not to be neglected. It is necessary to pick dry in order to get the best prices. As a rule, the sale of feathers will about pay for the cost of picking. Another advantage about dry picking is that dry-picked ducks usually sell for better prices than scalded ones.

The best time to kill ducks for market is at about ten weeks old or before a new crop of pin feathers appears. This reduces the amount of work considerably. Pin feathers may be removed more easily if wetted, since they may be caught between the thumb and a knife blade held in the hand. Usually the soft feathers from the wings are not removed, neither are the head and neck plucked. Ducks are rarely drawn or beheaded for market. After plucking the wings are brought close to the body and held in that position by strings or bandages. All the blood is removed by washing and the ducks are then placed in fresh water to cool down and later put in ice water. Generally it is thought best to place them breast downward so as to make the breasts look more attractive when exposed for sale.

Breeds of Ducks

Unquestionably the Pekin is the leading breed of ducks in America. It is a white-feathered bird, which may be easily kept in inclosures. The beaks are yellow. This breed is very large, uniform in size and rapid in development. At four months the ducklings should weigh 5 pounds each. In America they have no successful market rivals. This is because of their hardiness, quickness of growth and prolificacy of large, usually white, eggs. Standard weights are 8 pounds for the mature birds and 7 pounds for the duck. The carcass is very long and deep and contains a goodly proportion of meat both on the breast and behind.

The Aylesbury resembles the Pekin in general appearance and size, but the bodies are somewhat oval. The plumage is white and not so soft. The bill is flesh colored and the feet yellow, instead of reddish as in the Pekin. The Aylesbury stands with its body more horizontal than the Pekin. The breed is the leading market favorite in England. It is about as quick growing as the Pekin, but has not proved as satisfactory among American duck raisers. According to the standard of perfection, adult drakes weigh 9 pounds and ducks 8 pounds.

The Rouen ducks, which are given the same standard weights as the Aylesbury, look much like the common puddle ducks of the farm. When well bred, however, their colors are more pronounced and their size much larger. They are also better layers and quicker to mature. There is nothing to indicate that they are in any way inferior to Pekin or Aylesbury ducks for the table, but their color is against them for the general market. For home use they are fully as valuable as either of the other varieties mentioned.

The Muscovy, in two varieties, Colored and White, is a particularly unpleasant looking creature because of its featherless face covered with warty skin. This repulsive appearance is more than borne out by the viciousness of the males. The ducks are perhaps as pugnacious as the drakes when they have their broods. Adult drakes weigh 10 pounds; ducks 8. Prior to the importation of the Pekin, the Muscovy was popular among the commercial duck growers, but its poor-laying ability, its viciousness and its color all being against it, made it easy for the Pekin to replace it.

Besides these four principal ducks there are many others, but almost all are much lighter weight. Among them are the Cayuga, which is a hardy, early maturing, good layer, with greenish-black plumage and flight feathers in the female, sometimes more or less brown.

Indian Runner is another small variety introduced within recent years. The drakes rarely weigh more than 5 pounds and the ducks 4. They are usually light fawn colored, sometimes grayish. Their chief value is in their prolificacy. They have been called the Leghorns of the duck family. It is said they are more home loving than most other breeds.

Besides these varieties, there are several others, among them the Buff Orpington, a variety of recent origin and little known in this country. It hails from England. Gray and White Call Ducks, Black East Indian ducks and Crested White ducks are all little varieties raised particularly for ornament.


While it is true that geese cannot be profitably raised in confinement (see Chapter II), it is a fact that on every farm a flock may be profitably reared each year. Geese need not have access to a swimming pool, though, like all other water fowl, they enjoy water, and a pool is of great benefit especially during the breeding season. They are very thirsty creatures and should always have abundant drinking water, especially during the warm weather. Geese are by far the cheapest and easiest of all domestic fowls to raise. They require but little shelter at any time, and if given plenty of pasture will gather the larger portion of their food from the fields.

Celebrated Toulouse gander. For years this bird was first prize winner at Madison Square Garden Poultry Show. It was bred and owned by C.W. King of Seneca County, N.Y.

An ideal pasture, such as is not desirable for animal grazing -- a marsh, especially one with a stream running through, or bordering a pond -- is admirable. Farmers are realizing the fact that it pays to utilize such waste land by raising geese upon it. Not only does such land not pay taxes ordinarily, but it is often a distinct disadvantage to the farm. When used for a goose pasture the loss can be wiped out completely and the geese sold from it made to yield a handsome profit. In fact, since the original breeding flock may be kept for many years, the only cost of keeping a flock of geese would be for the winter care and for the attention demanded by the goslings until they are able to take care of themselves. The goslings would pick up nearly all of their living from the waste land, and nearly all the money they would bring in the market or when sold for breeding purposes would be clear profit.

Many more geese could be raised in this country and still the demand would not fail. Each year geese are becoming more popular as table fowls. Very large, young geese, when well fattened, command a premium in the markets. In goose growing as well as in other lines of poultry production the value of good breeding stock cannot be over-estimated. Good stock is as easily fed and cared for as are inferior birds and give very much better results. Where farmers have been raising common geese at a profit there are excellent opportunities for them to raise pure-bred geese at a greater profit, because the pure breds not only attain larger sizes and, as a rule, lay larger numbers of eggs, but the young are easier to rear and there is a fairly good demand for both eggs and birds for breeding. The prices for market geese, breeders and eggs are all excellent, so that there is every reason why pure-bred ones should replace inferior geese.

Geese Need Pasturage

As already indicated, geese cannot be kept in confinement, because, like turkeys, they must have range, but, unlike turkeys, they are not rovers. They can be counted upon to come to their shelters regularly; they have a great love for home. For this reason they are easily kept on even small range and with almost no trouble as to fencing. Their chief food is vegetable matter which they prefer to pick in their wanderings. They also enjoy water, animal life, snails, slugs, worms, insects, etc., which they can secure. While it is true that they enjoy water and marshy places, they greatly prefer dry quarters in which to sleep. Since they are hardy, their shelters need not be as carefully constructed as those used for chickens. The principal thing is to secure dryness at all seasons and shelter from winds during cold weather. Geese do not make their quarters foul so quickly as ducks do, but it is just as essential that their shelters be kept clean. Straw and refuse hay, sawdust or shavings are equally useful in the sheds. Whatever material is used should be removed and replaced before it becomes foul.

From what has been said, it may be correctly inferred that geese are kept in much smaller numbers than chickens or even turkeys, yet they reach the market in considerable quantities, especially in the western states. Along the Atlantic seaboard there are some farms where goose growing is made a specialty. Except for these farms there are very few places where geese are raised extensively. The great majority of market geese are raised in small numbers on ordinary farms, which, as a rule, still cling to flocks of inferior breeding. Though the market demand is by no means as great as for the other three great classes of poultry, yet this demand is not nearly met by the supply of stock. For this reason anyone situated near a good market and provided with a favorable site for goose growing should embrace his opportunity to supply this demand, but no desire for making money should tempt anyone not supplied with good grazing ground to begin goose growing, because while he may succeed in raising the geese he could not compete with farmers who have better facilities.

Profits in Goose Growing

As to the amount of money that can be made from geese, much, of course, depends upon the market. Growers calculate that geese pay proportionately better than ducks, but since they cannot be grown in such large quantities nor by such machine methods the facilities sooner reach their profitable limit. The cost of producing young geese for market is estimated at less than 10 cents a pound, even when the goslings are fed heavily for fattening during the last few weeks. This estimate of course does not apply to the special feeding methods practiced in Wisconsin. For the Jewish demand (see Chapter II), prices in the East usually start in the early season at 30 to 35 cents a pound; and sometimes fall as low as 15 cents during autumn. The season begins in June.

As a rule, good prices are realized during the holiday season. The sale of goslings at five or six weeks old to fatteners is rather common. Where there is not much demand for geese, profits are not as large as these figures might seem to indicate. It is believed that the production of mongrel geese (that is, crosses of the Brown China, African or Toulouse geese with wild ganders) is more profitable than ordinary goose growing. The goslings from these crosses, though sterile and therefore useless for breeding, are excellent for the market because of their large size -- 12 or 14 pounds -- and because of a greater demand for them at advanced prices during the holiday season. It is not usual to make the reverse cross, that is, a domestic gander on wild geese, because the wild birds are much less prolific of eggs than the domestic geese. Generally the wild gander will mate with only one goose; domestic ganders will take two, three or even four geese.

When one plans to start goose raising he should buy his stock birds in the autumn, because that is the usual season for mating and also because the birds take some time to become accustomed to their new homes. If bought shortly before the breeding season the results are almost sure to be unsatisfactory. Either the birds will not mate or when they do the goose will not lay as early nor as well as she otherwise would, and the hatches may not be as large, to say nothing of the delay likely to occur on account of the dislike for her new quarters.

It is highly desirable to buy old rather than young birds for breeding. No fear need be entertained that old geese will not do well. Much more may be expected of them than from old hens. Geese are considered profitable until ten or even 15 years of age, and ganders six or seven. For this reason a breeding flock need not be increased from year to year unless desired, and all the young progeny may be sold as soon as it reaches marketable size. Breeding stock may be purchased usually from $3 to $5 for each bird, or if eggs are desired from 25 to 50 cents each or $2.50 to $5 a dozen.

Selecting Breeders

Since geese are not usually very prolific breeders it is customary to remove the eggs as fast as laid for hatching under hens. This keeps the goose laying longer than she otherwise would. Incubators, as a rule, have not proved very satisfactory for hatching goose eggs. Hens may be given from four to seven eggs each, according to the season and their size. Testing for fertility should be made on the seventh or eighth day and infertile eggs removed. Incubation generally lasts 30 days, although sometimes longer.

Since many hens do not take kindly to goslings they must be closely watched when the goslings are hatching, otherwise they may kill their foster children. As soon as hatched, therefore, the goslings should be removed to a box lined with flannel and kept in a warm place. In a day or so they may be given to quiet hens that do not object to them.

Geese make good mothers, and when they show a decided disposition to set may be given a dozen to 15 eggs each. As a rule, they do not like to be moved from their regular places of laying and resent any interference while setting. It is a good plan to have several hens at the same time that the goose is to set and to give the goslings all to the goose.

Vehicle coop. Packing case with attached run. handles used to wheel coop about.

The brood should be placed in warm quarters and care taken that the goslings do not run too much at first. They should be kept warm and quiet at least a week and not allowed to run around much nor to become excited. After they are four or five weeks old they will not need much attention, since the mother goose will take care of her brood. Goslings raised without mothers soon become self-dependent. It is important that the pens be upon rather short grass and moved at least once a day or as soon as the grass shows signs of becoming short. It is essential that shelter be provided from the sun and storm. Contrary to the popular belief, goslings should be kept from water, except for drinking, until they have produced feathers.

Rearing the Goslings

Little goslings are very dainty eaters at first; their appetites will come in due time. During the first few days bread crumbs, soaked in milk or water and squeezed nearly dry are very good and are relished. This feed may be given three or four times a day with plenty of water to drink. The drinking fountain should be arranged so the goslings cannot wet more than their bills. During the second week a mash of equal parts ground oats, bran and cornmeal mixed with hot water may be fed cold five times a day and continued until the goslings are a month old. After the first few days they may have the freedom of a small pen where there is plenty of grass, and when two weeks old, their range may be extended. Clover and alfalfa are especially good.

When one month old the same mash may be used morning and evening with perhaps a meal at noon. Some breeders, however, prefer to feed the mash at morning and noon with cracked wheat at night. Until the goslings are fully feathered they should be kept out of the water and only those that are intended for breeding purposes should learn to swim. When two months old, feeding may be reduced to twice a day -- soft feed in the morning and cracked corn or wheat, or a mixture of these two grains, at night. From this time forward the goslings may be allowed to roam at will. About three weeks before killing, those intended for market should be penned in a small space and fed a mixture of two parts corn-meal, one part bran and one part beef scrap, with corn at night, and oats and wheat at noon. Grit should always be placed where goslings can reach it. The most important point next to feeding when rearing goslings for market is to keep the little birds tame and gentle. They should also be kept inclosed at night. When preparing for market, feed should be withheld for 12 hours before killing. After they are killed, an operation managed the same as for ducks, the carcasses should be plucked and singed. This singeing makes all the difference between an attractive and an unattractive looking carcass. Goslings of such breeds as Toulouse, Embden, African and some of the cross-bred geese weigh eight to 12 pounds when ten weeks to three months old. Individual specimens may weigh even more. It is generally more profitable to market them at that age than to hold them for a later market; prices are usually higher and there is less likelihood of running up the cost of feed. It is considered best, however, to hold mongrel geese for the Thanksgiving and Christmas markets, because of the higher prices they command. The season for geese begins in early June and continues until March of the following year.

One of the important sources of income from geese is the feathers. These, when properly managed, often sell for 50 cents or more a pound. Many goose raisers still practice the barbarous custom of plucking live geese. Whether this is a profitable practice or not is not the question. It is cruel, especially if plucking is resorted to frequently. This practice is probably responsible for the low prices often paid for certain classes of geese and for the poor condition that many geese are in when they reach the market. It is one thing for a goose to molt naturally, but quite another to have the feathers pulled out every six weeks during the warm weather to force a new growth of feathers. Feather pulling is especially bad for geese used for breeding. Geese which have to grow extra crops of feathers cannot be expected to start laying as early, to lay as many eggs nor to have such good hatches as when Nature is allowed her own way. The practice is condemned by all the best breeders of geese.

Breeds of Geese

Probably the most popular breed of geese in America is the Toulouse. It is not only the largest but possibly the best adapted for general farm conditions, especially where the range is not ideal. It is thought to do better without a swimming area than other breeds. Its standard weights are 20 pounds for adult ganders and 18 for the geese. In general appearance it resembles the common farm goose more than the other breeds, but is much larger than these scrub geese. It is gray, though beneath and behind there are white areas in the plumage; the legs and the bill are orange. During their first year young geese lay 15 to 25 eggs. When older they may lay from 25 to 40. The breed is very quiet, but in spite of its wide popularity, is not ranked very high in the market.

The Embden is the chief rival of the Toulouse. While its standard weights are the same as for the Toulouse, a smaller proportion of the birds attain these weights. The plumage is white; legs and bill yellow. The Embden when well bred and properly prepared not only makes the best-looking carcass but is superior to other breeds for marketing. One of the chief disadvantages in purchasing specimens is that there are many poor flocks in this country, poor not only in breeding, but poor in ability to lay. Intending purchasers should be careful in buying for these reasons.

Chinese geese are of two varieties -- Brown and White. Their form and carriage is different from that of the two breeds already mentioned. They stand much more erect, have much longer and slenderer necks. In the Brown Chinese, at the base of the bill is a peculiar dark-colored knob, as will be seen in the half-tone picture of the breed. The standard weights are 14 pounds for the adult gander and 12 for the geese. The Brown variety is considered the most prolific of all geese. Under ordinary management the females will lay 40 to 50 eggs or even more, and these eggs are noted for their fertility. One of the chief disadvantages is that the carcasses are exceedingly hard to pluck and, when dressed, make the poorest appearance of all kinds of geese. In the White Chinese the plumage is white throughout, the bill and legs are orange colored and so is the knob at the base of the bill. While the geese lay as well as their brown cousins, their eggs are less fertile. White Chinese geese rival the Embden geese in the market. Their carcasses make a far better appearance than those of the Brown.

African geese are not nearly as common as other large varieties. Their color is gray, dark above, light below. On the back of the neck there is a dark stripe. Their weights are the same as for Embden and Toulouse. The bill is black and has the same kind of black knob characteristic of the Brown Chinese variety. The legs are orange colored. As a rule, the geese lay better than the Embden, but not as well as the Toulouse, and the carcasses, especially of old birds, are hard to make look well for the market. The skin is dark, and this unfavorable color is not improved by the presence of down and pin feathers which are usually very hard to remove.

Besides the market varieties of geese described, there are several used for ornament, among them are the Egyptian. One of these varieties, the Wild or Canadian geese, however, is used for breeding mongrels, as already noticed. The Egyptian is purely ornamental.

Goose and Duck Feathers

Generally speaking there is probably less waste of geese and duck feathers than of chicken and turkey, because the prices are considerably higher and the uses more numerous, and yet it is probable that many bring a lower price than they should because of the imperfect methods of sorting and curing. In the first place, the birds should be dry picked, so as to save the animal oils which give the feathers their "life." The reduction in grade because of scalding is not so great with geese and duck feathers as with turkey and chicken, provided proper care has been exercised and the birds immersed for only a very short time and the drying properly attended to. The feathers from the two kinds of birds should be kept separate, but otherwise the method of handling is simple.

A leading dealer writes as follows concerning the handling of these products: Dry-picked goose and duck feathers should be placed on the floor and spread out for two or three days. The feathers from white birds should be kept by themselves. Special care should be taken to have the floors scrupulously clean, for white feathers especially, since the whiteness increases value. Each day until thoroughly dry, the feathers should be turned over. The quills and coarser feathers should never be included with the body feathers.

Burlap or cotton sacks are best for shipping the small feathers, which unless perfectly dry, are apt to become mildewed very rapidly and to command a reduced price. In the autumn, pure white goose feathers dry and in good condition are worth about 60 cents a pound. Gray goose and white duck 40 cents each, gray duck 32 cents. Scalded stock brings from 3 to 5 cents less a pound.

Next: Chapter XV

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