Historically, geese have been bred and domesticated for meat. They despise being confined, and their love of good grass and the ability to forage makes them useful in a number of other ways. They are a hardy bird with a number of exemplary qualities. Some are even kept as guard-geese. They are an excellent bird for the small orchard farmer as they will clear up any windfall and get all the nutrition they need from grass throughout summer and fall. Geese are herbivores. You will get the best quality eggs and meat from a goose that is fed a plant filled diet.
Geese are excellent meat producers and egg layers. Just as in any bird, some breeds are better at this than others. The best layer, laying up to 80 eggs a year, is the Asiatic Swan goose. It is also very noisy and makes an excellent guard goose. The Embden is a heavy bird with a gander that can reach up to 34 pounds. They are excellent meat birds and lay up to 25 eggs a year. You should not, however, keep an Embden if you have small pets or children. Roman and Roman Tufted are excellent beginner birds with a great lay-rate, up to sixty eggs per season.
Goose eggs are in high demand for cooking, hatching and decorating. The shells are extra thick which makes them ideal for painting or other arts. The eggs are rich and filling and make excellent baked items such as cakes.
Fun Fact: Geese mate for life. Do not expect your Gander to accept another goose.
Ducks are excellent multi-purpose birds. They produce a large number of excellent eggs as well as being excellent meat birds. They also help keep your garden clear of those nasty slimy things known as slugs- they’re a duck delicacy. Ducks are divided, like chickens, into bantam, heavy and light breeds. Heavy breeds are the meat birds and light breeds the egg layers. Bantam breeds include the Call duck, named for it’s loud quack. It is an excellent pet but a poor layer and certainly not large enough for the dinner table. Bantams are also good flyer’s and need their wings clipped.
Indian Runner ducks are excellent layers, but prefer to roam (which I can attest to… my four love to run back and forth in their enclosure). The Campbell is another light breed which lays up to 300 eggs a year. Table birds include the Aylesbury. A pure Aylesbury is rare, and most that are sold as such are hybrid Pekin-types.
Be sure you don’t feed your ducklings medicated poultry feed. Give them a starter crumble and then grower’s pellets. Allow them to forage. They prefer to have a good amount of water to splash around in and need it to stay healthy. Try to steer clear of sharp stones as injuries to the feet can cause an infection known as Bumblefoot.
Eggs are smaller than goose eggs but larger than chicken eggs. They are highly sought after by cooks, especially bakers as the richness of the yoke makes an incredibly cake.
Fun Fact: You do not need more than one Drake for a flock as their libidos are high and can cause damage from too much attention.
Coturnix Quail are becoming the most common and best loved of the small flock farmer. They are an excellent game bird and layer and require no more care and effort than chickens, but start laying sooner, produce more eggs, need less food, take up much less space, and are edible. They can even be raised in big-city apartments due to their small size. There are six varieties, the British Range, Tuxedo, English White, Pharaoh Di, Manchurian Gold, and Australian Speckled Fawn.
Quail require 40-50 square inches of space per bird, but can be kept in nearly any small animal cage. They require a 20-25% protein feed such as that found in turkey or game bird starter. If you can’t find these supplement with grains, sprouts and bugs.
Quail eggs can be served the same way you serve any other egg and a few other ways you can’t. Their meat is considered a delicacy and if you choose to go into production, you can make a fair amount on your birds.
Fun Fact: Cortunix Quail have a beautiful voice.
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