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Geese, Ducks, or Chickens...What do you recommend?

 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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We've been thinking about getting some birds to have as pets and partners in the gardens. I know a little about ducks and chickens but not much about geese except that I hear they are annoying, pushy, and have the worst feces to deal with of the three bird types.

Also, is there generally much of a price difference between buying at cattle auction type events and buying directly from breeders farms? Obviously I'd love to get special varieties suited to my criteria below but if that gets significantly more expensive or I have to travel far to get the birdies I may just go for the cheaper version. Maybe thats dumb of me since I'll hopefully have these birds for the rest of their lives, making the initial extra outlay worth the efficiency of the breed...

My ideal characteristics for these birds in general order of importance are:

-good slug hunters
-eating weeds ( and preferrably not veggies)
-low maintenance care
-good at free ranging and fending for itself
-gets along well with others of the same sex (I don't want to get into breeding)
-low level of annoyance (which is why I'm thinking ducks so I don't have to hear the crowing at 5 am
-gets along well with others of the same sex (I don't want to get into breeding)


So I'm looking for the best overall. Whats your opinion? *Opens up the can of worms*

 
Jami McBride
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Okay - you mentioned breeding twice so this must be big on your list 

Ducks would be great, chicken's might work too - the difference is chickens will scratch things up much more than the routing of a duck bill.

However - no foraging bird is going to pass by veggie plants just because they are important to you.  But with very little fencing and some planning you can have your garden and ducks too, with no hassles. 

Ducks are opportunist.  This makes detouring them easy - just have to use your noodle. 

Any good bug eater worth their salt will disturb plants, so you take some precautions and protect the plants until they grow as big as the ducks.

 
Leah Sattler
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i don't have any experience with geese. but it seems i see more about people trying to rid themselves of geese then trying to keep them around sometimes. but they are supposed to be best for weeding and mowing.....

I think either ducks or chickens could work for you. I had ducks for just a while and found them to be too messy for my situation at the time. they found and mussed up all the water sources for the other animals. but you may not have to deal with that problem. and I plan to get ducks someday again when I can arrange things a bit differently. I want them mostly for their superior slug eating capabilities. 

if you are not wanting to breed then there is no need for a rooster if you have chickens and that will avoid the crowing if it bothers you.

I can attest to the fact also that no young plants can be considered safe from either chickens or ducks. the chickens scratch them up after bugs (they love any loosened dirt) and my ducks flat out ate my lettuce and cabbage etc.....

with careful planning and fencing those problem can be mitigated.

some people specifically utilize geese to weed. they are sold in the catalogs as weeder geese. I dont' think they are a particular breed. they are whatever is leftover that they didn't sell.

it seems they each have their pros and cons.

I have chickens. they are easiest for me right now. 
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Thanks for the input. I've been thinking about it and I like the idea of keeping the feathered ones in a greenhouse for the winter and maybe I'm wrong but I believe that leaves out ducks, unless I were to get ones with preclipped. But that'd break my heart I think.

I've heard of a type of chicken that prefers slugs and bugs to vegetation. Anyone know the one I'm talking about?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Geese are basically vegetarians, grazers more than anything (although they will eat bugs).  I know from experience that geese will scalp a garden down to the ground in no time flat, so don't go with geese!  (Other than that, I like them.)

If you want slug eaters, ducks are the best.  In your greenhouse, you'd probably do better with a few bantams, as they don't do much damage with their scratching.  So what would probably work best for you would be a few ducks AND a few bantam chickens.  If you just get hens you won't have to worry about crowing.  (Although you do get used to the early morning crowing, at least I do, and it doesn't bother me.  It's certainly no worse than all the neighborhood dogs barking half the night!)  Since bantams are normally sold straight-run, you would probably be best off to get some adult birds locally so you can be sure you only get hens. 

Kathleen
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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It will depend on what exactly you want from the birds.  If mainly slug eating, then ducks might be best but you still need to protect part of the garden from them.  Do you want eggs?  We like our chickens but I wouldn't let them into a veggie plot before I had harvested most of what I wanted from it.  If you have orchards or large feilds that need the grass kept in check, then geese might be better.  Then do some research into the particular breeds and what about Muscovy Ducks, they seem more like a cross between ducks and geese to me, quackless but the males can be a bit aggressive from what I've heard.
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I think I've settled on chickens as we have pot bellied pigs to do the grazing of grass in the orchard to be. Slugs I don't really have to worry about because I have beer traps for that and since I want something that can live in the greenhouse I think chickens are it.

What is a good minimum flock size of chickens considering I'm not concerned with getting eggs or meat? My main concern is having a flock that doesn't take up too much of my time yet can still clear a significant amount of ground.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Time-wise, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference whether you have one chicken or a hundred.  You still have to fill a feeder and waterer, and in the winter you may need to do some coop cleaning.  I would suggest starting with eight or ten and see how they work out.  If you need more, add some.  If it's too many, you can always put the extra in the freezer.

Kathleen
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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So what is the plan?  You want them to live in a greenhouse but also clear land for you?  As for minimum flock size, you said you don't want to deal with breeding?  If you are not worrying about breeding then minimum size is probably not really pertinent?  You don't want them to be much work, well any birds you are having live in your greenhouse are going to need to be cleaned up after so the more birds, the more work.  How are you going to protect the plants in the greenhouse from the chickens?  I might suggest that for less work, you might want to go with some sort of more portable roosting house and perhaps portable nest boxes but since you are not interested in eggs, I'm not really sure why you would choose chickens.

If you give them plenty of space for the number of birds, they are not going to completely clear any ground for you.  If you want them to do a through job of clearing a patch of ground, you will probably want a movable pen or chicken tractor that you can place on that patch to contain them in.

Please help define again, why you want the birds, it might help people to figure out how many you would need to do what you want.

As to the pigs taking care of the grass.  I don't think pigs are really grassiers.  They might be effective at rooting out all the vegetation in a small area if contained  in that area or good at rooting around for things they especially like out amongst an orchard but I doubt they are really mowers that will restrict themselves to just grass.
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Sorry, I thought I was being clear about my needs with my previous post but I guess not.

Primarily I want the birds to live in the greenhouse for residual heat. I was thinking of building a coop/greenhouse similar to the one in Mollisons  "Introduction to Permaculture" book.

I'd also like to have them be able to clear ground but would probably use temporary electric fencing over a tractor system. I've used chicken tractors before on a farm that I worked on a few years ago and though it worked alright, I wasn't a fan.



 
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