Q: Do ducks and geese make good pets?
A: Yes, they do!--but it's important to remember that they are not dogs or cats - or even chickens! And that's some of the fun of keeping them--learning and loving their awesome quirkiness. Here are some reasons ducks and geese make great pets:
Ducks and geese are entertaining! In addition to their natural charm, ducks and geese can be trained to play with toys, play games, do tricks, sit in your lap, and more. They may learn to enjoy a good stroke on the back or neck, and some will even pursue you, demanding to be pet! That said, bear in mind that each bird will have their own personality and will be more or less friendly, based on their own individuality.
Ducklings are cute!
Ducks and geese are easy to care for. A simple, secure, predator-proof structure will work to keep them safe at night, and if neighborhood dogs are not a threat, a 3-foot high chicken wire fence can keep flightless breeds contained during the day. If neighborhood dogs are a problem, a taller, stronger fence will be required. Ducks and geese are less prone to most common poultry diseases and are generally hardier than chickens in cold and wet weather. You need to provide access to clean drinking water and quality feed, but much of their food will come from the small plants, bugs, and slugs they will happily eat from your yard.
Swimming water isn't a necessity--but they definitely prefer it! While ducks and geese LOVE water and enjoy periodic access to at least a shallow wading pool (deep enough for them to dip their heads under), they don't have to have access to water all the time. You can let them have a "swimming party" once a week or so, or whenever it fits your schedule. You'll enjoy it, too, as they will put on quite a show! When finished, you can use the water in your garden, so nothing is wasted.
Ducks and geese make breakfast! Depending on the breed, ducks will lay 60-290 delicious eggs per year, and geese will lay between 15 and 55 super-large eggs. That's something dogs, cats, and goldfish just can't do.
Composted waterfowl poo makes great fertilizer. Plants love composted bird poop. Your garden is going to be the envy of the neighborhood!
Waterfowl can be great for gardens... Unlike chickens, ducks won't scratch around and destroy your plants. But they will do an excellent job of clearing out the young, succulent weeds from your garden, along with pests like slugs, bugs, mosquito larvae (if they have access to water), and yes - even flies!
Still, waterfowl might not be the right pet for you.Now that we've convinced you that ducks and geese can make great pets, let's go over some important considerations:
- Since ducks and geese are social flock animals, it is not recommended that you keep just one (unless you are prepared to give it a LOT of consistent attention). A solitary waterfowl will feel lonely and vulnerable. We recommend you keep at least two, but three or more may be even better for the psychological health of your birds.
- Ducks and geese must be handled carefully. As waterfowl, they have more fragile legs and necks than chickens and can be more easily injured. When handling any bird, remember the CDC's recommendations to protect yourself from getting Salmonella. We have wonderful tips for picking up ducks here.
- They can be messy! Ducks and geese LOVE to splash around in their water, so be prepared to handle that by cleaning up after them regularly, moving their wading pool frequently, or providing swimming water for them rarely. Ducklings and goslings will need their bedding cleaned several times a day as well because they are little poop machines!
- Geese and ducks should not be kept indoors permanently. While they may be kept indoors their first few weeks of life when they are young, when they develop their adult feathering they will need to go outside. Geese and ducks want to be able to do "waterfowl" things: searching for slugs and bugs, eating young plants, and splashing in water - when available. Staying cooped up inside all the time does not make for happy, healthy waterfowl!
- Some geese can be aggressive--especially males during mating season. While some breeds, such as the Sebastopol, Pilgrim, and American Buff seem to be more docile, the African and Chinese can be more aggressive, especially in spring. However, in some situations, the females are very aggressive and the males are very tame. Some geese can be "trained" to be less aggressive. Often, a very young, "imprinted" gosling will still be very bonded to its owners as an adult. But sometimes that very same goose will become aggressive since it doesn't have any respect or fear of humans. It boils down to the fact that each goose is an individual, and perhaps some luck is involved.
As long as you have learned their unique characteristics and planned properly for them, ducks and geese can make wonderful pets. As when considering adding any pet to your life, be sure to put animal's needs ahead of your personal desires. With enough preparation, ducks or geese could be wonderful addition to your family!