Duck, duck….goose! If you have a garden pond, you can raise a pair of ducks or other suitable waterfowl
Do you know the difference between dabbling ducks and diving ducks? Dabbling ducks are those ducks seen face down in the water as they feed. This group includes mallards, teals and the Muscovy duck. Diving ducks are able to propel themselves under the water and are great swimmers. This group includes pochards and scaups. Waterfowl are small to medium sized birds with similar physical characteristics. They have webbed feet, waterproof feathers to keep them insulated in the water, short bills and long necks. Swans, geese and ducks are all waterfowl.
10 tips for keeping waterfowl (6-10)
6. Waterfowl need specialised care. They are not maintenance-free pets. You need to learn more about the dietary requirements of your species and what specific care they need. Water containers need to be cleaned and refilled daily.
7. Check if your species is able to fly. Hobbyists clip the wings to keep them contained.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cairina moschata
ORIGIN: Central and South America
LIFESPAN: 7-8 years
CHARACTERISTICS: The Muscovy duck is easy to identify. Their faces have no feathers and are bright red, with warty lumps called caruncles. Drakes are much larger than the females. They are popular in black and white, pure white, blue (grey) and white as well as bronze and fawn, both with white. The Muscovies do not quack like other ducks, the males hiss and the females coo. Young ducks and females can fly and wings need to be clipped to keep them contained.
TEMPERAMENT: Generally placid and easygoing, but they don’t like to be carried or cuddled. Drakes can be aggressive, especially with other drakes in the breeding season.
GENERAL CARE: Although they are a hardy species, they do need shelter, especially in cold weather. If you don’t have a pond, you can use a child’s splash pool to give them a place to swim. Some Muscovies enjoy water more than others. They adapt well to the cold.
DIET: Commercial duck food along with vegetables and grass clippings. Young ducks will enjoy cabbage and bread (in moderation). Muscovy ducks will also forage on their own and eat flies, worms, spiders, lizards, small snakes, garden plants and grass.
8. Diets can be supplemented with grain, vegetables, meal worms and grass clippings, but check with an avian vet first. Incorrect diet may lead to health problems.
9. Ducks can be messy, so their living areas need to be regularly cleaned. Ponds need proper filtration to keep them healthy.
10. Find an avian veterinarian as soon as you bring your first pair of waterfowl home.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Anser cygnoides
LIFESPAN: Up to 20 years
CHARACTERISTICS: The Chinese goose was bred from the wild swan goose. They have long, elegant necks set on a swan-like body. A distinctive feature is the basal knob found on the top bill. Ganders have a more pronounced knob. Chinese geese come in two colours – white and grey/brown. Bills may be orange or black.
TEMPERAMENT: Chinese geese are generally easy to tame and make great pets. They are calm and gentle. Chinese geese can be noisy and will heartily announce the arrival of intruders – a guard goose. They become very protective of their owners and must be properly socialised from ducklings, especially if you have children.
GENERAL CARE: They need space to roam and graze on their own. A pond or small paddling pool is necessary for them to swim in and clean their feathers.
DIET: Geese can be fed on poultry pellets and cereal grains like barley and cracked corn. They readily feast on weeds and grass.