Using Ducks and Geese as Setters
This time of year, my email
brings many questions about incubation such as what kind of incubator works
best, and does this breed or that breed make good setters and parents.
Incubators and the pitfalls of managing them could be the subject of several
articles so this time around, I will limit myself to natural incubation in
general and the use of ducks and geese as setters in particular. I am starting
with natural incubation since that is the best and most reliable way for a
beginner to get some ducklings or goslings out before they have learned the
management of an incubator.
First, let’s talk about those breeds that do not generally
make good parents. In the ducks, those would include the Pekins, the Campbells, and the
Runners. Those breeds were developed for production purposes -the Pekins for
meat, the Runners and the Campbells for eggs. None of them were permitted to
develop broody tendencies. Before I get notes from those who have owned
individual birds from those breeds that made good setters, let me mention that while there are always exceptions that does not mean that the breed in general
produces numbers of good setters.
Which breeds make especially good setters among the ducks?
I would mention first and foremost the Muscovys which tend to be outstanding. I
would also include the colored Calls (not the Whites). Most Mallards make great
setters as do Wood Ducks and Mandarins. In general, I would say that older
females will outperform young ones in the setting department. That is also true
In the geese, I would have to say that Chinas tend to be
less desirable as setters. Most of the other breeds I have tried make decent to
excellent setters but in fairness, I have not bred all of the breeds of geese. In
my experience, the Pilgrims are outstanding as are Canadas and Egyptians. In the other
breeds, one has to test individual females for the devotion and patience
necessary to get the job done. In Embdens, for example, I had some wonderful
setters and also some females that got bored with the whole project at about
three weeks through incubation.
In order to have the best chance of success with either
ducks or geese hatching their own eggs (or the eggs of another breed) you need
to stack the odds in your favor. You do that by providing nests where the
mother and her eggs will not be bothered by other birds and are protected from
predators. A secluded spot away from where the other birds congregate would be best. The projected setter should be treated for parasites prior to
setting, should have access to food and water (for bathing too, if possible),
and should be provided with a nest that is the appropriate size (so the eggs do
not roll out from under her) and well bedded. i have found clean straw and pine shavings to work well. If the nest is not in contact
with the ground, it may be wise to spray the eggs with warm water occasionally.
Some breeders like to provide a piece of sod turned upside down and shaped into a bowl when the nest does not contact the ground. Keep track of when the eggs were set so you can project hatching time. It is
safest to remove the newly hatched youngsters for rearing away from the parent
in most cases. There is a whole list of bad things that can happen to
hatchlings when they remain with the parents. Have brooder facilities all set
up and ready to go. Also, have appropriate start/ grow mash on hand.
Assuming that the flock owner does his/her part and that
the female duck or goose proves to be a good setter, the odds are pretty good
that a successful hatch can be secured.
Originally published: 11-17-2009
Last updated: 02-01-2010