Planning your facilities

As with any livestock kept for commerce or pleasure, the welfare of your birds needs to be uppermost in your mind. By getting organised before the birds arrive, your job as manager will be simplified. The Five Freedoms sum up our responsibilities:
The need to be Free from Hunger and Thirst - by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

The need to be free from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

The need to be free from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

The need to be able to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company, as appropriate.

The need to be Free from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.The need to be Free from stress or suffering when transported - by ensuring transport containers are of appropriate size and material and fit for purpose.

The British Waterfowl Association has advice on starting to keep various types of waterfowl, pond construction, fencing, enclosure planting and predator control. The BWA bookshop has a comprehensive list of titles which cover most things there are to know about waterfowl.

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has a site on Duck Health which includes items on health, nutrition and housing. And some adorable photographs.

Guidelines for the care of Waterfowl after purchase

Ensure that you have a box of an appropriate size to transport your birds. We will always provide a box for birds purchased at Lochan House, it will have plenty of ventilation holes and should not be left in direct sunlight. Waterfowl prefer straw bedding in their carrier boxes.

Check whether your birds are full-winged, clipped or pinioned. If they are free-winged, some birds may stretch their wings in the morning and fly away. We only sell free-winged birds by special arrangement to customers with covered aviaries.

On arrival at home, transfer your waterfowl to a secure holding pen or small hut, with access to food (wheat, cut maize and layer or breeder pellets) and water in drinker bowls or a pond if you have one. Check that the area is secure before opening the box.

If it is very late and you do not have accommodation prepared, the birds can safely be left in the boxes in a cool place overnight.

Once released into a secure enclosure, allow the birds several days to become acclimatised to their new surroundings and your normal feeding procedures before releasing them into a larger area. Shy feeders can be encouraged by putting small amounts of food in strategic places close to the water. The birds will be nervous but will settle better if you are quiet and calm when handling them and talk to them when approaching.

Allow yourself plenty of time to watch your new waterfowl so that you can check if they are settling down. Geese my take longer to accept you, but they will generally begin to graze and establish their territory relatively quickly.

Keep cats and dogs away from your birds until they are familiar with their new surroundings. An adult cat can easily dispatch and consume a duck.

If you are releasing a number of birds into one enclosure, keep checking that they are living amicably together. Plenty of cover in the form of bushes, shrubs and tall grasses may reduce the problems.