Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks and Geese

Learn everything about raising chickens, ducks and geese from incubating eggs to building a homemade waterer.

| June 2012

  • Chickens on Ladder
    A chicken coop needs a human door and a foot square chicken door that can be shut from the outside. You can close the little door at night for protection but you’ll have to get up early to open it.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Guide-To-Homesteading-Cover
    Whether you are simply interested in learning how to compost or are striving to live completely off the grid, “The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading” offers something for anyone looking to increase their quality of life and decrease their carbon footprint.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Chickens in a Row
    "People who count their chickens before they are hatched, act very wisely, because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately." — Oscar Wilde
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Brood
    Sometimes hens need help with their chicks or some could die. Besides the first critical night after hatching, some hens are bad moms and the chicks will have to have extra help learning how to eat food. A normal hen breaks up big seeds for her babies, but if she doesn’t, use the same methods for brooder chicks to feed them.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Rooster
    A proud rooster struts around.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Chicken Coop
    Some people let their chickens roam the property, and others make a yard fenced with chicken wire. Smaller chickens need a taller fence—at least 5 feet. They enjoy litter such as straw, leaves, cornstalks, or cobs to scratch in.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Eggs
    Gather eggs at least once a day (three times is recommended) and clean out the nests once a week. If you leave them too long the chance of breakage is higher, which can cause the bad habit of egg eating.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Watering Chicks
    Many people take the hatched chicks into the house until all of the eggs have hatched because the hen often will be torn between sitting on eggs and taking care of new chicks. Put those chicks into a brooder, and then put them back the first night after hatching. To do this, go in late at night and slip the chicks under her while removing eggshells and wood eggs. You can add a few orphan chicks also if you want.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Heat for Chicks
    Check the chicks 2–3 times per night the first week. If they are cold, they will huddle under the light. If too hot, they will scatter to the edges. If they are content, they will chirp contentedly.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Gosling
    Geese can live with a small pond just like ducks, and heavy breeds need more water or they can’t breed (just like ducks).
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Ducklings
    Each duckling will need 1 1/2 feet of floor space until they are seven weeks, when they will need 2 1/2 square feet. For every thirty-ducklings you will need a 250-watt heat lamp, a few inches higher than what you would do for chickens.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Homemade Chick Waterer
    Fill a quart jar (like a canning jar) with water and turn it upside down in a bowl with an edge less than 1 inch high, with a diameter only a little wider than the jar. Then stick a match or toothpick under the edge of the jar to let out a little water at a time. You will need two 1 gallon waterers per 100 chicks.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Ducks
    Ducks are the gentlest of all poultry, even chickens, but they are noisier. They do better around children, but make sure that you always act and talk gently around them because they will startle easily.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Geese
    Geese are natural weeders if you use them before your wanted plants come up. Put seven geese (over eight weeks old) per acre in the field before the weeds are tall and coarse. A fence around the geese should be 3 feet high, and let them clear out all the weeds until your sprouts start coming up.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
  • Egg Sizes
    Here is an example of the size difference between ostrich, goose and chicken eggs.
    Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

  • Chickens on Ladder
  • Guide-To-Homesteading-Cover
  • Chickens in a Row
  • Brood
  • Rooster
  • Chicken Coop
  • Eggs
  • Watering Chicks
  • Heat for Chicks
  • Gosling
  • Ducklings
  • Homemade Chick Waterer
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Egg Sizes

From building a yurt to maintaining a thriving winter garden, The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011) by Nicole Faires is all you need to live off the land. With diagrams, charts, photographs, original illustrations and comprehensive, detailed instructions that anyone can follow with relatively few supplies, this massive full-color book answers all of your self-sufficiency questions. In this excerpt from Chapter 4, “Horses and Other Animals,” learn all about raising chickens, ducks and geese. 

Chickens, Ducks, and Geese

"People who count their chickens before they are hatched, act very wisely, because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately."
— Oscar Wilde 

The chicken coop: 

Litter: At the bottom of the coop it is good to provide a moisture-absorbing cover such as wood shavings. It should be at least 4 inches deep, loose and dry. The coop should have proper ventilation and few water spills. Instead of cleaning it out once a week, you can pile it up until it is 2 feet deep.

Cleanliness: All houses and equipment should be disinfected before any new chickens arrive. Remove wet litter, Clean honeycomb and honey moldy or wet feed, dirty water, or clean out nests when droppings get in. Once a year the house should also be cleaned and painted with lime whitewash.



Water: Chickens should have fresh water every day, and it should be always available.

Young birds: Keep the young birds away from the old birds because they can catch diseases the old birds are immune to.






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