|The Duck Girl|
So what can I tell you? Chickens are homebodies and will always go back to the roost. They don't really mind people, and they are dependant for meals and shelter. They are easy to handle. They very much do their own thing, but are always going to be around people and tolerate people, because they are dependent on people. Waterfowl are totally different in that respect. They want nothing to do with humans innately. They can scrounge their own food from grass, weeds, and bugs. They can roost wherever they choose, as they sleep on the ground and don't need a perch. They can reproduce themselves on land or water, brood their own eggs (depends on the type of duck or goose--like chickens, not all ducks and geese are mommy-material), raise their own young. They don't need people for anything. So how do we change that? We make them become dependent.
|Eating and sharing lunch|
So how do you do it? Here are some easy guidelines:
- Always greet the duckling/gosling in the same way. Use the same phrase and tone of voice. Then the duckling/gosling will know it's you even if they can't see you (for example, say over the brooder box edge). They will learn your voice quickly and respond to you.
- Pick them up and handle them. SLOWLY. Nothing makes waterfowl more edgy than someone's hand swooping out of "nowhere" to grab them. Try to come pick them up from underneath and always make sure you've got their legs securely--they are the weakest part of the bird.
- Hold them. I have heard that the less you handle waterfowl the better, and I would agree with that if you were raising show birds or breeders or meat birds and you wanted geese that were geese and ducks that were ducks. But most people, if they own a duck or goose, want to be able to go near them, manage them, work with them--maybe see them as pets. On a small farm situation, you're not leaving them to their own devices. You usually need to go in and gather eggs and clean the house, quarters may be tighter, and you don't want them freaking out or trying to peck you to death. So, hold them. Let them sleep on you. You will get pooped on, I guarantee--take it with a grain of salt. Build up trust.
- Play gently with their beaks. They understand this. It's a game of sorts. Don't grab it and hold it, but let them nibble you. It won't hurt (untill they get bigger). They will nibble, and you can stroke their beaks in return. Wiggle your fingers around and see if they try to get you. It's all in fun. One of the neat things about geese and ducks are that they can judge how much pressure they are putting on you with their beaks. When they want to hurt you, they will. When they don't, they will be much lighter in their touch. They adjust accordingly. The more you play with their beaks, the more they will realize that it's a game and they will try not to hurt you, even when they get carried away.
- Touch their feet and wings. This is the ultimate in trust, because waterfowl don't like when you touch their feet and wings. Start early with this one. The reason I do this is because when you touch feet and beaks and wings, you break down "barriers" that there may have been. You're essentially telling the animal, "I can do what I want, you won't argue, and I won't hurt you". This is key. When Ginger was injured back in November, her wing was in a bad way. Had I never been so involved with her upbringing, there would have been no treating her. But as it was, because I raised her this way, I was able to repeatedly stretch that wing out while she lay on her back, and treat her by cleaning, poking and prodding. With a goose that wasn't acclimated that way, it would have been impossible. We worked for months on that wing. She never gave me a hard time.
- Talk to them a lot. They like constant communication. When you hold them, talk to them. When you stop by the brooder on your way to somewhere else, make sure you greet them and talk for a minute. Let them know that even though you go away, you come back. Goslings will cry for you when you go. Ducklings not as much. Be prepared. Make sure you see them at least once a day, and make sure you can handle them at least once a day. The more, the better.
|Following Duck Girl back to the brooder|