Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thinking Beyond Chickens: Keeping Turkeys, Ducks and Geese

  This post is part of the series: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Homestead.  If you missed the other posts in this series, you can get caught up here. If you're looking for some great resources for planning your homestead, check out some of the books here


Turkeys, like chickens, are a fun addition to a homestead. They are usually raised for meat and are friendly, social birds that enjoy human interaction. Unlike the turkeys in the grocery store that are pumped full of saline (and have also been selected for size so much that they can no longer breed naturally), home raised turkeys are delicious and you can choose from a variety of breeds not available in the commercial turkey market. If you choose to raise heritage birds be aware that they are smaller than their commercial counterparts.


 • Provide humanely raised meat
• Serve as pest control
• Create manure for compost or as a fuel source


 • Can be aggressive
• Can be noisy
• May attract rodents or other pests
• Can smell if space is not kept clean.


Turkeys require constant access to food and water. They can be kept enclosed in a run or permitted to free range, but should be kept in a shelter at night to avoid predators. Since they are large, turkeys need more space than chickens, but because their weight makes it difficult for them to fly, they are less likely to ‘fly the coop.’ Turkeys are slaughtered young but should be at least 18 weeks old.


Check out some other posts on Raising Turkeys
Not Just for Christmas: The Complete Guide to Raising Turkeys: Janice Houghton-Wallace
More Turkey Resources

Geese and Ducks

With the increased interest in raising backyard chickens, more people are also raising geese and ducks. Ducks are generally easier to care for since geese are large and can be aggressive (at least some of the geese I know), but they both provide meat and eggs for the small homestead. While geese and ducks do not require a large water source (pond or lake), they will be much happier with a place to swim.


 • Can both be raised for eggs
• Can provide meat
• Can be kept for ornamental reasons
• Eat bugs and do not scratch up the garden as much as chickens
• Provide lots of poop that can be composted and used in the garden


• Are often noisy, although some breeds are quieter than others (look for Muscovy ducks)
• Can smell or attract pests
• Can be aggressive (especially geese)
• Have many predators and must be protected
• Provide lots of poop (which means they are messier than chickens)


 Ducks should be raised in groups of two or more since they form strong pair-bonds. Although they do not require water to swim, they will be much happier with a water source and need a place to get their heads wet, however small water areas will become quickly dirty even with only a few ducks or geese. You can keep ducks and geese in a coop similar to chickens, however geese will need significantly more space than chickens or ducks. Unlike chickens, most ducks prefer to sleep on the ground instead of roosting.

More posts on raising ducks and geese
More Duck and Geese Book Resources
Breed and Housing Photos
Waterfowl Pinterest Board

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Over the next few months, I will be exploring the opportunities available to the homesteader and offering thoughts on how to set goals and gain a focus on what you want on your homestead.  Many of these thoughts are already available in my ebook: The Modern Homestead, but I invite you to follow along here and on my Facebook page for a deeper look into ideas and thoughts on creating your dream homestead.You can also find a wealth of information at the tabs at the top of the blog about gardening, raising animals, and learning new homesteading skills.  If you're looking for experience and examples, check out the Homestead Highlight series for first hand accounts from homesteaders.

1 comment:

  1. Great information! I had ducks when I was a kid and loved them! I'd love to have ducks now, but my neighbor has a pond, and I know they would run away from home! :/