Diversifying your poultry flock

GeeseHarvey Ussery has experimented with just
about every kind of poultry imaginable.  If you’ve got a specific
gap in your homestead, maybe one of these species can fill it?

Bantams — Bantams are miniature
chickens.  Ussery suggests that bantams might be a better fit to
mix into gardens during the growing season since they don’t scratch as
much as standard-sized birds.

Guineas — Although guineas lay
eggs in the summer, most people raise them for meat.  Or for bug
control — these birds are supposed to be extremely efficient at
dealing with squash bugs, ticks, and grasshoppers.  In addition,
they like to eat snails, which can control the liver flukes so harmful
to goats on wet ground.

Muscovies — Like guineas, muscovies
will eat snails, and they also enjoy insects and slugs.  Ussery
considers these odd-looking ducks to be the most self-sufficient
waterfowl and raises them for meat.

Geese — Of all poultry, geese
are the most purely vegetarian.  That means you might be able to
mix them in with a flock of chickens to mow the grass, using the geese
as a source of meat and high quality cooking fat.  If you choose
small Chinese geese and train them as goslings, you might even be able
to get them to weed your garden — geese ignore garlic, strawberries,
potatoes, brambles, herbs,
tomatoes, onions, carrots, blueberries, and asparagus, but eat lettuce,
greens, and some other crops.  (For more on “weeder geese”, see
Harvey Ussery’s The
Small-Scale Poultry Flock
— don’t assume you can just throw any
old goose in the garden and it won’t make a mess.)

Ducks — Depending on the variety
you choose, ducks can be raised for eggs (Campbells and Runners) or
meat (Aylesbury, Pekin, and Rouen.)  They don’t graze as well as
geese, but do eat slugs, insects, and worms.  In addition, both
ducks and geese can be very easy to feed since they will eat corn in
the husk and rye seeds, which chickens aren’t equipped to handle.

As intriguing as these
less well-known kinds of poultry are, each one has specific management
needs.  For example, waterfowl really should have access to enough
open water that they can duck their heads and paddle around a little
bit.  A good experiment might be to treat alternative poultry as
broilers — get a few in the spring and try them out, planning to eat
them in the fall.  If you love your new guineas or muscovies, you
can always make your flock self-sufficient next year.

Our chicken waterer is enjoyed by all kinds of
poultry — ducks, geese, guineas, and more.

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