Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Questions & Answers on Raising Swans

In the April 1997 issue of the Heartland News, Carl Irving, a member from Iowa, shared a few of his experiences with swans in the "Questions & Answers" segment.

1. How or why did you become interested in raising this particular species? How long have you been raising this species?
Swans were my choice of waterfowl. I started with one pair in 1972.

2. In what size pen are the birds kept? Is it landscaped? If so, with what?
In my swan pens, which measure 50 feet by 100 feet, there are small concrete ponds measuring 15 feet by 15 feet. Each is 18 inches deep. The onds have drains, and they are cleaned and refilled weekly. We try to keep these pens seeded with grass. We have planted fruit trees in the pens to provide shade for the birds.

3. What sort of shelter is provided for the birds? What special things do you do to protect them during the winter?
In the winter, the birds are all housed in a large pen with an open building. They can go in and out of the building at their free will. They are watered in large rubber tubs twice a day. The Black Swans are penned in a large basement barn.

4. What do you feed the birds during the non-breeding season?
They are fed free choice rolled corn, bread and lots of lettuce.

5. What do you feed the birds during the breeding season? When do you switch to this feeding program?
In late February, I switch to 18% protein plus minerals, Vitamin E and Selenium, and 200 pounds of alfalfa meal are added to each ton of feed.

6. How do you prepare the pens for the breeding season? Do you furnish nest boxes for the swans? What is used for nesting material?
Each breeding pair of swans picks their own nesting spot. We furnish them with bean straw for nesting material. Other types of straw cause rot and matting in the nest.

7. How often do you collect the eggs? How long are the eggs stored before they are incubated? How are they stored?
If it is below freezing, I collect the eggs every day. They are stored in a place that is not too warm and they are turned daily. We give each pair of swans a dummy egg made from a large Leggs panty hose container that has been filled with plaster of Paris.

8. On the average, how many eggs will a swan pen lay during the breeding season? Are the females allowed to set?
A pen will lay six eggs on the average. All our swan pens set on their own eggs as swan eggs do not hatch well in an incubator.

9. Describe how you brood the young? What are they fed? What precautions do you take to protect the young?
We let each pair of swans brood their young, so the parents teach the cygnets to eat. We try to get the babies of grass as soon as possible. If you have a turtle problem, it will be necessary to keep them in a small pond area.

10. At what age do you sex the young?
The young can't be sexed until fall. We band the birds at the time they are sexed.

Whooper Swans, photo by Dan Cowell

April 1997 The Heartland News