Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
This is the time of year that everyone starts getting excited about new adventures in the spring. Winter is a time to cuddle up with seed catalogs, hatchery fliers, and notebooks with plans for your next steps in farming. If you are thinking about getting goslings in 2016, there are some decisions to consider before placing your order. The where, when, and how of your spring arrivals are all much simpler with a bit of forward planning.
Where will you get your goslings? Goslings are included in the poultry collection of a lot of major hatcheries, but there are also specific farms that focus on waterfowl. If you're planning on breeding your geese, seeking out one of these hatcheries will help to ensure you get high quality birds. With geese especially, beginning with strong stock is vital to ensuring that the desired traits of the breed are passed on to the offspring, and good heritage also helps to boost fertility levels.
If you aren't breeding your geese or meeting Standard of Perfection requirements isn't important to you, the heritage of your geese won't be as crucial. In addition to mail order birds, you can also find local feed stores that offer goslings in the spring, or you can locate a local farmer with some birds for you. In fact, finding someone with geese in your area that is hatching spring birds can be one of the best ways to get high quality geese and know exactly what stock they come from.
You can also think about if you'd prefer adult birds. Grown birds will be ready to lay, if you are hoping to get eggs from your geese, and they are hardier than new born chicks. However, you will eliminate the possibility of the geese imprinting on you, and you will get birds with per-determined personalities, which may be aggressive or very shy.
Time should also be spent considering the best breeds for your farm. Geese's personalities, weights, egg production, and body types all vary greatly from breed to breed. Chinese and African geese are best for guarding and weeding, while breeds like Pilgrims and Embdens have traditionally been used for meat. Other varieties, such as Sebastopols, are mostly decorative and kept as pets.
Finally, consider where you'll put geese on your farm. These large birds need a night shelter with about 8 square feet per bird, and prefer free ranging during the day. They will usually stay within sight of their shelter, but will need fencing if you want to limit their adventures. Geese do not need a pond, but they will only mate in open water. They also need plenty of water for eating and bathing, which can be provided in rubber troughs if you don't have water on your property.
The downsides to consider are noise and aggression. Hand-reared geese are rarely pugnacious, but certain breeds can still hiss and run at strangers, which can be very scary. If you live in a densely populated area, this might not be the bird for you. Certain varieties, such as the African and Chinese, are also extremely loud and call out upon seeing anything out of the ordinary. This can make them your choice goose if you are trying to guard a fairly rural property, but it can make them a nuisance if you have close neighbors.
With some research into the breeds and a little bit of prep, you can be placing your order for spring goslings soon. Goslings can arrive at any time of year, but getting them in late spring allows you to let them start free ranging, with supervision, from a young age.
There's little cuter than a huddle of new goslings, and with any luck your birds will quickly imprint upon you and become your friends for life.
Kirsten Lie-Nielsen farms about 2 acres of a suburban homestead using geese for weeding and guarding purposes, raising chickens for eggs, bees for honey, and maintaining vegetable gardens for personal use. Recently she has begun work restoring an old farm in hopes of farming full time in the future. Find her online at Days Ferry Organics Blog, and read all of Kirsten's posts here.
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