An Introduction to Raising Geese

Raising Geese and their characteristics.


| March/April 1984



Lightweights Mediumweights and Ornamental Breeds

The White Chinese is a lightweight variety. The Sebastopol and American Buff are mediumweights. The Egyptian is an ornamental breed.


Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

A good many rural folk — who successfully and happily keep chickens, goats, and such — wonder why anyone would put up with raising geese. And this is certainly a legitimate point of view for those individuals whose only experience with the temperamental waterfowl has involved facing an angry mob of them, snaky necks outstretched and beaks ready for action! Having had such an experience might well make you (or anyone else) balk at the notion of raising these seemingly irrational, sassy birds. You may be surprised to learn, though, that geese if managed kindly and well make terrific homestead companions.

Granted, these creatures are typically quite sensitive, and they tend to fly off the handle every now and then (especially when they feel that they or their young are being threatened), but on those occasions they make lots of noise . . . and can thus function as very effective watch birds. Furthermore, geese are meticulous lawn mowers (they're able to graze in hard-to-get-to places such as fencerows, ditches, and marshy areas) . . . voracious weeders (they'll gobble up crabgrass and many other undesirables that most other livestock refuse to touch) . . . and efficient pond cleaners (they can be used to help control unattractive surface algae and the like). Plus, their down and feathers can be used as stuffing for comforters, clothing, pillows, and so forth, and their succulent meat can serve as a hard-to-surpass main course favorite for holiday feasts.

Choosing Goose Breeds    

People who are unfamiliar with the critters tend to think that geese are all pretty much the same, except that some are white and others are gray. Actually, though, the large fowl come in a wide assortment of shades and sizes, and each breed has its own distinctive characteristics. So if you're considering becoming a gooseherd, you might want to spend some time getting acquainted with the various breeds in order to determine which variety best suits your particular needs and locale. And, to help you get started, here are a few descriptions of some of the most popular light, medium, and heavyweight breeds as well as a couple of the ornamental varieties to tease your fancy. 

Lightweights

Swanlike White Chinese are one of the most attractive (and popular) breeds of domestic geese. Hailing originally from the Orient, these striking lightweights bear lush white plumage set off by brilliant blue eyes and a bright orange bill and legs . . . and they're also rapid maturers and prolific (for geese, at any rate) egg producers, laying from 40 to 100 or more a year! However, Chinese are a bit on the noisy side, so anyone planning on raising this variety should first consider whether he or she has enough space to allow a good distance between the flock and the neighbors. 

Equally popular is the Brown Chinese, an elegant bird sporting rich brown and fawn feathers that are accentuated by a dark russet stripe down the neck and by an ebony bill and knob (bordered by a narrow band of creamy white plumes). Its shanks and feet are usually a deep orange, and its eyes are brown.

The Tufted Roman is another lightweight variety, a chubby white bird with a close-fitting helmetlike crest atop its head. A fair layer, it produces 25 to 35 eggs a year. An adult female weighs about ten pounds, whereas a male hits around 12. And, because of its characteristic plumpness, the Roman makes a fine, juicy table bird.

karen schoening
7/22/2009 9:51:48 AM

Good article -- geese are great. We have 26 right now, including 4 Roman Tufted goslings that are not quite a week old (one-year-old mother hatched 6, we sold 2). Thanks to the geese we have only had to mow our front yard twice this year. I would just add: Shetlands can also be sexed by color; most Toulouse sold in the US are NOT the large dewlap variety; and there are both standard and larger dewlap varieties of African geese. Our Sebastopols were born and bred here in Montana and so far the cold hasn't seemed to bother them -- although the muddy fall weather doesn't do much for their appearance. The only thing bad about geese is that they are addicting and the babies are irresistable -- which is why we have 26!!






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