Cotton Patch Geese: How I Rescued These Historic Weeder Geese

| 9/24/2010 3:46:29 PM

Tags: geese, poultry, heritage breeds,

 cotton patch geese saddleback 

When I was a kid in southwestern Arkansas during the Great Depression of the 1930s, I became fascinated by the small autosexing geese that were everywhere. They were amazingly beautiful. Each was quite independent but was, at the same time, closely attached to the other geese of its gaggle, as a flock of geese is called. It was understood that a gander (a male goose) and a goose (a female goose) mated for life. The two worked as a team in perpetuating their kind.

Apparently, the geese that I knew as a kid had no official breed name. If they had a breed name, I never heard the name used. No name was needed because they were the only kind of geese in the area. During migration, wild geese flew over and occasionally a gaggle would stop for a short time, but they didn’t stay.

Typical of most of the southern part of the United States, my area was cotton country. Grass grew in abundance in the cotton fields and, in keeping with long tradition, cotton farmers used geese to eat that grass. Geese were cheap labor for keeping the cotton fields clean, and they can weed other crops, such as corn and strawberries, too. Cotton fields were typically referred to as cotton patches; so, we present-day fanciers of this common goose have dubbed it the Cotton Patch goose. Apparently, this goose is the goose with the pink bill and feet that was brought to the American Colonies by the English in the early 1600s. The breed is autosexing in that its gender is evidenced by its color at the time of hatch (males are yellow as goslings, females are gray).

There are two varieties. When they are adults, the ganders of both varieties are basically white with blue eyes — “basically white” because usually the ganders have some gray on their wings, tails, backs and shanks. Females of the solid variety are basically dove-gray/brown with some white markings while the females of the saddleback variety are basically white with a dove-gray/brown saddle over their backs and wings, and they have dove-gray/brown leg shanks and heads. The eyes of the solid females are brown while the eyes of the saddleback female may be either brown or blue.

cotton patch geese solid 

Serina Harvey
2/17/2011 7:26:26 AM

Just wanted to post a note that I picked up the majority of Tom's geese out in Texas (Wow what a trip that was) and took them back to Flip Flop Ranch ( in California. It's a nonprofit that's raises endangered heritage breeds and also provides a home for endangered abused and often pregnant women. I also put up a website for the cotton patch geese if anyone's interested. It's small, but I'm hoping to expand it to include more information about the geese. Serina at Flip Flop Ranch

Melissa Prosser
2/14/2011 6:32:02 PM

Tom, Count me in! I'm eager to learn. I hope that you are able to continue your work many more years than you expect, and appreciate your efforts to ensure the breed's chances of survival. I think that perhaps the timing will work out well, though. Farming is making a comeback, and people are realizing that the heritage plants and animals may once again be the key to surviving other "Depressions". I'm almost 30, originally from Alabama, and never saw the geese weeding cotton, but love their story. I have raised other types of geese before. I started small scale hobby farming when farming wasn't "cool" and in a place it wasn't a very common thing for young people to do. I've been made fun of plenty for raising chicks and picking tomatoes, hehe! I'm happy to see the times are changing, though, and farming using the old ways is once again becoming popular. I get the chance to teach people what I know, while they're all so excited about these suddenly popular "new" hobbies. I do not have any geese at the moment, but I have other types of poultry and would like to add small, friendly, preferably autosexing geese. I've been looking into cotton patch (want both saddleback and solids), shetlands, and minis. In the future I may even get to move to a bigger place, but right now, I STILL have more than enough room and weeding work for a small flock here in Northern Utah. I keep breeds I love, and do my best to help preserve them. If I move, they'll go with me! ~ Melissa

Troy Griepentrog_1
1/5/2011 9:19:16 AM

Chris M., They look a lot like Pilgrim geese don't they? But the female Pilgrim geese are all solid (no Saddleback variety). Pilgrim geese also have orange bills and feet, but Cotton Patch geese have pink bills and feet (or at least they should). Troy Griepentrog Senior Associate Editor MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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