Introduction to Geese

If you are thinking about adding geese to your homestead or backyard, read through these tips and tricks to find out the best option for you.

| August 2018

  • geese
    If you do not clip their wings, they can take flight.
    Photo by Pixabay/sipa
  • eggs-poultry-books
    “Eggs and Poultry Made at Home” is filled with tips and tricks for raising and cooking poultry.
    Courtesy of Firefly Books

  • geese
  • eggs-poultry-books

In Eggs and Poultry Made at Home (Firefly, 2012) by Dick and James Strawbridge is an ideal read for poultry farmers. Learn more about what it takes to raise and keep poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. If you have any questions about poultry this the book for you. Find this excerpt in Chapter 5, “Geese.”

Why keep geese? Keeping poultry tends to not be the most glamorous lifestyle choice. However, when it comes to geese, there are not many domestic animals that are as splendid. Geese are amazing to rear yourself and demand a degree of respect due to their size and impressive wingspan. We find them hardy, tough and surprisingly self-reliant. Furthermore, we like the fact that our geese are multipurpose birds. They are first-class grazers and excellent guard animals, and they usually start laying enormous eggs in early spring. One thing to bear in mind is that geese can live to 25 years old and are a real commitment – unless, of course, you are rearing them for the table. 

Pros

  • Geese lay huge eggs – when boiled for breakfast you need nearly a whole loaf of bread to dip in them!
  • Geese are great animals for keeping the grass down in an orchard.
  • Geese eat grass like lawn mowers and can even be used for weeding between strawberry plants or vines, as they don’t like eating broad-leaved plants.
  • You can pay a huge amount of money for a goose for your table, but rearing them yourself is quite affordable.           
  • Geese are quite resistant to predator attacks.

Cons

  • The honking noise of a goose can be rather off-putting. It’s what makes them great guards, but sometimes it can shatter the illusion of a peaceful day in the quiet countryside.
  • They’re big birds to handle if you need to clip their wings. Respect them when you pick them up or you will receive a strong wallop from their wings.
  • Grass goes straight through geese, which means that wherever you have geese you will have lots of goose poo.
  • They have a decent nip on them if they are in the mood for an argument – they require you to stand your ground and let them know who’s boss.

Basics

Successful goose keeping starts with choosing the right breed for you. There are a staggering variety of different geese, all with their own special appeal. You can buy them as egg producers, table birds, lawn mowers and/or guards. It’s important that you keep a breed that you like, one that makes you smile, as they can live for 25 years.

Guidelines

Make sure you imprint yourself on goslings when they are young by being around when they hatch and over the first few days. This will make it much easier to put them away at night when they grow up!



  • Supplement their diet with cracked corn.
  • Make sure their water is replaced daily.
  • Clip their wings every few months or your gaggle might see some tourists overhead and fly off to join them.
  • Try not to break up a mating couple. Geese pair for life, so we always keep one breeding pair to supply us with next year’s goslings.
  • Never leave any netting, loose wire or string in their enclosure. They can eat it or strangle themselves.
  • In our opinion it’s not worth risking leaving geese out overnight. Despite being big, at night they are still vulnerable to predators.

Choosing What to Buy

  1. Pilgrim is a lovely breed of goose with an unusual sex-linked plumage that makes
    it easy to distinguish between genders. The gander is white, while the goose is light gray.
  2. Brecon Buff is a lovely sandy-colored goose. Not only does it look lovely, it also tastes great!
  3. Embden is an excellent and very large table breed. The Common English is often an Embden crossed with a Toulouse.
  4. Roman are particularly good if you want a goose that matures quickly and can be
    killed at a young age – still with plenty of breast meat.
  5. Chinese geese are excellent egg-layers and look very graceful. They are also good foragers and can be ready to slaughter as early as 8 weeks old. The meat is a bit darker than that of other geese but not as greasy.

Food

Keeping geese requires more space for grazing than ducks or chickens. A small orchard or paddock is perfect for them. Try to avoid long grass, as this can cause a problem called crop-binding. Scythe or mow the grass so that it’s approximately 10 cm (4 inches) tall. The geese will then take over mowing responsibilities. The more free-range they are, the less you will need to spend on feed. We give our geese cracked corn each day, but they seem to much prefer the grass. Geese that are fed on good short grass should be fine if they are given less corn over the summer months.

Water

Although they are officially classed as a type of waterfowl, geese don’t absolutely need a pond – all they require is access to clean water so they can keep their nostrils and eyes clean by immersing their heads. We have found that a large container will do until you can make something a bit more permanent, like a small pond, but only as long as it is at least 30–60 cm (1–2 feet) deep and you change the water regularly. The difference between a pond and not a pond is that the geese will stay much cleaner, which reduces the chances of parasitic insects or disease.





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