An underrated variety of poultry, geese are a great addition to any farm. Contrary to common misconceptions, most geese are friendly and dedicated to their owners. Not only will they form lifelong bonds with the feathered partners, but they can be equally dedicated to the person who raises them. Here are a few more fun facts you might not have known about these special birds.
1. Goose is actually the term for female geese, male geese are called ganders. A group of geese on land or in water are a gaggle, while in the air they are called a skein.
2. European geese descend from wild greylag geese, birds with short necks and round bodies. Asian geese, the breeds now known as African and Chinese, descend from the swan goose and have long, elegant necks and a distinct knob on their beaks.
3. Geese were probably the first type of poultry domesticated by humans, over 3000 years ago in Egypt.
4. Geese can live up to twenty years if well cared for.
5. Ducks and geese are some of the only domesticated poultry that imprint on humans. They will bond with the person who feeds them as a chick, and remain dedicated to that person as their surrogate “parent” throughout their lives.
6. The size and shape of geese vary greatly. The long, slender Chinese goose is often just over 10 pounds, whereas breeds developed for meat production, such as the Embden and Toulouse, can be in excess of 30lbs.
7. Geese are highly social animals. If they are raised around other livestock and fowl, they usually get along well with them.
8. Contrary to popular belief, farmyard geese are not monogamous and a male usually has a harem of three or four. They are, however, extremely dedicated partners and will mourn the loss of a mate. A goose raised alone on a farm will often bond with another animal in place of its mate.
9. The inside of a goose’s beak, and its tongue, are serrated. This can make it appear as though they have fangs, but the bumps are actually for cutting through succulent grass stems.
10. Geese are herbivores. Apart from nibbling on an occasional meal worm, their diets consist of fresh grass and other greenery. They can be picky eaters, flattening a bed of lettuce but not touching the spinach nearby.
11. Geese have been used for guarding, thanks to their protective nature and loud voices, for centuries. Geese guarded the temple of Juno in ancient Rome, protected a Scottish brewery, and continue guard police stations in rural China.
12. In Victorian England geese were a regular companion of the chimney sweep. A goose would be sent down the chimney to collect the built up coal, coming out the other end black with soot.
13. In another surprising historical use of geese, the first golf balls were stuffed with goose feathers. These balls were handmade and extremely expensive.
14. Goose eggs incubate for approximately thirty days, and can be babysat by chicken or duck mothers if you do not have a broody goose. Many goose breeds have fertility issues, and keeping a low number of females to each male will help them to produce fertile eggs.
15. Geese are excellent weeders and during the early days of commercial agriculture goose farmers would supplement their income by renting flocks out to cotton farms for a chemical-free weeding solution.
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.
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