PHOTO: lmnop88a/Flickr
August 12, 2015

Have you thought about adding a gaggle of geese to your farm? Perhaps you’ve been put off by their quarrelsome reputation. The fact is, many geese are peaceable and affectionate farm companions that keep your lawn trim and fertilized and alert you to intruders. Geese are easy keepers that will form a bond with you that’s more like a sidekick than livestock, but there are a few things to consider.

1. Water Supply

Geese don’t need a pond to be happy, but they do love plenty of fresh water to play and bathe in. In order to swallow their food, they must have access to fresh water, such as a tub or plastic kiddie pool, as they need to clean their sinuses after eating—if they don’t, they can’t breathe. Geese prefer to mate in open water, so if you plan to breed your geese, having a farm pond or lake for them is helpful. If you only have a plastic tub for water, they will be using it for bathing, so the water must be refreshed regularly or it will become filthy.

2. Noise And Your Neighbors

Geese are noisy by nature. This makes them fantastic guard animals, and because of their remarkably keen eyesight and bond with their humans, they can be even more effective than dogs. However, if you have close neighbors the racket from your geese may cause problems. Avoiding ganders (male geese) will reduce noise problems. It can be helpful having a goose that will raise a ruckus when they see strangers approaching, but not everyone lives in an area where that is acceptable.

3. Protection Against Predators

Geese are larger than most fowl, and small predators would not normally attack a goose, though you must worry about dogs, eagles and foxes. It’s a good idea to have a secure, tall fence to protect your geese. The more rural your property, the more precautions should be taken. Geese will be much safer if they have a nightly enclosure, and most can be trained to put themselves to bed, so all you have to do is close their door. If you have a pond for your geese, their chances of survival will be increased, as they will retreat to it in the event of an attack.

4. Nest And Night Shelter

Geese need access to water for bathing and mating.
Maxwell Hamilton/Flickr

Geese need a warm, dry space to sleep at night, secure from predators and large enough for all of them to rest. Often a dog house or similar structure will work for a pair of geese. This shelter is where you will find the eggs your geese lay and potentially where your goose will go broody. Geese lay fewer eggs than chickens and ducks—only about 20 to 30 per year. However, a single goose egg is equivalent to about three chicken eggs. You can make a whole omelet with just one egg!

5. Feeding And Caring For Goslings

Because goslings can imprint on you, it’s always best to start with baby geese. The imprinted relationship is unique among farm animals to ducks and and is the most rewarding aspect of goose ownership. Goslings can only eat their food if it’s wet—to the point of being soup. They’re very messy creatures that will need their brooder bedding changed regularly to avoid a stench. Before getting goslings, make sure you have a brooder and dedicated space for them prepared—and be ready for them to double in size every week.

6. Bonding With You And Other Geese

If your geese have imprinted on you, they will be bonded with you for life, following you around the farm and showering you with attention, but they do like to have goose companionship, too. If you’re introducing goslings to an established flock, it’s best to do so later in the season, in an enclosed space. There will be some initial pecking order establishment, so it’s important to watch and make sure no individual is injured. Ganders can be aggressive with one another, so a ratio of three to four female geese to a gander is recommended.

7. Appropriate Feed

Geese love fresh greens. From their first day of life, nothing makes them happier than being able to nibble on green shoots. If grass isn’t readily available for them, make sure they get any lawn clippings you have or extra lettuce and greens from your garden. They will nibble at hay in the winter months. They do need additional food, such as oats or crumble, year-round and cannot eat without cleaning their beaks in water. Geese also love treats, such as mealworms and fresh vegetables, in a limited quantity. Bread is not good for geese, as it has almost no nutritional value for them. Like all birds, geese require grit in their diet. Feed, such as mash and pellets, already contain grit, but if you’re grazing your geese, you’ll need to provide grit, which can be purchased at your local feed store.

8. Toys And Entertainment

Free-range geese will keep themselves pretty well amused with the goings on of a farm, but fencing is often necessary, as they wander and could be at risk of predator attack or start annoying your neighbors. If your geese are fenced in, it’s a good idea to make sure they have toys to keep them amused. Keep in mind that they chew everything, and they have a very strong bite, so toys you give them should be safe for them to ingest. Geese will have fun tossing around something like a rope chew designed for dogs. They can also be kept amused by simple tricks, like feeding them hay inside a steel rack. It will engage them all the more if it’s a small challenge for them to get at their treat.

9. Lifespan

When getting geese, one of the first things to consider is their lifespan. Geese can live more than 30 years—much longer than ducks, chickens or even your farm dog. They’re not a great pet if you are at a transitory stage of your life because you’ll always need to include them in your life plans. The upside to their long lives is that they are such dedicated companions. You’ll have a friend for many years if you take the time to imprint your goose or geese.

Geese have gotten a bad rap as aggressive and combative. While they are certainly territorial and protective of their families, this can be used to your advantage. If a goose is raised well and handled often, you will find them to be docile and dedicated pets. Show your goose affection they will reward you every time.

 


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