A flock of geese on the homestead can be more than just a pretty sight. Many farms utilize geese as guardians for smaller layers like ducks and chickens.
Geese have a natural guarding instinct and are intimidating to many predators. But taking a few specific steps can help you have success with them as guard animals.
A Specific Skill Set
When it comes to geese as guardian animals, there are two main concerns that are important to address.
The first is that geese are themselves prey animals. They can be aggressive and quite fearless, and they are larger than most domesticated poultry. But they are still food for many predators.
To use geese as guards, you must consider what predators your property has. If you are mainly defending against larger and more aggressive attacks, such as those from coyotes, a guardian goose may not be effective.
But if your hens are constantly being bothered by smaller threats like skunks, rats and weasels, geese can help protect them. Geese also have excellent eyesight—better than that of dogs—and will help guard against aerial predators.
If your guard geese are within earshot of your home or where you are working, they also can be excellent simply as alarms. If a large predator is approaching, anything is out of the ordinary, or if a strange car or person arrives, they will sound a loud alarm.
This can give you time to react that you would not otherwise have, making them guardians even against predators that they cannot fight off on their own.
The other concern to consider before adding guardian geese is potential aggression towards you.
Geese get a bad rap as aggressive animals when they can be very adoring pets. But, they still have a feisty streak and (especially during mating season) may turn on you or on their smaller laying companions.
A pair of geese is particularly likely to turn against smaller birds during mating season, when the male goose will want to protect the female. You can avoid this pitfall with a few precautions.
You can get only a single goose and have it bond with your flock. Or, if you have multiple geese, give them a separate coop so that when they aren’t guarding your flock they cannot harass them.
Also—and I think this makes the single biggest difference—be careful about breed selection.
The personalities of geese vary widely between breeds. Almost without fail, I have seen Toulouse geese attack chickens and ducks during mating season. Buffs, Pilgrims and Embdens can all become aggressive.
Chinese geese are particularly loud, which makes them good guardians, but they are not as aggressive with other fowl. And Sebastopols and Dewlap Toulouse geese are calm and docile, rarely showing aggression.
Geese have many uses on the farm including as weeders, and for their eggs and meat. But they also can be used as guardians, in addition to these other benefits.
Whether you need a little extra protection for your layers from smaller predators or you want an alarm system for anything amiss on the farm, geese may be right for you. Take a few steps to research what breeds may work best as guard animals, and you can enjoy all the benefits of guardian geese on your farm.