Meet The Honking Geese Running Free At Hoof And Feather

MJ Smith of Southwestern Colorado homestead Hoof And Feather tells us how to get a handle on adding geese to your property.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Hoof And Feather

When MJ Smith and her husband, Sean, moved to rural Southwest Colorado, she says it was mainly “to escape the congestion of the city rather than a specific interest in farming.”

Then they fell in love with the property they eventually purchased and saw its homesteading potential.

“It has everything you could want packed into a manageable five acres,” explains Smith. “There’s an almost 100-year-old apple orchard [plus] apricot, plum and cherry trees; a quarter acre pond; a large red barn; a modest remodeled white farm house; irrigation water to keep lush pastures spring through fall; and a dry-land cliff overlooking it all.”

Once the Smiths had taken the decision to start Hoof And Feather, they added geese, ducks and deer to the property and dedicated their full efforts to managing the venture.

We spoke to Smith about raising geese and the responsibility of maintaining a vintage homestead. We also touched on the noise potential of a large flock.

How Geese Help the Orchard Prosper

Smith says that originally the focus of the farm was its orchard—and that they added geese to the homestead in order to help maintain the orchard.

“Geese are excellent for keeping the grass mown and the weeds down,” she explains. “We later discovered they love apples too, so they help us keep the orchard clean by eating any fallen fruit.”

Smith adds that geese droppings are also an excellent fertilizer for the orchard’s trees.

Read more: Geese and ducks are great livestock for the permaculture farm!

Living the Free Range Lifestyle

The resident geese at Hoof And Feather are allowed to roam free. Smith characterizes geese as “easy keepers” when it comes to farm animals.

“They are large enough that they don’t have many predators,” she says. “We have not lost any geese to predation in the nearly three years we’ve had them. As their flock size grew, they were able to sleep outside on the pond.

“Spring to fall, when everything is growing and green and we have plenty of water, they don’t need much, if any, supplementation for food. They forage on orchard grasses, aquatic plants in the pond and dandelions, as well as dropped fruit from our numerous trees.”

Defining the Goose

“Geese are bossy and hilariously curious,” says Smith when asked to sum up their personality. “Everything new is something suspicious to be investigated.

“Many people are apprehensive of geese. And I think the curious nature of the goose, combined with their need to nibble everything, can give people the wrong impression that they are being attacked,” she continues. “Our geese nibble my shoes, pull at the zipper on my coat and try to eat my phone when I want to get a close-up. But they are not attacking—they are curious.”

Smith adds that she considers geese to be similar to a 10-month-old child. “Everything must go in the mouth to be discovered, sorted and judged.

A Honking Noise!

Asked what geese are like to live around on a day to day basis, Smith says, “Loud!” She advises against adding geese to your homestead if you have neighbors who will be sensitive to the noise.

“Of course, they don’t talk all the time,” she says. “But when they do—and especially when you have a large flock—it is an astounding racket.”

Read more: Need quiet in the coop? These chicken breeds help to keep the peace.

Learning the History of the Land

“The most rewarding part of this homestead experience has been sharing this unique and special place with our son, Mason,” says Smith as she conveys the joys of homesteading.

“We have always loved that we are maintaining and restoring this very special and unique property that has been a homestead for 100 years. Long before that, the Puebloans cultivated the land. It is a wonderful responsibility to care for land with such a deep history.”

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