This is Part 2 of our blog series discussing raising geese. If you have read Part 1 and still feel you are up to the challenge of owning geese, we are now going to discuss the possible uses for your pet geese on your farm, as well as the proper diet and housing requirements.
The Diet and Nutrition:
Geese have not changed much since they were domesticated several thousands of years ago. Their nutritional requirements remain pretty much the same, however on a farm they may eat more of the things they need less of, and eat things that a wild goose may never eat in its lifetime! Just like the food pyramid we have most likely all seen in school, here is a pyramid of what your geese should be eating in proportion to their diet:
Grass: Grass/pasture should be the PRIMARY food source for your geese. Fresh grass is the best, but since fresh grass doesn't always grow year round, or for some folks may be difficult to find, here are some good food sources to keep your geese healthy: Timothy Hay, Timothy/Alfalfa mix hay, Orchard Grass hay, Lawn clippings (from sources NOT using fertilizers/weed sprays/ other toxins). Bermuda hay is very dry/tough, and in general our geese have refused it at every offer. Not recommended!
Protein: All water fowl 'dabble' and nibble through pond mud sifting for root shoots, worms, and other delicacies. Geese are especially fond of grass roots, and may even accept earth worms. Not everyone has a grassy pond, or earthworm composting bin, so a good pelleted feed usually does the trick! 16-18% protein works best for geese. Prior to 2017 I would have had to caution against using medicated feeds, but since these feeds are now sold with a prescription only-- you shouldn't have to worry about accidentally feeding your geese medicated feed... though I would still double check since certain antibiotics used in medicated feeds are harmful to waterfowl!
Grain: Chicken scratch IS NOT a suitable base feed! Geese should only be fed scratch in small amounts either as a treat or top dress in the winter to provide extra energy for keeping warm. As a general rule (unless you are conditioning your animals for butchering) Do not feed your geese scratch unless temps get below freezing. Because their bodies turn the grain to fat immediately they get little nutrition from this type of feed. Over weight birds become sterile (stop laying eggs/ producing sperm), they also become prone to over heating and dying during the summer months-- imagine wearing a full snow suit and heavy coat around town when its 90!
Treats: Treats are things like table scraps and bread; things a wild goose would almost NEVER eat. Treats should be fed SPARINGLY if at all. Some things (like bread) are becoming prohibited to feed at parks to ducks because it doesn't digest well, and can even KILL your water fowl if they consume too much at one time. Whole grain Breads/Pastas should be fed SPARINGLY if at all. Good Healthy Treats/Snacks/ Feed supplements for geese and ducks are things like: Whole cooked Peas, Whole cooked Corn, Cooked Carrots, Spinach, Romaine Lettus, dandelion greens, clover, and Alfalfa (fresh picked or sprouted are accepted readily).
Housing for your Geese:
Housing is pretty simple for geese. Depending on how many birds you have, you can use a large dog house, or other similarly sized structure. Just something to keep them out of the wind and rain when they need a break from the elements. Our geese gleefully love to stand out in the middle of rain storms, but like to retire to their shelter when they have had enough bathing!
Each goose should have enough room to lay down, stand up, and turn around inside the structure. A 2foot by 3foot space is perfect for one goose to lounge comfortably. Geese don't mind snuggling, and sharing some of their personal space, but dominant animals can be quite aggressive, and feather plucking due to limited space should never be encouraged!
Geese should have their own private abode separate from other poultry. They don't usually mind sharing, but again, if other smaller birds are being forced to share with a grumpy-cramped goose, bullying, feather plucking, and a dead bird may soon be the result!
Most geese and ducks (unlike chickens) do not like to fly over the fence to explore. As long as the fence is a little above chest level, most geese will not climb over the barrier. We have kept geese behind a 'mini split-rail fence' only 2 feet high! They are also more respectful of barriers than other live stock, and do not 'climb' on chicken wire or poultry netting. So as long as there are no obvious routes for escape, they don't go probing for a way out.
Fencing should be secure enough to protect your geese from predators, including your family dog! Most deaths of geese on the farm are not at the hands of wandering canines--they are actually at the hands of the family pet! A single mini Daschund managed to kill 13 geese on one farmstead, so make sure your geese are kept out of reach of ANY dog. Even if YOU think you can trust your dog.
If you are in a very rural place where bobcats or mountain lions may roam, a covered pen may be your only solution. But in an area with bears--be prepared to battle. Bears do not give up easy, and once they have found that your farm is a good source of food, there may be very little (if anything) you can do. Bears will tear down doors, chain-link, and even electric fencing. Contact your local fish and game department for tips on bear deterrents or possible removal of trouble animals.
What can geese do on a farm??
You will be the first to know if there is ANY un-authorized activity on your farm with geese. And your neighbors will get a report as well...
Breeds like the Chinese Swan goose (called 'Chinese' geese), Roman Tufted, Emden. Toulouse, African, and Saddle Backs are especially good at 'tooting' their own horn. They are very Boisterous, and will alert to any disturbance (great or small) on your farm. All breeds of geese tend to be 'talkers' so if you get geese, and want to walk around your property and try to hold a normal conversation, be prepared to attempt shouting over your geese as they come marching up to greet you and put in their two cents. Over all geese are the perfect fit, if you are fishing for noise complaints from your neighbors in urban areas!
Lawn Mowers/Weed Eaters:
Any breed of geese will happily keep your lawn looking freshly mowed. They are also very well suited for keeping grass trimmed golf-course low in orchards, and vineyards. No training required! However, if you are looking to keep grass or weeds out of your garden, you may want to consider a 'light weight' breed, that can waddle through your veggie rows without crushing your plants. Oregon Mini, and Chinese Swan Geese are the best for garden work.
We recommend however, no matter what breed you choose, that you put things like squash, tomatoes, garlic, and onions in raised beds.
Guard Dogs/intruder deterrent:
Did you know more people are afraid of geese than they are of a dog barking? And for good reason, not all geese are 'welcoming' of strangers. They can be very intimidating in a large group, hissing and charging. Unlike a dog that might run, or settle for a bone.. when a goose has his mind set to 'remove' an unwanted visitor there is almost nothing a person can do to stop the impending attack.
In fact, the whole flock may join in to dispense of an intruder. In Florida, a Swan was the cause of several personal injuries and had to be forcefully removed from a park. And in another state a group of wild Canadian Geese resting at a park during migration attacked several people, and one goose pursued a man on a bike!
Saddle back geese, Roman Geese, and Toulouse are especially well suited for deterring strangers due to their size, and tenacious personalities. While Africans and Chinese Swan Geese will let the whole neighborhood hear that some strange person/animal is trespassing!
--All geese will work for an Alarm only-- however not all geese are suited for guard/yard patrol. Every animal has a different personality, and not every goose is highly aggressive toward strangers. If you are looking for guardian geese, the best place to start your search is on local sales boards-- some one somewhere almost always has a 'trouble goose' available for hire!
Breeds like the Sebastopol are stunning additions to any yard/garden. While they will happily graze your lawn, they also find themselves at home in urban homes as 'pets' due to their graceful abundance of long flowing curly feathers, generally docile temperaments, and quite demeanor. Originally bred for meat production in France, Sebastopols have both utility and curb appeal.
Other geese like the 'Cotton Patch' & Pilgrim breeds give your farm that antique pioneer look, and have a unique appearance on a rural farm. Owning a 'pioneer' breed not only lets you experience a taste of American History, you'll have lots of fun educational conversations with visitors. American Buffs, are an excellent choice for folks looking for a sturdy meat producer, along with the popular market breed the Emden. Pomeranian Saddle Backs and Tufted roman geese also dress up the farm, for a more 'Tuscan' feel. Rumor has it the Tufted Roman geese saved Rome from burning by alerting the army to an incoming Barbarian attack!
If you love English flower gardens, and are looking for a classic breed to stroll your lawn on a misty morning Toulouse do not disappoint! They have been used on farms and homesteads throughout the English isles and France for centuries, and have even been found in loafing in the background of paintings of those majestic old English estates! Toulouse are also good mothers, and have been known to raise their own young.
Chinese Swan Geese and African Geese are exotic and alluring. Descendants of the Wild Swan Goose, this domestic fowl still maintains the natural ' look' of their wild ancestors. Most European breeds were domesticated from the European Grey lag (a different breed altogether), so you will not be surprised to find that Chinese Geese are used as substitutes for swans at weddings and other special occasions! If you love exotic animals, and want to continue to build that eclectic 'mini-zoo' in your back yard, these are the geese to get you started! Chinese are also one of the best layers and most fertile-- get a pair and you'll soon have a batch of sweet baby goslings in your own backyard.
Welcome to the Suds Bucket!
Adventures, Experiences, Ideas...it's all here.