10 Reasons to Consider Raising Geese
Raising Geese as Pets is Not Only Feasible, but Positively Enjoyable
Keeping small flocks of geese in suburban backyards is gaining popularity, perhaps because the many misconceptions about the nature of waterfowl are at last being replaced with accurate information about their nature and proper care. Here are ten reasons to consider raising backyard geese.
- Geese are loyal. They generally mate in pairs and form strong bonds that can last their entire lives. (We humans might learn something from them.) A split-up pair within hearing distance of one another will continually call to each other. If for any reason a mated pair must be split up, the kindest thing would be to separate them far enough apart that they can’t see or hear one another. Eventually, each will likely form a new pair-bond. But not always. I once had a Toulouse goose that lost its mate and thereafter stopped eating or engaging in any other goosely activities, pining away until it died.
- Geese make excellent parents. One of the advantages of a strong pair-bond is that the gander will stand by to fiercely defend his mate while she’s incubating eggs in a nest. Once the goslings hatch, the gander will equally fiercely protect them while at the same time helping his mate raise the young ones. One of the great perks of raising geese is that you don’t need a brooder to raise future generations — the goose and gander will do it for you.
- Geese are intelligent. One of our Embden ganders got into a fight with a skunk that had been pilfering eggs from his mate’s nest. The skunk bit a chunk out of the gander’s chest, causing a nasty wound that required veterinary attention. To prevent infection the gander needed daily medication for a month, a procedure he put on a show of avoiding each day. The morning after the month was over, we heard a rap on the back door — it was the gander, waiting for his medication. He was crafty about pretending to avoid his medication but smart enough to know he needed it.
- Geese make good watchdogs. Many people are more afraid of geese than of dogs. My first experience with watch geese occurred when I visited a friend whose yard was surrounded by a picket fence. No sooner had I opened the gate when a gang of honking, hissing Chinese geese materialized to scare the bejeebers out of me. Properly trained geese learn to respect their keepers and, like my friend’s watch geese, become aggressive only toward strangers. Indeed, a gander I once raised became assistant to a night watchman at an apple cannery.
- Geese are easy keepers. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on geese food because geese can forage for much of their own food where a chemical-free lawn, garden, or pasture is available for them to graze. They are relatively disease free and are extremely hardy. Even when they have access to a shelter — which anyone raising geese should provide — they typically prefer to remain out in the weather, no matter what the conditions.
- Geese are good weeders. Because they are active foragers and can glean much of their own diets from growing vegetation, geese are often used as economical weeders for certain commercial crops and, properly managed, may be used similarly in backyard gardens. They are great at controlling grass and weeds in empty lots and other areas and are often kept on ponds or allowed to forage along drainage ditches to discourage overgrowths of vegetation.
- Geese lay nice big eggs. One goose egg is about equal to two chicken eggs, but with more yolk in relation to white. Goose eggs taste nice and eggy, thanks to a forage-based diet, and they may be cooked in any of the same ways as chicken eggs. The white shells are considerably stronger than chicken egg shells. As measured around the largest circumference, the average goose egg is 9 to 10 inches around. When blown out and dried, goose eggs are ideal for creating decorative jewelry boxes and other craft projects. Unfortunately, most goose breeds lay only seasonally and the most eggs you can expect per year is 50. Some breeds laying considerably fewer, so savor the eggs while you can.
- Goose meat is delectable. Eating the meat of backyard poultry is a touchy subject, and I must admit it’s been years since I’ve been able to bring myself to pluck a goose raised in my own yard, even though I love the meat (and miss it intensely). But the fact remains that most breeds were developed primarily as meat birds, and the meat of a properly cooked goose is rich and juicy without being greasy. The rendered fat may be used as flavorful shortening, and (in the days when I raised geese for meat) was long the secret ingredient in my much sought-after oatmeal cookies.
- Geese are endlessly entertaining. They are just plain fun to have around. When my husband and I built a retaining wall behind our house, our Embden geese would gang up at the top of the wall and monitor our every move, gabbling loudly whenever we laid another stone or set down a tool. Each afternoon when we were done for the day, the gaggle would come down the hill to inspect the new work. We got such a kick out of our inspectors that we were sorry when the wall was finished. I bet the geese were, too.
- Geese are long-lived. They have been known to survive as much as 40 years. If you decide on raising geese in your backyard, plan on spending many years enjoying their company.