5 Things to Know about Domestic Goose Breeds
Geese for Sale? What to Know Before Bringing Them to The Farm.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
It’s no surprise that domestic goose breeds are gaining popularity with farmers and homesteaders. Geese are incredibly versatile animals and contribute in many ways to the homestead. They offer companionship, guardian services, they weed lawns and pastures, provide eggs, meat, and down feathers. But just like any other critter a farmer might choose to add to their portfolio, keeping geese on the farm is different from keeping other backyard poultry. They are not similar to chickens and differ in many ways from ducks. Here are five items to consider when evaluating whether a goose is a good fit for your farmstead.
Geese are Grazing Vegetarians
Diet is one facet to consider when looking at the nutritional requirements of geese vs. ducks or chickens. Unlike chickens and ducks, geese do not forage for slugs, ticks, or other insects. Instead, they love to graze on open pasture and tear tender grass blades with their serrated beaks. They’re content to be turned loose in the garden, sampling weeds and unwanted growth between tall cornstalks and rambling strawberry plants. It’s not unheard of for a goose to toy with a garden snake or minnow; however, they much prefer greenery and will most often choose plant-based meals. In addition to grazing, geese will nibble at hay as a source of forage and enjoy cracked wheat soaked in a water bucket. I personally supplement my geese’s diet with dry rolled oats as they provide vitamins B, E, and phosphorous to the goose.
Geese Don’t Roost
Unlike chickens and turkeys, domestic goose breeds do not roost. A goose sleeps in a similar fashion to a duck; on the ground, preferably on a bed of straw, grass or other bedding. Nest boxes aren’t necessary when raising geese, as a female goose simply gathers bedding to form a nest. In addition, geese ideally will have a shelter in which to sleep, nest, and seek refuge from extreme weather. Their housing should also provide safety from large predators such as foxes and coyotes since they do not sleep on a perch.
Geese Are Territorial and Protective
Geese have acquired a reputation as mean and aggressive. They are territorial and naturally protective of their environment and flock mates. It is this innate ability that is often misunderstood — a goose isn’t acting out aggressively when an unknown visitor approaches (animal or human). They are simply reacting to an unknown being and protecting their habitat accordingly. Living with geese means respecting their watchdog behavior and not trying to inhibit it. If guests are expected to the farm, ensure the geese are housed in their shelter or secured in their pasture space. A goose will learn to recognize their barnyard family members such as other poultry, barn cats, dogs, goats, etc., and will not pose a threat. They are content to share open spaces like waterways and yards but an intruder to their coop (especially while in breeding season) is a recipe for confrontation.
Dominance is Best with Geese
Geese can be wonderful companions for the farmer but they are not lap birds. They are livestock and should be treated accordingly. Geese are incredibly intelligent animals, fairly fearless and strong. They operate within their flock in a hierarchical system and they generally include the farmer in this social structure. To the domestic goose breed, a person who coddles them with snuggles, hand-feedings, carrying, and cooing is subservient. There is nothing wrong with showing kindness to your geese but do try to refrain from treating them like ducks or chickens. When a goose does eventually become agitated or angry, they often have no hesitation striking at a subservient flock member (even the farmer) to exert their dominance. This potentially dangerous situation is best avoided.
A Goose Needs Another Goose
Every goose needs a mate. They are happiest and achieve the highest quality of life when they have another goose to pair with. A single goose can easily function among their chicken or duck counterparts but eventually, they will select a favorite flock member to try and mate with. Undoubtedly, this could physically harm a smaller bird. Male geese tend to be more assertive in behavior generally speaking, especially throughout the breeding season. Keeping only two male geese is not recommended, but two female geese or one female and one male goose is ideal.
Unfortunately, all too often, we see geese rehomed or placed in barnyard sanctuaries because their behaviors are deemed aggressive, inappropriate, damaging or noisy. In most cases, though, a goose is simply doing what they’re best at; acting like a goose and their actions are misunderstood. Geese need the ability to mate with another goose, to sound their alarms at the threat of a predator or threat, and to have plenty of space to forage and graze. Domestic goose breeds are a commitment; they can live for up to 20 years. But with proper care and handling, geese offer the farm so much in exchange for very little.
Originally published in the February/March 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.