Geese Breeds: Which Breed of Goose is Right for My Goals?
Geese breeds have been employed on the farm for centuries. They are kept for a myriad of reasons; lawn maintenance and weed control, meat and spring egg production, their down feathers, as livestock guardians, and for exhibition. Offering many services with minimal care, it’s not surprising homesteads and farms are looking to incorporate these versatile animals into their portfolios. But how do you know which goose is right for you? Identifying the intended purpose or reasons to raise geese will help to determine which characteristics your new goose should possess and which goose will be the best fit.
Geese Breeds for Meat and Egg Production
Embden geese are the iconic white farmhouse goose recognizable by their white feathers, bright orange feet and bills, and distinct blue eyes. They are the most common meat goose as they grow large quickly, commonly weighing 25 to 30 pounds. They are moderately good egg layers (all geese lay seasonally from March through May), providing the largest white eggs of any goose breed. The disposition of the Embden goose is somewhat aggressive; especially males during breeding season.
Easily identifiable by the knob at the top of its bill, the African goose actually originated in China. This breed is not as large as the Embden as they weigh on average between 12 and 15 pounds. While they certainly can be used for meat, their strength is egg production. Africans lay an average of 35 to 45 eggs per year. They make good mothers and are likely to hatch a gaggle of goslings. This particular goose is extremely vocal so city noise ordinances and neighbors within close proximity should be taken into consideration.
Similar in appearance to the African, the Chinese goose is distinguished by its extremely large knob at the front base of its bill. They are small geese ranging in weight from nine to 10 pounds. In addition to laying 30 to 45 eggs per year, Chinese geese are good weeders and grazers. They are very vocal and somewhat aggressive, making them strong guardians for livestock and property. These birds are a good fit for a country farm setting.
The Buff goose was developed as a commercial meat bird. It is said their unusual feather coloring allows for easier plucking as their feathers aren’t as deeply rooted. Weighing between 14 and 16 pounds, the female buff goose will lay 25 to 35 eggs per season. Buff geese tend to be good foragers and weeders.
Geese Breeds for Lawn and Weed Control
Geese are natural foragers. Almost 90 percent of their diet is based on grazing and free-ranging. Their serrated beaks and tongues tear the tips of tender grass blades and they love nothing more than to graze on pasture. While geese will automatically contribute to weed control, some are better lawn care providers than others. In addition to the Buff and Brown and White Chinese goose, other constant foragers include the Pilgrim and the Toulouse breeds. Their healthy appetites and consistent desire to graze make them excellent weeders.
Pilgrim geese are one of only two geese breeds whose sex is distinguishable by their feather coloring. Ganders (males) are mainly white with blue eyes as adults while females are gray with brown eyes and subtle white feathering on their faces. Reaching 13 to 14 pounds at maturity and laying 35 to 45 eggs per year, the Pilgrim goose can also serve as an all-around farm solution offering lawn care, meat, and egg production.
Larger in size, the Toulouse goose weighs 18 to 20 pounds by adulthood (not to be confused with the Large Dewlap Toulouse goose which can reach over 30 pounds in weight). They are a good utility bird choice for their strong grazing abilities and appetites, and also offer around 25 eggs per year. Because of their large size and voracious hunger, Toulouse are best suited for the farmer that prefers raising geese on pasture, in fields, or in orchards.
Guardian Geese Breeds
Instinctively, a goose is more territorial than a duck or a chicken. However, some breeds possess more aggressive personality traits than others, protecting their territory and flockmates fiercely. The African, White or Brown Chinese, and Embden are all good choices for guardian geese. Another well-suited for the job is the Roman Tufted. Any of these will loudly sound their calls at the approach of a predator or stranger.
Geese are all large enough to defend their flocks and themselves against rats, weasels, hawks, skunks, and even raccoons. They’ll raise their alarms at the sight of fox or coyote to alert the farmer of an intruder. These displays of protection are desirable when looking to keep livestock and flock members safe, but keep in mind these same demonstrations will also be applied to children and house pets. Caution, respect, and proper handling should all be employed when it comes to these more assertive breeds.
The Roman Tufted goose originated in Italy and is identifiable by its white feathering and tuft or crest at the top of its head. These birds reach 10 to 12 pounds in adulthood. They are a smaller meat bird choice and a moderate egg layer, laying roughly 25 to 30 eggs per season. While relatively calm, they are alert, making them excellent watchdogs for the farm.
Family-Friendly Geese Breeds
My husband and I have an intimate six-acre homestead with small children. It’s essential that my geese don’t pose a threat to my little ones (or our other farm animals for that matter). We have selected the Sebastopol and the Large Dewlap Toulouse as our geese companions for their docile disposition and gentle nature. Each breed provides us with a modest amount of eggs and they casually forage our grassy areas.
The Sebastopol goose is most often white in feathering with a mess of disarrayed plumage over the majority of its body. These calm and quiet birds reach approximately 12 to 14 pounds in weight and lay 25 to 35 eggs annually. They do require ample water as they enjoy bathing and arranging their curly long feathers. This is a hardy breed which can tolerate cooler climates so long as a shelter is provided from extreme wind, wet, and cold.
Large Dewlap Toulouse
This is a massive goose bred for its ability to gain weight quickly. Commonly used for fois gras or as a large roasting bird, the Dewlap Toulouse can weigh more than 30 pounds and they proudly sport loose and excess plumage. Their broad heads are accompanied by a large dewlap, or flap of skin, which hangs from their lower bill and upper neck region. They have an extremely gentle disposition and are a great choice for farms with children. They do not wander far from their food and water source and do require additional calcium to aid in the development of their large structures. The female will lay 20 eggs or more on average each spring.
While not aggressive, both the Sebastopol and the Large Dewlap Toulouse do actively announce unexpected visitors to the farm or flock. Other docile family geese breeds generally include the Pilgrim, Buff, and Buff Toulouse. Note that with any goose variety, males tend to be more assertive than females especially in the spring.
Geese are versatile in their capabilities and they can be wonderful contributors. With so many characteristics to choose from, the right goose is sure to be a beneficial addition to any farm or homestead.