Raising Goslings

Raising Goslings

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Have you ever tried raising goslings? Get tips on hatching goslings with a mother goose or an incubator, and how to foster orphaned goslings.

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Of the seven types of poultry listed, Dave Holderread only rates ducks and geese as “excellent” for both their raiseability and disease resistant in Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks. Chickens on the other hand only received a “good-fair” rating. He also notes that geese are excellent additions to the homestead for those looking for quality meat, feathers, lawn mowers, “watchdogs”, and aquatic plant control. Geese, like ducks, can do well in cold, wet climates too.

Tammy Morrow, owner of Bittersweet Branch Farm in Kidder, Missouri currently is raising six breeds of geese, including Brown Chinese, African, Sebastopol, Large Dewlap Toulouse, regular Toulouse, and Buff.

“But I want more,” Morrow laughs. “I’m still in the market for Pomeranians.”

She sells most of their eggs online to people who want to hatch their own goslings. Occasionally they collect a few eggs per week to put in their own incubators just to verify fertility. Any eggs not fertile are blown out and sold for the Ukrainian tradition of Pysanka painting.

“It’s so exciting to hatch a gosling. They are by far the cutest babies in the poultry world. When you look at those big, webbed feet and see them all puffed up after they dry, you would never believe that they came from that egg. They look huge!” Morrow adds, “They are the “gentle giants” of the bird yards.”

African goslings. Photo by Tammy Morrow.

When it comes to raising goslings, Morrow finds that goose eggs are slightly harder to hatch than other poultry eggs.

“My best hatching percentages come when I let the goose sit first,” Morrow says. “I let her go broody and I fill her nest with the eggs that I want to hatch.  I let her keep the eggs for about 3 weeks and then I collect them and put them in my incubator or hatcher. When I take them, I give her new eggs and let her start again. I can get about 3 nests full before we are finished for the summer. But nothing beats letting her sit on her eggs for the entire duration. I’ve never out hatched a mother goose!”

Mother Goose

Geese are excellent mothers. So good in fact, that they will adopt and steal neighboring goslings. While in the past she wanted the mother geese to raise the goslings from day one, Morrow found that all of the females want to mother the babies.

“I’ve lost too many goslings by being trampled when all the mothers are trying to claim it,” Morrow recalls. “I even have to separate some of them during nesting season. No one seems to want to go to the trouble of building their own nest when another goose has already made one. By the end of the season, if I don’t separate them, I’ll have 3-4 geese sitting in the same box. You will end up with cracked and broken eggs. If you have the space and time, separate your breeding pairs and you can let Mother goose raise them herself.”

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Artificial Brooding Goslings

If you are raising goslings artificially you will need a heat lamp.  A brooder for goslings should be kept initially at 90 degrees. Like raising chicks, reduce the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees every week until you have reached 70ºF.

According to the University of Missouri Extension, a gosling’s rapid growth and early feathering mean they do not need to be in a brooder as long as baby chicks. Any type of brooder that is sold for chicks is suitable for goslings. However, due to their size, cut the brooder’s rated chick capacity by half for ducklings and by one-third for goslings.

“We like to use pine chips in our box. We also elevate the waterer. If you don’t, you’ll have to clean pine chips out of it every few hours.”

Morrow simply adds a piece of 2×6 board under the waterer to elevate it.  The waterer should be deep enough for them to wash their nostrils.

Feeding Goslings

University of Missouri Extension recommends using crumbilized chick or poult starter for the first week to 10 days. A pelleted grower ration plus cracked corn, wheat, milo, oats or other grain can be fed after this time

“Our local MFA sells game bird starter. It’s non-medicated. It has a higher protein percentage than chick starter,” Morrow says. “We actually feed it to all of our babies, not just the goslings.” 

Provide access to food all the time. Offering insoluble grit is also favorable. To prevent leg damage, use rough paper or cupped plates the first few days. Avoid slippery surfaces including food dishes.

The Extension also stresses to be certain the feed you are using contains only those additives approved for ducks and geese. “Certain types of drugs that are sometimes included in chick starting and growing mashes for coccidiosis control are harmful to goslings. They may cause lameness or even death.”

Morrow has noticed that sometimes goslings need someone to show them where the food and water are.

“Chicks are great for that.  We also raise ducks here. If you don’t have to, I don’t recommend raising your goslings with ducklings. It seems that you should be able to because they are both waterfowl, but I have found that even though geese like the water, they don’t like to play in it. They like to bathe, and they like to swim. Ducks like to make messes, and goslings like to be clean and dry. Ducklings are hyper and busy, goslings are calm and relaxing.”

In Missouri, Morrow can move the goslings outside to the goose house after their fifth week.

“They have all their feathers by this age and the night temperatures are around 70 degrees. I move them to an above ground cage with a wire bottom for a couple of weeks. The cage is connected to the goose yard. The reaction of the adult geese is quite amazing. They get so excited. Even though they haven’t seen the goslings for 6-7 weeks, they become very possessive of them. Some of the goslings were hatched in the house and the adult geese have never seen them. Some of the goslings are not even the same breed. All of the adults protect and guard the above ground cage, including the males. They patrol the perimeter and warn anyone who comes near to stay away. Geese are “super parents” willing to take in any orphans. After a couple of weeks I release them from the cage directly into the goose yard, and I never have to tend to them again. They are immediately accepted into the flock.”

When my neighbor Demi Stearns found an abandoned Buff goose, her granddaughters Amber and Heather, fashioned a mother goose out of a pillowcase. François is now __ years old.

KENNY COOGAN is a food, farm, and flower national columnist. He’s also part of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS and FRIENDS podcast team.  He has a master’s degree in Global Sustainability and leads workshops about owning chickens, vegetable gardening, animal training, and corporate team building. His new book, Florida’s Carnivorous Plants, is available at kennycoogan.com. 

Originally published in the February/March 2023 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine, and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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