Long time readers may remember me mentioning last spring that we were extending our animal menagerie and experimenting with ducks and geese. A few months back, I posted some good arguments for including ducks in your preparedness plans. In two posts, I want to share our experiences raising geese.
We Were Goosed
Most people have very little personal experience with geese. They’ve seen them fly across the sky in the typical V formation probably. Maybe they’ve thrown bread to a few at a pond when they were children. That’s about it. I had only about that much experience with them myself before we bought our goslings.
They came in the mail as “day-olds” last year, along with a mixture of ducklings. I raised them altogether in the same brooder until the weather was agreeable and they had a covering of feathers. Then they all went outside in a “chicken tractor” to enjoy the sunshine, fresh greens, and insects.
When they were “adolescents,” they loved the water. They quickly drank, splashed, and played in whatever amount of water they were given. As they matured, we moved their tractor closer to the ponds we intended them to live in. Then one day, we opened the door facing the lovely water and they tentatively stepped out of their safe space.
There is one in every crowd, you know, and while most held back, that one streamed directly into the water. It splashed and dove and played and called to the others. After about 30 seconds, they were all wading in. Before long, they were outdoing each other swimming in ever larger circles away from the bank. I watched for a while and then edged away back to the house.
I glanced out the window 5 minutes later and saw a single file line of geese waddling into the yard. “Wait! No! Why did you leave the goose amusement park and come here?!”
I led them back down the hill to the pond, sprinkled some more feed along the bank and then tiptoed back to the house. I had hardly reached the house before the yard was full of geese again.
We tried some other variations, but with no more success. I even did this right at dark, hoping they would return to their familiar chicken tractor to sleep- no such luck. They didn’t let me out of their sight and followed me back. I had a similar problem with our ducks.
In an attempt to get them to stay where in their waterfront accommodations, I only fed them on the pond banks and provided no water in the yard for them. They really didn’t need much feed from us since they are mostly grazers anyway, so that didn’t bother them. They began coming up on the porch to drink the dogs’ water, though. And they realized they liked it there. Now we had a real problem.
Geese began looking in the back door and following me around the yard every time I stepped out. Obviously, they had imprinted on me and “loved” me more than water even. A couple allowed us to pet them even. While it was kind of endearing at first, it quickly became a nuisance- especially the mess on the porch.
Fast forward to February of this year. The geese were completely mature and their first breeding season began. There were some displays of prowess among the ganders in attempts to secure mates. Then there was increasing “rowdiness” and “showing off.” Within a couple weeks, every time we set foot out of the house, most of the flock would come hissing at us because two of the geese were now trying to set eggs. This would not do. We decided to sell the flock, so we put an ad on Craigslist.
In the next installment, I will outline the mistakes I now realize I made in raising them and list what I see as the pros and cons.