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Homestead Geese, part 2

April 17, 2012

Geese

Raising geese

My Mistakes

Before I list what I feel are the pros and cons of owning geese, let me say that in retrospect, I should have done some things differently.  I did not anticipate what a pain in the neck it would be if they imprinted on me.  That was my first mistake.  If I were doing it again, I think I would cover most of my face with a bandanna, make sure multiple people fed/watered them, etc.

Secondly, the moment I moved them from the brooder, the geese should have been installed in their permanent home.  For our own convenience, we ran the tractors in the yard near the house.   That wasn’t wise.  They saw us constantly and viewed our house as “home base.”  It was familiar and “safe”.  We should have constructed an enclosure at the water and moved them from the brooder to it rather than hoping they would adopt this new home just because it should appeal to them.  Probably we could have released them to the entire pond after a few weeks, but they should definitely have been confined there for a while.

Pros and Cons

There were several reasons why we wanted to try raising geese this past year:

1.  Like other grazers, they can utilize greens we cannot and turn it into meat.

2.  Because they largely feed themselves from the varied salad bar, they don’t cost much to feed after they reach adolescence.

3.  They produce down that could be used for producing quilted clothing, bedding, etc.

4.  The Pilgrim geese we chose are a heritage breed on the “critical” list, meaning there are few left.  We would be helping to ensure their continued survival.  They are also a breed native to the US.

5.  Being a heritage breed, they are naturally mating and still retain the instinct to set eggs.  Thus, they would be able to increase their numbers without additional cost to us.

6.  They lay enormous, delicious eggs.

7.  They can be used to pluck emerging weeds out of your garden since they prefer new shoots of plants to mature existing ones.

8.  They are known to be good guardians.  They sound the alarm when strangers approach and stand their ground against small predators.  We’ve had people drive up and refuse to get out of their cars because geese had surrounded them and were hissing.

9.  You can turn a profit in selling your surplus.  We listed ours for $35 apiece and had quite a few calls.

Here are the downsides as I see them:

1.  Cost to get started.  I think these day-olds were about $13 each.  We already had all the equipment we needed, so there was no extra expense there.

2.  They can be noisy.  Though some breeds are much louder than others, your neighbors will know you have them.  Even if they are assumed to be wild geese, they could draw unwanted hunters to your property.

3.  They can be aggressive, especially some of the other breeds like the Chinese.  Possibly not safe around small children.  Our youngest child just yells and waves his arms at them and they turn tail, but the geese terrorize our big dogs.

4.  They take up much more space than ducks if enclosed.  We solved our duck problem by returning them to chicken tractors, but geese are far larger and need more space.  Since they mostly graze, they would either have to have their tractors moved more than once a day or you could only fit a pair in each one- maybe both if you don’t want to supplement much feed.

5.  Messy droppings and lots of them.  Geese produce a LOT of green poo.  That’s not a problem- in fact it’s a bonus- if they are in pastures.  It’s a big issue if they sleep on your porch!

6.  They are insatiable curious and nibble everything.  They’ve eaten a bicycle seat, hose insulation, styrofoam, etc.  Again- having them around the house is NOT the way to go.

7.  Since the eggs are so large, they are harder to use in baking.  One makes a whole omelet, but is a bit hard to judge in substituting for duck or chicken eggs.  They also only lay a few months a year.

Having said all that, I’m not necessarily opposed to ever having geese again, but it won’t be soon with everything else we’ve got going on.  I would also definitely do things differently the next time around.

Any experience or insight about raising geese?  Please share in the comments section.

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  5. Honor McCullagh Says:

    Having kept geese in the past, I couldn’t help laughing – I’ve had the imprinted gander who protected me from all visitors – viciously! I’ve had the brooder raised young who probably would have moved into the house given the chance.
    Eventually, I found a solution which worked well. For increasing my breeding flock, I kept an equal number of males and females who pair bonded and allowed then to raise their own naturally. Geese have a simple counting system as far as when to start sitting – no eggs, some eggs, enough eggs ! Before they start to sit, they will lay and then go off foraging. While they are away, date mark the new egg with a pencil. When they have three or four, remove the first couple and keep doing this for a couple of weeks or so then replace them all. She will sit all of them. The goslings will imprint on mum and she will teach them what they need to know. The gander will parade around with the family and protect them.

    Any eggs surplus to requirement for breeding stock can be put in the brooder and the goslings sold off when they are up to weight. I used to let my breeding flock free range – they quickly become “hefted” and teach the young where the boundaries are. A large, strawed down shed or area in a secure barn is all they need for nesting and confining overnight.

    They are incredibly intelligent and soon learn to come in when you call them if they are rewarded. Mine quickly associated being called with a corn feed when they came in and all I had to do was stand and the end of the field shouting “C’mon geese!” to have the whole flock stop what they were doing and troop down to the barn.

    Once they have become used to where they stay for the night, they will bring themselves in anyway but teaching them to come when you call helps if you want them in early.

    They are easy to herd if you want to move them – a long stick is all that’s needed. If you walk slowly behind them and move the stick sideways so they can see it, they will move in the opposite direction. Just keep them at a steady walk.

    I have to admit that keeping geese in the thing I have missed most since giving up livestock.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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