Should you raise geese? Here are seven reasons you shouldn’t get geese — things you should know BEFORE you say yes to having geese in your life.
In my first goose article, I expounded on all the reasons why you should keep geese. (See: Top 10 reasons to get geese.)
As someone who loves geese and feels they’re a perfect fit for my land, I’m quite biased. However, there are situations where it may not be ideal to keep geese.
Not every animal is the right fit for every person or space — or maybe you simply aren’t yet prepared to bring home a fluffy little dinosaur. It’s better to know that now rather than later!
Seven reasons you shouldn’t get geese
I want to make sure that you (and your potential geese) don’t end up in a bad relationship. Thus, here are my top seven reasons NOT to get geese:
1. Geese live a long time.
Commitment. Deciding to care for geese is no less of a commitment than a dog or a cat. In fact, it may be a much greater commitment due to their long lifespans.
How long can a goose live?
- In the wild, a goose (such as the Canada goose) typically lives 10 to 24 years.
- A domestic goose, with proper care, may live over 20 years. In fact, the Guinness World Records has the longest-lived domestic goose at 49 years and 8 months!
Ask yourself: If I had to move and couldn’t take my geese, do I know someone who would care for them? How will I re-home them?
Remember that you will not be able to take your geese to a shelter as a last resort like you would a dog or cat. Leaving them to fend for themselves in the wild or at the city park is cruel, irresponsible, and will likely result in their death.
Having a goose succession plan in place before you get geese is a good idea.
2. Geese are noisy.
Geese are creatures of habit and keenly observant, so anything new or different will elicit loud honking.
Your Amazon delivery? Honk. The trowel you forgot to put away? Honk. The person pulling into your driveway? Stranger danger. You pulling into the driveway? Hi!!!!!!
You get the picture.
They will also honk before “taking flight” (a frenzy of flapping with their big webbed feet lifting a few inches off the ground), honk when they are about to be fed, and honk when they see you.
Now, they do not honk constantly. I realize this statement seems to contradict everything I just wrote, but most of the hours here at Hoof and Feather are quiet.
The honking barrages, when they occur, only last a minute or less. But in that minute, the sound is tremendous. When geese decide to say something, they say it very, very loudly.
We have five acres situated in a small valley with a cliff face to our east, which gloriously amplifies the trumpeting squawks from our flappy flock.
One day I took a walk down the road and one of our neighbor’s young daughters — living a half mile from us — was out selling lemonade. When I stopped by, she said, “Oooh, you’re the one with the gooses? They’re SO LOUD.”
Kids: so honest.
I was, admittedly, slightly embarrassed. But what to say? I wasn’t sorry. I love our geese. Their honking makes me as happy as it makes me cringe.
“Yes… yes they are, aren’t they?”
Geese are loud. Personally, I will take honking over barking any day, but to each their own.
What are the noisiest and quietest goose breeds?
Some geese are louder than others. Chinese and African geese are especially loud, while Sebastopols and Embden geese are on the quieter end of the spectrum, and all other breeds fall somewhere in between.
There is no difference in the boisterousness of male or female geese, if you’re wondering. Aside from breed, I find it to be purely a personality thing.
So, if you have close neighbors, you may want to reconsider your choice of a feathered friend or opt for geese with a calm temperament, such as the Sebastopol. Also, for more urban folks, always check with your city zoning laws or your HOA as you may be prohibited from keeping livestock in your backyard.
3. Geese need a safe home.
Our geese are completely free range year-round, but this doesn’t mean they don’t have a safe spot to go at night. For our geese, that safe spot is a ¼ acre pond with overhanging cottonwoods, so they are safe from ground predators and are masked from the sky by thick foliage.
When we got our first geese, we kept them in an old, clean chicken coop. Herding them into their home every night was a farce. The geese — despite having no trouble hopping up the porch steps to poop in front of our door — decided they could not possibly navigate the 6’’ doorway lip to the coop (and they were too big for the little chicken door).
For a time, they slept in a room in our barn, but eventually decided to parade to the pond in the evenings and sleep there. This development inspired us to build a small floating home for them.
After two weeks of avoidance and suspicion, they eventually enjoyed sunning on the floating home during the day. One year, they also hatched a nest of goslings on the manufactured island, but otherwise did not seem to use it to sleep on.
This free-(ar)range(ment) works well for us, but you may not have (or want to make) a pond large enough to deter predators. However, geese are too vulnerable to sleep under the stars without some sort of protective barrier, so you will need to have a secure space for them.
How much space do domesticated geese need?
As an estimate, allow a minimum of 3 square feet per goose for enclosed structures. This estimate assumes that they will be spending minimal time in their enclosure, and most of their time outside with plenty of space (ideally ¼ acre for every two geese).
Geese are exceptionally cold-hardy so you do not need to be concerned about keeping them warm. The exceptions to this would be African or Chinese geese, which have fleshy knobs on their heads that are susceptible to frostbite in extreme cold.
As with any animal, you will want to have their safe place set up BEFORE bringing your geese home.
You will also need adequate fencing. Even though domestic geese are too heavy to fly*, you would be impressed at the things they manage to get through. We added wire screening to our garden gate because the geese would artfully balance on the rungs and squeeze through the 8’’ space between. (Still couldn’t get in that chicken coop though.)
*Some domestic breeds, such as Toulouse, are perfectly capable of flying. Our American Buff geese are a bit heavy, but can gain 5 feet of loft with a flapping start and a good headwind. Once or twice a goose has surprised itself (and us) by unintentionally soaring over our 4 foot sheep wire fence.
4. Feed and veterinary care for geese are hard to come by.
Geese are largely self-sufficient, being excellent foragers and some of the most hardy domesticated bird species. Domestic geese will consume the same food that wild geese eat: grasses, seeds, aquatic plants, grit, roots, leaves, wild fruits, and grains.
Domesticated geese can obtain everything they need from foraging – given enough space and variety of plant life – from about May to August (depending on climate and the plant life available).
You will need to supplement during the fall and winter months (at minimum) and provide a starter feed for goslings. However, you may find that your local farm stores have all their supplies geared toward chickens, and carry no waterfowl-specific items (even if they sell waterfowl). Chicken feed lacks the amount of niacin that geese require, so you will need to add niacin to their diet if you cannot find a proper waterfowl-specific food.
I learned (from Opensanctuary.org) that most waterfowl food is formulated to be consumed by both ducks and geese, and often contains additional fish protein that geese do not require. While this will not harm them, it is worth noting that geese are natural vegetarians (unlike ducks) and do not need to eat bugs or fish.
Chewy.com now carries Mazuri waterfowl food that you can conveniently have on auto-ship. This is what we use and our geese have an unblemished bill of health. Check out Opensanctuary.org for a comprehensive list of all the nutrients that geese need.
Another consideration is that avian vets are hard to come by and many veterinarians will refuse to see “exotic” animals such as geese. Thankfully, geese rarely have serious health issues and are much less prone to conditions such as bumblefoot (a common ailment in ducks and chickens), or any of the numerous parasitic infections that can be common in chickens. But you will want to be prepared for the inevitable mishap and be comfortable treating your geese on your own.
Want to check if there is an avian vet near you who can see geese? Try:
- https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/find-an-avian-vet/, and
5. Geese bites hurt.
While I will stand by my claim in my previous article that geese are not mean, they are fiercely defensive parents. Also, the boys (ganders) will get a bit crazy in the spring when hormones are fluctuating.
If you have children, you will want to pay close attention to the proximity of your child to your geese, especially late winter to spring when everyone is feeling a bit spicy.
While a goose bite is unlikely to result in any serious injury, it will hurt. A lot. Like you got pinched with a large pair of pliers. (Note that goose nibbles are a totally different thing, do not hurt, and are actually a sign of affection and curiosity).
Ganders can get in fights and I highly recommend staying out of it unless someone seems at risk of being seriously injured (not common in my experience). There is a lot of flapping during these tussles, and a goose wing carries a surprising amount of heft. When I was a novice goose owner, I got in the middle of a couple gander fights and came away feeling (and looking) as though I had been pummeled with a 2×4.
Geese are big birds and should be approached respectfully. And, as with any animal, children should be supervised in their presence.
6. Geese need a friend
Want to test the waters with just one goose? Hold up, friend.
Geese are flock animals. They need other flock companions.
You are featherless and honkless. While your goose may imprint on and love you for the treats you give her, she will be happier with other birds. And she will be happiest with another goose (or geese).
No, geese don’t need other geese to survive. They will bond with other birds, and will even parent other birds. But they will be their happiest, goose-y selves with at least one other goose.
7. Geese chew everything (and poop everywhere)
Consider yourself the owner of a feathered puppy. Geese are very curious and they use their mouths to investigate. This means they chew everything.
We have lost seed trays, ropes, extension cords, yoga mats, and Chaco sandal straps to the lovingly curious mouths of geese.
Geese also poop a lot and, while their poop is easy to wash away and provides excellent nutrients to the soil, constantly cleaning walkways and driveways gets old fast. And they will poop on hard surfaces because they have an inexplicable love of concrete.
If it stresses you out to contain all the things you don’t want chewed, or you don’t have a way to keep geese off your walkways, you may want to reconsider bringing geese home.
Still want to raise geese?
Are you ready to raise some beautiful, feathered dinosaurs? Do you have the resources to feed them properly? Space? Shelter? Fencing? Chew-proof extension cords? The desire to commit long-term? Neighbors at least a mile away? (Kidding). Yay!
Geese aren’t for everyone, but they’re the perfect animal for many people and setups. And if ducks are more your speed, that is perfectly okay! We love ducks too.