How to hatch goose eggs – tips, tricks, and troubleshooting

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Want to hatch goose eggs? Or do you have a broody goose sitting on a pile of eggs? Read on to learn what to expect, problems that may arise, and the benefits of letting momma goose do the incubating for you!

A gosling cuddling up next to momma goose for warmth and protection.

A gosling cuddling up next to momma goose for warmth and protection.

When do geese lay eggs?

First things first: you should know when to expect goose eggs and goslings. Domestic geese will only produce eggs for a relatively short time window in the spring, although laying season can begin earlier in warmer climates. 

How long does it take for goose eggs to hatch?

Goose eggs can take anywhere from 28 to 35 days to hatch. Lighter breeds tend to hatch toward the 28-30 day mark, and larger breeds around 32-34 days.

If you’re not sure what to expect from your momma goose who’s sitting on a nest of eggs, my suggestion is to give them a full 35 days before determining that the eggs were not fertile/viable.

We have American Buff Geese (a mid-weight breed) and hatching has always occurred right around 30 days.

When do you start counting?

Egg incubation starts when: a) you’ve gathered all the eggs and put them in an electric incubator, or b) momma goose has committed to sitting on them in her nest.

So when counting incubation days, start counting from the day the goose starts sitting on her nest full-time (NOT from the day the first egg is laid) or from the first day you put them in your incubator. 

A broody momma goose sitting on her nest of eggs.

A broody momma goose sitting on her nest of eggs.

Usually a goose will start sitting full-time (aka “going broody”) when she has anywhere from 8-12 eggs in her nest. I find this really depends on the individual goose. For instance, I have one goose who will go broody with as little as 6 eggs, and another that will amass at least 10 eggs before she goes broody.

Will a mother goose leave her nest? What care should be provided?

The frequency that a broody goose will leave her nest will largely depend on the temperament of the goose, as well as where she is in the brooding timeline.

For instance, a goose will go on “lock down” during the last three to five days of the incubation period, never leaving her nest at this point, even to go in search of food or water.

Leave a container of water and a small bowl of food within easy reach of her nest. She should be able to reach it without getting up. Actually, I recommend doing this from Day 1 of sitting, but it is most important during those last five days.

Prior to this “lock-down” period, a goose will leave her nest 1-2 times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time to bathe, eat, and drink. She will cover the nest, and sometimes her partner will watch over it while she takes a break, although this doesn’t always happen.

What if my goose isn’t leaving her nest?

Some momma geese are especially “in the zone” and won’t budge from their nests from the minute they decide to get down to the business of incubating. Even with food and water right under her bill, she may not eat or drink…

If your goose is in an especially deep “broody trance” (i.e. she won’t hiss or snake-neck you when you approach her nest), you may be able to gently pick her up and manually place her out of sight from the nesting area near a large tub of water and a little food to encourage bathing, drinking, and eating. Placing her within sight of her mate or the flock can also help to snap her out of it.

Broody goose - If your goose looks like this on her nest, do not attempt to move unless you possess full body armor.

If your goose looks like this on her nest, do not attempt to move unless you possess full body armor.

With a manual removal, she should return to her nest within 30 minutes. Often it only takes a few days of removing her to get the pattern in her head. She should then start getting up on her own, and save the “power sitting” for the last handful of days before babies start pipping.

How to hatch goose eggs WITHOUT an incubator

Good news! This part is easy. Aside for caring for momma goose as described in the above section, you do absolutely nothing.

Geese are excellent parents, and excellent brooders. Trust the process. Your goose will even take care of turning the eggs and keeping them at the perfect temperature and humidity.

How long will it take goslings to hatch after “pipping” starts?

In case you’ve never heard the term before, “pipping” is the point in late-stage incubation where the baby bird (in this case, goslings) uses the egg tooth on the tip of its bill to begin breaking through the internal membrane and shell. 

Goslings should fully emerge from the egg 24 hours after the first pip, but this process can take up to 48 hours. Be patient and avoid the temptation to “help,” which will likely end up harming or killing the gosling instead. (See below.)

Goose eggs hatching in nest. Goslings hatching.

6 of 10 goslings hatched so far. You can see the initial break or “pip” on the egg on the left. Hatching an entire nest can take several days.

When do you help a gosling that’s having trouble emerging from its egg?

Has it been over 48 hours since the gosling pipped and momma goose is not assisting? If “yes,” read on. If “no”… don’t interfere!

Assisting in the removal of the shell is fatal to the gosling if it is done too soon. This is because the gosling needs time to absorb the yolk and the blood from the membrane. This absorption begins after the initial pip. Interrupting this process will cause the gosling to bleed to death.

Goose egg hatching (pipping). After the gosling has absorbed the blood and yolk, it will rest for 12-24 hours. BE PATIENT.

After the gosling has absorbed the blood and yolk, it will rest for 12-24 hours. BE PATIENT.

IT IS RARE TO NEED TO ASSIST A HATCH. This is especially true if you have let your goose incubate her own eggs. Please proceed with caution.

When the gosling has finished resting, it will begin the process of breaking the shell, rotating within the egg as it makes its way around the shell. (This part of the process is called “zipping.”) The result of zipping should be a “lid” that will lift off the top of the shell when complete.

This part of the process also takes time. The goslings will rest periodically. Don’t fret.

If the gosling has begun rotating in the egg but hasn’t made progress for a while, or can’t push the lid away for some reason, you may assist in gently removing the shell. Then, carefully, lift the gosling’s head up so that it can emerge the rest of the way on its own.

If at any point in removing the shell you see blood where you have made the break, STOP IMMEDIATELY. You may try again in a few hours.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be patient and resist the urge to interfere. If a gosling needs help, the mother goose usually knows what to do. It is rare to need to intervene, so please only do so if you are confident that there is a problem.

The goslings have hatched, but momma goose is still sitting – what to do?

Sometimes momma goose will continue to brood even once the eggs are hatched; this can happen when there are non-viable eggs still in the nest.

You can break the “broody trance” by removing the eggs, but you first want to care for any hatched goslings. A broody goose will sometimes neglect any hatched goslings while she tries to hatch the remaining eggs.

If there aren’t other geese or ganders around to care for the goslings while momma goose sits on the nest, the goslings can be at risk of being expelled from the nest and getting too cold or – worse – suffocated or squished under the sitting goose (very rare, although I have once heard of this happening).

Gather the hatched goslings and place them in a safe, dry spot with a heat lamp, food, and water. Depending on how long your goose has been sitting, you may want to wait one or two days to make sure the eggs she is sitting on are in fact not going to hatch. Consider “candling” them in a dark room with a strong flashlight if you want to be certain whether the remaining eggs are duds or have goslings inside. 

If the safe, dry, warm space for your gosling just so happens to be your shirt… so be it.

If the safe, dry, warm space for your gosling just so happens to be your shirt… so be it.

Once you remove the remaining eggs, you can reintroduce the goslings. Stick around for a few minutes to make sure momma goose is taking them back, but it is usually an easy reunion with all goslings getting quickly tucked under momma goose’s wings.

Why hatch goose eggs naturally vs incubating?

The simplest reason to let your geese hatch their own eggs is that it’s easy. Provided that your goose and her nest are in a safe, secure location, you truly need to do very little.

Geese don’t always make nests in the best places. This spot outside was not safe and eggs were removed to discourage the goose from sitting here.

Geese don’t always make nests in the best places. This spot outside was not safe and eggs were removed to discourage the goose from sitting here.

By contrast, incubating goose eggs yourself requires constant monitoring of humidity and temperature which can be a real time suck, depending on how fancy your incubator is. You will also need to turn the eggs at regular intervals. 

Temperature needs to be kept at around 100°F (37.7°C) throughout incubation, before being dropped to around 98-99°F (36.6-37.2°C) during the “lockdown” phase (last 3 to 5 days).

Determining humidity levels is trickier because you will need to take into consideration your climate.

If you want to incubate and hatch goose eggs yourself, I highly recommend this article by Katie over at Bramblewood Farms. She outlines how to determine the correct humidity to use for incubating and hatching by observing the air cell size in the egg.

Or you can let your goose/geese take care of these considerations for you, which is what I do! After all, a momma goose manages temperature and humidity naturally and instinctively.

Where can you get goose eggs?

If you want to try incubating and hatching your own goose eggs, but you don’t have your own geese, I highly recommend looking for local farms/breeders via the The Flock Directory, created by Liz Palmer. If you want to have a good cry, you can read Liz’s blog post about why she started The Flock Directory… I guarantee you will never want to have live baby birds shipped to you ever again.

Etsy is also a decent place to find hatching eggs, and many large hatcheries (McMurray, Purely Poultry, Metzer, etc) sell hatching eggs in addition to live birds. If you must order from a hatchery, please order hatching eggs and not live goslings. If you’re absolutely determined to get mail order live goslings, pay extra for food, heat, and the fastest possible shipping, and know that there’s a good chance they will suffer or die on route.  

In summary…

1. Hatching goose eggs can be tricky if you do it yourself, but momma goose knows best and can make the process easy for you. Be patient and trust the natural process.

2. Your most important job? Keeping your broody goose fed, hydrated, and safe.

3. After hatching, geese are absolutely the best parents and goslings are easy and fun! 

Do you have any goose-hatching experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Drop your stories or questions in the comments.

Check out the video summary of this article via our How to hatch goose eggs Google Web Story!

Flap on over to MJ’s other goose articles:

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  • Reply
    Nicole Martin
    April 11, 2024 at 10:31 pm

    I just rescued geese eggs from a flood. There were only 2 left and were about 5-6. What do I need to do to incubate them and save them? The momma let me take them. I think she knew what was happening. I don’t want to lose them. Tonight I put them in a homemade nest with a heating pad. Tomorrow I’m going to buy an incubator.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 12, 2024 at 10:02 am

      Hi Nicole! First, thank you for rescuing the goose eggs from the flood. MJ (the author of this article) lets her geese hatch their own eggs, thus she doesn’t have experience hatching them via an incubator. She recommends this Bramblewood Hill article which details how to hatch goose eggs via an incubator: Good luck and I hope you’re able to re-wild your geese after they’ve hatched and matured!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2024 at 8:43 pm

    Based on the article, what are the benefits of letting a mother goose incubate eggs over using an incubator?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 22, 2024 at 10:05 am

      An incubator requires the human to do all the work and monitoring from incubation through rearing. If you let a goose incubate, she does all the work.

  • Reply
    Telkom University
    November 2, 2023 at 3:24 am

    Can you share any insights into the best time of year for hatching goose eggs and the impact of seasonal variations?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      November 3, 2023 at 9:52 am

      Geese will naturally lay and hatch eggs at the optimal time for reproductive success each year. The exact time window will vary by location/climate. Here in the US, that’s usually somewhere between late winter and mid-spring, with some variance by climate region. This hatch timing allows for goslings to start out life in a time window of high natural food abundance so they get the nutrition they need to rapidly develop, then be fully grown by the time cold weather returns in fall.

  • Reply
    June 25, 2023 at 11:30 pm

    thank you for the article

  • Reply
    Melody Coffman
    May 23, 2023 at 9:14 pm

    I have a male and female pair of American Buff Geese. Last year she laid eggs but all over the place. Pretty early spring and we had freezing temps. No luck with these. This year she laid several eggs and began setting on them. Taking extra care of the nest and being very attentive. So we waited and waited. It had been over 30 days and she just left the nest. Sometimes going and rearranging some of the straw but not setting. I candled the eggs tonight and they all didn’t even look fertile. So no babies again. What might be the problem?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 25, 2023 at 11:34 am

      Hi Melody! It’s very unusual to have a paired goose and gander that don’t produce fertilized eggs. Hopefully, he’s not infertile. I’ve passed your question on to MJ (our goose expert) and she’ll weigh in as soon as she’s able to.

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      May 30, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      The short answer is: I can’t say for certain. Have you seen your geese mating? Assuming the answer is yes…

      Geese will abandon a nest if eggs have gone bad. Of course, this means they were never fertile to begin with. It is interesting that your goose started sitting with just a couple eggs; usually geese accumulate more eggs than that before they start sitting.

      It’s also important to note that the fertility of different goose breeds ranges from 53.8% to 84.72%, but heavier breeds of geese will have lower fertility rates. So it’s possible that your breed is on the less fertile side of the spectrum.

      Other possible factors: long and cold winters can delay the reproductive cycle in both sexes, so a shorter reproductive cycle can also decrease the likelihood of fertility.

      You might also want to examine your feed. Good quality feed is essential for higher fertility. And Vitamin E deficiency in ganders can affect semen volume.

      If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the scientific literature behind fertility in geese, here’s a good source (there’s a link below the summary on the page for the full PDF report):

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