Geese are social animals that thrive in flocks. However, adding new geese to your existing flock requires planning and management in order to prevent serious fights or injury. In this article, I’ll detail tips and considerations for integrating new geese into your flock.
Should you add new geese to your flock?
Before we dive into the “how to” of the integration process, let’s talk about the benefits of adding new geese to your flock AND make sure you’re ready…
Here are three benefits of adding more geese to your flock:
1. There is safety in numbers.
Geese take turns being on watch and sound alarms to warn the flock of any potential danger. More geese on “watch rotation” gives each goose more time to rest, and in turn, each “watch goose” has increased focus and vigilance. In addition, more geese make more noise – a deterrent to many predators.
Note: This particular “benefit” of having more geese may not make you popular with your neighbors if you live in a more populated area!
2. Improve genetic diversity.
If your flock is comprised of birds that are closely related, adding new geese introduces new genes, which can improve the overall health of the flock. Obviously, widening the gene pool isn’t necessary if you do not plan on letting your geese hatch out goslings.
(Related: How to hatch goose eggs)
3. Provide a long-term home to adult geese.
Domestic waterfowl are often discarded at public waterways and parks, but they don’t have the same abilities as their wild counterparts to survive without human care. Purchasing goslings from farm stores adds to the cycle of impulse purchases and irresponsible breeding.
Geese can easily live 20+ years. There are plenty of geese who need a home, so if possible please adopt (don’t shop), and learn how to introduce your adopted geese to your flock.
5 things to consider BEFORE adding new geese to your flock
Remember, domestic geese can live at least 20 years. Make sure you are ready to commit, and that your situation will work for the long haul.
To make sure you’re ready for more geese, consider the following:
1. Provide adequate space, resources, and enrichment.
You’ve heard that “birds of a feather flock together,” which certainly holds true for the family-oriented goose. In a balanced flock, it would be extremely rare to see persistent aggressive behavior within the flock. Drama? Yes.
The primary reason aggression can occur is due to competition for food, water, space, or simply being bored. So make sure you have plenty of grazing space. A ratio of two geese per ¼ acre is a good rule of thumb.
Also, check your budget to make sure you can cover the cost of food in the winter. (Related: What to feed geese)
2. Check your gander-to-goose ratio.
I expand on this topic in my “Gander or Goose?” article, but be mindful of male-to-female ratios. While geese are more forgiving than ducks or chickens, you do not want to exceed a ratio of two ganders for every goose.
The ideal male-female ratio for a goose flock is 1:1 since geese pair up for the season — and sometimes for life. Make sure the math adds up to a situation that is sustainable once you add your new geese.
Maybe now you’re thinking: “Okay, got it. I’m ready. How do I introduce new geese to my flock?”
3. Quarantine new birds.
First things first. Let’s keep everyone healthy and alive.
With the prevalence of avian flu, it’s important to quarantine your new geese for a period of two to four weeks. Avian flu, also known as bird flu or avian influenza, is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild birds. While different bird species will have a varying likelihood of death and noticeable symptoms, it is not something you want to take a chance with.
Avian flu can spread through several means but is primarily spread by saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. So not only must birds be physically separated during quarantine, but you will also need to be mindful of where you are dumping their water and dirty bedding.
Many rescue groups require their fosters to quarantine birds for four to six weeks before the birds are sent to their forever homes, so be sure to ask about your new goose’s quarantine and health history before scheduling an adoption date.
4. Introduce new birds slowly.
Once the quarantine period is over, you can begin the integration process. Introduce new birds slowly to prevent aggression and ensure that the birds can establish a pecking/biting/honking order without causing injury.
Start by keeping the new birds in a separate pen or enclosure next to your existing flock, so that they can see each other but not have any physical contact.
Note the social dynamics and reactions of your geese during this initial reception, then use your judgment. You may be able to put the new goose/geese in with your flock within fifteen minutes, or you may want to give it a few days.
An important note on timing (e.g. when is the best time of year to introduce new geese to your flock?):
If possible, I recommend introducing new geese to your flock during the less hormonal months of July through December. There is no competition for mates, and the boys aren’t feeling so territorial.
Our most recent goose addition was Beatrice, a lovely white Emden, who was rescued from a pond where many waterfowl (including her mate, Couscous) died from avian botulism. Beatrice was brought to us in October, and we were able to integrate her from day one. (Note: She had been quarantined by her rescuer, Amy from Puddle Ducks Rescue, for many weeks already).
You can definitely introduce new geese during mating season. If you do, just expect a little more drama and possibly a longer integration period.
5. Supervise the integration process.
Be around to make sure that everyone is getting along.
This doesn’t mean you have to sit in the “goose yard” all day. But don’t throw new birds together and then leave for work for eight hours.
If you notice any aggressive behavior, such as biting or chasing… Well, this is normal. Prepare for the drama: honking, flapping, chasing.
Be patient and let them sort out the “honking” order. If the aggressive behavior is persistent or if you see multiple geese ganging up on the new bird/s, you may need to keep everyone separated for a longer period of time before reintroducing them.
Use your best judgment, and if you feel uncomfortable with the situation, try again the next day.
Frequently asked questions
Is there a “pecking order” with geese?
Yes, geese have a pecking order. There are geese who will be last in line for food, or encouraged by the other geese to keep a bit of space (ex: *poke* “go sleep over there please”).
However, unless you have extremely skewed gender ratios, geese typically don’t beat up on each other to the point of causing injury.
Will geese adopt other goslings?
Yes, geese will adopt goslings that are not their own. Geese are natural parents. Interestingly, a goose flock will adopt not only goslings but ducklings as well.
What are ideal goose coop arrangements at night until new flock members are integrated?
Once the new geese have been out and about with the flock for the day, they should be fine to go in together at night, assuming conditions aren’t crowded. You may want to try and partition them, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Just try and give them a solid day of getting to know each other before they go in the coop.
How do you know when the job is done, i.e. a flock is integrated and stabilized?
It can take up to a year for new geese to become fully integrated into the flock. Geese really dislike change. You’ll see the new geese keeping back a respective distance for quite some time.
I’ve found that full integration often occurs if a new goose/gander pairs up with a gander/goose from the existing flock during mating season. However, if you adopted a pair of geese, you’ll likely see a little competition for the female, or observe the new pair hanging back from the flock a bit. This is why space is so important.
In general, you’ll see everyone tolerating each other within a day. Observe the amount of space they are keeping from each other since this is a good indicator of how integrated your geese are.
Have questions or comments? Let us know below!
Flap on over to other helpful goose articles:
- 7 reasons why you shouldn’t get geese
- Male or female geese – which should you get?
- What to feed geese: all your questions answered
- Adult geese vs goslings: which should you get?
- How to hatch goose eggs
- How to poach goose and duck eggs to perfection
- Top 10 reasons to raise geese
- How to use geese for weed management