Geese

Male or female geese: which should you get?

Male or female geese: which should you get? thumbnail
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Male or female geese or both… Want to get geese, but not sure which sexes or ratios you should get? The information in this article will help you decide!


What are male and female geese called?

Let’s start with learning how to talk about geese. A male goose is called a “gander” and a female goose is called… a goose. 

How do you tell male and female geese apart?

Geese don’t have *auto-sexing traits, so apart from waiting to see if your goose will lay an egg or not, there isn’t a super easy way to tell males and females apart.

(*Pilgrim and Cotton Patch geese are the exception, but these breeds are very rare and you are unlikely to encounter them in a typical flock.)

The topic of sexing geese warrants a larger discussion, but the best way to tell mature geese apart is by their behavior and posturing:

  • Ganders will approach with their necks stretched out low, a goose will tend to approach more upright.
  • Ganders hiss more often; a goose will also hiss, but it is almost exclusively when she is sitting on her nest.
  • Ganders will position themselves between you and their mate, a goose will tend to retreat.
  • Ganders are more comical and dramatic, a goose is more subdued and calm.
  • Ganders have a higher-pitched voice (and talk more), females have a lower-pitched, slightly hoarse voice.
  • Ganders will screech and call persistently if they get separated from their mate/flock. The females could care less and appear to enjoy the solitude.

Goose (female) example: 

The goose in front does not snake her neck out as I approach. Rather, she stretches up tall and looks at me curiously.

The goose in front does not snake her neck out as I approach. Rather, she stretches up tall and looks at me curiously.

Gander (male) example: 

The gander approaches low with his neck outstretched. He won’t necessarily bite or hiss, but he’ll certainly put me on the defensive while he checks me out.

The gander approaches low with his neck outstretched. He won’t necessarily bite or hiss, but he’ll certainly put me on the defensive while he checks me out.

How do you sex goslings? 

If you need to sex a gosling, vent sexing is the only way to know for certain, but I recommend leaving this to an experienced breeder as it is possible to seriously injure the gosling in the process.

If you want to try your luck picking them out at a farm store, smaller goslings are more likely to be female, but not always.

Are male geese bigger than females?

Generally, yes, male geese are bigger than female geese but the difference is subtle – it is usually only a matter of a few pounds.

Even if you have a sharp eye, you can only make this comparison with geese of the same breed- domestic goose breeds vary quite a bit in size. For example, a male Chinese goose will be significantly smaller and leaner than the giant Dewlap Toulouse female.

What is the best goose to gander ratio?

1:1 is the ideal goose to gander ratio. However, being slightly heavy on either sex is not going to result in catastrophe as it might with ducks. 

(See: Should I get male or female ducks or both?

Our flock has always had a few more ganders than geese, and there has been little drama or stress on the females.

Our first three geese were two males and one female, and they did wonderfully together. Gander Solo – the third wheel – acted like a loyal eunuch companion to goose Leia and helped parent Leia’s goslings like his own offspring.

Male or female geese - which should you get? Geese value the whole goose family, not just their mate. So having the perfect 1:1 ratio of ganders to geese is not as important as you may think. Observe your flock and make adjustments if needed.

Geese value the whole goose family, not just their mate. So having the perfect 1:1 ratio of ganders to geese is not as important as you may think. Observe your flock and make adjustments if needed.

However, one season we had only three females and ten males: THAT ratio was a bit extreme and problematic.

Mid-season, one of our geese ended up with a bare patch on her neck from over-breeding – something very rare for geese in a more balanced flock (although it can be quite common with ducks).

Most often we have something like four females and eight males, so I would say we’ve been successful with a gander:goose ratio of 2:1, but I start balancing my flock if we approach 3:1.

We also allow our flock of 10-20 geese to free-range 5 full acres. More space does help, especially in the hormonally-charged early spring months (approximately, mid-February through late May).

If you have limited space, you may try getting your ratio as close to 1:1 as you can.

Stay mindful and observant, but it is unlikely you will encounter the serious mating issues that occur in unbalanced duck or chicken flocks.

Can you keep just female geese?

Yes, you can keep all females. But don’t be surprised if they start mounting each other in the spring. Hormones are strong and they’ll try to get with whoever they’ve got.

I’d encourage you to not avoid getting ganders. Boy birds get a bad rep, but male geese are really not so bad. While girls will do just fine on their own, they seem happiest with a mate.

Can you keep just male geese?

Yes, you can do fine with all-male geese. Without any females around to mate and protect, they will be less likely to fight. I also find males to be sillier, and have bigger personalities.

But again, they will be happiest with a mate.

All the bachelors hang out together in their little gander posse, leaving the mated pairs in peace.

All the bachelors hang out together in their little gander posse, leaving the mated pairs in peace.

Are male or female geese more aggressive?

Male geese are more aggressive – but wait! Let me explain.

Male geese seem to go through an angsty puberty 8-13 months old (entering adulthood through the first mating season). So your first-year boys will be more aggressive and pick fights with each other more often than a slightly older gander.

Don’t give up on your boys in year one. It’s their worst year.

Both ganders and geese are hormonal, ornery, and spicy late winter through spring.

The difference:

  • Ganders are overprotective and a teeny bit scary, 24/7, February through May.
  • The females could care less about anything – unless they’re on their nest (even an empty nest). Then, she’s not a goose — she’s a feathered dragon.
This goose makes it clear that she is not to be disturbed whilst laying an egg. It is possibly the only time you will see her hiss. But my, what a hiss she has!

This goose makes it clear that she is not to be disturbed whilst laying an egg. It is possibly the only time you will see her hiss. But my, what a hiss she has!

June through January, everyone is much calmer – unless they’re raising goslings and you’re within six feet of them – but it’s in a gander’s nature to be the protector, hence more “aggressive” posturing.

Why are geese aggressive?

The simple answer to why geese are aggressive? Family.

Yes, geese are ALL about family. They are the best parents, and being the Best Parents of a prey species means that they are very good at keeping the kids alive.

And not just their kids, but their brother’s kids and their cousin’s kids and kids that are playing in their backyard.

Ganders are protectors. They put themselves between their family and whoever or whatever else is coming their way.

The ganders put themselves between me and the goslings (can you see them?). It doesn’t matter whose babies they are; they’re flock family.

The ganders put themselves between me and the goslings (can you see them?). It doesn’t matter whose babies they are; they’re flock family.

They will hiss and charge at you when they see you coming into their 20-foot-safety-bubble because they are taking zero chances.

And no, it won’t matter if you raised your sweet goslings by hand into well-mannered adults. When it comes to their babies, trust does not exist.

They guard their mates, babies, personal bubble, and any other baby bird that is within their sight. In fact, our boys babysat ducklings on their own accord (they deemed mama duck to be far too lax in her duties and, frankly, they were right).

Knowing this, you’ve got to forgive the boys a bit for their feisty nature. They’re such darn good parents, what’s a little over-zealous nip in the calf? I mean, really.

So… male or female geese?

Can you pick out the ganders from the geese based on their posture?

Can you pick out the ganders from the geese based on their posture?

Should you get male or female geese? I vote for both. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you.

Here are some quick comparison FAQs to help you decide:

Do male or female geese hiss?

Both. Any time they feel threatened or want you to give them space. Females hiss while on their nest or with goslings. Males hiss much more often and for varying reasons.

Are male or female geese louder?

Males talk more and have a higher-pitched voice than the females. But as to the loudness of their respective honks, there is no difference.

Do male or female geese sit on the nest?

Female geese site on the nest. Males will guard the nest while the female leaves it to bathe and eat.

I have heard that ganders may also sit on the nest, but I have not personally seen our boys do this.

Can you eat goose eggs?

Yes! Goose eggs are a seasonal delicacy, as geese only lay for 3-4 months out of the year. The eggs are large and have an enormous yolk, excellent for homemade pastas, custards, and rich Spanish omelets.

In many places, goose eggs sell for a premium. So if you are interested in goose eggs, then having a few female geese is an obvious choice.

Do male or female geese make better pets?

Individual personality, breed, flock size, amount of handling/attention, and your gander:goose ratio all trump the sex of the bird in determining sociability and friendliness of geese to humans.

However, there are some temperament differences between male and female geese:

  • Female geese will be slightly quieter, and tend to be less excitable.
  • Males have bigger personalities and do silly things, like run around with a cat dish in their mouth.

So I guess it depends if you want a silly pet or a “Netflix and chill” pet!

Do geese do better in pairs?

Yes. Geese are highly social animals and will do best with other goose friends.

You can have two males, two females, or a male and a female. But it is good to get a pair of geese, not just one.

Do geese mate for life?

Canada geese mate for life. Domestic geese do not mate for life. 

Domestic geese will select only one mate for the season (aka seasonal monogamy), and they may re-select each other the next season or for many seasons. However, it is not uncommon for domestic geese to choose a new mate every year.

How many geese should you get per acre?

I recommend no more than two geese per ¼ acre.

While geese can bond with other animals (even those without feathers!), they will be happiest with other geese so you’ll want at least two.


Questions? Comments? What has been your experience with geese and ganders? I’d love to hear!

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