Are you wondering whether you should raise geese? Are geese the right animal for you?
Whether you have a homestead, hobby farm, working farm, or just your backyard, the domestic goose will add beauty, laughter, and a bit of service, too. However, geese are not a perfect fit for everyone…
Top 10 reasons to raise geese:
Here are ten reasons why you may want to raise geese:
1. Geese are low-maintenance.
If you’re looking for an animal that is largely self-sufficient, look no further than the domestic goose. Geese are some of the best foragers around and, given free access to quality pasture, need little to no supplementation for a third of the year.
To illustrate, our flock of seven ducks – despite being enthusiastic bug hunters- required as much feed as our flock of fourteen geese. This is especially impressive when you consider that a goose is 3-4 times the size of a domestic duck.
Our lazy, free-loading chickens are the worst of the poultry foragers, consuming 15 pounds of feed a month during the lush early summer months (and there’s only three of them!). In contrast, our geese can forage exclusively from May through August.
(See also: Ducks vs chickens – how do they compare?)
The amount of supplemental feed that geese require depends on the amount and quality of your plant life. But when allowed to free range, geese will tirelessly consume grasses, aquatic plants, seed heads, weeds, and – if you have fruit trees- the windfalls. Just remember that plants lose their nutritional density as the summer wanes, so you will need to start supplementing when new growth ceases.
In addition to feeding themselves, geese are resilient. For instance:
- Their large, tough feet are less likely to develop bumblefoot.
- Geese are incredibly cold-hardy.
- Because they only lay eggs 4-5 months out of the year, they are less likely to experience egg binding or other reproductive ailments.
In our years of goose ownership (having raised a total of 27 geese), we have never had to treat any of our geese for injury, infection, or illness. We can’t say the same for our ducks or chickens.
2. Geese will eat your grass and weeds.
As some of the best (domesticated) foragers, you can expect your geese to keep your weeds at bay and your lawn trimmed. With movable fencing, you can rotate your geese to graze your lawn or fields just like any other grazing animal. Geese are an excellent option for weeding mature crop rows as well.
Introduce goslings to the weeds you would like them to eat to create a customized weed-control system. No, they won’t only eat what you train them to, but they will develop a taste for the plants you would like to control.
Geese also serve as an excellent cleanup crew in orchards (like our heirloom apple orchard), devouring windfalls. As any orchard keeper will tell you, picking up ground fruit is necessary to maintain a healthy orchard. Aside from pruning, we have zero orchard maintenance because our geese do it for us.
Special note: if you have cherry trees, geese should not help with cleanup, as cherry pits can be deadly. The Open Sanctuary Project has a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic for geese.
3. Goose poop is the best kind of poop.
Yes, geese poop a lot. But it’s the best kind of poop.
Goose poop is possibly the least offensive poop you will find. With a little water, it quickly dissolves and sinks into the soil, fortifying it with rich nutrients.
Fair warning: geese do love hanging out on walkways, driveway aprons, and other hard surfaces if given the opportunity. I can’t tell you why they love concrete so much, but they do — and they will poop on it. For this reason, we keep our geese in the orchard and fields, and only occasionally let them into our yard for weed duty.
4. Geese don’t need a pond to be happy.
Geese are waterfowl and, as such, need water. However, they don’t need a pond to thrive.
Unlike ducks, who truly benefit from full body immersion, geese only need water deep enough to submerge their entire head. This process is important to clean their sinuses after eating.
While we have a ¼ acre pond (which our geese thoroughly enjoy and sleep on), they often prefer climbing into small tubs. Why? It’s a similar mystery to their love of concrete!
This said, I personally believe that geese do appreciate a large area in which to bathe and swim, and I also believe that being able to float in the water – with their feet not touching the ground- helps keep their feet healthy.
In cold winter months, deeper water- if kept unfrozen- is warmer than sub-freezing air temperatures. Our geese spend more time in the pond during the winter months than any other time of year.
5. Geese will alert you to EVERYTHING.
The hawk overhead. The fox across the road. The unfamiliar car pulling into your driveway. The package that UPS dropped off. The scoop you dropped. EMPTY FEED BAGS. Anything new or out of place is HIGHLY suspicious and a potential threat. And your geese will let you know about it, loudly.
While geese are excellent (albeit overly paranoid and excitable) alarm systems, they are NOT guard birds. While a large goose, with a hiss to rival any snake and wings that have the heft of 2x4s, may be a less tempting target than a small, awkwardly waddling duck, they simply cannot fight off a predator. Geese are prey animals. If a predator wants to enjoy a goose as a meal, it will win.
Still, geese require less oversight than smaller birds: an adult domestic goose can weigh up to 25 pounds, and their size makes them less inviting to predators. They serve as a deterrent to smaller birds of prey as well as making some ground predators think twice. In our time as goose owners, we have only lost one goose to a predator (type of predator unknown, but likely culprits at the time were a large red fox or a mountain lion).
Some homesteaders use geese in conjunction with their livestock guardian dogs. The geese sound the alarm, and the dog comes ready to defend. Our guardian dog is still in training, so I don’t have experience with this myself, but it sounds like an effective system.
A note regarding predators: take the time to observe your predator load, prime hunting times, and the occurrence of other prey animals. Scarcity of other prey will cause predators to consider other food sources. The goose we lost was grabbed in spring during a drought – a time when predators are especially motivated to feed their young – and food was scarce.
Normally, we have an abundance of wild prey animals. Although we have plenty of predators in our rural outpost (bears, foxes, raccoons, eagles, hawks, coyotes, mountain lions), our large and loud free ranging geese are not high on the list for an easy meal.
In our experience, smaller birds fare much better when they stay close to our large flock of 15-20 pound honking dinosaurs. This does not mean we have the expectation that a goose will save a duck from a hawk attack. We do not consider them defenders.
So, repeat after me: deterrents not defenders. Got it? Ok. (See also: Raising mixed species poultry together – tips and advice.)
6. Geese lay the most delicious eggs.
Geese lay eggs from March to June, give or take a month on either side. While this isn’t much time to enjoy goose eggs, it is a worthwhile reward. With a yolk-to-white ratio that is something like 60-40, these large eggs are rich and creamy.
Goose eggs can vary in size, but one egg is equivalent to 3-4 chicken eggs. They are excellent for baking, making homemade pastas, enormous omelets, and creamy custards.
(See also: Duck eggs vs chicken eggs – how do they compare?)
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a niche for selling goose eggs at a premium price. And, because of their thick, tough shell, they keep for much longer than chicken eggs: up to 4 weeks unwashed at room temperature, and up to 8 weeks washed and refrigerated.
The best for longevity: unwashed and refrigerated. We have kept bowls of unwashed goose eggs in the refrigerator for over 3 months and they have been perfectly fine. But, like any food, the sooner you consume them, the fresher and more delicious they will taste.
7. Geese are not mean (but they are dramatic).
If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me about how a goose chased / bit / attacked them when they were a child, I could buy another bag of goose food.
Here’s the deal: geese are defensive (“mean”) when it comes to their nest and their young. They are HIGHLY protective parents.
Ganders (male geese) go through hormonal craziness in the spring, and can be especially dragon-like between 9 and 13 months old (goose puberty?). Does this make them mean? In the moment, sure. My hormones can make me temperamental during certain times of the month, but does that make me a mean person? I hope not!
Now, some geese breeds can be downright awful; common culprits are Emden and the Canada goose (which is probably what chased you when you were a kid). But it also depends on the personality of the individual goose.
Think of it this way: some dogs will happily let children climb on them and ride them like a pony, and others you would not trust within 100 feet. But you never hear people saying “dogs are mean.” That’s crazy.
So I’m arguing, no, geese are not mean.
They are dramatic. They will attack your Amazon delivery package because it is something that WAS NOT THERE BEFORE. They will come running to greet you in a flurry of wings and honks. They will nibble your shoes and tug at your zippers, and if you don’t understand the curious and playful nature of the goose, you may be intimidated by these antics.
Geese are big, loud, and proud. But mostly, they are a lot of honk and hiss, and no bite.
8. Geese are the best parents.
If you decide to let your geese hatch out their eggs, you will need to do exactly NOTHING for the goslings, other than make sure they have access to starter feed and fresh water. Geese are excellent parents and will do all the brooding for you. And not just the mom: the dad and the rest of the flock all take equal responsibility watching the babies. It is communal parenting at its finest.
When our mother goose, Leia, had her first hatch of goslings, there was one gosling that hatched about 12 hours earlier than the rest. While mama goose continued to sit on her nest, daddy goose and our other gander (we only had the three adult geese at the time) walked the first hatchling to the pond, showed it all the yummy plants to eat, and then walked it back to mama goose to snuggle into the warm nest.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
As our flock grew, subsequent hatches of goslings were surrounded by a vanguard of formidable geese. I felt confident letting the goslings free range all day with their parents, and we’ve never lost a single gosling to a predator.
Always close the goslings and mama up at night, though. No need to put your geese in the stressful position of needing to defend their babies against night time predators.
9. Geese are worth it for beauty alone.
While geese are awkward and comical, they also have a graceful side, and look stunning spreading their wings amidst fruit trees and long grasses. Sometimes I think of our geese as “bird art” – animals that add an element of beauty to our property, no major renovations or clean up projects required.
If you want to look out your window and have an “aahhhh” feeling come over you, you will enjoy resting your eyes on domestic geese.
10. Geese are the goofiest pet you will ever have.
You may enjoy domestic geese for pure entertainment value. Personally, I believe this is the top reason to raise geese!
Of all our animals, there is simply no contest when it comes to personality and hilarious antics. For adorable entertainment, I put geese up there with baby goats.
They might find a shiny bowl or a bright red scoop laying on the ground, pick it up with their bills and run around in a riot of flaps and honks, the scene resembling a cross between fight club and keep away.
They like to line up in a row facing a wall or door, or come over to inspect your zipper or shoelaces. New packages are highly suspicious and they will circle the intruding object with necks snaked, wings outstretched, ruffling feathers and perturbed mumbling (mumbling = a curious sound between a honk and a hiss).
They climb onto the lawn mower and nibble car tires. In the water, they show off with some impressive acrobatics: somersaults and the goose equivalent of breaststrokes, pulling themselves along the water with ore-like wings.
At the end of the day, your geese will need quality food (most of which they can forage), access to clean water (a small tub will do), a safe place to rest at night (a large pond or a secure structure), and an appreciation for their antics. In return, you will be rewarded with some property management, an alarm system, delicious eggs, and entertainment to rival your current Netflix obsession.
Flap right over to MJ’s next article: 7 reasons why you shouldn’t get geese