What to feed geese – all your questions answered!

What to feed geese - all your questions answered! thumbnail
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Are you trying to find out what to feed geese throughout all four seasons of the year? In this article, you’ll get answers to all of your geese feeding questions — including what NOT to feed them!

In my first goose article, Top 10 reasons to raise geese, I touched on a top reason to keep geese: they are excellent foragers. As such, geese require relatively little effort and expense to feed.

But how much food do geese need, and what should you feed them (or not feed them)? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the year-round nutritional needs and feeding regimen of domestic geese.

What do geese eat?

Grass, weeds, seeds, and aquatic plants are the natural diet of geese. Occasionally geese will consume insects or crustaceans, but they are primarily herbivores, building protein from the amino acids found in plants.

What should you feed WILD geese?

Are you observing wild geese on your property or at a nearby pond or park and wondering what you should feed them? Short answer: do NOT feed wild geese.

Geese are wild animals, and it is generally never a good idea to feed wild animals, lest you disrupt mother nature’s delicate balance.

I realize that the intention is kind, but feeding wild waterfowl has negative consequences, including delaying migration and overcrowding ponds, leading to spreading disease and water pollution.

To understand the importance of letting our wild friends be, please read this highly informative article by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Now that you know not to feed wild geese, let’s move on to what to feed the domestic geese you’re caring for in your backyard or on your homestead or farm.

What do DOMESTIC geese eat?

When allowed to free range, your domestic geese will take after their wild cousins, tirelessly consuming grasses, aquatic plants, seed heads, weeds, and — if you have fruit trees — the windfalls.

However, domestic geese require additional supplementation for at least part of the year, as they lack the physical ability and instincts to migrate to greener pastures.

What type of food should you buy for geese?

Below is a list of commercial feed options for domestic geese, including my favorite geese feed. (*Note: The percentages listed are the amount of protein in each blend.)

1. Mazuri Waterfowl Maintenance (14%) – this is my favorite!

  • Pros: Balanced, high-quality nutrition. It floats on the water, which reduces waste and allows geese to eat more naturally. We use Mazuri Waterfowl Breeder from February through May to support egg production. (I’ll discuss this in more detail below.)
  • Cons: Mazuri is pricey and may not be realistic for everyone, especially if you have a large flock. It’s also not organic, if that’s important to you.

2. Scratch and Peck Feeds Naturally Free Organic Layer 16% Chicken & Duck Feed

  • Pros: Organic and high-quality.
  • Cons: Blends are not in pellet form, so pay attention if your birds are picking and choosing what to eat, as this can lead to a nutritional deficiency. This feed is also on the pricier side.

3. Purina Duck Feed pellets (19%)

  • Pros: Mid-priced, nice quality pellet feed.
  • Cons: The protein content is a bit on the high side for geese. I would cut it with some whole oats, or the Purina Game Bird Maintenance Feed (12.5%).

4. Store brand Game Bird feed

For good value, we often buy the IFA store brand Developer Game Bird feed (16%).

  • Pros: Economical. We supplement the Mazuri feed with this feed during months when our flock is eating more.
  • Cons: Your local farm store may not carry a game bird blend. If it does, the quality will likely be much lower than the above options like Mazuri.

5. Whole grain hard wheat (13%), oats (11%), or cracked corn (7.5%).

Go with wheat if you can, as this grain contains a bit more protein. If using corn, note that cracked corn is much easier to digest than shelled corn.

  • Pros: Very economical option.
  • Cons: You may want to add some brewers yeast and some flaxseed to these options as well, to round out nutritional needs.
Our toddler gets ready to throw a scoop of the floating Mazuri Waterfowl feed into the pond. This is our favorite way to feed geese.

Our toddler gets ready to throw a scoop of the floating Mazuri Waterfowl feed into the pond. This is our favorite way to feed geese.

Note on protein in a goose’s diet

While the correct amount of protein is important in a goose’s diet, too much or too little can lead to health conditions such as Angel Wing Syndrome (a joint deformity causing the wings to rotate outwards). Geese need less protein than ducks and are mostly herbivores.

The single best thing you can do to optimize the health of your geese is to let them forage naturally for as much of the year as possible.

How much food do geese eat?

Geese eat a lot of grass. Depending on the breed, quality of forage, time of year, and other factors, a single goose can eat between 0.5 – 2 pounds of grass/forage per day!

For free-ranging geese to have enough plants/wild forage to consume, my recommendation is a minimum of 1/4 acre per two geese. (And, no, this doesn’t mean you can have one goose per ⅛ acre. Geese need at least one friend!)

Also, domestic geese have been bred for meat production, and are capable of getting quite heavy. However, this does not mean they need to achieve butcher-size weight to be healthy.

Domestic geese are perfectly capable of thriving in a leaner state, which puts less stress on their legs and feet and gives you a happier, low-maintenance flock with few or no health issues.

The exact amount of supplemental feed that geese require primarily depends on:

  1. the amount and quality of your plant life,
  2. your goose-to-acre ratio, and
  3. the time of year.

Seasonal Geese Feeding Schedule:

Our goose-to-acre ratio is 10-14 geese free-ranging on 3 acres of native and orchard grasses, ¼ acre pond, and ½ acre dry land in the high desert of Colorado, Zone 6a.

How much we supplement our flock’s feed varies by season, so let’s break this topic down into four seasonal sections:

1. FALL geese feeding regimen

Climates vary from region to region and year to year within each region. For our purposes, “fall” is the season when new plant growth has slowed or stopped.

For us, this is September to mid-November.

This is the time of year when our geese have the biggest appetite, and I supplement the most feed relative to the amount of available forage (approximately 1 cup per goose per day, in addition to their 24-hour access to fall grasses).

Our geese have voracious appetites in the fall, going as far as to jump onto the proverbial table to get their share.

Our geese have voracious appetites in the fall, going as far as to jump onto the proverbial table to get their share.

Our fall feeding schedule looks something like this:

  • Mid-morning: 2 quarts of game bird feed, Scratch and Peck, or hard wheat, spread on the ground (to reinforce foraging habits).
  • Evening: 4 quarts Mazuri Waterfowl Maintenance, thrown into the pond or divided between two large tubs of water.

This is also an exciting time of year for our flock because we have a special treat on our property: organic apples!

Yes, our geese love apples. Starting as early as August, our geese begin to run after little green windfalls, and by mid-September, they go positively bonkers for the large, ripening fruit.

Little green windfalls are exciting treasures for geese to find and nibble up.

Little green windfalls (unripe apples) are exciting treasures for geese to find and nibble up.

Common advice about apples is to cut them into manageable bite-sized pieces for your flock. Our geese, however, have become pros at eating whole apples, and I think the extra effort is healthy and engaging for them. 

For a fun enrichment activity, you can toss whole apples into buckets of water and watch as your geese “bob” for them. Their triangular bills can puncture and grab them, but it takes some practice! Ours will spend hours playing this game.

Tip: save (or buy) some apples or another floating fruit for the winter so your geese can have fun even in the cold months!

Tip: Save (or buy) some apples or another floating fruit for the winter so your geese can have fun even in the cold months!

Of course, you may not have an apple orchard, but you can start feeding them unlimited produce in the fall. If you have a lot of geese to feed, you can ask your local grocery store’s produce department if they are willing to give you the produce scraps/waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

2. WINTER geese feeding regimen

Let’s define “winter” as when plants have gone dormant, there is little or no forage, and the ground is frozen or snow-covered. For us, that season is roughly November – March.

During winter, our flock gets 5-6 quarts of feed daily (½ cup to 1 cup of food per goose per day), and some fresh produce mid-day as follows:

  • Mid-morning: 2 quarts of feed (Mazuri, hard wheat, or gamebird pellets);
  • Mid-day: produce scraps, sprinkled with Fresh Eggs Daily Poultry Probiotics;
  • Evening: 3-4 quarts Mazuri*, thrown into the pond or divided between two large tubs of water

(*Switch from Mazuri Waterfowl Maintenance to Mazuri Waterfowl Breeder in February, as this is when geese start to lay eggs.)

Midday the geese get fresh greens or stored fall produce, such as these apples.

Midday the geese get fresh greens or stored fall produce, such as these apples.

I used to feed our flock more than this… It’s cold! Aren’t they hungry? However, I noticed that they weren’t eating nearly as much as I was giving them, and much of the food was going to waste.

My theory: if they’ve been fed well in the fall, they seem to go somewhat “dormant” in the winter and conserve energy. This means they require less food and use the reserves they built up in the prior season.

Geese are very casual about breakfast during the winter months, having smaller appetites than in other seasons.

Geese are very casual about breakfast during the winter months, having smaller appetites than in other seasons. Note the Mazuri feed on the surface of the pond slush (bottom left) and the relative lack of interest from our geese.

If you live in a region where you get a lot of snowfall that sticks all winter, you will want to supplement roughage as well: any type of hay will do, as long as it’s pesticide-free. We collect our orchard grass in the fall and keep it in a dry place for the geese to nibble on as they please.

3. SPRING geese feeding regimen

Think of “spring” as when the ground is thawing, there is no more snow cover, and new plant growth starts to emerge. For us, that season is April through June.

In Colorado, we can expect freezes and snow storms through the end of May, but by early April the ground is soft. Even if it snows, it will usually melt off by mid-afternoon.

During this season, tender grasses and weeds will be nicely clipped by the geese. Dandelion heads are eagerly devoured. This is the time we start to decrease the volume of supplemental food.

As soon as the geese can forage on new growth, I cut their feed down to half of what I was giving them over the winter. They no longer need the extra produce scraps or probiotic supplements, although this is not to say they don’t enjoy them.

An April feeding schedule looks like this:

  • Morning: Time to forage! Supplement only if there is snowfall, going back to the winter schedule of 2 quarts.
  • Evening: 2 quarts Mazuri Breeder

By mid-May, our geese are exclusively foraging, e.g. getting 100% of their food from wild plants (mainly grasses) growing on our farm.

4. SUMMER geese feeding regimen

Summer = plants are established, growth continues, and abundance is everywhere.

This is the easiest time of year, as the geese can continue to exclusively forage through August. Geese are some of the best foragers around. Given free access to quality pasture, they will be able to obtain all the nutrition they need.

You will notice that they especially love the seed heads of mature grasses.

Geese nibbling seed heads in late August.

Geese nibbling seed heads in late August.

Depending on the amount of rain we’ve had, I may start giving them 2 quarts of Mazuri Waterfowl Maintenance once per day, beginning mid-August. If we’ve had a good “monsoon season” (daily thunderstorms brought in from the monsoons off the southwest coasts), I can wait until September to start supplementing again.

The feeding regimens detailed above are what works for our flock. Observe your geese and adjust as-needed. Is there consistently food left over? Offer less. Are they consistently eating every grain you give them? Offer more.

Grit for geese

Yes, geese need grit. (Grit is defined as tiny pebbles or rocks.) However, if your geese have any ability to free range, they will take care of their grit requirement themselves.

There is no need to provide supplemental grit unless your geese are in strict confinement. In this case, they need access to grit at least once a month. 

What NOT to feed geese

There are certain foods you should avoid feeding your geese, including: 

  • Processed foods such as bread,
  • Cherries with pits (the pits can be deadly),
  • Moldy food,
  • Any sort of animal product – geese are nearly pure herbivores.

For additional information, The Open Sanctuary Project has a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic for geese.

Geese eating their eggs or egg shells?

One exception to the recommendation not to feed geese animal products would be their eggs and eggshells, which offer a tremendous amount of nutrition. While geese typically will not eat their own eggs, they often will eat them (including yolk, white, and shell) if they break.

If you collect goose eggs to consume yourself, you can also save the shells and bake them at a low temp (about 170°F / 77°C – just hot enough to kill potential pathogens) until completely dry. Then crush and feed them to your geese or other flock members for an extra calcium boost.

I particularly like feeding goose eggshells to our ducks because ducks can lay eggs year-round and the process is very draining on their little bodies. Goose eggshells pack a ton of calcium and, because the laying season for geese is so short, egg production is not nearly as taxing on them as their smaller waterfowl friends.

Another exception to the no animal products rule is mealworms offered as a treat. However, not all geese will like them.

Wrapping up

If you’ve ever raised ducks, chickens, or other poultry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy geese are to raise and feed by comparison — assuming you have adequate foraging acreage for them. After reading this article, I hope you now have a better understanding of what geese eat (and shouldn’t eat) throughout all four seasons of the year! 

If you have any questions about feeding your geese, please ask away in the comments below.  

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  • Reply
    Nadrina Walker
    December 21, 2023 at 4:07 am

    LOVE your article.
    I have 6 ducks and have a 25 week old African goose. Raised her from baby.
    Noticed last week she is loosing neck feathers. They are falling out around whole neck… New feathers seem to be regrowing.
    She is healthy and is eating..
    I purchase organic layer from a local farmer.
    She picks out the cracked corn and wheat and soybeans that are not crushed…
    The avian vet [per text visit] seems to think it’s trauma of some sort. I think malnutrition. She was grabbing a cord to light in coop and could’ve hit neck on wall but she doesn’t seem in pain.
    All my ducks are smaller and nobody would pick on her…
    Tonight she wouldn’t eat out of bowl because it was just crumble [ no corn or anything visually whole to eat.
    I added whole wheat [ we just bought 50 lb from elevator] and some fresh layer and she went crazy eating like she was starving.
    I did give her chia and flaxseed yesterday and she picked all of it out thru the layer feed!
    I’m going to try your recipe of corn wheat and flaxseed…
    Any thoughts?
    It’s hard to feed her alone when 6 ducks get interested in her seeds!!
    I’m worried about her neck, not sure what EXACTLY it’s causes but if it’s due to food what is it doing to her bones and body…
    Live in Michigan and grass isn’t really great.
    She did not like Timothy or 2nd cut hay with grass… Plus it’s so long and dry….

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      December 22, 2023 at 11:13 am

      Hey there! Well, the first thing I would suggest is to simply observe if the feathers keep falling out. It seems most likely that feather loss from the back of the neck would have resulted from some sort of minor injury. Honestly, mating was the first thing that came to mind. Would one of your ducks happen to be a drake? I wouldn’t put it past a male duck to try and mate a goose, especially if he was comfortable around her and she tolerated it. Waterfowl are known to get freaky with each other, regardless of sex – or of species (we had a duck that was very fond of our dog and would occasion try to mate him). If your goose is growing new feathers, then I don’t think it’s a malnourishment issue. However, if you would like to see her eating more diversified foods, you could try adding things like peas and lettuce – or use a pellet feed rather than a crumble. Scratch and Peck makes a nice organic pellet and we also love Mazuri Waterfowl. Our geese won’t eat dried grass or hay either, but they will eat lettuce and other fresh fruits and vegetables. I hope that helps. Please send an update if you solve the mystery!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    It’s really helpful to read about your annual feeding plans! We fed our Chinese White Geese Mazuri until I realized that it contains fish meal. Although the geese devoured it, I felt that because they are purely vegetarian this was an unnecessary part of their diet. Additionally the geese lost interest in the food once it became waterlogged and much went to waste. I also worried about the sustainability aspect of the fish meal. I haven’t found information on whether this is from fish farms or wild caught fish. Either way there are environmental impacts that I wanted to avoid. Are you aware of the fish meal source?

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      January 24, 2023 at 8:51 am

      Hi, there! I’m glad you found the feeding schedule helpful!

      Yes, I am aware of the fish meal ingredient and thought I had listed the unnecessary protein as a con for Mazuri (apparently only in my head). Geese are mostly herbivores, but do occasionally eat crustaceans or other bugs. You are correct that animal protein is not necessary in their diet.

      As far as the environmental aspect, I am aware of the negatives around fish meal; however I have found that almost every food has negative externalities associated with it. It is nearly impossible to find “perfect” food so this is a major reason why I stress letting geese (and ducks, chickens, etc!) free range as much as possible.

      I certainly respect your decision to not use Mazuri; it’s not perfect but it’s the best nutritionally balanced food I’ve found. For us, the floating food is essential to minimize waste; our sheep, alpacas, and dog will eat any food left out. In addition to the geese not getting enough to eat when the sheep are crowding in, most bird food is toxic to sheep. Of course, not everyone has this issue! (And before we had sheep and a dog, the deer would help themselves).

      One thought with the pellets getting water logged- do you think you were over feeding? I used to run into the same problem when I throwing too much into the pond in the winter – I assumed they were the hungriest that time of year! Turns out they are most ravenous in the late fall and eat much less in the colder months than one would think.

      Do you have a favorite brand of food for your geese?

  • Reply
    Michele Logan
    January 16, 2023 at 10:44 pm

    Hello Madia,

    Thanks for this great information. We currently have 7 ducks (soon to be 13) and a Guardian Pilgrim Goose named Queen that we raised with a few of last year’s ducklings. She is awesome. I have read differing opinions about the fact that if you add more than one goose to the flock then they are no longer good guardians because they want to be with the other geese. What is your opinion on the whole Guardian Goose situation? I’d like to add at least one more goose to give Queen a friend. Thanks for your help.

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      January 19, 2023 at 12:39 pm

      I have also heard differing accounts about guardian geese “abandoning their post” (so to speak) as flock guardians when they are introduced to other geese.

      My personal experience has been this:

      We adopted a pair of geese that had been raised with ducks. Even though they had each other, they considered the ducks family, and always stayed with them.

      When we first adopted this goose/duck flock we kept them within sight of, but separated from, our existing goose flock. Once we integrated everyone, the adopted pair of geese remained with the duck flock… for a time.

      Eventually, the two geese integrated with our larger goose flock (about 10 other geese, none of which were bonded with ducks) and slowly lost interest in the ducks.

      However, the DUCKS still followed the geese around and benefited from the proximity of the larger birds. The problem was that the ducks had no hope of keeping up if the geese decided to cover ground quickly.

      If I were you, I would raise a gosling/s with Queen and the duck flock so that the new goose is bonded with the ducks, too. I think this will be your best bet to keep Queen interested in staying with her ducks.

      I love the idea of having more than one “guard goose” because geese will take turns keeping watch, and look out for each other as well as their smaller charges. Geese will sound alarms and try to get everyone to safety but are no match for a fox or even a raccoon when it comes down to it.

      Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2022 at 12:47 am

    I’m going to be visiting relatives in another state and have friends who will watch my five geese and eleven ducks. Unfortunately the waterfowl who all have either access to grass or actual pasture at home will be confined indoors where they will be. I am worried about the sudden dietary change affecting them negatively. How can this change be made easier for them to adjust to?

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      November 4, 2022 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Aeris! It sounds like your flock has such an idyllic home with you! Do you give your flock any supplemental feed in addition to their foraging? Here in Colorado, we started to supplement about a month ago as new growth began to slow. If you haven’t started supplementing yet, I would start that now so that they get used to the new food. For a temporary situation like this, I don’t think you need to be concerned with your flock getting their perfect nutrition. Just like humans, good food is most important when considered as part of the whole life span, and a few days (or weeks) is not going to affect us adversely in the long run! Offering food and snacks they love will reduce the stress while you’re away, but you don’t need to worry about adverse health conditions stemming from the diet for a short period such as this.

  • Reply
    Myrlene Frady
    September 1, 2022 at 12:39 pm

    I have Sebastopol Geese and Toulouse Geese. My Gander was taken in from a farm dispersal, I’ve had him 3 years now.. He had kind of Angel wing looking feathers but instead of turning out they sort of hang down. I thought when he’d molt they would correct but this year there’s more feathers but hang more . Suggestions / cause???
    I feed Kalmbach duck and goose feed. The Masuri feed became too hard to find last year and I didn’t think changing back and forth to chicken feed when Masuri wasn’t available was a bad idea. They free range on 10 acres , have a small pond but also a pool for them , even when it snows they get a pool filled . I’m in upstate NewYork on the NY /PA line. Am I doing right by them

    • Reply
      Madia (MJ)
      September 1, 2022 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Mrylene! Great questions. It sounds like you are describing “slipped wing.” Like Angel Wing, this is a cosmetic issue, often caused by the wrong protein ratios when he was growing. Although nutritional deficiencies (too little protein) can cause these types of issues, so can too much protein. And sometimes these things happen because domestic geese have been bred to grow very fast; their wings become too heavy for their bodies and they have difficulty supporting them when they are young, leading to strain on the developing joints.

      Unfortunately, both Slipped Wing and Angel Wing are not fixable once the goose has grown to maturity. Sometimes we can correct the joint position and support proper bone growth by securing the wings with a bandage to bring the wing into correct placement, but this is only an option when they are still developing.

      I’ve heard good things about Kalmbach, but haven’t used it myself (side note: you can now order Mazuri through Chewy!). It sounds like your geese have a wonderful free-ranging life – I think the type of food they are fed only becomes critical if they are confined. Free-ranging geese, such as yours, will thrive wonderfully, regardless of the type of supplemental food they get over the winter.

      I hope this helps! Thank you for reading!

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