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.
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:
- the amount and quality of your plant life,
- your goose-to-acre ratio, and
- 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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flap right over to MJ’s other goose articles:
- Top 10 reasons to raise geese
- 7 reasons why you shouldn’t get geese
- Male or female geese – which should you get?
- Adult geese vs goslings: which should you get?