Geese are an easy care, multi-purpose animal that can be a great addition to almost any homestead. In my experience, geese are even easier to care for than chickens because they’re very self-sufficient. Even better, they are usually good mommas and can often be trusted to raise up their own babies.
10 Key Things to Know About Geese
1. Geese Like to Graze
In some ways, geese are very different from chickens and ducks, and this is one of them. While your chickens and ducks will search for bugs and other high protein snacks when they forage, geese have digestive systems that are made to convert grass into eggs and meat. That means that your geese will need abundant access to fresh greens along with their standard poultry pellets. (Never give geese medicated poultry food; it’s dosed for chickens, and it can be toxic to other types of fowl.)
2. Geese are Tough
If you live in a climate with very cold winters, geese might just be the perfect type of poultry for you. They prefer to be outside, even on the coldest of days. It’s not at all unusual to see a flock of geese happily grooming themselves out in the snow, right in the middle of a blizzard. That means you don’t have to provide elaborate housing; just make sure they’re safe from predators and the can get out of the elements if they want to.
3. Geese are Great for Free Ranging
While ducks and chickens are nearly defenseless when they free range, geese can actually defend themselves against many predators very well. In fact, if you have a mixed poultry flock, your geese can do a pretty good job of keeping your chickens and ducks safer while they’re free ranging, too. Just remember to put them in a safe spot at night because they’re night vision is horrible, and they can’t fight off a predator if they can’t see it.
4. Geese are Ground Dwelling Birds
Geese don’t roost the way chickens do. Their large webbed feet are made for paddling in the water and walking across soggy, muddy ground; they are not meant for roosting on a perch. Be sure they’re enclosure has plenty of clean floor space. The won’t use raised nesting boxes either; they’ll need large nesting boxes on the floor.
5. Geese Love Water
Geese are at their happiest when they have access to water. A plastic kid’s swimming pool will do the trick, there’s no need to provide an actual pond. They’ll splash and bath in it very happily all summer long. During the colder months, you’ll need to provide a small water source that’s just deep enough for them to submerge their heads and change it often to prevent it from freezing up on them. Don’t provide a water source that’s big enough for them to bathe in during freezing temperatures, though. They should be kept as dry as possible during the coldest months because their wet breasts and feet might actually freeze to the snow and ice. Trust me, chipping a goose out of the ice in the middle of a snowstorm is not a good time for you or the goose.
6. Goose Eggs Won’t Hatch Without Moisture
Chickens are land birds, and their nests should be kept completely dry during the incubation process. Goose eggs, on the other hand, need moisture to hatch. The momma goose will leave the nest for a short time and bath in order to get her feathers wet so that their eggs will have the necessary moisture they need during incubation. If you want to hatch goose eggs in an incubator, be sure to do some research first to familiarize yourself with the proper procedures.
7. Goose Eggs Don’t Cook Up the Same as Chicken Eggs
Since goose eggs have all that extra moisture, they will cook up a little bit different than chicken eggs. The first thing you’ll notice is that their yolks are much richer and bigger. The whites are quite a bit runnier, too. I’ve found the yolks to be fantastic for making custards, but the whites are terrible for making meringue because they don’t whip up correctly.
8. Goose Meat Does Not Taste Like Chicken
Many people assume that goose meat will taste like chicken or turkey, but that’s not the case at all. Their meat is actually more reminiscent of beef. If your homestead is quite small, raising geese for meat can give you some much-needed variety in your production without the need to raise a beef cow. In fact, even you don’t plan to raise geese for meat, sometimes ganders can be aggressive, and no matter what you do, their attacking behavior can’t be stopped. If you must harvest an aggressive gander, you’ll be in for a special treat.
9. Geese Usually Aren’t Aggressive
Geese have been given a bad rap for being aggressive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just like any other animal, it usually comes down to the way they’re handled. Geese that have been handled a lot and raised by hand are often more like cuddly lap dogs than they are farm animals. Our geese used to come running when we got home. They would even circle around our ankles and nuzzle us, just like kitty cats.
10. Geese are a Bit Like Guard Dogs
Be aware though, they probably won’t be nearly as welcoming to strangers. Even a flock of friendly geese will probably have to be locked up when company calls. Steps will have to be taken to protect your mailman and UPS guy, too. They’ll think of you, your family, and the other animals on your farms as part of their flock, but strangers, not so much. In fact, they can be used in much the same way as guard dogs because they will fiercely defend their territory against all intruders.
Geese would be a perfect easy-care addition to many homesteads. With their ability to lay delicious eggs, mow the grass, and provide fantastic meat for the freezer, they might be just the multipurpose animal you’re looking for.