Our backyard flocks quickly find their way into our hearts. I can remember clearly the first time I lost my Cayuga duck, Marigold, to a hawk attack. Despite our efforts to provide adequate housing and a predator-proof environment, she and several other flock members fell victim to area fox, weasels, and birds of prey. Frustrated and fearful for the safety of our egg layers, we decided to introduce domestic geese breeds as guardians to our flock.
Geese are naturally loud alarms and don’t require any training or behavior modification to protect. A threat, sign of trouble or intruder — both human and animal alike — will cause them to call loudly, alerting their flockmates to seek safety. In my experience, our guardian goose will sound his alarm when he spots a hawk flying overhead and scream when visitors drive up in their cars to our farm gate.
The guardian goose may hiss, spread its wings in a large display or outright attack an unwanted guest if it feels the need to do so. They may become physically combative with skunks, raccoons, snakes, rodents, and weasels, but do not engage in physical altercations against larger game like bobcats, pumas or coyotes. However, they will at the very least sound their signal which alerts the farmer and the flock to potential trouble. These behaviors make them an attractive natural and low-cost solution to farmers and homesteaders for chicken or duck protection. But before opting to employ a goose to stand guard over the flock there are first a few key points to consider.
The Role of the Guardian Goose
We can’t help but cuddle and hand-feed our ducklings and baby chicks. We strive to earn their trust and often treat them as family pets. However, raising a large bird to serve as a watchdog requires a different approach. Because geese operate on a hierarchical system it is important that farmers and flock owners establish themselves as the dominant figure early. It is crucial the goose is not hand-fed, held or coddled as these actions deteriorate the boundary between human and goose. The goose will often become too comfortable with the flock owner, lose respect and ultimately see the individual as a mere flockmate. The adult goose may try to dominate through aggressive actions such as hissing, biting or displaying a snaking motion of the neck. Rather than coddle the young goose and bond through hand-feeding and holding, establish a positive but respectful relationship with a gosling through providing clean feed and water, sanitary living quarters and keeping the goose in good health. It is strongly suggested to refrain from treating the goose as a family pet; rather it is important to treat them as simply geese.
Rather than coddle the young goose and bond through hand-feeding and holding, establish a positive but respectful relationship with a gosling through providing clean feed and water, sanitary living quarters and keeping the goose in good health. It is strongly suggested to refrain from treating the goose as a family pet; rather it is important to treat them as simply geese.
Speaking from experience, the first geese breeds we purchased for flock protection were Embdens and American Buffs. Our family was smitten with the feathery little goslings and we spoiled them with cuddles and treats. Before long these geese quickly grew and began to see the front porch, front yard and our driveway as strictly theirs. They naturally became territorial and would attack me, my husband and son, our dogs, and virtually any visitor to the farm when we approached these areas. The barrier of respect was broken and though we tried to correct the course time and time again, the geese eventually became too threatening and combative for our farm.
Which Goose Breed is Right For You?
Most any domestic geese breed naturally possesses a watchdog mentality and a safeguarding instinct. It is simply in their nature to watch over themselves, their flockmates, nests, and territory. But certainly, some domestic geese breeds are more loud or assertive than others. As with any animal species, breeds and individual personalities may vary and should serve as a general guide to finding the right guardian domestic geese breed for your backyard poultry flock. Make sure to research duck and geese facts before making a breed choice. In addition to playing the role as protector of the backyard flock, geese also offer several other benefits to the farm such as raising geese for meat or eggs.
|Goose Breed||General Temperament||Overall Noise Level||Other Noteworthy Characteristics|
|African||Very Aggressive||Loud||Lean meat.|
|Chinese||Very Aggressive||Loud||Lean meat, decent egg production, good parenting skills.|
|Embden||Aggressive||Loud||Quality meat, productive egg layers, females are good mothers.|
|Buff||Generally Calm||Quiet||Very flock oriented, quality meat bird, excellent parenting skills.|
|Pilgrim||Generally Calm||Quiet||Good forager, quality meat.|
|Sebastopol||Docile||Quiet||Excellent companion, strong egg production, inability to fly.|
Introducing a Guardian Goose to Your Existing Flock
As goslings grow into adult geese, they instinctively become more territorial and assertive. Since protecting our egg producers is the primary goal, adding a goose that could harm them as an established adult would be counterproductive. For this reason, raising geese into adult birds with your current flock members is highly recommended. The goose will imprint on his or her feathered family and will take its role as a defender seriously. The gosling will also understand and recognize the farmer or human as a familiar presence and not as an intruder. For example, our family ordered several spring ducklings with our new gosling so that he would learn his function among the other fowl. The goose realizes his place in the pecking order and understands the other ducklings or chickens are his flockmates.
When looking to add geese as flock bodyguards it is certainly possible to add multiple geese and geese of varying domestic breeds. More than one goose on the farm or homestead will simply result in the creation of a separate flock. Geese will form their own family units or gaggles and will focus less on the backyard flock you’ve hired them to protect. One could also purchase a mated pair, however, it’s worth noting that the male goose will make guarding his female mate and her nest his top priority; the protection of the backyard flock of chickens or ducks is secondary. While the mere presence of one or more geese at any location may be enough to deter some predators, a guardian goose whose main focus is the backyard flock would, ideally, be a solo goose.
Since our family has employed a guardian goose, a male American Buff to be precise, we have not lost one duck on his watch. We sadly watched our ducks hunted by predators for almost six months before we decided to take this step. Our flock is now growing instead of dwindling and we have found a goose who is a perfect fit for our farm. We raised him from a gosling to an adult bird in a manner which allows him to realize his place among his flock and among our family. He has never attacked, bitten or shown aggressive behavior to us, our dogs or other farm animals. Our ducks now free-range out in the open and swim in our streams daily from sun up to sun down without loss of life or injury.
Do you have one or more guardian geese to protect your flock? What domestic geese breeds do you prefer? Share in the comments below.