We are going to add raising geese to our poultry qualifications this spring. We have had most of the other poultry here, including chickens, guinea hens, ducks and turkeys. So geese should be a simple addition right? What do you need to know to start raising geese? I have been doing research and reading books about geese facts, and of course, the more you read the more confused you can become!
It was difficult to narrow down the breed choice. Toulouse geese are the most commonly raised and the one people picture in their mind when thinking about geese. The name has actually been used to describe many domestic breeds descending from the Greylag goose. Of course that is not completely correct. Many breeds have been derived from the original Greylags. Toulouse geese are divided into two categories. The production Toulouse geese are common on farms and homesteads. They are a large goose breed and are not on the threatened list from the Livestock Conservancy. The non-industrial Toulouse geese, however, are on the Livestock Conservancy watch list. They look slightly different than their production cousins and have a dewlap. The Livestock Conservancy lists 12 breeds of heritage geese. Seven of the breeds are in Critical Status, including two breeds that I am most interested in raising here. Other more commonly found geese on homesteads and small farms are the Chinese and the African.
The Cost of Raising Geese
Looking at the prices from hatcheries I found that the range is $12 to $25 for most breeds. The rare Emperor Geese cost hundreds of dollars each and the fluffy feathered Sebastapols are a more moderate $75 price range.
My personal favorites and the breeds I am seriously considering are the Pilgrim and the Cotton Patch. Both are on the Livestock Conservancy’s Critical list. The Cotton Patch and the Pilgrim are both sex linked breeds which enables you to differentiate the males and females at the time of hatching. These breeds are both medium sized ranging from twelve to fourteen pounds. The American Buff Breed comes in a little larger at around eighteen pounds.
All three of these breeds are descendants of the Greylag and have a lot of appearance similarities to their European ancestor.
Before raising geese, or any animal, investigate the needs of the birds. Talking to others who already are raising geese is a good place to start. Ask about the breed traits, characteristic behavior, and temperament. It is better to know before acquiring the geese if they have any behavior traits that you won’t enjoy having on your farm. Also, consider if you have enough space to give the geese.
A few reasons to add geese to the flock
- Raising geese for pets
- Raising geese for eggs
- Raising geese for protection
- Raising geese for meat
- Raising geese for pasture and garden managment
Housing for Raising Geese
I have two options regarding housing for our future geese. We already have a large duck house with two separate pens off each side. The inside of the house can be partitioned off, resulting in two separate living spaces. The ducks have more room than they really need and this might be a solution.
The other idea I have is to build a small structure in the poultry area, with a surrounding chain link fence area to keep the small goslings safe while they grow. The suggested space requirement for geese is 6 to 8 square feet of space per bird. A small low shed would be adequate, safe housing with the proper ventilation to keep it from getting too hot inside.
Fencing the Area for Raising Geese
Our poultry area is already enclosed with electric netting fence. This was installed to help keep the fox out, and to keep the ducks and chickens from ranging too far from safety while free ranging. Geese need lots of two thing, grass and exercise in the fresh air to grow strong and healthy. Confinement set ups are not ideal when raising geese. I think that we can provide these important factors for our future geese. The Cotton Patch and the Pilgrim, being lighter breeds may be able to fly over the fencing so I will need to consider wing clipping if that occurs.
Feed and Water
When there is adequate green grass, the geese can survive very nicely without additional food. However, since the geese will eat the existing grass quickly, most homesteaders need to also provide some sort of pellet feed for proper nutrition. Non-medicated poultry feed is a good starter ration. The varieties marked non-medicated do not contain a coccidiostat. Since coccidiosis is not that much of a concern with geese, although they can get it, they don’t need the added medication in their feed. Also, medicated feed is not recommended for waterfowl.
Include a dish of sand and grit for proper digestion. Although geese do not have a crop, they do have a gizzard which helps in the grinding and digestion of food. Calcium should be offered to egg laying geese.
No matter what goose breed you choose, geese need lots of exercise, fresh air, short green grass and room to explore safely. This seems to be the key to a long and happy goose life. We plan to let ours free range as much as possible in the poultry area during the day.
Are Geese Good Protectors?
I am hoping that the full grown geese will feel somewhat protective of their chicken and duck family members. I have heard that this is a trait of geese. It may be that they are being self-protective and it spills over to other family members. Or maybe they dislike any discord in their environment and try to get rid of any threats. This will be so interesting to find out.