Feeding, Housing, Fencing, Sexing Geese
These geese facts should provide you with an insight into keeping geese. From raising and keeping to housing and sexing geese.
- They do not bite unless scared or provoked!
- Geese do not attack . . . but they will protect their young in spring.
- Many geese will attack yappy smaller dogs . . . they think they are foxes. Geese will train an unruly dog in days!
- Geese are longer lived than other poultry and the cute gosling needs as much thought as a dog . . . particularly as many sold in markets will be male unless marked otherwise
- Geese are not vegetarian and will eat slugs / snails / worms / mice / baby rats and hamsters if left with them.
- They prefer wheat or barley (whole) to maize plus a varied diet.
- BEWARE: Slug pellets are intensly fatal to ducklings and goslings as are some fly sprays . . . read the label to check . . . if harmful to cage birds they also kill poultry.
The beginner should start with a pair or trio of adult geese or goslings and confine them to a movable pen until the birds become accustomed to their new situation. A movable pen allows the geese to be changed to fresh pasture, the goose excels at producing acres of half digested excreta. preferring the footpath to the field. There is a mathematical formula for dividing the number of goose droppings by the number of gees present to determine how long they have been in a field.
If goslings are taunted andtaught the wrong tricks as babies they will continue as an adult . . . the baby gosling that climbs through the catflap will eventually break the flap as he tries to wear it!
Geese are not vegetarians and will forage which means that although you buy them very tasty grain (straight grain is better than ‘poultry corn’ designed for chickens) or proprietary food they prefer to root around and find tit bits. They enjoy all fruit and veg waste except citrus with a penchant for soft or soggy fruit. They will eat slugs, snails, worms, froglets and small rodents . . . this is normally baby rats and mice but keep them away from children’s pets unless you wish to explain where hamster has gone.
Geese do not require an elaborate shed. A movable shed with a flat, sloping roof is a suitable shelter. The shed needs to be completely enclosed and locked at night for protection against foxes, dogs etc.(especially at Christmas time). A thin layer of wood shavings or sawdust on the floor will help dry conditions. Do not use straw unless partial to the smell of ammonia! Geese tend to foul their sleeping quarters so damp litter must be removed frequently. Each shed should have nest boxes, even though some geese may nest on the floor, these can be wooden veg. boxes added in when in lay then burnt . . . they will foul the nest box too! Geese can be housed on slatted floors. The slats should be 2 cm wide at their top to ensure a comfortable standing surface and l.5 cm wide at the bottom, while spacing between slats should be l.5 cm to permit droppings to pass through.
Geese have been used to weed a variety of crops and to keep fence rows, ditches and inaccessible areas, clean. They are also effective in controlling the pond weeds, Raising geese in orchards may be a simple method of controlling grass growth. Certain pesticides and slug pellets are toxic to geese. The stocking rate for grass control is 50 to 60 adult geese per hectare. If only controlled grazing is required, this stocking rate could be reduced to 15 to 20 adult geese per hectare.
A 1m high fence made from 2 mm wire netting makes a safe enclosure. A two-strand electric fence, with strands spaced at 10 cm and 30 cm from the ground, will prevent geese from straying.
If a lot of geese are to be kept the best solution is stock wire or chain link with two strands of mains electric running around the base . . . for foxes etc . . .
Handling and Catching
Geese are easily driven into holding pens, if you hold out the right hand the goose usually turn left as you drive them etc . . . never run and chase them . . . they walk slowly and get stressed easily. When handling and catching geese, experience and discretion are necessary. Geese can inflict painful blows with their wings and scratches with their feet. Grasp a bird with one hand firmly around the neck and close to the body. Geese should never be caught by the legs as lame, disjointed or broken legs often result. A stout piece of wire with the end shaped like a shepherd’s crook is handy for catching geese or for the deluxe / lazy method invest in a fisherman’s landing net!
It has been said that eye colour can be used to sex geese, the ganders having blue eyes and the goose having brown eyes. Also the gander has a shrill, high pitched note compared with the lower, deeper, harsher note of the goose. These two methods are not perfect ways to separate the sexes a reputable breeder will check by vent sexing geese having the same equipment as the males in most species and contrary to some stories they can be sexed from babies.
Worms, Waterfowl and etc.
Many of you particularly if you keep a number of geese will run them with other livestock such as sheep or horses. If a combined worming programme is not used there can often occur a case of worm resistance in one of the breeds. As an example, if geese or ducks are kept with sheep, goats or cattle the larger species can be wormed and the wormer will cause them to shed parasite eggs. Many of these will be killed, the others are then picked up by the goose or duck and will pass through their system and later reinfect the host, this being a frequent cause of “worm resistance”. The smaller species may also suffer as they may be reinfected via the larger re distributing their own worm eggs.
The simplest way to treat this is to use the same wormer on both species and if the makers labels and dose ratings are followed (often with a calculator to reduce the dose from many kilo to one and a half!). The option of adding a syringe to the mouth of individual geese is both time consuming and stressful to both owner and animals, a better method is to dilute the dose for the pen or pens and make up a wet mash or to soak the grain. Egg withdrawal for most makes is twenty four hours remembering that this is the day after worming as the eggs laid on the day of worming were produced during the previous day (they can be added to food for growers but will not incubate). The best method is thus to worm in autumn and early spring before the eggs are fertile.
Another option is to run species together which cancel out the worms of each other such as geese and horses. Many of the Victorian horse books talk of this being “efficacious” and is probably the reason for so many geese being painted in stable yards. For those without an “estate” the muscovy is a smaller version, although it is technically neither goose nor duck it is closer to the goose genetically and I personally sell a number of muscovies for general farmyard hoovering. Perhaps the only drawback to this is it enables a broody goose or muscovy to hide their clutch even more effectively making the young susceptible to small rodents and the resulting rugby scrum to collect the babies whilst being “assisted by mum” is another story.