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The cattle of the poultry world, geese need few inputs to raise and are one of the best choices for raising your own meat on limited pasture space. These big birds are mischievous, curious, and alert. They are extremely hardy and live primarily off of grass and weeds.
Geese need to be brooded at 90F for the first week with the temperature lowered by 5 to 10 degrees every week after until you reach 70 degrees F, if you’re using a heat lamp. If you’re using a heat plate (affiliate links: I have this one and 2 of these) simply adjust the leg height as they grow and the goslings can warm themselves when they need it.
Goslings typically no longer need heat after about 5-6 weeks of age. After that they should be moved out to their adult pens and pasture. They can spend time out on pasture sooner if the the weather is warm and then go back into the brooder at night.
Feed & Water for Goslings
You will need to provide lots of clean, fresh water for the goslings to drink. A regular chicken waterer works fine in the brooder.
I find goslings to be not quite as messy as ducklings. Normally they haven’t turned the entire brooder into soup within an hour like ducklings do. They will still need more frequent water and bedding changes than chicks though.
Goslings should be fed all the fresh grass and weeds that they want daily and either a waterfowl starter or a chick starter (medicated or unmedicated). The medication now used in medicated chick starter is amprolium, which is safe for waterfowl. In the past the medication contained arsenic which was fatal to waterfowl.
After 6 weeks goslings should be fed poultry feed only as a supplement if they have daily access to good pasture. I put feed out free choice during the day and they eat it as they want it.
You may need to supplement with extra niacin as well to prevent leg problems. You have a few options for doing this:
- Infant Vitamins without Iron – 1 dropper full per quart water
- Brewer’s Yeast – approximately 3 cups per 10 pounds feed or a generous sprinkle on top of their feed daily
- NON-time release Niacin Gel Capsule Supplements (these are increasingly hard to find) – 100 mg per 1 gallon water – squeeze the gel out of the capsule and into the water
Typically you won’t need to supplement your goslings as long as they have plenty to eat and fresh greens daily.
Goslings, particularly ganders (males), should not be fed by hand or handled excessively as this can result in aggression when they are adults.
Feeding Juveniles & Adult Geese
Juvenile and adult geese can glean nearly 80% of their diet from grass and weeds. A small amount of grain, such as barley, should also be offered daily. The grain can be put in a shallow pan and then covered with water to keep chickens or wild birds from stealing it. Or, if you’re at our farm, the goats.
We feed ours in their night pen in the evening to encourage them to come in for the night and I like to toss their grain into their swimming pool while filling it up with fresh water. Geese should also be offered free-choice oyster shell and either waterfowl or all-purpose poultry feed during the breeding season.
Water and Bathing
Geese need lots of clean, fresh water for drinking and washing their heads. Water containers should be deep enough that they can submerge their entire head. This is my favorite bucket – it’s deep enough for them to submerge their heads and not so deep that an adult chicken can drown itself in it.
Clean bathing water should be offered at least 3 times a week for most of the year. A kiddie pool is fine for geese to bathe in. During breeding season access to clean bathing water daily will improve fertility.
Many people mistakenly think that geese are mean animals. In reality, it’s typically a misunderstanding of goose behavior coupled with the person’s incorrect response to the behavior.
- Hissing – Geese hiss to try to scare off something that they feel is threatening. Continue about your business and give the geese more space if you can. Females tend to hiss more than ganders.
- Wing Shakes – Ganders will often let you know you’re getting too close by shaking their wings. If you continue approaching they will try…
- Charging – A goose that is running at you with its neck and wings out is trying to bluff you into running away. Stand up tall, stick your arms out, and walk towards the offender yelling loudly. I tell people to loudly say “Come here and give me a hug!” to the goose. Never, ever back down from a goose because they will then view you as lower than them in the pecking order. Which leads to…
- Biting – Geese (particularly ganders) will usually only bite people that they feel are lower on the pecking order than them. This behavior is more difficult to correct once established. The offender needs to be caught by the neck and either held to the ground or carried securely under the arm. This mimics goose behavior where the alpha gander pins subordinate ganders to the ground and keeps them from moving.
Encourage proper behavior by treating your geese like livestock and not like pets. Do not hand feed. Do not cuddle. Geese need to know that you are NOT a goose and they are NOT people.
Geese are normally butchered out at either 9, 15, or 20 weeks depending on how big you want them to be. Typically carcass weights range from 8 – 20 pounds, depending on age and breed. The meat is very lean, like grass-finished beef. It also looks, smells, and tastes like beef.
Geese are seasonal layers and usually lay in spring to early summer. The average goose lays 30 – 40 eggs annually, with some geese laying more and some laying less. Typically each goose will lay an egg every other day. The average egg weighs around 144 grams each, or about the size of 3 large chicken eggs.