While poultryOne focuses on the basics of raising chickens, many people enjoy raising geese as well. True, raising geese is a comparatively small part of the poultry world; the University of Minnesota says that geese make up less than one percent of the poultry hobby when you count chickens, ducks, etc. However, more and more people are discovering the joy of raising geese In this poultry article, we’ll teach you how to start raising geese by hatching your own geese eggs and brooding your own little gaggle of goslings. We’ll also discuss other basics of the care, housing and feeding of geese.
Why raise geese?
People raise geese for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want your own Christmas goose (although, honestly, your geese will probably become just like pets!). Geese are great at pest control, with an excellent eye for snails, slugs and other garden bugs. Geese are also good at weeding, and make excellent self-sustaining foragers if you have a large backyard or a pasture to raise them in. And while most people raise chickens for eggs, some people also raise geese for their eggs!
Choosing a goose breed
There are so many different types of geese breeds in all sorts of sizes and colors. Big geese and small geese; grey geese and white geese! We would recommend staying with the tried and true goose breed: The Toulouse goose breed and the Emden goose breed are excellent choices for beginners.
Starting your own gaggle of geese
A group of chickens is called a “flock,” and a group of geese are called a “gaggle.” Ready to start your own gaggle of geese? Great! Many people choose to start raising geese by incubating and brooding their own goose eggs and goslings. Your incubator should have a built-in egg turner. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself turning your goose eggs by hand 4 times a day; quite a chore! Your incubator should have a thermostat to keep the eggs hot enough, as well as have settings for the correct humidity levels.
The Government of British Columbia in Canada says the following about incubating goose eggs:
Geese hatch in 28 to 34 days depending upon the breed. The incubation temperature should be a dry bulb temperature of 37.2 C (99 F) and a wet bulb temperature of 30.0 – 31.1 C (86 to 88 F) for 25 days with a wet bulb temperature of (32.2 C) 90 F in the hatcher. Geese eggs should be incubated on their sides, turned 4 times a day and turned through a 180 degrees. Setting them on their small ends and turning them 90 degrees like duck eggs significantly reduces the hatchability. Eggs from the lighter breeders start pipping at 28 days while heavier breeds take 35 days. Thirteen percent water weight loss during the incubation period (not including the hatching period) is optimal for a good hatch.
Brooding your goslings
Once your goslings hatch, you’ll need to place them in a brooder. This step of hatching and brooding geese is very important! The brooder should be dry with a soft litter. We recommend corncob litter or wood shavings. To keep your baby geese warm, the brooder should have a 250-watt heat lamp. The lamp should keep the temperature in the gosling brooder at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should be decreased by 5 degrees every week.
You can feed your newly-hatched goslings chick feed. Chick feed is high in protein which will help your baby geese grow. As your geese get older, you can switch the geese feed to grower chicken feed. As for water, you can use a regular poultry waterer as long as the goslings can submerge their entire bill and head into it. Remember, geese are waterfowl and need lots of fresh, clean water to be healthy!
It is not necessary to give your goslings a pond or pool to swim in, but they do need deep waterers so they can get their heads wet. This holds true as they become adult geese.
Housing your backyard geese
When raising chickens in a chicken coop, you need to make sure they have adequate space. Geese need a lot of space, too. Goslings need half of a square foot while they’re brooding. By the time they’re a month old, your geese will need one whole square foot. This requirement will continue to rise as your geese get older. Here is a chart that compares the space requirements of geese with other poultry breeds:
|Minimum Space Requirements for Poultry|
|Type of Poultry Bird||Sq Ft / Inside Coop||Sq Ft / Outside in a Run|
As your goslings become mature, adult geese, you’ll move them off of the chick starter feed and onto grower chicken feed. It has less protein than chick starter. When feeding geese, you can supplement the grower feed with grains as well as letting your geese forage. Geese are very, very good foragers–better than ducks!–and enjoy eating grass and any bugs they might find while wandering your backyard.
The University of Minnesota says the following about feeding geese:
- Goslings can be started on a crumbled or pelted chick starter. Place feed the first few days on egg case flats or other rough paper. Use the same type of feeders as used for chicks, changing type or adjusting size as the birds grow. Keep feed before the birds at all times and provide insoluble grit. After the first 2-3 weeks, a pelted chick grower ration can be fed, supplemented with a cracked grain. Geese are excellent foragers. Good succulent pasture or lawn clippings can be provided as early as the first week. By the time the birds are 5-6 weeks old, a good share of their feed can be from forage.
You can also feed your geese healthy kitchen scraps. Some suggestions include vegetable peelings, fruit, and pruned leaves and branches from your vegetable garden. You will want to avoid certain scraps like meats, spoiled food, human food and onions and garlic (strong-smelling food will make your duck eggs smell funny).
Additional offline book resources:
1. Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons
2. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
3. University of California: Feeding Chickens