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The General Care of Geese


There are different varieties of geese from the small Egyptian goose, weighing 4?5 lbs. to the larger African, Toulouse and Emden geese weighing 18 to 20 lbs.  A male goose is called a gander, while the female is called a hen or a goose.  The Emden geese may lay 35?40 eggs per year, while the Chinese will lay 40?65 eggs.  If you have Canada Geese, this “wild type” requires a permit from the Fish and Wildlife.  Canada Geese actually due mate in pairs until separated, the other species of geese do not “mate for life”.

After the ganders are 2 years old they are old enough for breeding.  Pair the birds to mate one month before the breeding season, which can begin as early as February or March.  Lights can be used to induce the geese to lay eggs earlier than normal.  Except for Canada Geese, one gander goose can be paired with 3?4 hens.  It is best to keep the same “breeding geese units” each year unless there is a problem with mating, as geese are slow to change to a new mate.  A pelleted breeder ration should be fed starting when the birds are being paired up.  Grit and sometimes a calcium supplement (oyster shells or limestone) should be provided.  Clean water should be available at all times.  The nesting boxes should be 2 feet square.  Unlike chickens and ducks, geese do not easily adapt to “total confinement”???geese need a yard to move around in.  Geese do not have to have a pond to be happy, but if you have a pond or pool place the water away from the housing and feeding facilities.

Up to 10?12 eggs can be laid in each goose’s nest, but 5?6 goslings are the usual “optimum” brood.  Ducks, turkeys and sometimes chickens can be used to incubate 4?6 eggs as foster mothers. (Please see us about “imprinting” if you desire to use these “foster kids” for breeding).  If you are going to collect the eggs do this at night and in the morning after locking the flock up overnight in the brooding house.  Broodiness develops if the hen is allowed to sit on the eggs that are not daily collected.  We have specific information on incubating eggs, building of facilities, etc. if you should desire this.  Most eggs should hatch in 29?31 days, except Canada and Egyptian geese take up to 35 days.  For all poultry owners we recommend that you come into the clinic to obtain a feeding tube, syringe and the directions for tube feeding a bird, especially a bird that has been stressed out and attacked by a predator.

For the first 6?8 weeks of age it is best to keep the goslings inside during cold or rainy weather.  During the first week a temperature of 90 degrees is required, with a 5 degree drop per week thereafter till 70 degrees is reached.  After 2?3 weeks of age goslings can be allowed outside in warm weather.  If chicken brooders are used for heating they will need to be raised, and rated at 1 gosling for 3 chickens in comparison.  A 250 watt lamp hanging 18 inches above 25 gosling can be used.  Hang the lamp by a chain or wire and make sure that a lamp guard is in place.   Piling under the lamp may indicate that it is too cold, while moving away from the brooder can indicate it is too warm.  A 4 inch bedding litter of chopped straw, peat moss, wood shavings, sawdust, etc. should be provided, with cleaning as needed.  When first born the Pilgrim geese can be sexed by the males being white and having blue eyes.  The day old Pilgrim female goslings are gray with hazel and white eyes.  By everting the cloaca, geese can also be sexed.  A night light may be required if the geese are stampeding; preventable by using a 15 watt bulb per 200 square feet of brooder flooring.  Night lights can cause breeding hens to not lay eggs, if misused.

During the first 3 weeks of age a 20?22% protein starter should be provided to the goslings.  After 3 weeks a 3/16 inch size pellet grower ration, containing 15% protein is utilized.  Chicken feeds can be used if geese rations are not available, but do not use the feeds with antibiotics (which can be fatal to waterfowl).  Calculate one 8 foot feeding trough per 100 goslings, and one automatic cup waterer per 100 goslings.  Food and water should always be available.  The goslings can forage after 5 weeks of age.  Grass clippings can be fed, but ensure that no spraying for weeds or insects has recently occurred on the lawn.  Older geese can be fed out of turkey range feeders, one feeder per 100 birds.  Most geese are marketed at 5?6 months of age, or 11?15 pound.  The average breeding gander is commercially kept till 5 years of age, and hens are kept for 10 years.  Do not feed other poultry feeds to geese if they have antibiotics or coccidiostats; a diet with coccidiostats is toxic to waterfowl.            The coccidiostats of halfuginone, narsin, nitarsone, nitrofurans are toxic to ducks and geese (and also most are not allowed at all to be in contact with food animals).  Dinitolmide is toxic to pigeons.  Many of the coccidiostats/medicated feeds can be toxic to dogs, pigs, horses, humans, etc.  All coccidiostat drugs can be toxic if there is an overdose.  Monensin can be fed to most species of poultry, yet is toxic at high doses.  In older turkeys and in all guinea fowl ionophores can be toxic (monensin, lasalocid).  There are many drugs that if mixed with monensin/ionophores it can cause toxicity in poultry and other animals, especially waterfowl; our drug reaction handout has a list of these drugs.  Waterfowl that are used for egg laying should have a 3% calcium in their diet.  If such a laying diet cannot be found we recommend a 50/50 mixture of the goose diet and a chicken laying diet (4% calcium) that is not medicated.

Geese can be used for weeding in corn, strawberries, sugar beets, orchards and ornamental plants.  Geese like to eat clover and succulent grasses, but not alfalfa and tough grasses.  Insure that the pasture has not been treated with herbicides or insecticides.  For starting geese as weeders, place the 6 week old goslings in the field with shade and waterers spread out within the area.  Hog waterers can be used for geese.  A light evening feeding should be provided.  We have more specific literature on this subject if you wish.

Periodically geese should be examined for external parasites, and yearly fecals done on the flock to check for internal parasites.