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How to Care for Geese and Goslings, Nature's Ecological Lawn Mowers

Updated on April 10, 2017
DaisyChain profile image

Artist, plumber, gourmet, and wine lover. Living the good life in France with my husband, son, and our collection of animals.

Goslings are so cute.
Goslings are so cute. | Source

Should You Keep Geese?

Why cut grass, waste resources, and struggle to maintain a noisy, costly lawn mower when you can keep geese? They are natural lawn mowers and are fun to keep, but you have to do it properly!

You must be able to afford housing, fencing, straw, and medication, if necessary. You must also have sufficient land — somewhere fox-proof — to house your geese, and you must have time to give them fresh water and to feed them. Caring for goslings will take even more time and effort.

Having said this, keeping geese will be a pleasure, and you'll be richly rewarded in so many ways. If you have a yearning to keep geese but don't know if it's right for you, then I hope this article will help you decide.

Pictures of Our Geese

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Spring time in LimousinGeese in the snowGeese eating peaches in the orchardGoslings trimming the grass around the swings in our play area
Spring time in Limousin
Spring time in Limousin | Source
Geese in the snow
Geese in the snow | Source
Geese eating peaches in the orchard
Geese eating peaches in the orchard | Source
Goslings trimming the grass around the swings in our play area
Goslings trimming the grass around the swings in our play area | Source

What You Need to Properly Care for Geese

  • About 100m2 of good, short grass per goose.
  • The grass must be short at first (approximately 4 inches). If you have long grass, you should cut it and remove the cuttings. Because they don’t eat most weeds, you will need to periodically mow the grass. Try to reduce the weeds and increase the grass by using selective weed killers, but be careful as this may also kill the dandelions, clovers, wild mints, violets, and daisies.
  • They need a nice, big bucket of clean water every day. They have to be able to immerse their heads in it. Don’t give them anything large enough for them to get into, as they will soil it. Of course, if you don't mind clean out paddling pools, or you have a lake or large pond, then they are ideal. Geese might pollute a small, natural pond though, so take care when giving them access to water.
  • They need a fox-proof place to sleep that is dry, but not droughty. It should be about 1m2 per goose. You must be able to clean it out comfortably.
  • They need clean straw at night for bedding.
  • If you need to contain them, sheep fencing that is about 4 ft. high is fine. They can fly over if they want to, but don’t generally bother.
  • You don't need to worry about the cold if your climate is like that of Limousin or the weather in Britain. They love the cold and rain.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
How long does it take for a gosling to emerge? Eggs start to hatching at 31 days. Gosling emerging from the egg.
How long does it take for a gosling to emerge? Eggs start to hatching at 31 days.
How long does it take for a gosling to emerge? Eggs start to hatching at 31 days. | Source
Gosling emerging from the egg.
Gosling emerging from the egg.

Caring for Goslings

  • Geese don’t make good mothers, so it's best to give two eggs to a broody hen or use an incubator.
  • The goslings need to be kept in a rat-free environment. Because I keep mine in a barn, we made a box that was 75cm x 75cm x 60cm high, with a base and a removable wire mesh lid. (This box was designed as a car box for our dog, but proved more useful for chicks and goslings). You should be able to keep 4-5 goslings in this enclosure for 3-4 weeks.
  • Alternatively, a ready-made wire car box designed for a large dog would be ideal if it was placed in a draught-free place, or wrapped around to protect from draughts. If you don’t have one, perhaps you could borrow one.
  • Don’t use wood shavings, straw, or sawdust as bedding, and don’t give them anything slippery to stand on, such as newspaper. Slippery surfaces can lead to damaged leg development. Ideally, lay down a thick base of newspaper and cover that with an old towel. When this is soiled, take it out and shake it, and then hang it up to dry and replace it with another one. Other breeders suggest wire netting. If you choose to use this, make sure it is free from any wire that could injure the goslings. Again, when it is soiled, take it out and brush off the droppings.

Keep the goslings warm with a heat lamp.
Keep the goslings warm with a heat lamp. | Source

Warmth

  • They need to be kept warm. Much of this will depend on the weather, but you will probably need an infrared lamp designed for the job.
  • Suspend this over the box or inside the box. You might have to devise some contraption with chairs and brooms. I have a nail in a beam, and I put my lamp on a long chain. When it is inside the box, place it in one corner, so the goslings can sit directly under it, but can also escape the heat, if necessary.
  • To gauge how far away you need to place the lamp and the temperature of the heat, watch the goslings' behaviour. If they huddle together, they are cold. If they disperse to the edges of the box, they are too hot. When they walk around or sit around the middle (not too close together), then you will know that they have the ideal temperature.
  • Raise the lamp a little each week, as necessary. They should not need the heat after 4 – 5 weeks, but perhaps they will need it only at night, depending on the weather. You have to play it by ear.

Food

  • Feed them unmedicated chick crumbs during the first few weeks of life. It is important to check that it is unmedicated, as goslings will eat much more food than chicks do.
  • They need water, but shouldn’t be allowed into the water until they get their feathers. I use a cat bowl for their food and another, placed a little distance away, for their water.
  • They need something to peck at. I tried raising goslings and chicks together, and it all seemed to be going well until I noticed that the goslings were sucking the tail feathers off the chicks! Dig up clods of grass and put it in their box. If they don’t have something to peck, they might start feather picking each other.
  • My main handbook by Katie Theare, The Complete Book of Raising Livestock and Poultry, says not to put them onto grass for three weeks. I can’t understand why. I am not an expert, but I have friends who put their goslings out on the grass after two weeks. When I tried this, I chose a sunny day, and my goslings were happy and healthy. You will need a safe environment (no dogs) and make sure it is not in an area where they can get trapped or escape. You might want to make a run for them, or use a rabbit run if you have one already.
  • Choose a warm, dry, and sunny day to let them wander. We delight in getting the goslings out if we have lunch or aperitifs outside. They won’t run away, but will pick grass, chunter charmingly, and sit under the chairs and tables or on our feet. They love to nibble (or nip) your toes. They also like to fiddle with and chew the hems of your skirt, shoe laces, or the buckles on your sandals. For us, this was one of the delights of spending a warm day or evenings outdoors in France.

Caring for Them Once They Are Mature

  • As soon as you think they can defend themselves against rats and no longer need the heat, they can go into their adult quarters. I make sure that my geese have shelter from the sun during the day (in our case, it is trees) and shelter from the rain, at least until they have their full adult feathers. I don’t know if you really need to do this or not.
  • Gradually wean them off the chick feed. You can replace this with pellets. Check with your animal food supplier to make sure you are giving them the correct ones. You can also slowly add in wheat and maize. I found that the year I put them onto grass early and fed them the least was the year I didn’t have medical problems. So try not to overly care for them!
  • If they look a bit off-colour, are being sluggish, not rushing to eat, sitting or staying alone, and/or limping or falling over, get them straight to the vet. When I experienced this, the vet gave me antibiotics to put in the water (very cheap). If only I had acted quickly, I could have saved the first one of the bunch.
  • It is a good practice to periodically move them from old grass to new. For my geese, this occurs naturally. They move from the lawn to the play area, from the play area to the gite, and from the gite to the field.
  • Always be aware when you might have guests, especially children, and make sure you move the geese away from the area ahead of time.

The Cons of Keeping Geese

  • Geese are flock birds. They like company, so you must keep at least two geese or you'll have a very sad and lonely little friend on your hands.
  • Although many people have male geese that are perfectly pleasant and adorable, others can be a bit "hissy" and even aggressive, especially if there are eggs or goslings to protect.
  • You can't tell the males from the females until they are about 9-months-old. The females start to lay when their stomachs drop. Someone on the Internet pointed out that the males have an "evil eye," and I think this is actually quite a good guide. My husband has been saying for ages that our current lot of geese are not as friendly as the other (which turned out to be an all-female group). Any hissing is definitely a sign of masculinity!
  • They do leave a lot of droppings. While I don't think it is offensive, it is messy and unsightly. You might want to keep them away from the house and from paths. I will warn you that they tend to sit on the doorsteps and, if you have a glass door, they will tap at it to be let in!
  • They produce large quantities of soggy wet bedding.
  • They eat few things other than grass, but they do like chickweed, clover, dandelions, everlasting pea plants, etc. Mine snip the heads and leaves of flowers, and they will chew the bark of climbing plants (even roses), so you must protect the base of your plants and flowers either by building pretty little fences or by wrapping the area with chicken wire.
  • They are little devils because they constantly go around pecking and chewing on things, such as the badges on cars, plastic table cloths, or shoe laces! I think that while they are waiting to digest their grass, they get bored and go around looking for mischief. In my opinion, it's this very quality that puts them high up on the pet list, alongside dogs, for being adorable.
  • They make a lot of noise and are famous for being good watchdogs. In fact, they are infinitely better than dogs. (Dogs have their own agenda. Ours barks furiously at nothing and on other occasions, she cheerfully escorts perfect strangers up to the front door). Geese, on the hand, know a stranger when they see one. They will also call out even if they know the person and sometimes shout out to greet you. This is not good if you have neighbors. Luckily, ours are very quiet at night.
  • They are quite delicate and, unlike hens, can suffer from various fatal conditions.

A gaggle of geese
A gaggle of geese | Source

The Pros of Keeping Geese

  • They are lovable and friendly and can become very tame (if they are females).
  • They are elegant and decorative.
  • Goslings are super cute.
  • They keep the grass cut.
  • They are cheap to feed. They need only grass from April – October (the season when grass is growing). You can also feed them wheat and corn in the off-season.
  • If you want to keep them as pets, they have great longevity (around 30 years).
  • They are easier to look after than hens, as you can herd them around. You can also put them to bed at 6pm in the summer, if you want to go out for the night, and they are compliant. There is no way we can get hens to go into the hen house if they don't want to go.
  • They are good guard dogs.
  • They lay fabulous eggs that you can eat, and you can also blow out the eggs and decorate them.
  • They make a delicious dinner, and if you raise them right, you know that they have fed on good food and have had a nice life.
  • The soggy wet bedding they produce makes excellent compost material.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Goslings enjoying the grass and sunshine.
Source
Goslings enjoying the grass and sunshine.
Goslings enjoying the grass and sunshine. | Source

Buying Goslings

  • Choose a reputable breeder. If you can see where they are reared, check to see if it's clean and spacious.
  • Make sure that there is no sign of feather-picking or ill-health. If one gosling in the batch has been pecked, don't buy any of them — the un-pecked ones are the peckers!
  • Which breed should you get? Here in Limousin, we keep white poitou and grey geese. The white ones are used for eiderdown, and the greys, the locals tell me, are best for roasting. I have no experience with keeping the fancy breeds, although, if I have more time, I'd love to.

Adorable
Adorable | Source

Using Geese to Cut Grass

Geese are great for mowing the lawn, but don't throw away your lawn mower just yet! They are selective feeders; they will devour the grass and some herbs, but won't touch plants such as docks and nettles.

You'll still need to mow the lawn with a mower, but if you keep geese, you won't need to do it nearly as often, and the work will be much, much lighter.

Still Game for Geese?

Our geese have brought us much pleasure, and I hope that if you decide to keep geese you'll love them as much as we love having ours.

Many people keep them as pets, but some people raise them for food. Geese make a fabulously luxurious Christmas dinner, but remember, you'll also have goose liver (pate), goose fat (for roast potatoes), and goose gizzards. In France, the gizzards are called "gesiers," and I use them to make a typical Limousin salad or, if I have a lot, I make gizzard curry. Goose gesiers take longer to cook than chicken gizzards, but they are super meaty and tasty. If you would like to try some, check out my gizzard curry recipe.

Me and My Geese

When I was a child, we had a pet goose that we kept in our backyard, but I wouldn't advise you to do the same now that I know more about what makes a goose happy and healthy. At Les Trois Chenes bed and breakfast in Limousin, France, we have kept geese for the past eight years, mainly to help keep the grass under control. But, we also love hatching out goslings and watching them grow. Our guests love them as well, even if some don't want to get too close.

Geese do have their drawbacks though. They can be intimidating and are certainly noisy, but because of this, they make excellent watch dogs. I hope that the pros and cons I've listed above will help you decide whether to keep them.

The Complete Book of Raising Livestock & Poultry
The Complete Book of Raising Livestock & Poultry

This has been my guide and handbook for the animals we have kept at Les Trois Chenes. It has been a classic book for stock keepers since it was first published.

 

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My Goslings Featured in My Easter and Greeting Cards

© 2011 DaisyChain

Do Geese Get Your Gander? Tell Me About It.

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    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 18 months ago from France

      Geese are much better watch dogs than - well - watch dogs! Thanks for you message, Irdl3535, and I hope your geese will be with you for many years.

    • lrdl3535 profile image

      Richard Lindsay 18 months ago from California

      I have a trio of geese and also find them great to have around. Mine are also very good watch dogs and that is why I have them. I did not know they can live 30 years, so that's good to know. Great post

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 2 years ago from France

      Hi Jamie, I would handle it as much as possible - they may imprint on you so you would become 'mum' - not sure if that is good or bad. You could try to put the gosling with the other two geese but that might be tricky. I had a female goose who tried hard to adopt my incubator-hatched goslings - but on the other hand they can be aggressive towards it. For hens we're told to put them together but separated by a wire fence so they can get used to each other. Perhaps you could shop around for advice here as I don't have all that much experience at uniting geese who are not all brought up together. Certainly one goose by itself will be very sad indeed. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Jaime 2 years ago

      Hi there, I have a pair of geese (they tolerate me but are not friendly) and recently tried my luck at incubating my females eggs. One hatched, one didn't so I have one gosling all on it's own. I don't want him/her to be lonely, should I handle it as much as possible or leave it be? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 2 years ago from France

      Thanks for this contribution, Cindy. One more mystery solved for me!

    • profile image

      cindy 2 years ago

      dear daisy,

      in the wild the mother transfers oils to her young, when one is not present the oils come from them growing to adulthood.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 2 years ago from France

      I'm so pleased you enjoyed the hub. Geese can be such wonderful creatures to have around but clearly not practical for everyone. Thank you for leaving a comment, LongTimeMother.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 2 years ago from France

      Yes, geese can be noisy and some find their droppings a problem so I can quite see how zoning laws could block keeping geese. Thanks for dropping by Mel.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I would be perfectly content to have a grass mowing machine like this, but I don't think our zoning laws would allow it. Great hub!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      What a terrific hub, DaisyChain. I learned a lot.

      I'm not likely to ever have geese but I'll certainly point anyone who asks me about them in your direction. :)

      Voting up and sharing.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 2 years ago from France

      Many thanks for your questions. I think you could just have a couple of geese and female ones might be less aggressive. As far as being watchdogs I think the females are as good as the males. They only sound the alarm though - you can't expect them to fend off burglers physically.

      If you have boys I would get the geese as goslings and handle them to make sure the boys and the geese get used to eachother.

      I'm not sure if they would be OK outside all night. I guess they would be in the wild! They definitely need to be protected from predators - rats, foxes etc Does it get cold in Johannesburg? If it is warm and dry perhaps just a pile of straw would suffice. To be on the safe sid I'd contact local people with geese to see how they manage things there.

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      Noko 2 years ago

      I live in Johannesburg and have been thinking of getting geese as watchdogs. My yard is approximately 150sqm and my sister's is about 400sqm. She had three boys, whom I think will love them. How many would I have to get to guard the yard? Further, it is mentioned that they need a place to sleep at night, can they not roam the yard freely at night? Which are best as 'watchdogs' male or female?

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 3 years ago from France

      Hi Lynn. I haven't noticed them getting more 'hissy' during egg laying. Perhaps they are just growing up / growing away from you. If they do stop hissing when the breeding season stops would you like to come back and leave a note and I'll add a section on temper and hissing? Many thanks for your message.

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      Lynn Thomas 3 years ago

      I have Embden they have started getting Hissy since the eggs started to appear in February

      Will this stop in June when they stop laying or will they always hiss?

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 3 years ago from France

      If you already have ducks, chickens and guinea fowl, you're a 'pro', jrpierce, and I'm sure you'll love your geese, especially if you can give a bit of time to make them really tame as goslings - of course you might just be rearing them for - Christmas Dinner!

      I do hope the venture goes well, do come back and let me know how you got on and if there's anything else I should add to the article.

    • jrpierce profile image

      Jaymie 3 years ago from Ellijay, Ga

      I am planning on getting geese in the spring, your article just made me want them all the more. We have ducks, chickens and guinea fowl already so I'm just missing the geese!

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 4 years ago from France

      Hi Jessie, I really think that you should take it to the vet. They do seem to have terrible problems with their legs - or at least mine did. My vet had a look without charging and the powder he gave me didn't cost very much. Let me know how you get on.

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      Jessie 4 years ago

      You mention in here about damaged leg development. I have two Sebastopol goslings, about 2.5 months old. One of them continuously has a bad right leg. It limps or is basically immobile. When it weight bears on a bad day, it makes a lot of noise, obviously painful. But when you pick him up, he kicks and kicks so I don't think it's broken; just painful on weight bearing. Any ideas on one, what may be wrong; and, two, how to help him get better. The other is totally fine and runs around being mischievious all day. I do have them contained a lot so that one doesn't try to run around hurting herself all day and they can't bear to be apart. Any helpful comments would be very appreciated.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 4 years ago from France

      Many thanks for you message seahorsey. I'm not sure about this one. I don't have enough experience of joining together groups of geese to even hazard a guess. Geese are social creatures and quite tricky.

      I've always hatched out a group and then this group have lived happily together. I'd have thought that if you can contact a professional breeder, they would be experts at bringing in 'new blood'. Perhaps you could come back, seahorsey, and let me know what happened. I can then add your experience (and new-found knowledge) to the article.

    • profile image

      seahorsey 4 years ago

      i am new to a pair of mated geese they are doing well, she is laying eggs and they are content with each other. i would like to get one more goose.. but not sure if he will mate with her also. so my question is if i were to get another MATED pair .. could both pairs live together in same enclosure and be content? it is a large enclosure with a nice 8ftx5ft pond.. and seperate houses.. using xlarge igloo dog house.. working well.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 4 years ago from France

      Thanks for dropping by and for adding your tropical take. Of course I only know about raising geese in countries like France and the UK

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Nice article! My geese approve it. Here in the tropics grass grows year round so there is never a shortage of feed for the little mowers. Goose paradise.

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 5 years ago from France

      Thank you so much, Rachel, for this endorsement. Much valued as it comes from a fellow goose-keeper!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

      What a great article! I just started keeping geese last year, and this year we have a gaggle of eight Embdens. I just love them! You're right about what great watch-dogs they are, and also about how they "mow" the grass for you. This year's geese are about four months old now and fully feathered (and huge), but still won't go in the creek on their own. I have to walk out into the water, and then they will follow - so silly! Anyway great article, you've got everything in there :)

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 5 years ago from France

      When I was young we had a goose that used to sit on our laps. They can be so lovely. Re the aggression, these things are not always evident. I made sure that I didn't choose the mean roosters - the ones that took their food before the hens, but didn't think about the protection aspect. Many thanks for taking the time to give us the benefit of your experiences.

    • profile image

      OBXJACKIE 5 years ago

      I said my gander lies next to me I have to correct that he gets right in my lap and sleeps! LOL! I think its good they are a little aggressive because my favorite rooster was the biggest but the other roosters use to pick on him so me not knowing any better I got rid of all the other roosters and kept him but now I realized that was not a good decision because he wasnt a good protector and now I only have 2 chickens left!

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 5 years ago from France

      I'm so pleased that you left these comments. I have had very nice male geese, but I've also heard stories about very aggressive ones. My hairdresser has a pair and one day they stood infront of the car and there was no moving them. The male was big and quite scary - I certainly wasn't going to tackle him. I'm going to amend my comments in view of your lovely boys!

    • profile image

      OBXJACKIE 5 years ago

      I have been raising chickens for the last 4 years I loved that so much I purchased 4 gooslings. 2 male & 2 females. They are about 4 weeks now and I love them. I am concerned though after reading "Unless I want to mated them the male should be sent off to the oven...!!! WHAT? My favorite one is the biggest male. He follows me around, lays up against me when I sit in the grass. He is beautiful too. Even when I raise chicks it was always the largest male that liked me the most. I purchased them from holderread farm and they weren't cheap either! Are you serious about getting rid of the males?

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      This hub is packed with information, links, resources, and pictures--great job!

      They really are adorable, aren't they! Well after reading this hub I've learned that that goose that chased my brother when we were young must have been a territorial male. My brother had a goose phobia for half his life after that lol. But it sounds like the females are quite different and very loving. Great hub! Voted up and interesting! :)

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 6 years ago from France

      Hi Storytellersrus. Thank you for your great ideas. You really are living up to your name! I don't think I have told the story of the Dog and the Goose (sounds like the name of an English pub!) Molly is good with the geese once they are big enough not to engage her hunting instincts - so long as they don't set their cheek up to her! I suppose she has been brought up with them. I hadn't thought about these stories, and yes, I'd love to write them up. They love the cold weather and the rain, although they have to be kept in a dry, draught-proof house at night. I've added a 'geese in snow' photo to this hub and to my Ecological Lawn Mowers - the Goose hub written under my lestroischenes name.

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Wow! I had no idea. I wonder how your dogs put up with them. I will have to read your dog hubs and see if you have mentioned anything about this. If not, please write a hub about how they get along, please! Also the story of geese in your childhood sounds fascinating. What fun! How do they handle cold weather? Voted up and interesting!

    • DaisyChain profile image
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      DaisyChain 6 years ago from France

      Many thanks, Nell, for taking the time to leave a comment. They are sweet when young and can become so tame. I'm hankering after having more now!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, they are so sweet when they are small, but as you pointed out, they need a lot of care, I sat down by the river today, and the noise from the geese was amazing! lol lovely hub, cheers nell