I'm an artist, plumber, gourmet, and wine lover. Living the good life in France with my husband, son, and our collection of animals.
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.
What You Need to Properly Care for Geese
- About 100 m2 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 cleaning 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 1 m2 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.
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 75 cm x 75 cm x 60 cm 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 four to five goslings in this enclosure for three to four 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.
- 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 four to five weeks, but perhaps they will need it only at night, depending on the weather. You have to play it by ear.
- 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, shoelaces, or the buckles on your sandals. For us, this was one of the delights of spending a warm day or evening 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 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 shoelaces! 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 other 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.
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 to 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 6 pm 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.
Read More From Pethelpful
- 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.
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 watchdogs. I hope that the pros and cons I've listed above will help you decide whether to keep them.
Are you thinking of getting geese?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am wondering about introducing goslings to a gander, whether his own, or from another gander. Will there be issues with this?
Answer: It might be tricky. They might adopt the gosling or attack it. Best to put the gosling in a pen of wire mesh where the gander can see it so the adult can get used to it without being able to injure it.
Question: Do geese need grit or oyster shell?
Answer: Geese need grit to grind their food but if they are free to roam outside they should have enough. I gave my hens oyster shell when they were laying and I think it's a good idea to toss a few handfuls for the laying geese as they need calcium for the eggshells.
Question: I have two seemingly healthy goslings that all of a sudden can't walk. What can I do to help them?
Answer: Go to the vet immediately. I had this problem too; it's common amongst geese and goslings. I was given medication to put in the water for the whole flock.
Question: Our neighbors were evicted and left their goose to die. I am an avid animal lover and have never owned a goose before. She seems loving and was told she is about 4 yrs old. Any advice for a first-time owner?
Answer: She is lucky to have found you! My first word of advice is to get another goose to keep her company. They are flock animals and like to be with others. We had one goose when I was young and she was so lonely. She used to watch us through the French windows and peck at the glass. In the end, we gave her to a friend who had a small group of geese and kept them as pets. She was much happier with them. Other than that they need enough clean water to immerse their heads, suitable food (grass or specific food for geese), a secure, clean, dry and draught/rat proof place to sleep. They are on the delicate side so if she seems lethargic, wobbly on her legs, etc, get her straight to the vet - don't 'wait and see'. Also, get a 'how to care for geese' book and have a good read. They are lovely birds, very loving and sociable. They also live a long time so you should have your friend for many years to come.
Question: I found a baby goose yesterday. We have been feeding it grass. It's about nine-weeks-old. What should I do?
Answer: Grass is good. You can also buy special food for goslings. Make sure it has enough water for drinking and to submerge its head. Geese are flock birds and it will be unhappy alone so find it company as soon as you can. If you live near other people, they may complain as geese are quite noisy. Good luck! Do come back and let us know how you got on.
Question: How long does it take for Goose eggs to hatch?
Answer: Normally the goslings should hatch in 28 - 30 days.
Question: Do goslings die when it's icy cold?
Answer: You should keep goslings warm, either under their mothers or inside with a heat lamp. Here in France goslings are sold from May onwards after the risk of frosts. I would time the hatching of my goslings so that they could go out when the weather had warmed up. If you get a cold snap suddenly, bring them inside to keep warm.
Question: How old should my goslings be until I put them outside? I have them for three weeks now. Night temperatures at night around the 50s.
Answer: I used to put my goslings out on dry, warm days when they were little, but they should be brought into a dry, draft-free place secure from rats and other predators. My geese didn't have access to swimming water so not sure when they should be introduced to water.
© 2011 DaisyChain
Do Geese Get Your Gander? Tell Me About It.
Hannah Singh on August 21, 2019:
I had a really amazing connection with a wild goose and we were friends for years, but it passed away a few months ago and I really miss it! I was thinking of raising my own in my backyard but you said that wasn’t a great idea? Is there anything I could do to make it work?
David on October 30, 2018:
"They are quite delicate and, unlike hens, can suffer from various fatal conditions."
I think you've got that the wrong way round: geese are very hardy and I have never had an illness or infestation in a long life of keeping them.. chickens on the other hand seem to pick up red mite, injuries and lice, and then stop laying just when you feel like an egg for brekky..
DaisyChain (author) from France on April 06, 2016:
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.
Richard Lindsay from California on April 04, 2016:
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 (author) from France on September 29, 2015:
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!
Jaime on September 28, 2015:
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 (author) from France on June 04, 2015:
Thanks for this contribution, Cindy. One more mystery solved for me!
cindy on June 02, 2015:
in the wild the mother transfers oils to her young, when one is not present the oils come from them growing to adulthood.
DaisyChain (author) from France on May 10, 2015:
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 (author) from France on May 10, 2015:
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 from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on May 10, 2015:
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 from Australia on May 10, 2015:
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 (author) from France on November 23, 2014:
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.
Noko on November 17, 2014:
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 (author) from France on April 03, 2014:
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.
Lynn Thomas on April 01, 2014:
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 (author) from France on November 27, 2013:
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.
Jaymie from Ellijay, Ga on November 15, 2013:
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 (author) from France on June 28, 2013:
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.