Is keeping guard geese on the farm a good way to protect chickens and other birds?
We have kept almost every farm animal at Cattle Upon a Hill. Our most recent addition has been keeping guard geese. Today, I am going to tell you about my experience with keeping guard geese. I will tell you the purpose, advantages, disadvantages, and special considerations when keeping guardian geese.
I imagined keeping geese would be a whimsical fairytale much like that of Mother Goose. My perfect geese waddling around the farm as beautiful symbols of quiet, peaceful farm life. Wow, was I wrong! Geese are loud and very “social”.
Ever since I started keeping chickens, I have wanted to try to keep geese. I am blessed to live on a farm where I am able to keep many different kinds of birds. Currently, we have chickens, ducks, turkeys, guineas, and most recently geese. Each type of bird has its own personality. But none, quite like geese.
Keeping Guard Geese to protect against Predators
The reason I wanted to keep geese is that I have a predator problem. My chicken coop is behind our house on the edge of a wooded area. There are 15 acres of woods and many wild animals living in the woods including raccoons and foxes who think my chickens are an easy meal.
I have tried several methods to deter predators including trapping, guard dogs, and now we are trying geese. My children knew that I wanted geese. They were Mother’s Day shopping for me at the local farm store and there just happened to be goslings. My dear sons purchased a pair for me. Here are my cute, fluffy goslings when my sons presented them to me.
I have raised hundreds of chickens, some ducks, guineas, and even turkeys. None of these birds prepared me for raising geese. Geese have a “unique” temperament. I knew geese have a reputation for aggressive behavior. My plan was to handle them often and try to imprint myself as their mother goose.
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Imprinting is basically teaching the geese to identify with a specific human as a sense of identification. For example, the day we got the geese I acted as their mother and called to them “geese, geese” and they started following me around when we had them out of their brooder. They imprinted pretty well with me and still to this day, come running when I call them.
We kept our geese in the barn in an old water tank. I used the same set up as chicks: a brooder light, waterer, chick feed and straw as bedding. You can read more about starting happy, healthy chicks here. Here is a list of supplies for starting goslings.
I did add a flat 3 Gallon Rubber Feed Pan (like this one below) with water for the geese to swim in. It was messy, but they loved it.
Raising Guard Geese
As goslings, caring for the geese was much like caring for chicks. However, geese are much messier. They splash around in the water and then the bedding gets wet. Therefore, you will need to clean out much more often than chicks.
We also gave our goslings supervised time in the water. Since they were so small, we filled a 55-gallon drum that was cut in half with water and let them swim. Here is a short video. You can hear my daughter and I giggling at their adorable diving.
As our goslings grew, their need for water increase. Training young goslings to come when call is very helpful. We were able to walk them across the road to our seasonal pond. It is more like a large puddle, but as you can see in the video below, you can hear me calling the geese. They loved going to the pond.
Purpose of Keeping Geese
Once our pair of geese matured, I realized that we had a male and female. I also determined that they are Chinese Geese. When my son purchased them, they were sold as straight-run (unsexed) and hatchery choice (unknown breeds).
We introduced the geese to our flock of birds slowly by allowing them to free-range with the flock and finally placing them in the main coop at dusk. The geese seemed to adapt well, although they scared the guineas into the trees to roost at night.
As I mentioned, the reason I keep guard geese is to protect my other birds. Once the geese were sleeping in the coop, I observed their guardian instincts. They are very vocal and alert everyone of unusual activity. However, there was an opossum eating some grain right outside the coop one night when I shut them in. The geese were nowhere near the coop, in fact, they were hiding by our house. But they were being very loud.
Goslings for profit
Next spring, when my goose starts laying eggs, I plan on allowing her to set on the eggs and hatch a clutch of goslings. I plan on selling the goslings to earn a profit from keeping geese. I do not plan on keeping any more than two geese.
Cost of Keeping Geese
Geese are not expensive to keep. In fact, they are less expensive to keep than chickens. Geese can live off the grass and other vegetation during the summer months. If you live in a cold climate, you will need to supplement their diet during the winter months. I supplement with commercial all flock feed and sprouted seeds.
Other costs include bedding, housing, and a water source. We do not have a natural water source year-round, so we use a small, inexpensive plastic pool. I recommend a small pool. The geese are extremely messy and the pool needs to be cleaned daily.
Advantages of Keeping Guardian Geese
I hesitated keeping guard geese because I have heard they can be aggressive. This is true with my geese. This can be an advantage to keep strange animals away from your farm and other birds. My geese have also kept strangers away from our home. This is also a disadvantage that I will elaborate on when discussing disadvantages. Our geese keep the UPS delivery person from delivering packages. I have found packages left in the middle of the driveway while we were away because I am sure the geese attacked the driver.
Geese are fun. They are much more sociable than any other birds that I own. They always greet me when I am outside. They also follow me around the farm. This can be fun, but it can also be annoying. Their constant, loud honking makes it impossible to have a quiet moment or a conversation with someone.
Disadvantages of Keeping Guardian Geese
The biggest disadvantage of keeping the geese is definitely the mess they leave wherever they go. I don’t want to get too graphic, but compared to chicken poop, goose poop is very runny. I understand where the saying “loose as a goose” came from. Since it is so loose, it is very difficult to see in the grass and almost impossible to clean up. If you have a beautiful yard, geese are not for you.
As I mentioned earlier, my geese are becoming aggressive. They are still young, but the male has started to attack every member of my family. Thankfully, he gives plenty of time and warning before he attacks. They both nod their heads up and down, honking at me, then they slowly walk towards me with their wings out and finally, the male strike with his head straight out. He tries to bite me. He has bruised my leg but never broke the skin. He literally “gooses me”.
I have learned not to turn my back on him and always keep an eye on him when he is nearby. He has also attacked my children. My older boys can defend themselves, however, my daughter carries a stick when she is outside. Not really the most convenient or peaceful circumstances. If the gander continues to attack, I plan on penning them to prevent injury.
If you have a sensitivity to noise, geese are probably not for you. I remember when our geese were just goslings, I told my kids, “I can’t wait until they start honking!” Be careful what you wish for! As soon as the geese see someone, they come running, honking all the way. They don’t stop for a long time. If you live in a suburban setting, your neighbors will probably complain. Geese are loud!
Special Consideration of Keeping Guard Geese
Ease of Raising and Keeping Geese
Overall, geese are very easy to raise. As goslings, it is very similar to raising chickens. However, I recommend taking the time to imprint them on one human in the family. As adults, if they are free-range, they will eat vegetation as their main diet. Vegetation will include your garden. You will have to have a fence around the garden to prevent the geese from eating your tender young vegetables.
Make sure they have plenty of water and a source of water to swim in, even if it is a kitty pool. You will have to change the water almost daily since they will mess in the water turning it dark brown.
The main disadvantages are messes, aggression with people, and noise. I would not recommend them for any environment other than a rural farm. Suburban neighbors will not be pleased with geese in the neighborhood.
Final Verdict about Keeping guard Geese
My geese are about 7 months old at the writing of this article. So far, I like keeping geese, but I see potentially having to keep the geese penned up rather than free-ranging them due to the mess and their aggression. At this point, I definitely would not keep more than two geese. Geese are suitable for country living and not suitable for families with young children.
What about you? Have you ever kept geese? Tell me about your experience in the comments.