Information / Overview ... Photos of the
Different Goose Species for Identification ... Species Index of Geese
Utility Birds (meat /
eggs) ... Pets ... Natural Weed and
Grass Growth Control ... "Guard Animals"
Keeping Domesticated Geese
Utility Birds (Meat and Eggs)
were historically used for their meats. Commercial production will usually use the large,
heavy-weight breeds; however, the small geese are usually more manageable and
fit into standard-size appliances.
Some geese are commonly kept for the
production of the popular pâté foie
gras (fatty liver paté - cooked goose liver and fat minced into a
spreadable paste with spices added for taste). This is a delicacy in France and
French restaurants worldwide. The process involves fattening geese up by keeping
them contained throughout their short lives; and force-feeding them for
12–18 days before slaughter. This process of force-feeding geese is
commonly referred to as "noodling," as in the past "noodles" (pasta) were forced
down the bird's throat.
This entire process will cause a diseased, enlarged, "fatty" liver, which can be
as much as 10 times the size of a healthy
liver. Since "foie gras" is very expensive, the more enlarged (heavier) a
liver is, the more income is derived from it. This practice is, however, by many
considered inhumane and cruel and is, therefore, banned in several
were bred to produce more eggs than the wild geese -- 5-12 eggs per year are
produced by a wild goose; compared
to 20 - 60 eggs (up to 160, depending on race) laid by a domesticated goose. The
eggs are white and weigh, on average, between 6 - 7.8 oz (170 g and 220 g). The
incubation period for goose eggs is about 30 days in smaller breeds and 33 - 35
days in large-weight geese.
Suitability as pets
Geese are increasingly
appreciated for their affection and intelligence. Newly hatched goslings will
readily accept anyone as "mom" or
"dad" who approaches or handles them (a process of becoming attached to a parent
or a parental surrogate is
commonly referred to as "imprinting"). These birds, in particular, are likely to
turn into loving pets.
Geese can be very loud - and can be considered a nuisance by neighbors. They
are generally not a good choice
for those living in residential areas with neighbors in close proximity to each
If kept as pets and breeding is not desired - it would be best to keep at
least a couple of females, as they like companionship. Two males are generally
more likely to fight with each other (although some can be quite compatible -
especially if they have been raised together).
Efficient "lawn mowers" and biological
"weed control agents"
As they eat grasses and herbaceous
plants, they will automatically control grass growth and reduce the amount of weed - and
are particular useful in inaccessible areas, such as irrigation ditches and
along fence rows. However, pesticides are detrimental to their health and their
use should be exercised with caution.
They are quite useful in
controlling weeds in crops, such as cotton, strawberries and orchards; as well as pond weeds, para grass, water-lily and
Per 2.5 acres (1 hectare), adequate
grass growth and weed control can be provided by about 50 - 60 adult geese. If
only light grazing is needed, 15 to 20 adults are
Geese and dogs usually don't get along and
should be kept separated. Cats usually stay out of their way. Ducks and geese
generally get along, especially is there is enough room for all. Smaller geese
may be attacked by cats.
As geese are capable of
distinguishing between everyday noises from other sounds, they make excellent
'watch animals.' In fact, they have been used by the Romans to detect
approaching enemies and were found to be more reliable than guard
dogs. Good watch birds are alert and vocal, if they spot
However, "guard geese" tend to be very noisy and their
loud honking can be quite a nuisance in areas where walking people or passing
animals near the property are likely to prompt them to sound the alarm
throughout the day.
Excellent Choices for "Guard Duty"
are sex-linked and can be visually sexed by color.
The male can
generally be identified by their white plumage; while females are either
entirely grey, or pied grey and white. Such "auto-sexing" breeds
GooseCotton Patch GooseNormandy GooseShetland GooseWest of England
Some Chinese and African breeds can be sexed by the size of
their knobs (males' being larger).
With other breeds, there may be some
differences in size, behavior and different calls.
Visual and Auditory
Males (ganders) usually have larger bodies, including
larger necks and heads than females. These differences are less pronounced in
Males emit shrill, high pitched notes; whereas females' are
typically lower, deeper and harsher.
However, these two
methods are not failsafe. In cases where accurate sexing is important (for
example, if they are to be bred), DNA or
vent sexing is recommended.
This is most
easily done on goslings. It entails gently squeezing feces out of chick's vents
(also called cloaca), thus opening it up, allowing you to see if there is a
small "bump" which would indicate that it is a male. This being said, some
females also have these bumps, but if they do, they rarely are as large as those
of male chicks.
An adult is lifted by the neck and turned on the back
(either over the knee or on a table) with the tail pointed away. Bent the tail
downwards and insert the forefinger about 0.4 inches (1 cm) into the vent
opening (cloaca) and move it around in a circular motion to enlarge the muscle
and turn the inside skin in the vent out to expose the sex organs. The mature
male's sex organs are white, spiral in shape, and about 1.6 inches (4 cm)
Once the gender has been identified, it is
recommended to mark birds using leg bands, wing bands or web punching (= holes
punched into the webbing of toes - note: they usually fill in over time).
Species Research by Sibylle
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