Rachel worked as a farm manager for three years in Pennsylvania and now has her own farmstead in Minnesota.
My gaggle of Embden Geese
First of all...
What's a goose?
Well, a goose is not a duck. Unlike ducks, geese are strict vegetarians, so you won’t catch them fishing in your pond or creek, and unfortunately they won’t help keep bugs out of your garden. Geese are waterfowl, and as such they absolutely love water – it’s their favorite thing.
There are three “families” of geese: The grey goose (all domesticated geese, no matter the color, fall into this category), the black goose (such as the Canadian Goose), and the white goose (other wild geese, such as the Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose, barely distinct from the grey goose family).
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be discussing domesticated geese. These geese don’t migrate, so if you decide to keep some as pets they will make your home their own.
Pictures of my Embden Geese
Raising and caring for geese
Raising and caring for geese may be easier than you think. Baby goslings require less heat and time in the brooder than baby chickens do. Some breeds, like the Embden, feather out quickly and grow very rapidly, so your time as "mother goose" is relatively short lived.
If you're planning to get some geese, you should consider the following things:
- You need a brooder, at least temporarily. This can be anything from a well-ventilated box to a dog crate with a brooder lamp attached.
- Incidentally, you need a brooder lamp. These should be available anywhere where livestock or horse feed is sold.
- Baby geese eat a lot. For eight goslings, I was replacing their feed three times daily. DO NOT feed medicated chick starter to goslings - they don't need the medication (which is a coccidiostat important for baby chicks), and in fact it can be harmful, even deadly, to them. Use a duck/goose grower or a non-medicated chick starter instead.
- Water-water-water... Geese love water, and goslings need a constant supply of it. Until your little geese are at least a week old, you should use a waterer that is only large enough for them to get their bills in. As the goslings age, you can introduce them to water slowly. Use a small pan and let them play in it for 15 minutes at a time. Remove the pan, dry them off, and make sure they get under the heat lamp. Until they develop their oil glands, getting wet and cold can actually kill your goslings. (Tip: Teaching them to swim in the bathtub is tons of fun for the goslings and for you... not that I've done that, of course.)
- Get your little geese out on the grass as early as possible, but not in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Let them play in the sun, and keep a watch over them. I cannot recommend unattended play time for goslings that haven't feathered out yet - they are just sitting ducks (I know, I know...) for predators like hawks, foxes, dogs, and cats.
- If you have secure fencing, your geese can be outside as long as they are at least three weeks old, it's not raining, and the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day. I don't advise leaving them out all night to free-range until they are at least a couple months old.
- Once your geese are a couple months old, they should be able to be outside all day, have access to water they can swim in, and be given free access to lots of grass they can graze on. If you're short on grass, make sure the pelletized goose food you provide is offered free-choice. Like chickens, geese will not eat more than they should, so if your geese rely solely on you for food you shouldn't let them run out.
- You should have some sort of shelter outside for the geese to go into at night. You can use a simple three-sided structure, a lean-to, a shed, a barn, a section of your garage that you don't care much about, or even a makeshift shelter built with a tarp. To encourage the geese to use the shelter, try herding them in there for the first week or so. I got my geese interested in my little shed by placing their dog crate brooder in the shed overnight after they were two weeks old. This helped the geese figure out that they should be in the shed at night. Make sure there is fresh water available in the shelter; this will make the place more appealing to the geese.
- Once your geese are a few months old and have feathered out (grown all of their feathers and lost all of their baby down), they should be fairly independent birds. I have all sorts of predators where I live, including foxes, raccoons, coyotes, hawks and eagles, and even the occasional stray dog. I haven't lost an adult goose to a predator yet, and I don't expect to because the geese have somewhere safe to be during the night, and during the day they take pretty good care of themselves.
Geese as Pets
Geese make awesome pets, especially if you get them when they are very young. If you can, you should buy day-old goslings. These little guys and girls will imprint on you, and you’ll soon be followed around like a mother goose!
For pets, I haven’t found enough difference in temperment between female geese and ganders (males) to make a recommendation one way or the other. I think it really depends on the individual goose. A couple of my ganders are very friendly; I can approach them and pick them up. One gander is more aggressive, so I leave him be. Two of my females are sweathearts; one of them wants to bite me every time she sees me, and another is afraid of her own shadow.
I’ll say this, though: If you are planning to breed, you really only need one gander for a small gaggle.
I have four females and four ganders, and the ganders are always working out amongst themselves who’s the guy in charge. If I had it to do again, I would buy 6 females and 2 ganders, so there would be less need for constant competition.
Plants you should keep weeder geese away from
- Any small grain (as these are just grasses)
- Pole beans, squash, or anything you have trained to climb tellises; the hanging vines are too tempting for young geese to resist playing with them, and although they (probably) won't eat them they could damage your plants
- Young seedlings of any kind
Read More From Owlcation
Geese for your garden - "Weeder geese"
Have you ever heard of “weeder geese”? I hadn’t until this year, when I bought my eight little goslings in March and started researching how I might be able to use them here on the farm.
Geese eat mainly grass, and some clovers. Other broad-leaf weeds aren’t their favorites, but if you have a particular weed that just loves to grow in your garden, you can try introducing it to your goslings when they are very young. This may help them develop a taste for it.
Geese can be used to help you weed your garden. Some farmers even use them to weed crops that are difficult or impossible to cultivate using machinery, including cotton, herbs, and berries.
Using geese to weed your garden will take some planning and management. For instance, geese won’t damage most herbs, potatoes, onions, carrots, berries, or garlic. They will damage and eat corn plants and any small grains you might be growing; they will eat some of your lettuce and might damage your peas.
I have run my geese amidst carrots, peppers, corn, turnips, onions, poll beans, peas, hops, pumpkins, squash, melons, lettuces, rye, tomatoes, potatoes, and sunflowers. They stripped a few corn stalks and ate some lettuce, but the damage was pretty minimal.
Some people report having success using geese to weed tomatoes. My geese tore all of my young plants to shreads this year… but they didn’t actually consume them, so honestly I think the geese were just bored. I replanted the tomatoes, kept the geese away until the plants were larger, and the geese haven’t bothered them since.
Keeping the geese where you want them - whether they're mowing lawn or weeding the garden, offering water for them to play in will encourage them to stay put
Geese as lawn mowers
Because their diet consists mainly of grasses, geese can be a great help in mowing the lawn.
If you have a large lawn, you may need to use portable fence to confine the geese in different areas, so that the grass is managed properly.
Depending on how many geese you have, and how large your lawn is, you will probably still have to mow grass throughout the summer - just not as frequently, which can be a big help. Geese will also not help you with weeds like thistles and broad leaf plants.
While they cut your grass for you, geese will leave droppings behind. In their favorite places where they will like to lay down and relax, like around the water source you have provided for them, there will be more manure than in other places. If the manure becomes a problem, simply use a hose to soak it. Spraying it with a hose will spread it out and disperse it, and should prevent problems like nitrogen burn in your grass.
Geese as home security systems
My geese can be very territorial, which is typical of geese in general. When someone shows up at the farm, the geese let me know even before my dog does. Geese will holler when an intruder approaches, even if it is someone they have met already.
If a total stranger is approaching, geese will usually honk and yell at the person, and eventually, if the person doesn’t get away fast enough, the geese will charge and bite. This is especially true of ganders.
If you often have small children visiting your home, it may be a wise decision to keep your geese out of areas where the children will be. Children can be taught to deal with geese (and vice versa), but a 25-pound goose can be very intimidating to a four-year-old.
Geese make good flock protectors, as well.
I have seen a significantly reduced loss in my free-range chickens and turkeys since I added geese to my livestock managerie. For the same reasons that they make good security systems and watch dogs, geese make good flock protectors.
When Mr. Fox comes strolling along thinking he's going to get one of my chickens for dinner, the geese are there making so much noise that it's not worth his trouble. I'm not sure that geese would attempt to fight a fox or a raccoon, but they do go after my dog so anything's possible; what they definitely do is blow the predator's cover, making it more difficult for the hunt to continue.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can geese live with other animals like goats and chickens?
Answer: Geese shouldn't live with ruminants like goats because you don't want the goats getting into goose feed. Living with chickens could potentially be fine if there is enough room and forage for all.
Question: My very young gander tugs at my clothes and skin. Why do they do that?
Answer: Mine have done that as well! Just walk/move away from them so he doesn't learn bad manners. I believe it's just a curiosity thing, but it might be dominance.
Question: I found a gosling that got caught in a fence the other night. I washed it off and bathed it, then let it swim. It’s been having trouble keeping its balance and seems to topple over when it starts to take a step. It’s eating but refuses to drink. I’m hoping I’ve just tired the little thing out, but do you have any suggestions?
Answer: I recommend getting a vet involved if things don't improve. It sounds like the gosling is injured, but dietary problems could be causing the balance issues.
Question: I am from the Philippines, and I just bought a grown Embden. When they arrived, their feathers look muddy, like maybe they didn't have much water where they came from. Can I wash them using a laundry detergent to regain the whiteness of their feathers?
Answer: You shouldn't wash them with soap. Give them lots of water, and let them bathe and clean themselves.
Question: Will a goose run off a neighbor cat?
Answer: Maybe. It depends on the goose, as well as the cat.
Question: I rescued a baby goose from some hungry turtles. There were no parents in sight since it was born. Myself and two others tried for days to help it, with no luck for parents. I bought it rooted pet grass, wheat grass, baby goose feed, and it is eating and drinking some. Mostly, it wants held or cuddled. Do you have any pointers?
Answer: The gosling is probably cold. Get it under a heat lamp.
Question: Why do goslings tug on my clothes, skin, and hair?
Answer: They're trying to groom you. If you watch, they do it to each other too. It could also be curiosity, like a puppy mouthing at everything.
Question: What can you do to make a weak, newborn baby goose stronger?
Answer: It depends on whether or not there is a problem. Honestly, it will either thrive or it won't. The best you can do for the first 12 hours or so after hatching is provide a warm environment and leave the baby alone.
Question: What measures do you use to clean up after geese?
Answer: If you have geese confined, they will need bedding such as wood chips or straw, and that you'll need to change as it gets dirty and wet. Geese out on pasture, fields, or moved through gardens or orchards shouldn't need to be cleaned up after - their manure left behind is a fertilizer and wouldn't be a problem unless they are stocked too densely.
Question: I was given a goose and a gander. They lived with my chickens and ducks happily in my poultry-yard until the goose started sitting on her eggs. The gander killed several of my ducks before I realized that he was the culprit. I relocated the pair to a large dog run with a dog house, and she accepted the eggs I had moved. Is this aggression normal? Will he be cool again?
Answer: They can be quite aggressive and territorial, but I've never heard of them killing ducks. Maybe they didn't have enough space when they all lived together? Geese sitting eggs will definitely be more aggressive as they protect their nest.
Question: I found an abandoned Canadian goose egg while kayaking on a local river. I felt sorry for it and, foolishly, brought it home, built a makeshift incubator, and am waiting for it to hatch. If it actually does, how do I return it to its natural habitat, the river where I found it?
Answer: Find a wildlife rehab. If you're in the U.S., it might be illegal for you to keep a wild goose, and regardless, wildlife professionals will be best equipped to help it.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on June 07, 2020:
They could be stepping on them. Or the goslings could already be sick. Or, a goose could intentionally kill them. If it continues you should consult a vet.
Rutechura musheshe on April 17, 2020:
Am from uganda in east africa. I recently bought 5 geese but i have failed to distinguish between ganders and females. The person sold them out because they were not multiplying for two years and he thought it was poor management. Of recent they started fighting one of them until it fell sick and died yesterday. Why are they not producing? Why do they fight one bird? What could have made it sick? Please advise
Philippe L Colombey on December 28, 2019:
I have 2 geese and 1 gander Both geese were sitting on eggs but as soon as second gosling was born I found the first one dead . This happen on and on until after I lost 4 I decided to remove the new gosling and take care of it myself. He is now 1 week old and doing fine. Why is this happen? it seems that they step on their young unintentionally. I still have about 6 eggs but I so not see the geese sit on them that often anymore.
Помощь : Domofond.ru on November 05, 2019:
EL MUNDO - Diario online líder de información en español
Connie on October 02, 2019:
My goose is app 7mths old. Shes been raised by us & is our pet. 2days ago she wouldnt come out of our pomd. She spent night out thete early morning we saw her fly behind our woods & found her in a creek
We searched the creek & now cant find her theres lots of high grass & its surrounded by woids. We have tried calling with a giose caller & searching for her uts now been 2days we r going crazy looking for her. Whats the chance she will come home?
Ray on July 13, 2019:
Help! I've raised my goose from 3 days old. It has been a sweetheart following me around like a dog. But recently it has become aggressive and bites! After researching online I have deterred it by tapp it's beak and gently but firmly pushing it away all while staying saying no. I have been careful to make sure the goose gives up and I win. But this is exhausting and it has now been about a month of conflict. Any advice on how to train this goose so we can live in peace?
Jenna on June 20, 2019:
I have 2 baby geese how do i tell if they are male or female??
Stacy on June 18, 2019:
hi I rescued this baby goose he has been following me around for six weeks thinking I'm his mom and doing great getting his feathers in lately he has been acting like he's afraid of me and I'm not sure what's going on or what I did to make him afraid of me and its suggestions
Mary Spencer on June 13, 2019:
We got our one Pilgrim goose (and 2 ducklings, all female) at only a couple days old. All was fine, and our goose seemed to have imprinted as the brooder was in our home and I cared for them every day. On her first day outside in grass, she was a little apprehensive and climbed into my lap, so we never expected what has happened. When fully feathered, our goose (and ducklings) moved out into their own little coop and run. Now, at about 2 1/2 months old, Mayflower (our goose) freaks out completely everytime we come near, throwing herself at the wire run sides and screaming. We are at wits end and don't know why she suddenly (relatively) seems terrified of us. We thought we'd have a pet that would follow us around, as well as be a 'flock minder' for our 6 hens. We are desperately trying to figure out how to train her not to get hysterical, and to come to us, and are pretty discouraged. (This is our first time with a goose). We need advice/help. Thank you so much.
O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training on June 09, 2019:
Connie on May 09, 2019:
I have 2 7 week old goslings. One is fine and the other has been unsteady on his feet and has a limp. I don't see any injury. Do you have any ideas what could be causing this.
Rebecca Rice on April 22, 2019:
I have had my goslings since they were 3 days old. When they got old enough to be outside, I put them in the front yard temporarily and they did fine. About a month later now I move them to the back pasture and they are yelling and screaming and crying and I wanted to know if they will ever adjust to it I feel like a bad mom. Before moving them out to the back pasture I took them out there several times and they loved it because there's a pond but they were never there without me! Now they are not happy. What should i do?
Paul huber on April 16, 2019:
I am going to have a weekend place with a brook and pond. Will a few geese be ok during the week by themselves if I leave them food. There is plenty of fresh water. Also will they go into a small barn/ run in by themseves for warmth and protection during the winter.
Julie on March 31, 2019:
Why are my Two baby geese I have picking the fuzz from each other’s necks?
email@example.com on March 17, 2019:
Am getting Pilgrim geese in mid April. Have a "goose roost" ready for them but would they do better in a dog container until they get their feathers. I have planted English Ivy around the outside of the fencing because I read that they don't like the taste. If I introduce my other animals to them, will they get along? I have ordered 1 Male and 5 females. What is the correct term for the male? Thank you!
Mamahen1959 on January 22, 2019:
My daughter has two Toulouse Geese, a male and female. She's had them for just over a year. They live with chickens, goats and pigs in a large building and get to roam freely during the day in fields. They have free access to mixed corn and grain and layers pellets and graze in the fields. When they first arrived they seemed to fight quite a bit. But that has now stopped and they seem to live quite happily together. But there has never been any eggs to date, but just this week the female has been found sitting on the chickens' eggs. Does this mean she is getting broody/ready to lay her own eggs? They don't have a pond as such to play in. Can you help?
firstname.lastname@example.org on November 13, 2018:
4 days ago I got a baby goose round about 6 weeks old. I dont knowxthe sex of it.
Ever time I get near him he runs like hell to get away. But eventually I get it right to pick him up. After I pick it up I hold it for about 30-60 minutes stroking his head and talk to him. He then is calm and nestle his head in my neck, but as soon as I put him down again he runs like hell to get away fom me.
Is there any way I can make him less scared to me and to get him attached to me?
I still put him in a secured box at night, to potect him. Is that necessary?
Thank you for all the other questions and answers. They are much helpfull.
Patrick Kamau from Nairobi, Kenya on October 22, 2018:
Thanks for the good article on how to raise and care for Geese. They are very beautiful birds and as you have said they love water a lot. I enjoy seeing them go wild as they swim.
Jennifer duran on September 20, 2018:
How do i care for them in winter
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on September 07, 2018:
Hello! I really recommend you take the gosling to a veterinarian.
Kirsty Falkenberg on September 03, 2018:
We have an abandoned baby egyptian goose and she keeps on scratching herself, is that normal? She also seems to have a sore leg, must we just let it heal with rest? And what should we be feeding her, any other tips?
Ron Bequeath on August 17, 2018:
Liked your article, I also raise embden geese, my pair blessed me with 9 goslings and although the gander was as mean as sin, and I couldn't get near them 3 servived. Problem with them in the garden they literally ate my rhubarb, almost lost all of it. Yes usually the dominate gander is mean until he went after the cow and sbe broke his wing. Best place I've found for them is the 1/8 acre fenced in barn yard, there they do great. Hope to double the flock next year.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on June 19, 2018:
Hi Beverley, the geese should be fine with the ducks, but it's not a bad idea to have separate housing ready just in case you observe any bullying.
Beverley Devine on May 31, 2018:
I have 9 female geese and one gander. There are a couple of female geese laying eggs along with a couple of female duke. All very broody and doing a great job. They are housed securely in a cattle trailer. Would you say that it is advisable once the eggs hatch to accommodate separately?
James on May 14, 2018:
Why is my goose noisy
lleon maloon on March 30, 2018:
read it all. Thank you. Good story.Im getting goslings soon too so you helped.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 25, 2017:
This is wonderful advice about raising geese. I wonder, however, do you raise geese as pets or do they provide an income source, whether through their feathers, eggs, or some other way?
ferg2007 on April 08, 2017:
Thank you, thank you this is the best article I have found on starting out with goslings. My wife and I have searched for weeks on information before we stumbled onto you. This information is both well articulated and easy for us old folks to follow.
Richard Lindsay from California on March 31, 2016:
Nice post, I have Egyptian geese and they are great watch dogs. I do keep mine locked up at night to keep them safe. But they are allowed out during the day to roam.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on March 05, 2016:
I didn't know that!
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on June 19, 2015:
Very interesting and informative article. I learnt many facts about geese by reading this. Thanks for sharing.
Mazlan A from Malaysia on June 18, 2015:
Do you also know that the geese droppings will deter snakes from going to your compound..or least it works in tropical country!
Congrats on your HOTD.
Holly Starenchak Baukhagen from North Carolina on June 18, 2015:
I love this! We're buying our first home this year and I can't wait to get our very own flock of geese. I never thought about using them as weeder birds before, such a neat idea!
poetryman6969 on June 18, 2015:
You definitely make the process of raising geese sound fascinating. I am more of a city person so could not take all the constant "redecorating" that farm animals do!
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 18, 2015:
Congratulations on HOTD! Well done, and most interesting, indeed.
I had heard about geese eating weeds, but I don't think they would tackle the weeds we get here: stinging nettles and "goatheads," otherwise known as "puncture vine."
A guy who used to live next door had geese for years; they were indeed, "auxiliary doorbells," setting up a ruckus when anyone approached the house. When he moved away, he gave them to the lady across the street; she keeps them in the back, out of sight of the street, so we've not heard any more from that small flock.
Given that we are in the 4th year of a drought, though, and on water restrictions, the water they need would be an issue, I think, so I guess we'll have to pass, even though they sound like they could be nice pets. We'll just have to be content with our house cats. ;-)
Voted up, interesting, useful and pinned.
mikeydcarroll67 on June 18, 2015:
Interesting. I never knew that people kept geese that much nor did I know that they were that intricate to take care of!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 18, 2015:
Congrats on HOTD, Rachel. This was an interesting hub on how to raise and care for geese, when they have multi-purposed uses like lawn mowers for example. Voted up!
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 18, 2015:
O my, yes, geese are interesting little critters. We had them on our property when I was growing up and they love, love, loved to chase me!! You see it was not our property---they were letting us share it but only if we respected their wishes.
How I loved seeing the goslings when they were covered with the golden down.
And what fun it was to see them ice skate in winter along side us on our creek.
Thanks for the memories.
Congrats on HOTD
Angels are on the way to you this morning ps
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on November 27, 2013:
Thanks, jrpierce! Geese are a real joy, especially if you get them as goslings. I have to say, they were pretty good eating, too! ;)
Jaymie from Ellijay, Ga on November 15, 2013: