Many rural families have found that it is worthwhile to include a few geese amongst farm animals since they require little attention, virtually no housing and find their own. Besides, roast goose is a delicious and different Christmas or Thanksgiving treat.
The Toulouse goose has a broad, deep body, is a fair layer, has on average about 25 to 40 or more eggs per year, and is a good market bird. However, its dark pinfeathers make it less attractive market prospect than the Emden.
Emdens grow well, are fairly good layers, producing 35 to 40 or more eggs a year, and fare at the market better than Toulouse geese.
Chinese geese come in white and are better layers, averaging 40 to 60.5 or more eggs. While the Toulouse or Emden weighs 12 to 20 pounds, Chinese geese weight up to 12 pounds. Crosses with the Emdens and Toulouse are also available.
Other varieties of geese include Pit, which have the advantage of being naturally sexed, the adult gander is white and the goose is gray. African geese are attractive gray birds with a brown shade. There are also Canadian geese, the American wild goose; the Buff, Egyptian, and the Sebastapol.
Except in extremely cold weather, mature geese need no shelter and hardly ever use a house. Open shelters shades are provided on range to give protection from the sun. In the North, a barn can be left open for the geese so they can move inside during cold weather.
Starting with Geese
The best way to start is to buy day-old goslings from a hatchery. Goose eggs do not incubate as well as hen’s eggs so it is inadvisable to begin with fertile eggs.
Don’t order goslings until the weather allows for it. If the outside temperatures are low, the eggs must be kept warm. Start them inside a brooder of 90°F (32.22°C.) and gradually reduce the heat over a period of ten days to two weeks, depending on outside temperatures.
Goslings can be fed wetted regular chick whole-grain bread soaked in milk or water, or cooked oatmeal covered with water. Supply tender, chopped greens at all meals to the goslings three to four times a day. After two weeks, reduce the grain supplement to only two- a day and offer more greens. At three weeks of age, cut the geese down to one pound of grain per day and provide greens and other feedings.
Water and fine grit should be available at all times. Provide water in a chick feeder and with pebbles in the trough so that the cannot get their whole bodies into the water.
At four weeks of age the goslings can be outside and will support themselves well on the range. Provide a shelter in case of rain and enclosed on the sides and top within wire. After a few days they can tolerate several hours of freedom a day, and back to their coop at night by a late on feeding of grain. Be sure that litter in the coop is clean and dry. At six weeks they sleep outside at night except during lengthy days of chilling rain, and by eight weeks can take care of themselves.
After goslings are six weeks old they can be raised on pasture alone, but enough growing mash may be provided to keep them steadily growing. Pasture grasses, clover and alfalfa make fine pasture, and an acre of good pasture can support 15 to 25 geese. Poor pasture can be supplemented by cut fresh greens.
Geese may be used to weed strawberry beds until the plants are nearly ripe. Feed a pound of grain per five geese daily, and change location of this feeding and their waterers every few days so the geese range over the en-tire patch. After the strawberries are picked, geese can be turned back into the patch to handle late summer and fall weeding. In the garden, however, geese will supplement their pasture by feeding on your ripening vegetables, even onions. If you have a roaming flock of geese, keep them out of your garden with a heavy wire fence.
Geese need a constant supply of fresh, clean water. A waterer such as a hog fountain is excellent since geese cannot get into the water container. Like all poultry, they need a constant source of oyster shell or other in-soluble grit.
Geese should be fattened before slaughtering. This is best done in cool weather. Geese are ready to fatten when fully feathered or when the long wing feathers reach the tail when folded. They are usually five to six months old and weigh from 11 to 15 pounds, depending on breed.
Feed birds a crumbly mash three times daily, or twice daily with a feeding of whole grain. They should be allowed little exercise and confined or permitted limited range. Unlimited water should be provided, but the geese should not be able to fit into their water dispensers. If confined, plenty of clean, dry bedding should be available.
Geese must be starved for 12 hours before slaughtering, but should have water available.
Breeding geese kept over winter should have grain, laying mash and roughage. Oats Mixed with corn, wheat or barley are a good feed. Geese can be fed whole corn, and should be given clover or alfalfa hay as roughage.
Geese mate permanently in pairs. Breeders should be selected from medium-sized, vigorous and well-developed birds that grow rapidly and have compact, meaty bodies. A gander may be mated with up to five geese, but pair and trio matings are most common. Mature ganders have a longer neck and head than females and have a higher pitched voice; the female is smaller, less coarse and has a deeper cry.
Most breeds lay in the early spring, the Chinese somewhat earlier. Laying mash is fed once a day in December or January to encourage egg production. Farmers with just a few geese can use regular hen laying mashes. Broodiness in geese can be checked by confining the broody goose in sight of but away from the gander. Geese will continue to lay until mid-June if not allowed to set, so collect the eggs regularly to encourage egg production. Geese kept outside can use nesting boxes made of old packing crates inverted on the ground and with a hole cut in one end. Fill the boxes with clean straw.
Eggs for hatching should be collected twice daily until March 1. Geese eggs do not hatch as well as hen’s eggs in an incubator, so you may want to use a hen or a Muscovy duck to set the eggs. Hens must be watched, how-ever, since the goose eggs hatch a week later than hen’s eggs. Eggs should be turned once a day, and should be sprinkled with lukewarm water daily during the last two weeks of hatching.
Newly hatched goslings should be to the geese to mother, if possible, and be to the geese to mother, if possible, and confined indoors until they are two cold. Even at that age, goslings should not be -allowed to get wet-even by walking through wet grass. Goslings are commonly not to swim until they have begun to feather.
Kill geese the same way other poultry is killed. Goose down is a valuable by-product of raising and if down is desired, the bird should be dry-picked. Since geese have tend, be careful not to bruise the bird if you plan to market it. Semi-scalding makes picking easier. Dip the goose into almost-boiling water for two to 21/2 minutes until feathers pull easily. If desired, detergent may be added to the water. After picking, geese should be cooled in water or in the refrigerator, and then packed for shipping or storage, or bagged and frozen.
Feathers can be saved from dry geese. Flesh should be cleaned from any remains after picking and the replaced in a burlap or cheesecloth bag. Wash with soap and warm water and allow to dry in the shade or in a well-ventilated room.