How to Care for Geese and Goslings - Natural Ecological Lawn Mowers

Goslings are so cute - so do learn how to care for geese and goslings properly
Goslings are so cute - so do learn how to care for geese and goslings properly | Source

Taking care of geese is not so hard

Keeping geese is fun and profitable but you have to do it properly! Why not keep geese? Why cut grass, waste resources and struggle to maintain a noisy, costly lawn mower? Geese make lovely pets but they do have a few special requirements.

You must be able to afford to feed the geese and pay for housing, fencing, straw and medication if necessary. You must 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, your geese will be pleasure and you'll be richly rewarded in so many ways - not least by mowing your lawn for you!

Me and my geese

When I was a child we had a pet goose that we kept in our back yard, (another story), 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, S W France, we have kept geese for the last eight years, mainly to help keep the grass under control, and have loved hatching out goslings and watching them grow. Our guests love them as well, even if some didn't want to get too close.

Geese do have their drawback though. They can be intimidating and they are certainly noisy, but because of this they make excellent watch dogs, but many people don't know just how lovable they can be.

If you have a yearning to keep geese but don't know if it's right for you, then read on and this may help you to decide.

For more about our lives at Les Trois Chenes, Limousin, France, Food and more see Find an article by Les Trois Chenes (Sorry no link - new rules)

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Pictures of our geese

Spring time in Limousin
Spring time in Limousin | Source
Geese in the snow
Geese in the snow | Source
A gaggle of geese
A gaggle of geese | Source
Geese eating peaches in the orchard
Geese eating peaches in the orchard | Source
Goslings trimming the grass around the swings in our play area
Goslings trimming the grass around the swings in our play area | Source

First the bad news about keeping geese

(to save you time if it really is not for you)

  • Geese are flock birds. They like company so 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 some are absolutely adorable, (see comments below), others can be a bit 'hissy' and even aggressive, especially if there are eggs or goslings.
  • You can't tell the males from the females until they are about 9 months old and start to lay when the females' stomachs drop. Having said this someone on the inter-net pointed out that the males have an 'evil eye' and I think this is actually quite a good guide, and my husband has been saying for ages that this lot of geese are not as friendly as the others (which have turned out to be all female groups). Any hissing at you, their owner, is definitely a sign of masculinity!
  • They do make a mess and leave a lot of droppings around. While I don't think it is offensive, like dog dirt, consisting mainly of grass, it is messy and unsightly, so you might want to keep them away from the house and paths etc at least for most of the time, especially as they tend to sit on the doorsteps and, if you have glass doors, tap to be let in!
  • They produce quantities of soggy wet bedding
  • They eat few things other than grass (chickweed, clover, dandelions, everlasting pea plants ..) but mine snip the heads and leaves of flowers, and they will chew the bark of climbers, even roses, and kill them, so you must protect the base of these somehow - build pretty little fences, wrap with chicken wire ...
  • They are little divils for going around pecking and chewing things - like the badges on cars, or plastic table cloths, and shoe laces etc! I think they spend time grazing, and then have to digest the grass, and during this time they get bored and go around looking for mischief. It's this very quality, though, that puts them high up in the pet list alongside dogs.
  • They make a noise. They are famous for being good watchdogs. In fact they are infinitely better than dogs (dogs have their own agenda - ours barks furiously, heckles up, - nothing. On other occasions, she cheerfully escorts perfect strangers up to the front door). Geese know a stranger when they see one. They will also call out even if they know the person. They will shout out chattily to greet you. (Not good if you have neighbours). Ours are very quiet, though, at night.
  • They are quite delicate and, unlike hens, can suffer from vaious fatal conditions

My goslings feature in my Easter and greetings cards

Buy this card and many other cards and gifts all individually designed by me and posted on Zazzle. You can customise all these cards and gifts to make them personal and extra-special
Buy this card and many other cards and gifts all individually designed by me and posted on Zazzle. You can customise all these cards and gifts to make them personal and extra-special | Source

And the good news about keeping geese

  • They are lovable and friendly and can become very tame (females)
  • They are elegant and decorative and the goslings are super cute
  • They keep the grass cut
  • They need only grass from about a month old and from April – October (ie while the grass is growing)
  • You can then send them off to be prepared and put them in the freezer, or you can overwinter them and feed them on maize and corn and you'll get the eggs from December /January. Cheap to feed.
  • If you do want to keep them as pets, they are long-lived, around 30 years.
  • They are easier than hens to look after as you can herd them around. You can, for example, put them to bed at 6pm in the summer if you want to go out for the night. I can't enjoy being out after dark if I am fretting about the fox getting the hens and 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 blow the eggs and decorate them.
  • They make a delicious dinner and you will know they have fed on good food and had a nice life
  • The quantities of soggy wet bedding make excellent compost material

What you need to care for geese properly

  • About 100m2 of good short grass per goose
  • The grass must be short at first, approx 4”. So if you have long grass, cut it first and remove the cuttings.As they don’t eat most weeds, you will need to pass the mower or strimmer over periodically. Also try to reduce the weeds and increase the grass – selective weed killer (but be careful as this will kill the dandelions and clover, wild mint, violets, daisies etc as well as the nasties)
  • 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 can be bothered to clean out paddling pools, or you have a lake or large pond this is ideal. They might pollute a small, natural pond though – take advice and take care when giving them access to water.
  • A fox-proof place to sleep which is dry and not draughty and is about 1m2 per goose. You must be able to clean it out comfortably. I give them a bucket of water at night and if you can make this so they can’t tip it up – so much the better.
  • They need clean straw putting down at night for bedding.
  • If you need to contain them, sheep fencing about 4’ high is fine. They can fly over if they want to, but don’t generally bother.
  • You don't need to worry about cold if your climate is like Limousin or anywhere in Britain. They love cold and rain.

Sitting goose
Sitting goose | Source
how long does it take for a gosling to emerge? Eggs starting to hatch &t 31 days
how long does it take for a gosling to emerge? Eggs starting to hatch &t 31 days | Source
Gosling emerging from the egg
Gosling emerging from the egg | Source
Keep the goslings warm with a heat lamp
Keep the goslings warm with a heat lamp | Source
So sweet
So sweet | Source
Goslings enjoying the grass and sunshine
Goslings enjoying the grass and sunshine | Source
The Complete Book of Raising Livestock & Poultry
The Complete Book of Raising Livestock & Poultry

This has been my guide and handbook for the animals we have kept at Les Trois Chenes. It has been a classic book for stock keepers since it was first published.


Care of goslings

Buying goslings

  • Choose a reputable breeder. If you can see where they are reared, check it's clean and spacious.
  • Do make sure, though, 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 unpecked ones are the peckers!!
  • Which breed? Here in the Limousin white ‘Poitou’ and grey geese are kept. The white are for the table and ‘eider down’, the grey, the locals tell me, are best for roasting. I have no experience of keeping the fancy breeds, although, if I have more time, I'd love to.

Caring for goslings

  • They don’t make good mothers so it's best to give two eggs to a broody hen, who will then be very perplexed when they will not scratch around for food, 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 75cm x 75cm x 60high with a base and a removable wire mesh lid. (In fact, it was designed as a car box for our pointer, but proved more useful for chicks and goslings). You should be able to keep 4 or 5 goslings in this for 3 or 4 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, such as newspaper, to stand on. Slippery surfaces can lead to damaged leg development. Ideally, lay down thick base of newspaper, and cover that with an old towel. When this is soiled, take it out and shake it, then hang it up to dry and replace it with another one. Other breeders advise wire netting, making sure it is free from any wire that could injure the goslings. Again, when soiled, take out and brush off.
  • They need to be kept warm. Much will depend on the weather, but you will probably need an infra red lamp specially designed for the job. Suspend this over the box – or in the box, as necessary. You might have to devise some contraption with chairs and brooms. I have a nail in a beam and put my lamp on a long chain. When it is in the box, put it at one corner, so the goslings can site directly under it, but can also escape the heat if necessary. To gauge the distance away from the goslings (and so gauge the temperature) watch their behaviour. If they huddle together, they are cold, if they disperse to the edges of the box they are too hot. When the walk around or sit around the middle, not too close together – that is the ideal temperature. Then raise the lamp a little each week, as necessary. They should not need the heat after 4 – 5 weeks – perhaps only at night if it is warm or if they can be put out on a sunny day. You have to play it by ear.
  • Buy unmedicated chick crumbs for the first few weeks of life. It is important to check that it is unmedicated, as the goslings will eat much more food than the chicks do. They need water but shouldn’t be allowed into water until they get their feathers. I use a cat bowl for their food and another, a little distance away, for their water.
  • They need something to peck at. I tried raising goslings and chicks together, and 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 (or for that matter why they shouldn't get wet, for that matter,) as if their mothers were looking after them they would eat grass from hatching! Anyway – I am not an expert, but have friends who put their goslings out on grass after two weeks, and when I did that – on a sunny day – they were happy and healthy. You will need a safe environment – no dogs like our intrepid hunter, Molly!! – or anywhere they can get trapped or escape. You might want to make a run for them, or use a rabbit run if you have one. Also choose a warm, dry, sunny day. We delight in getting the goslings out if we have lunch or aperitifs outside. They won’t run away, but will pick grass and chunter charmingly, and sit under the chairs or tables or on your feet. They love to nibble (or nip) your toes, and fidddle with and chew the hems of your skirt, shoe laces or the buckles on your sandals. This for us, was one of the delights of the warm days and evenings of spring in France.
  • As soon as you think they can defend themselves against rats, and don’t need the heat any more, 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 them with pellets for the next stage on. Check with your animal food supplier to make sure you are giving them the correct ones, or add in slowly 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 perhaps don’t namby-pamby them too much!
  • If they do look the least bit off colour, and this manifests itself as being sluggish, not rushing to eat, sitting or staying alone, limping or falling over, get them straight to the vets.Two years running I lost one just as they seemed to have become, nice, big healthy adults. The vet gave me antibiotics to put in the water – very cheap – and if I had acted quickly I could, possibly, have saved the first one. The vet didn’t seem to know, though, what is was or how I could prevent it happening in future.
  • If they present any odd symptoms, get on the inter-net or to the vets or check a book, like Katie's.
  • I don’t worm or medicate mine, but it is good practice to move them from old grass to new, clean areas periodically. Here this occurs naturally – from the lawn to the play area, from the play area to the gite, from the gite to the field. Always be aware of when you might have guests, especially children using the grass, and make sure you move the geese off in plenty of time.

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 and will devour the grass and some herbs, but other plants, such as docks and nettles, they won't touch.

You'll still need to mow the lawn with a normal lawn mower, but you won't need to do it nearly as often and the work will be much, much lighter.

Adorable | Source

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 loved having ours.

Many people will keep their geese as pets and love them forever (they live quite a long time 20 - 30 years!) but others will keep geese for meat.

Geese make a fabulously luxurious Christmas dinner, but remember you'll also have goose liver (pate), goose fat (roast potatoes) and goose gizzards. In France the gizzards are called 'gesiers' and I use them to make a typically Limousin salad or, if I have lots, I make gizzard curry. Goose gesiers will probably take longer to cook than chicken gizzards but are super meaty and tasty. This is my gizzard recipe below - why not try it?

More by this Author

Do geese get your gander? Tell me about it .... 33 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, they are so sweet when they are small, but as you pointed out, they need a lot of care, I sat down by the river today, and the noise from the geese was amazing! lol lovely hub, cheers nell

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 5 years ago from France Author

Many thanks, Nell, for taking the time to leave a comment. They are sweet when young and can become so tame. I'm hankering after having more now!

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Wow! I had no idea. I wonder how your dogs put up with them. I will have to read your dog hubs and see if you have mentioned anything about this. If not, please write a hub about how they get along, please! Also the story of geese in your childhood sounds fascinating. What fun! How do they handle cold weather? Voted up and interesting!

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 5 years ago from France Author

Hi Storytellersrus. Thank you for your great ideas. You really are living up to your name! I don't think I have told the story of the Dog and the Goose (sounds like the name of an English pub!) Molly is good with the geese once they are big enough not to engage her hunting instincts - so long as they don't set their cheek up to her! I suppose she has been brought up with them. I hadn't thought about these stories, and yes, I'd love to write them up. They love the cold weather and the rain, although they have to be kept in a dry, draught-proof house at night. I've added a 'geese in snow' photo to this hub and to my Ecological Lawn Mowers - the Goose hub written under my lestroischenes name.

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

This hub is packed with information, links, resources, and pictures--great job!

They really are adorable, aren't they! Well after reading this hub I've learned that that goose that chased my brother when we were young must have been a territorial male. My brother had a goose phobia for half his life after that lol. But it sounds like the females are quite different and very loving. Great hub! Voted up and interesting! :)

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OBXJACKIE 4 years ago

I have been raising chickens for the last 4 years I loved that so much I purchased 4 gooslings. 2 male & 2 females. They are about 4 weeks now and I love them. I am concerned though after reading "Unless I want to mated them the male should be sent off to the oven...!!! WHAT? My favorite one is the biggest male. He follows me around, lays up against me when I sit in the grass. He is beautiful too. Even when I raise chicks it was always the largest male that liked me the most. I purchased them from holderread farm and they weren't cheap either! Are you serious about getting rid of the males?

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 4 years ago from France Author

I'm so pleased that you left these comments. I have had very nice male geese, but I've also heard stories about very aggressive ones. My hairdresser has a pair and one day they stood infront of the car and there was no moving them. The male was big and quite scary - I certainly wasn't going to tackle him. I'm going to amend my comments in view of your lovely boys!

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OBXJACKIE 4 years ago

I said my gander lies next to me I have to correct that he gets right in my lap and sleeps! LOL! I think its good they are a little aggressive because my favorite rooster was the biggest but the other roosters use to pick on him so me not knowing any better I got rid of all the other roosters and kept him but now I realized that was not a good decision because he wasnt a good protector and now I only have 2 chickens left!

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 4 years ago from France Author

When I was young we had a goose that used to sit on our laps. They can be so lovely. Re the aggression, these things are not always evident. I made sure that I didn't choose the mean roosters - the ones that took their food before the hens, but didn't think about the protection aspect. Many thanks for taking the time to give us the benefit of your experiences.

Farmer Rachel profile image

Farmer Rachel 4 years ago from Minnesota

What a great article! I just started keeping geese last year, and this year we have a gaggle of eight Embdens. I just love them! You're right about what great watch-dogs they are, and also about how they "mow" the grass for you. This year's geese are about four months old now and fully feathered (and huge), but still won't go in the creek on their own. I have to walk out into the water, and then they will follow - so silly! Anyway great article, you've got everything in there :)

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 4 years ago from France Author

Thank you so much, Rachel, for this endorsement. Much valued as it comes from a fellow goose-keeper!

DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Nice article! My geese approve it. Here in the tropics grass grows year round so there is never a shortage of feed for the little mowers. Goose paradise.

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 4 years ago from France Author

Thanks for dropping by and for adding your tropical take. Of course I only know about raising geese in countries like France and the UK

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seahorsey 3 years ago

i am new to a pair of mated geese they are doing well, she is laying eggs and they are content with each other. i would like to get one more goose.. but not sure if he will mate with her also. so my question is if i were to get another MATED pair .. could both pairs live together in same enclosure and be content? it is a large enclosure with a nice 8ftx5ft pond.. and seperate houses.. using xlarge igloo dog house.. working well.

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 3 years ago from France Author

Many thanks for you message seahorsey. I'm not sure about this one. I don't have enough experience of joining together groups of geese to even hazard a guess. Geese are social creatures and quite tricky.

I've always hatched out a group and then this group have lived happily together. I'd have thought that if you can contact a professional breeder, they would be experts at bringing in 'new blood'. Perhaps you could come back, seahorsey, and let me know what happened. I can then add your experience (and new-found knowledge) to the article.

Jessie 3 years ago

You mention in here about damaged leg development. I have two Sebastopol goslings, about 2.5 months old. One of them continuously has a bad right leg. It limps or is basically immobile. When it weight bears on a bad day, it makes a lot of noise, obviously painful. But when you pick him up, he kicks and kicks so I don't think it's broken; just painful on weight bearing. Any ideas on one, what may be wrong; and, two, how to help him get better. The other is totally fine and runs around being mischievious all day. I do have them contained a lot so that one doesn't try to run around hurting herself all day and they can't bear to be apart. Any helpful comments would be very appreciated.

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 3 years ago from France Author

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.

jrpierce profile image

jrpierce 3 years ago from Ellijay, Ga

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 profile image

DaisyChain 3 years ago from France Author

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.

Lynn Thomas 2 years ago

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 profile image

DaisyChain 2 years ago from France Author

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.

Noko 2 years ago

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 profile image

DaisyChain 2 years ago from France Author

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.

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 21 months ago from Australia

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.

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 21 months ago from San Diego California

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!

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 21 months ago from France Author

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.

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 21 months ago from France Author

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.

cindy 21 months ago

dear daisy,

in the wild the mother transfers oils to her young, when one is not present the oils come from them growing to adulthood.

DaisyChain profile image

DaisyChain 21 months ago from France Author

Thanks for this contribution, Cindy. One more mystery solved for me!

Jaime 17 months ago

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 profile image

DaisyChain 17 months ago from France Author

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!

lrdl3535 profile image

lrdl3535 10 months ago from California

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 profile image

DaisyChain 10 months ago from France Author

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.

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