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You are here: Home arrow Articles arrow Livestock and pets arrow Keeping Geese…..easy as pie!

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Keeping Geese…..easy as pie!

Written by Mrs Nesbitt

When we first moved to our house we were keen to utilize the paddock. The total size of our land is one third of an acre. As we were both working full time we didn't want anything that would be too difficult to manage. Local farmers were offering us pigs, sheep, even cows but all of these seemed daunting. We wanted something that would keep the grass down. Whilst reading up on various ideas I came across some information about geese. 70% of their diet is grass! The remainder coming from grain or suitable food scraps. Reading this information planted the seed of the idea of keeping geese into my little brain!

Starting with Geese

Over the next few days I spoke with people who had geese, and one Sunday near Christmas found hubs and I making our way to a nearby goose farm. We spoke with the farmer who advised us to buy thre geese, comprising one gander and two geese. Geese live for anything near 30 years! But to start us off he pointed us in the direction of some one year old examples.

The largest, the gander and one of the geese were Emdens. This is the typical white domestic breed depicted in many books, the remaining goose was a buff, she had brown markings. Although we had only gone to speak with the farmer we found ourselves returning home with the thre geese ! No Land Roveror trailer...they were in the hatchback of our Cavalier inside a sack. It is best to transport geese in this way as they soon quieten down and settle into the journey. We were fortunate in having an empty stable, we always keep it free round about Christmas time as one never knows who may need it. That year there were plenty of vacancies at the local inn, so the geese had the place to themselves. We ensured they were well locked up of an evening, safe from Mr. Fox. Our geese were home. We named them after our grandparents, Jo (gander) Peggy and Dolly.

Over the next few months they really settled in with our busy lifestyles. We soon allocated them a nice wooden shed with straw bedding. They were quite happy with a few buckets of water for drinking and washing, to see a goose trying to take a bath in a bucket is something else! Eventually we had a pond constructed for them but for the first few years they were happy with a child's sand pit type of pool.

Goose Eggs

Easter brings eggs! The geese obviously read the newspapers we lined the hut with, because they knew this too. As Easter approached the eggs appeared. This is a very interesting, noisy time as this is the mating season. The male jumps onto the back of the female, holds her head under the water, flaps his wings making a whosing loud type of sound as well as honking at the top of his voice, so the people in the next village could hear of his achievement.

When the clutch of eggs is complete, the geese become very protective, so beware! Although people say geese are vicious I can honestly say ours are protective of the land, property and each other, which in today's climate is not a bad thing! The eggs never hatched. If you do not want them to hatch take them from the hut whilst the goose is having her morning dip! Don't try to take them from underneath her...you will never have the use of your hand again! Goose eggs are fantastic to eat and make wonderful quiches et cetera. To soft boil takes approximately 20 minutes. Hubs loved taking a hard boiled one to work...heads certainly turned when he took one out of his lunchbox! If you have friends who paint eggs or do fancy needlework with them they will pay you well as they blow them to use the shell.

Living With Geese

Geese are hardy creatures and do not mind the rain. They do not like wind and find protection from it by standing behind their shed or something similar. They enjoy human company and often peer round the corner of the house to see what is going on, especially at barbeque time when they wait for a dry bun!

There have been priceless moments...We bought three big feeding troughs at a farm sale. You know the type, circular design. We filled them with water and watched from the bottom of the garden. Each bird made their way into each of the bowls...and then we witnessed a spontaneous synchronised event! They spun to the left, spun to the right...amazing! They were in pure heaven. They must have stopped in the bowls for the best part of the afternoon. When they did get out there was more water on the patio than there was in the bowls. Geese love water and will accommodate whatever you provide. Make sure they have clean drinking water every day!

Off for a dunk in the pond

Whilst watching the funeral of Princess Diana I felt I was being watched. I glanced to my right to see the three geese sitting on the patio watching the t.v. through the patio doors. They were watching intently. As the carriage came into view for the first time the geese instantly bowed their heads, all three of them at exactly the same time! It was quite funny! But expect many happy hours of observing geese, they are quite majestic! Who needs garden ornaments when you can observe such beauty...

A Few Problems With the Geese

Some years ago our geese foraged in the Trent that runs through the village; it is at the bottom of our garden. After some time we noticed Jo was walking into things round the garden. Closer inspection found a film was forming on the surface of his eyes, so we had to take him to the vet.

To carry a goose, approach it from behind and put your hands round the neck; this has the effect of calming the goose down.  Pick it up by holding the wings flat aginst the bird, and hold its neck. The goose will immediately submit. Keep hold of the wings and lift! Hubs sat in the back of the Vitara and off we went. Picture Rod Hull and Emu...got it? So you know what Hubs looked like when he walked into the vet's waiting room!

Jo was OK about it, but did drop a message onto the floor! The vet discovered Jo had an allergic reaction to an algae found in the water. Some geese have the same allergy, it's quite common. He prescribed some eye-drops as Jo's eyes were becoming ulcerated. He also gave us some antibiotic in the form of a syringe which had to be injected twice a day. We would do all this medication first thing on a morning and catch Jo from behind with my grand dad's walking stick. (Grand dad hasn't had a use for it since he died!) It was really just to stop Jo flapping away. Once he was stopped Hubs would hold him in the way described above and I would do the eye drop bit and the injection. It was a long process but his eyes fully recovered and we made sure he never went in the Trent again, by constructing a fence.

The only other illness our geese encountered did not have such a happy ending. Peggy the Emden goose was sitting alone one day and kept opening and closing her beak. On closer examination she allowed me to pick her up and put her into the laundry basket to take her to the vets. She died later that afternoon. The post mortem showed an egg had broken inside her and had resulted in a type of blood poisoning. She hadn't suffered we were assured, and would have just felt sleepier and sleepier. This gave us some comfort.

Dolly and Jo at the window

Here we are, thirteen years later and Jo and Dolly are still going strong! I can not stress how much joy they have brought us. They are very easy to keep. We have had hens, ducks and geese. Without a shadow of a doubt the geese have been the easiest to care for. People say they are dirty....they need to empty their bowels just as we all do...keep them off areas you are going to walk on by erecting a low fence. They like company and will try to get in to see you... hence the fence!!

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