The Anderson and Townsend women in my family traditionally kept geese. One of my favorite memories from childhood was going to my Aunt Bess’s house and seeing the goslings out in the little run and pen she kept for her laying geese. They were just plain grey geese and they were tame enough that I could pet the babies. My last trip to see my grandmother shortly before her death in 2008 also involved geese. She had moved to a house that had a shared pond and a few geese. It was then that she taught me how to handle and tame geese. I asked lots of question about them. It was the last piece of farming and traditional skills she left to me. So, when I was given a mean old gander and two hens as a farm warming present in 2014 by my neighbor I was elated.
Draughlin (means Dragon Lord) was NOT a nice gentleman when we first met. He bit, flogged, hissed, chased, and generally was just MEAN. It took time, corn, and determination to gentle him. But, now he will actually go after ANYTHING he thinks will hurt me. He also adorably will tug my skirt or pants leg to ask for grain, or just to have the spot where he can’t groom scratched. We are friends.
Draggy (his nick name) is unusual for a gander. He LOVES his babies. He ends up rearing the majority of our goslings each year along with me. His son Nancy is also an excellent father as was his boy Drago. They both raised out ducks. While Draggy and sons awesome hands on dads, their wives are challenged in the motherhood department. I have four devoted broody geese. They will hatch out up to forty young over the season if they can. However, with the exception of Thyme and Big Momma they abandon them around a week old. Every single one of my parent geese take the goslings on day one to the creek and loose them all. ALL. Therefore, I’m left with artificially rearing goslings with the help of The Dragon Lord.
Young geese need a way to remain warm, but not too warm. I’ve noticed my new hatchlings like it about eighty five to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. As they get bigger they tolerate cooler temperatures. Even when it dipped into the low fifties after Cristobal last week the six week old birds were quite comfortable in their stall with their dad.
I allowed Big Momma to stay with them the first three weeks, but after thirty two days of sitting and three weeks of brooding she was too thin to continue staying in the pen with them. Draggy had already insisted in moving in as soon as he heard cheeping. It was quite cute to steal a glance at him happily sitting with babies tucked up under his feathers, on his back peaking out. Big Momma continued to sleep with them at night for another two weeks and then turned all parenting over to her husband.
I typically kick Draughlin out during meal times. He is a grown gander and can easily feed himself. Since all my adult geese insist on taking their babies to the big creek and loosing them, the have to stay in the stalls until they are big enough to move into the large open air coop or join the adults at the creek.
Geese are grass grazers for the most part. They will consume other foods if hungry, but they like their greens. Therefore, I pick several large trays of green stuffs daily for my goslings to keep them healthy and full. They enjoy lettuce, spinach, chickweed, dandelions and chicory, chard, beet greens, and soft grasses. Smart weed is also a favorite among my gaggle. This makes up the bulk of their diet. The bigger they get the more they eat. By the time goslings are feathered out they are eating the same amount as one sheep for every ten birds. This means I’m out grazing with the sheep several times a day.
In addition to the greens and grass I give them regular old sweet feed from TSC that is appropriate for horses, sheep, goats, and cattle. Flock starter is also a good choice for geese. However, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can geese have medicated chick or chicken feed. This will kill them. They many all be birds, but water fowl have an entirely different biochemistry than ground poultry. I usually feed them a quart of starter morning and night.
Being geese, goslings drink allot of water. They actually need water to digest and swallow their food. Unlike chickens they don’t have saliva. this makes them very messy eaters and makes their poo messy and smelly. I fill their water morning and evening. If it’s particularly hot out I usually fill it at lunch time as well. That’s nine gallons of water a day for eight young geese.
Raising geese out at the other farm was MUCH easier. We had a small stream with a gently sloping path down to the swimming hole that was only four feet deep and very still. When there I simply allowed the goslings to roam with the geese after four weeks because the ganders would take care of them. It was easy. The way I have to manage my geese currently is very labor intensive. I hope to eventually have a dedicated hut and grazing area blocked off from the creek to keep our growing goslings in much like my aunt Bess did.
Until that dream is attainable I’ll let Draggy have a few babies every few years. He’s about as happy as any Dragon Lord could be when he has his very miniature gaggle to raise.
Until next time,
Craft no harm,
Moriah, Drauglin, and the flock