Caring For Goslings
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 and learning how to raise goose will take even more time and effort.
- 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.