I remember being chased around a garden by a pet goose when I was a child. He wasn't very friendly! Years later, I regularly fed a friendly white goose called Donald. I have fond memories of him, a gentle giant who used to stand on my foot when I fed him. Geese are good pets, they are great at keeping grass short and weeding, and they make good guard geese. They will warn you of intruders by honking, but they will not usually attack them. This is good news for your friends and visitors! They are great characters. Be aware that some geese can be aggressive, but most are docile.
The first thing you need is a lot of good quality grass. A large garden or smallholding would be ideal. As a guide, a trio of geese will be happy in a 20 x 40 feet pen or fenced area of your garden. Believe it or not, geese are not as messy as ducks or chickens, because they do not scratch the ground or make pools by dabbling. If you do not have a field or grazing land, an ideal situation is to have two large grass areas and rotate them every few weeks to enable the grass to grow back. Young shoots have more nutrients and geese tend to prefer the sweet shoots of grass. Remember not to let the grass grow too long as long blades of grass can cause sour crop. Geese do not need a pond, but they would love to have one. They enjoy splashing around in the water as much as ducks. The geese will enjoy a child's plastic paddling pool or sandpit, an old bath or a plasterer's mixing bath. Some breeds of geese fly, so you might need to clip their wings. Dogs and geese do not mix - keep them separate for the dog's benefit!
Geese lay from ten to fifty huge eggs per year on average, but some breeds have been known to lay a hundred. Geese lay in spring and summer or autumn and winter, depending on the breed and age. Are you into crafts? The goose feathers and down can be used for filling duvets and pillows or stuffing handmade gifts and the eggshells can be blown. Are you interested in showing your geese? They are excellent show birds. Could this be the start of a new hobby? Geese reward you by being great characters, may appear or knock at your window, and follow you around. They like company.
Geese would be very happy in a pair or trio as they are social creatures. A six by four foot garden shed is big enough for two breeding pairs of geese. A trio of geese need a shed with a floor space of one square metre per bird. A large dog kennel can be used for a pair of geese. Ensure their shed is protected from rats, especially if you have goslings. Geese can live outside at night, but they need to be protected from foxes at all times - just like chickens and ducks. Keep geese in a fox proof area such as inside a two-metre high electric fence or in a large, secure grass run with daily free range. Add a nesting area in the shed, which can be a crate full of hay for the ganders to lay eggs or if you plan to breed them.
Geese mainly eat grass and it forms 70% of their diet. Initially, mow long grass to prevent sour crop. They will keep it short and you can sell the lawn mower. Their diet should be supplemented with wheat and layer pellets. Try to use a good quality waterfowl brand of layers pellets, and chicken layers pellets as a second option if waterfowl pellets are not available. Give extra wheat during their egg laying period to get the best out of them.
Geese can get gizzard worm so ensure they are regularly wormed. Flubenvet is a good worming product and can be used for chickens and ducks too. They need grit to grind up the food in their gizzard. Oyster shell or normal grit is fine.
There are three types of geese; light, medium and heavy breeds.
The Chinese is a popular domestic goose that was bred from the wild swan goose. They have a prominent beak knob. They are a light breed and the best guard geese as they are very chatty. Some strains can be extremely tame and make wonderful pets that need to be carried to their shed at bedtime, but other strains can be aggressive. Choose from white, brown and grey colours. The brown variety comes in the attractive wild swan goose colours. They lay fifty to a hundred eggs a year, which makes them the best egg layers.
Emden geese are a heavy breed and not for beginners. They are the tallest goose and have a long neck like a swan. They come in white with orange bills and blue eyes. Ganders lay 20 eggs per year.
The Buff Back is a medium breed that is a good broody. Ganders lay 25 to 30 eggs a year. They are brown and white. Buff back geese are friendly, docile and rarely fly. They are known as being plump geese!
The South African goose was bred in America. It's a large breed goose, similar in size to the Toulouse and has the beak knob of the Chinese and a dewlap. The dewlap is a floppy neck skin. It comes in the same wild swan colours as the Chinese, grey or white. Lays ten to twenty eggs a year.
This is a heavy breed with a deep keel that almost touches the ground. Toulouse ganders lay 35 to 60 eggs a season. They are good broody geese, but are clumsy and may tread on eggs. Comes in buff and grey colours. A docile breed.