It is amazing how fast goslings and chicks grow up. Our first batch of chicks is now six weeks old, while the ones we hatched here are approaching four weeks. The goslings, meanwhile, are five weeks old.
Geese age differently from chicks, partially because they are more closely related to their wild cousins and need to grow up quickly in order to survive. It’s not recommended to let your goslings swim until at least a week old, and they aren’t too interested in water until they are older. By week three, you should start to see noticeable feathering on their wings, and at five weeks they will have pinfeathers on their tails as well.
Penelope at three weeks with the other goslings.
When geese are hatched, their wings are tiny stumps on their shoulders, but they quickly catch up to body size within the first 6-8 weeks of life. As their feathers come in, they also gain significant size – nearly doubling in weight and stature every week. By week eight, goslings will have feathered out wings, tails, and bodies.
Chick’s feathering pattern is much the same as goslings but, because of their small size, they are more delicate. Also, while geese are very downy, chicks have only a thin layer of fuzz and often, as their adult feathers start to come in, bare skin is exposed. Chicks grow more slowly at first, and it will be 15-17 weeks before they look entirely like an adult chicken. Chickens will continue to mature for a full year before they reach their final weight and appearance. Most breeds of geese, however, keep developing for up to three years.
While chicks should be kept inside at night, or on cold days, until at least six weeks of age (possibly longer if you are integrating with an existing flock), goslings are ready to be outside by two weeks old. Some poultry guides will say that geese do not need shelter beyond a shaded area. For safety from predators, I recommend a pen for geese of any age to sleep in at night. Unlike chickens, geese don’t roost, but they will usually sleep in open water if it is available. Just like the chicken’s roosting instinct, this is a natural preference to keep them safe from attack.
Watching fowl feather out as they grow is one of the most fun aspects of raising your own birds. It also helps you to feel more bonded with your birds as adults. And you can’t help but smile when your poultry goes through the famous “dinosaur” stage.
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