Why Geese are Right for Your Farm (book excerpt)
Have you been thinking about Spring goslings? I cannot recommend geese for your farm or homestead enough. If you have questions about raising geese, you can always check out my book, The Modern Homesteader's Guide to Keeping Geese, available both on my website and through Amazon.
Below is an excerpt from the introduction of the book - sure to get you excited for goslings!
INTRODUCTION: Why Geese are Right for Your Farm
After I picked up my first pair of goslings, it didn’t take long for me to be head over heels in love with geese. This transformation puzzled many of my friends. Even those who otherwise understood my growing enthusiasm for the farming lifestyle would ask me, “Why do you love geese so much?”. The question always made me smile. There are many reasons for my love of geese, some more complicated than others. But the simple and most truthful answer is that for me, the colorful presence and personalities of geese have proven them to be devoted and reliable companions.
The first geese I ever met belonged to a childhood friend of mine who had a pair of Toulouse geese, birds who loudly honked and fully harassed me. No friendly greeting or warm cuddles there! Yet, in some unexplainable way, they intrigued and charmed me. I was impressed at how my friend was actually comfortable and completely unthreatened by their hissing sounds and warning postures. It became something of a challenge for me to match my friend’s confidence and win over her feathered guardians.
Many years later, when my partner and I were first starting our farm the subject of geese can up, and I leapt at at the opportunity. My partner’s son asked if geese could join our small flock of chickens. Within a few short weeks I carried home a peeping box of downy soft goslings and placed them in the new brooder we had set up on our porch.
My relationship with geese was thus cemented. First of all, I recognized how much more intelligent they were than the chickens. I was, and still am, inspired by the way our goslings imprinted on us, their caretakers. Many waterfowl and a few land birds will imprint or bond with their people, but few do so with the gusto of a gosling. Their devotion means that as long as you are around they are never more than a few feet away, observing and muttering quiet honks. Unlike most creatures they won’t tire of your presence or grow bored.
There are plenty of practical reasons to keep geese. One of the ultimate “permaculture” animals, geese can be used for a wide range of farm tasks. Their abilities easily transfer from one area of the barnyard to another. They can be used for guarding, weeding, their eggs and meat can be eaten and enjoyed, and even their downy feathers are useful. But it is the personality of the goose that wins me over.
Nearly everyone I speak to about geese has a story of being chased, bitten, or otherwise traumatized by a goose. Wild geese will stop at nothing to protect their territory, and domesticated geese retain that fearlessness. Those who remember goose-related traumas are always the people who ask me “why geese?”
Geese were first domesticated over 3000 years ago, when they were some of the first animals to share their day to day lives with people. The first domestic geese were raised for meat and sacrifice, but humans quickly learned how useful their loud honking, large eggs, and plentiful feathers could be. By the time of the Romans, geese were a common barnyard animal and many farmers of that time would selectively breed geese for certain characteristics such as fast growth or bountiful eggs.
Within the first few decades after Christ, well respected Roman farmers were writing about their techniques in goose husbandry and sharing delicious recipes for goose meat. The peasant farmers of the United Kingdom and Northern Europe were also using geese for their many attributes, and when ships sailed to the Americas to start colonies of Europeans, they certainly brought geese along and introduced them as livestock to the New World.
In the early 1990s, a study by the United Nations found geese to be the fastest growing domestic avian species raised for meat. And geese are used for much more than that.
Geese closely raised around people are not aggressive. They are some of the most affectionate and dedicated animals you can keep. Perhaps part of the charm is knowing you’ve garnered the loyalty and devotion from such a pugnacious beast, or perhaps, and very likely, they’ve won you over with their quiet coos and clear appreciation for your care and friendship.
Geese are certainly much easier farm animals than many larger livestock, and they require comparatively little upkeep. Apart from chickens, there are few farm animals which will give you such great rewards for such little effort. You don’t need to milk or sheer them, they eat very little if offered green pasture, they don’t take up much space, and their instincts kick in when it’s time to protect, weed, or lay eggs.
That first pair of goslings that I brought home years ago grew to be a handsome and much adored couple. We were distraught when “Mr. Goose” died a few years later, leaving behind his mate who seemed lost for a few days. Then she took to following my partner around, honking with affection, staying close by, never more than a few feet back from him at all times. She had decided he was her new love. In much the same manner, a group of goslings out enjoying the green grass of spring will jump and come running with their tiny wings flapping at the sound of my voice.
Geese are practical and useful creatures, but we love them for many more reasons than that. Goslings on the farm are a delight and a joy, and the geese they grow into are no less charming. After overcoming an initial fear of geese, many people find that they are some of the most diligent companions you can hope for.