The Neglected Goose

Craig Russell

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2002, 7(1):5

Pair of Toulouse geese
From Profits in Poultry, O. Judd Company, 1889

The recent waterfowl surveys by the SPPA and ALBC highlight the need for the SPPA to increase emphasis on waterfowl conservation. The most endangered segment of the waterfowl community would be the geese. While we don't want to forget about turkeys and chickens or ignore ducks, we will try to add some in depth articles on old and rare breeds of geese to our general format.

Geese are probably the most neglected of all poultry. The decline in the keeping and use of geese was noted as early as the 1940s. Geese remained "the" Christmas bird in many rural and some urban areas well into the 1950s. Since that time goose populations have continued to decline and today geese make up far less than 1% of North American poultry stocks. The primary demand for geese today is among some immigrant populations, chiefly in urban areas. There are still many good reasons to keep geese. Do you want the finest feather pillows, the warmest comforters or cold weather gear? Do you want to utilize an empty plot or weedy corner or employ organic weed control for berry plantations? Do you need a cheap, reliable alarm system? Consider a flock of geese.

One of the major reasons for the decline in goose keeping is changing dietary habits triggered by concerns about a diet high in fat. Properly prepared (roasted on a rack and basted), geese are not that much fatter than other more popular fowl. Geese provide some famous delicacies such as paté and smoked goose that are relished by most people who try them. The much-maligned fat is excellent in pastry, used as butter and as an ingredient in many traditional health remedies.

I must warn you that geese may steal your heart before you use them in pastry. Despite a reputation for being vicious, geese quickly become pets and make pleasant companions. Geese share parental duties and are very protective of their young. Truly hostile geese are usually hand-raised birds that have become imprinted on people. Such birds think of their keepers as geese or themselves as people. The males very naturally try to take over their flock as they reach adulthood.

Geese make good foster parents for other waterfowl. Geese provide smaller waterfowl with some protection. When they aren't overstocked geese will not harm pasture. They can graze closer than sheep or goats, so they can be rotated to mow pasture short for other poultry. If properly maintained, geese require less attention, less housing, and less prepared food than any other poultry. Depending on the age and the size of the geese and the quality of their pasture, an acre can support ten to twenty birds. Very good pasture and marshy areas can support even more. From two weeks of age to maturity it is possible to raise geese on pasture without any supplemental feed. A pool of water is not a necessity for breeding geese, but fertility is usually improved when water is available.

Start your flock of geese this spring. The SPPA Breeders Directory lists numerous sources for eggs, goslings and mature stock.



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