Thursday, March 8, 2012

Geese and Children


The following is a guest blog from Cheryl Walter with her recommendations on raising geese with children.  Thank you Cheryl!    
If anyone else would like to contribute a blog, please email John Metzer.

Goslings are super cute, and so satisfying to hold! But before you get a goose, you should do a lot of considering to be sure that the goose you want is the right animal for your family. Unfortunately, every fall unwanted domestic juvenile geese appear at local ponds because the people did not fully consider the needs of the geese or their families before they made the purchase. 

Holding Puffball

We have Super African geese that we bought from Metzer Farms a year and a half ago after a period of consideration. We have a flock of Indian Runner ducks, and we wanted to have an extra layer of protection for the ducks, as well as an animal that would help us to keep the grass down.

We have three children, who were ages 10, 8 and 5 when we got our first geese. Before we bought our geese, we knew full well that these particular geese would be aggressive, particularly to kids who showed that they were scared. We considered existing fencing that allows children and geese to have space. We looked at where we would house our geese. We also got a livestock guard dog to help keep coyotes away from the geese. We considered the noise and our neighbors. (As many of the neighbors have roosters that crow at 3:00 am, this was not a large factor. Had we been in town, or a subdivision, it would have been different.)

When we got the goslings, we handled them as much as possible. They loved hanging out with the kids, even listening to my daughter play her flute. 

They all came over to listen to the flute!

However, as they got bigger, the males became more aggressive to my sons, who had backed away, scared that they would get pecked. Once the geese figured this out, every time the boys came into the goose area, the ganders chased the boys. But this is not true of every kid - we had a 4 year old here a couple weeks ago who was running straight at the flock and showed them who was boss – and the ganders ran away! So it really depends on the child. If they are timid, parents would be wise to wait until the child is older. One of the ganders imprinted on me – he follows me around like a puppy, and eats grass out of my hand. 


All of that changed during mating season. Ganders became very pecky (true to their breed) and even my imprinted gander pecked me in the face. I would not let the kids pick up the ganders any more during the spring and summer. 

Stripey, our adult male, in the fall.
I would recommend anyone who wants a pet goose, to get only females. (Metzer Farms sells sexed geese – take advantage of this!) Our females are not aggressive, even when setting on eggs for the first time, as they let us handle them. In fact, one refused for 3 days to get off the nest to eat so I had to take her off daily after that for food and water. The gals were very nice, even when the babies hatched, letting my kids reach under and pull out the peeping goslings to pet them. The ganders, however, if anything, became even more protective and aggressive after the goslings hatched. This may vary from bird to bird and from breed to breed, so look into the breed you want, and get the ones best suited for your situation.

Sally and her gosling Olive.

My children did show ducks at the fair last year, and this coming year my oldest wants to show a goose. We have agreed that it must be female, as they are more laid back in nature, and from what we saw with other geese at the fair, are less stressed. All the kids in 4-H at our fair are encouraged to take their animals out and let fairgoers pet them, so a sociable animal is a must. My daughter picks up the geese daily, and as we get closer to fair, the goose will come into the house to sit on her lap while she watches TV, which to some extent, simulates the sounds of many people at the fair.

Unfortunately, we have known people who impulse bought their geese. They were at the feed store to get some chickens, and just couldn’t resist those cute, meaty, fluffy goslings that are so satisfying to hold. But they did not consider how the animal would fit into their lives. One family lives in a subdivision, and their Brown Chinese goose raised a racket. They did not realize the amount of elimination that a goose does a day, much more than their tiny dog! The goose ended up being a gander, and while it got along ok with the kids, it was frustrated when mating season came. The gander ended up at a local farm. Another nighbor family bought a brown Chinese. It ended up chasing their then two and four year old children. It ended up moving – to our house, where it doesn’t get along with the Super African geese, but does hang out with and look over the ducks. Each fall when we go to the park near the river, we see “new” domestic geese, which makes our whole family sad as they are always quiet tame. 

Last year's Christmas card photo.... with their Christmas goose!
People who want a goose, or a whole flock of geese as pets, should research the breeds of geese and pick the ones best suited for their needs, the ages of family members and the neighborhood. Geese can be very sociable and nice, but some breeds are more aggressive to strangers or during mating season than others. Despite a few pecks from our geese, the whole family loves them. They have wonderful personalities, are certainly unique, and a lot of fun to have around.

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post -- it's really interesting to read another goose owner's perspective. I have a Brown Chinese goose and gander that I got from Metzer two years ago. I also got them to help protect my ducks (three runners and three Welsh Harlequins). I love our geese and find them endlessly fascinating but they are the most challenging of all our animals (chickens, ducks, dairy goats). Our gander is more sociable than the goose -- he likes to be petted (or at least tolerates it) and absolutely must join in every conversation, but he can also get nippy and is intimidating to people who aren't used to him. Believe everything you read about Chinese being the noisiest breed -- it is like having two dogs that bark most of the day. If you like to sleep in or have nearby neighbors, don't get a Chinese goose! But they are beautiful and very engaging.
    One thing we didn't take into consideration when we got them was separate housing. We thought we'd house them at night with the ducks, but found that the geese would inadvertently step on and crush the duck eggs. So we wound up having to build a separate house for the geese. They all free range around the property during the day and are locked up at night.

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  2. I love ducks and geese. It's so sweet that they came to listen to the flute.

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  3. Very helpful and timely for our family. Thank you!

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  4. Hello everyone! I have two Toulouse geese and a Saddleback Pom with blue eyes, a friend is giving up her geese and I wondered what the reaction would be to the three I already have since it is Spring and my geese as well as hers have been laying.

    My geese have not started setting on the eggs, yet. I have not counted lately however I do beleive there is an access of 30 eggs in one nest. I'm planning to seperate the eggs into another nest so both will have their own. Incase they don't want to set is there a way to enclose them so that they do?

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  5. Why would you kill animals that your children hug?

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  6. It would just depend on if it was raised for food or pet. We have both but have eaten animals that the kids played with but knew that they were for a holiday. Unless you don't eat meat - you eat some animal that probably someone has been kind to. Animals are for eating:) YUMMY!

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    1. Is it better for an animal that is raised for food to be ignored?

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    2. No, not at all. We raise goats and butcher one or two every may....but we love them and my children name them and play with them! It is the circle of life and they should be loved forever. This is for any animal. We don't eat our ducks and geese.....except for the eggs.....but if we did I would feel the same way.

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  7. If you "play with your food" it taste better and becomes part of you to help you grow strong. Eatting food that was loved it far better than eatting food that was not and probably treated crully.

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    1. So true, I rescued a duckling and raised him, when he was full grown we ate him!! So nice to know that all your time and hard work made a highly useful outcome. =)

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  8. I have a pair of Pilgrim geese and at the moment the female is sitting on a nest of 6 eggs, it's her first time. They have a week more to develop and then they will hatch. Just curious because I would like her to produce more babies but if I take the goslings away as soon as they hatch will she lay some more eggs or not?

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  9. Yes, it is more likely she will make a second clutch if you remove the goslings soon after hatching.

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  10. For anybody who can't resist the darling little goslings and ducklings but find they are more than you were prepared to deal with, you can sell them at a poultry auction to other people who may adore them either as pets or as dinner. Really, a nasty gander makes a nice Thanksgiving dinner for some.

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  11. hello I am getting into birds this year and I bought a pair of African geese and I was told they were very tough and kind of mean witch I thought was good because I own 8 grey hounds witch we use for hunting and the can be quit destructive but are usually tied up do u think that the geese will be able to stand up to them.

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  12. I would be very careful with the dogs and geese. A single dog can overpower a goose pretty quickly. A goose will only win with intimidation and if your dogs are used for hunting, they are probably not easily intimidated.

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  13. So what is the most kid friendly goose?

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  14. I don't think any one breed is that much better than any other breed in terms of friendliness. I have spoken to many people that swear their breed is the best breed....and each one has a different breed. I believe it is how they are raised and managed.... and the luck of the draw.

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  15. My Super African where raised with my grandson. We also had Tuffed Buff geese. My grandson was three when they hatched. He is now 6. He always played in the water with them. They where handled daily and raised a good long time in our house so we could touch them often. The Tuffed Buff male does get somewhat aggressive when his lady is on eggs. When you walk into his pen you let him know he can't disrespect you. The Super African males come running to be petted. They are the best, most docile geese I have ever had. The females let me check there eggs without any problem from anyone. They are the only ones that I trust ith my grandson. I guess they are all individuals. I have raised many breeds but the Super Africans are tops on my list.

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  16. I have two Chinese male geese - Hoss and Clyde. I have raised them since they were 4 months old. They are very gentle. They have taken up with a Canada geese couple who have 5 goslings. They serve as god fathers to the goslings. They know me from a mile away. If I drive by the lake in my truck and they see it, they starting honking. At night, I can whistle and if they hear me, they will start honking and swim over to where I am on the lake.

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  17. I have many geese of various breeds, some for over 13 years now. I find to tame geese very early on in their life I hold them so that they can't move for maybe 5 minutes. They seem to remember who is boss. If later one acts a little aggressive I repeat the the same treatment. If I show them at the state fair I hold them the week before the fair. They seem to tolerate the people better. No aggresion. People are amazed how tame they are.

    As for dogs and geese I socialize them both early in life. I first hold both up close to each other. Next I let both free in an enclosed area under my watchful eye and reinforce good behavior. Next I back off more, etc. My dogs (which are used to guard our animals from predators) interact with all our animals and fowl without harming them. Early training and managed introduction seems to work for me.

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