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Rightpet

My guard geese Bunny and Dogg

Pennsylvania, United States

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I got Bunny and Dogg as two eggs from a small farmer in south Florida. I wanted to get geese specifically to protect my other birds (chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl) from theft. My pens are about 200 feet from my house and across a road so they are under some threat of theft.

Goose eggs are big, and should be incubated on their sides rather than small-end-down in an egg turner. Most commercial desktop incubators require a special expansion ring for goose eggs, and special turners that cradle them horizontally. I used a regular Hova-bator desktop model with an expansion ring and goose egg turner attachments. I incubated them for 28 days in the turner, spraying them lightly with water once a day in the last week. Then from day 28 I removed them from the turner and once a day, I immersed them in 100 F water for 30 minutes (this is an old farmer trick to help soften the membrane) and then replaced them into the incubator. At 30 days, right on schedule, they began pipping, and hatched completely on their own (two out of two, and this was after they flew on an airplane and took a boat ride to get home!).

You can raise geese on non-medicated turkey pellets and shredded lettuce, but again I resorted to an old farmer trick. I raised them on bulk rabbit pellets and low-protein dog kibble. They grew extraordinarily well. I kept them in a brooder at 95F the first week, and then 5 degrees less each week until ambient temperature was reached. At that point they hardly fit in the brooder anymore -- geese grow quickly! I built an 8x8 foot, 2 foot high bottomless pen for them which I put in the yard and moved around each day for them to graze. Geese are essentially grazers and need lots of fresh grass to be at their most productive. They need protection from the rain and sun during the day (I used a piece of roofing zinc corrugate to cover 1/3 of their daytime pen) and protection from predators at night.

When mature enough, I provided their permanent outdoor home. They have a 4x4x5 foot wooden house with the leeward side open and a sloped corrugate roof. In temperate climates, you'll want to flank such a house with straw bales in winter. They have free run of my 44x22 foot pen, a perimeter fence made of concrete reinforcing grid wire on live treetrunk posts, 6 feet high. Their role is to protect the rest of the birds from intruders, and they do this quite well.

They can get extremely aggressive, even to me, seasonally. This can be thwarted by first a hand signal (arm extended horizontally, fingers pursed together, with a gentle but deliberate up and down motion) and if that doesn't work, a gentle but thorough knock off balance by the neck (just give them a shove) will usually settle them down. The key is to be deliberate but not abusive, so they remain amiable to you. Strangers they'll often attack posthaste, so remember that when bringing in visitors. I usually locked mine up in their house when I had visitors. They did succeed in chasing off the next would-be offender, and by the sound of the scream they had the desired effect. If nothing else, the noise they make is worth it. Unlike guinea-fowl, which chatter and scream when the wind blows, geese reserve their vociferous announcements for actual visitors and threats.

When you do handle them, take care to hold the neck just behind the head, or you'll likely get a good hard bite on the cheek. The resulting mark can have colleagues questioning your out of work affairs! Once you have the neck, scoop one arm around the wings and hold the feet gently with the goose's body tucked under your arm. Some people prefer to hold them "backwards," eliminating the possibility of them to bite your face, but they might go for the next best thing from behind!