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PHOTO: Kirsten Lie-Nielsen
If you haven’t considered geese for your homestead before, you may want to think about adding a few goslings to the farm this spring. The advantages of farmyard geese are numerous, and there is a whole lot more to these opinionated birds than just their hissing and honking
Geese make excellent weeders for certain crops. They are vegetarian birds (unlike ducks and chickens), and they have a never ending appetite for fresh greens. While you wouldn’t want them weeding your standard vegetable garden, they can be perfect picking around berries, bushes or small trees. Vineyards and orchards employ geese as weeders to great effect and, at the same time, save money on expensive, toxic weed killers and time and backache from hand-weeding.
2. Alarm Bells
Geese do have loud, often piercing honks. They will squawk at anything unusual on the farm, and this can be used to your advantage. If you’re worried about protecting your property, a goose can be more effective than a guard dog because they can’t be bribed or distracted. While they cannot fight off every predator, they will scare away many. People, especially, tend to harbor a fear of geese that will make them think twice before approaching your barn uninvited.
Goose eggs are huge and delicious. Equivalent to about three chicken eggs, a single goose egg can make a great omelet for one or two people. Goose egg’s thick yolks mean that they hold a batter together and give it a deep, rich color.
While geese only lay seasonally during spring and early summer, their eggs will keep you well fed for those months. They’re perfect for making pasta, and you can barely tell the difference in flavor as long as your geese have a fresh pasture-rich diet.
Not everyone is able to slaughter their geese in the fall, but if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a dark meat carcass that produces valuable fat. A roast goose is a classic Christmas dinner, and it is especially divine if you’re using your own fresh, pasture-raised goose. You can save the rendered fat for cooking later, giving many future meals an extra depth and tasty flavor.
The entertainment value of the sassy goose cannot be underrated. They are constantly curious, eager to stick their heads into whatever you are doing. Each goose has its own distinct personality, and few of them have the streak of meanness that is so often associated with the bird. In fact, most geese are docile and prefer to be snuggled by the person who raised them.
Geese are highly intelligent and emotional birds, and they prefer to bond for life. They are also creatures of habit, and watching their daily antics you can take comfort in the rhythm of each bath, grooming session and sunbathing nap.
6. Downy Feathers
If you do slaughter your geese, keep the feathers. Goose down is a valuable stuffing for pillows and comforters, and it is heavenly soft. It takes several geese to stuff a comforter, of course, but a small pillow can be made with just a few birds. You can also keep the longer, elegant flight feathers for decoration or homemade jewelry.
7. Guarding Chickens
Thanks to those loud honks, geese make excellent guardians for smaller fowl, like chickens. They can scare off and even kill many smaller predators that otherwise would bother your hens, and they are known to be great at spotting aerial predators. What a goose cannot fight off they will certainly alert you to, giving you time to defend your flock and your goose before disaster strikes.
Geese are some of the few birds that imprint if hand-raised. And nothing is more charming than an imprinted gosling. Young goslings will follow their caregiver around like a mother, running frantically should you move out of sight. This dedication persists into adulthood, when full grown geese will still hurry over to say hello to their person and lavish them with soft, happy coos of affection.
9. Long Lives
A healthy goose who does not succumb to a predator will live to be 15 to 20 years old—and some geese can live to be much older. This is something to consider when you first invest in geese—will you be able to care for them for their entire adult lives?—but it’s also an asset. You know you’ll have their companionship and dedication for their long, full life, and for much of that life you can reap their benefits as egg-layers and guardians.
10. Stately Appearance
It may not be the most important reason to keep a goose, but their stately appearance in the farmyard is always reassuring. There is something classic about the figure of a goose in the barnyard, watching over the chickens and resting itself on one leg, the other tucked up amidst its feathers.
If you already keep poultry, adding geese is fairly simple. As you thumb through hatchery catalogs this spring, consider a few goslings to bring entertainment and assets to your farm or homestead.