Goslings have different requirements from chicks – and, in all honesty, the sooner that goslings are ready to graduate from brooder to coop, the better. If you are planning on adding geese to your flock, make sure that you have appropriate space for them both as adults and as baby geese.
When they first arrive goslings need warmth just like any baby fowl. They prefer temperatures around 90 degrees at first, decreasing by about 10 degrees a week. By 4-6 weeks they do not need any heat, and keeping them heated after that point will delay feathering. Heating a brooder is easiest with a heat lamp, or a couple of regular lights with 40 watt bulbs.
Geese are best on either pine shavings, hay, straw, or peat moss. Geese are messy creatures so whatever you use for bedding must be changed regularly – at least every other day in a small brooder. I recommend shavings because they are very absorbent. If their bedding is not regularly changed it will raise quite a stench, but more importantly, they need to be kept dry to remain healthy.
Goslings will need food and water at all times. Feed for baby geese is available at your local hardware store, but they need their feed to be thoroughly wetted – to the point of being soup – in order to swallow for the first several weeks. They also can’t eat without fresh water, which they use to further break down their food as well as for drinking. Geese do not need medicated feed.
Once geese start to get bigger – in fact, from about three days old – they will benefit greatly from access to fresh greens, cut grass, and, best of all, the ability to graze freely. Our geese are lucky that the vegetable garden is growing fast, and usually they get some cut arugula in the morning. They’ll eat grass clippings, lettuce, and pretty much anything green, but it is most beneficial for them to graze because it teaches them how to behave as adults.
Goslings are much more hardy than other chicks and can start learning to forage outside at just a few days old. Once they are between 4 and 6 weeks you will probably be desperate to move them outdoors full time, and you can do so. They will need shelter from predators at night and many people keep their geese in runs, but they are able to fend for themselves most of the time. However, if you are lucky enough for them to have bonded with you, they will not want to forage far and will prefer staying as close to their human as possible.
Adult geese are unlike chickens in that they do not attack new additions in the same manner as “hen pecking” hens. When you introduce baby chicks to a flock, you have to make sure they are big enough and watch them closely so that the flock doesn’t kill them. Geese, on the other hand, may peck gently a few times but generally are very welcoming to new additions.
Geese are an incredibly rewarding livestock animal. With about the intelligence level of a dog, geese are smart enough to bond with you and were the first waterfowl domesticated by man. A gaggle will keep your lawn trim and fertilized, and they are known for excellent eyesight and a long memory. If you choose to add goslings to your flock, they will be your friends for life.
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