Here are our farm we now have five breeds of geese represented, but there are many more to choose from if you are thinking of getting goslings. There are currently twelve species of geese recognized by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, which is used to sanction poultry shows. Here are a few of the most common goose breeds for homesteading.
Chinese & African
Chinese and African geese are distinctive because of the large knob at the top of their beaks. While Africans only come in a brown variety, the Chinese geese can also come in white and are slightly more upright and lighter weight than Africans. Contrary to their names, both types of geese originated in China from the domestication of the Asiatic Swan goose. Both varieties of goose are known as excellent weeders, with a insatiable desire for grass shoots. They are also both particularly noisy, with a piercing honk that will alert you to any unusual activity on your farm. The heavier weight African is also used for meat, but both breeds’ primary purposes are weeding and guarding. They tend to lay 30-40 eggs a year on average, and they are considered “Watch” breeds by the Livestock Conservancy. They can be somewhat aggressive, especially in mating season, their carriage is very distinct and they never miss a movement on their farm.
The American Buff goose is a particularly docile breed traditionally bred for meat and developed from a Welsh variety of goose. It is a cream color and only lays 20-30 eggs a year. While they are not as loud as some other varieties, Buffs are still effective watchdogs and are frequently described as being beautiful to watch because of their elegant stride and unique color. With orange beaks and brown eyes, they are a highly recommended for backyard flocks because of their calm personalities. These gentle geese are listed as “Critical” by the Livestock Conservancy.
A particularly popular backyard breed, Embden geese were developed for commercial meat production and are a heavy weight, docile variety of goose. They are white, with orange bills and blue eyes, and typically lay 30-40 eggs a year. Originally bred in Germany, Embdens have become a staple breed of domestic goose and are commonly used for weed control and farm companionship in the US. Alongside Toulouse geese, Embdens are the heaviest variety of domesticated goose. They also lay eggs which are, even for geese, unusually large.
Pilgrim geese are the only breed of domesticated geese which are autosexing, meaning that you can tell the males and females apart simply by color. Male Pilgrims are white, while females are gray, and both have orange bills. Calm and relatively quiet, the origins of Pilgrim geese are unknown, but it is believe that they came to America with the pilgrims. A more prolific egg layer than most geese, Pilgrims can lay 40-50 eggs a year and are known to be excellent parents. They are also one of the more kindly breeds of geese, making them ideal as a companion bird on a smaller farm. These docile geese are currently listed as “Critical” by the Livestock Conservancy.
One of the most unique looking varieties of geese, Sebastopol’s have long, curling feathers which hang from their body like torn sheets. Quiet, curious, and friendly, Sebastopols are originally from eastern Europe. Their feathers are flexible and fluffy and can reach to the ground. A moderate egg layer, they can lay up to 30 eggs a year and are generally kept for ornamental purposes. These geese have orange bills and large, blue eyes and arched necks. Kindly and peaceful, Sebastopol geese are listed as “Threatened” by the Livestock Conservancy.
Toulouse geese are a particularly versatile farm goose that comes in two varieties: Dewlap and Production. Production Toulouse are lighter weight and much more common, while Dewlap Toulouse are massive, oversized birds which were originally developed to feed our appetites for foie gras. Toulouse geese lay 20-30 eggs a year and also are good guard geese, the Production variety can be aggressive, but the Dewlap geese are too large to be very active. Quiet and laid back, Toulouse geese have gray feathers with dark bills. While Production Toulouse are listed as “Watch” by the Livestock Conservancy, Dewlap geese are one of the rarest varieties and only about 250 exist in the US today.
With a prominent puff of feathers at their crest, Tufted Roman geese are smaller and quite stately. Once worshiped by the Romans as sacred to the goddess Juno, Roman geese are pure white with orange bills and blue eyes. A fair egg layer, they can produce 20-30 eggs a year and are excellent guard animals with a very alert temperament. Despite their smaller frame, these geese can get quite plump and are often used for meat. Listed as “Critical” by the Livestock Conservancy, this curious goose is fairly hard to find.
Geese are a great addition to a farm but it is important to make sure you select a variety that suits your needs. In fact, many varieties of geese are very placid and not at all aggressive as long as they have been raised attentively.
For more details about rare breeds of geese and other livestock visit the Livestock Conservancy.
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