Chinese geese are known to be active foragers and are sometimes called “weeder geese” for this talent. If you have a pond, they can help keep algae under control. They’re also known for their swan-like appearance due to their long graceful necks, as they are descendants of the Asian wild Swan Goose.
With appropriate care, they can lay more than twice the amount of eggs that other geese will from spring to autumn. They can be vocal watchdogs, although they have no natural means of protection, so should not be counted on as guardians. Extra males can be harvested for meat. Geese can add a lot of value to your homestead.
Characteristics of Chinese Geese
Chinese geese can be two colors: white or brown, which some people call gray. Their slender head flows into an elegant and compact body. While their feet will always be bright orange, the white variety also has an orange bill and forehead basal knob. The brown Chinese goose has a black bill and knob on his forehead. This protrusion is a sign of fertility and grows as your gander matures.
The white Chinese goose is one of the lighter breeds, as a mature gander weighs 12 to 15 pounds. A female goose (called a goose) weighs an average of 10 pounds, which is not much larger than one of the hybrid meat ducks. The brown variety is usually a few pounds lighter.
Can Chinese geese fly? You might think that they can due to their smaller size, but they can’t lift off for more than a few feet at a time, meaning that there is no need to clip wings or anything to keep them on your farm.
Like other geese, Chinese geese also have waterproof feathers due to their preen gland, or uropygial, which secretes oil that they rub onto their bill and lather onto their feathers as they groom.
While geese have a reputation for being aggressive and unpleasant, they have a lot to offer homesteads. From their delicious meat and fantastic down to their ubiquitous large eggs, there are lots of reasons to keep geese. Best of all, it’s easy to get started.
How To Care for Chinese Geese
Enclosures aren’t always necessary for geese, but they’re worthwhile if predators are a problem in your area or your property has open connections to forests or other properties. Depending on the climate, a shelter may be necessary. As a rule of thumb, enclosed pens should have at least 3 square feet of floor space per bird. Their egg boxes should be at least 2 square feet.
Offering shelter to your geese is especially important to ensure they’re safe during the night and through windy, cold, and rainy months. Some sources say that the knobs can be damaged in low temperatures, but ours have been fine down to single digits so far.
Historically, Chinese geese were kept as weeders on large properties like orchards and would have plenty to graze from. In smaller yards, Chinese geese may do much damage with their foraging. (They are especially fond of emerging hostas in the spring!) Installing fencing can be costly and time-consuming, but depending on your property, it may be required to keep these geese.
Breeding Chinese Geese
Chinese geese are avid layers, bred for their outstanding egg production. They are an affordable and low-maintenance breed that can outperform many other geese as egg producers. Chinese geese will begin to lay eggs when they reach around seven months of age, or in spring, if they reach seven months over the winter.
Like most geese, Chinese geese may go broody and hatch a clutch of eggs. Geese are most susceptible to predation when setting because they are fiercely protective of their nests, refusing to leave, and often paying the ultimate price because they are no match for the strong jaws and sharp teeth of a coyote or raccoon.
Like most waterfowl, they prefer to mate on the water. Geese can wobble and lose stability on land or in shallow water.
If you’re keeping female geese and males together for breeding, maintaining a proper gender ratio is also essential. A balance of four to six geese per gander is good for reducing fighting between ganders and keeping your females healthier, but two geese can be acceptable if you only have one gander.
Raising Chinese Geese
Your goslings will need a few everyday staples to grow to their full potential. To start, you should provide your goslings with a high protein starter feed. If you have it available, you can also provide fresh cut grass. Their foraging behavior begins early, so it’s crucial to offer something safe for them to eat. They may try to consume certain types of bedding, such as straw or wood chips, so it’s important to discourage this behavior to prevent choking or impaction.
Goslings should also be offered drinking water in a poultry waterer. You don’t want to use an open bowl or pan because they will get into the water and splash around, making a mess and possibly getting chilled. When they raised by mom, the oil in her feathers rubs off on them, helping to insulate them from getting chilled when wet. They won’t start to produce their own until a few weeks old.
Your brooder should also have a heat lamp that the goslings can freely move under or away from, ensuring that they don’t get cold or overheat.
Aside from offering enrichment in their enclosure, it’s also essential to handle and play with the goslings from a young age to help them imprint and ultimately grow into relaxed and tame geese.
Your goslings will go through many growth spurts, so you should be prepared to move them up in brooder sizes. By week four, your goslings should be ready to be introduced to the rest of your flock or let outside. You should expect the geese to become more independent and confident after introduction. They may still want to be handled and played with, but you should expect them to spend a great deal of time foraging or playing in the water.
White Chinese Geese for Meat
If you want geese specifically for meat, you would get more return on your investment with a larger breeder. However, the meat from Chinese geese is delicious, if not as plentiful as larger breeds. Waterfowl are notoriously challenging to pluck, but having white feathers creates a pretty carcass than dark-feathered geese when pin feathers get left behind.
How To Train Geese
Due to their ability to naturally fertilize and propensity for foraging, Chinese geese are an excellent choice for all-natural weeders. The feed you give your goslings is a large part of what determines their tastes and attitudes as they grow, so providing them with grass clippings and varieties of garden weeds from a young age will train them to be effective weeders.