We purchased our first goslings in the spring of 2015. We got these babies with the plan being to raise them to adulthood and use them for our breeding stock the following year. But first, we had to raise these cute little fluff balls to adults. So this is our story about our experience brooding goslings for the first time.
Our First Time Brooding Goslings
At the Feed Store:
I still remember calling every day the week the goslings were supposed to arrive at the feed store. We were beyond excited that one of the feed stores in our area was going to be getting goslings. Not knowing what breeds would be available, since it was “Hatchery’s Choice”, we decided to familiarize ourselves with all the goose breeds. We researched and ranked all the basic goose breeds by our preferences and made a plan. When we arrived the plan was 6, but by the time we left the store…the number went up… to 10….Oops. :O We probably would have bought all the geese that were there, but at $15 each, we refrained.
We were told the breeds were Toulouse and Embden. Our preferred choices- Yay! We bought 6 Embdens & 4 Toulouse. BUT just to go ahead and break the bad news now…. those Toulouse goslings ended up being Chinese goslings. The one breed we REALLY didn’t want. 🙂
I drove the goslings and kids back home and Evan went back to work. [That’s right. My husband took time off work to meet us at the store to buy our new goslings. It felt a little bit weird to be so excited about some baby birds, but we were both so giddy about it. 🙂 ] When we got home I set the new goslings up in our brooder- in the spare bathroom’s bathtub. They were soooo cute! The boys and I spent a lot of time with them those first few days.
We kept them inside the bathroom for about 10 days and then the cuteness began to wear off. They were quickly out growing our tub and with too many birds in a small space, we couldn’t seem to change the bedding fast enough. We built a bigger brooder in the basement to move them downstairs. Around this time, we also made the purchase of a DropCam to check in on them regularly. We got it to use as a [human] baby monitor, but the only babies it ended up monitoring for a while were of the poultry variety. 😀
About Brooding Goslings
Geese need to be brooded (kept warm & dry) until they are fully feathered at around 9 weeks. [Just for reference, chickens & ducks are around 6 weeks.] Geese usually stop needing heat around 6 weeks, but they need to continue to stay dry until their feathers are fully in- to cover their down. It is very easy for too much water to get in their fluffy down feathers and cause sickness and death.
Now maybe your wondering how on earth wild birds have their little fluff balls out on the water?? It’s because the mother has a special oil gland that she uses to coat her own feathers to keep waterproof and she coats her babies in it as well. That’s why ducks and geese need to preen themselves- not just to keep clean, but also to spread the oil around. So the mother bird can use her oil on her babies until they develop their own oil glands. So without an oil gland, we have to be careful to not get our hand raised goslings wet.
Moving The Goslings Outside:
At 6 weeks, they out grew their brooder again and we had to build the goslings an even bigger brooding area. This time the location was right outside the basement door on the concrete walkway against the side of the house. They didn’t require the heat lamps anymore, but we still needed to keep them dry. We affectionately called this new brooder/house- The Goose Shack. It was made from scrap wood/pallets and covered with a tarp. Since we only needed to keep them protected for a little longer we made due with this ramshackle house.
We didn’t even bother cutting the boards to fit- it was that temporary…. And we’re that classy. 🙂
On nice days, we would take the goslings out and let them graze. We have a portable electric netting fence that we would move around the yard. It was amazing to see how quickly they took to grazing and how much grass they could eat. They love their corn, but their hearts longed to be eating grass.
After the goslings were fully feathered, we could basically leave them outside without a shelter during the year. The only exceptions are in dead of winter or heat of summer they might need a three- sided shelter to protect them from wind/sun & when they are nesting in the Spring. Otherwise, they are basically giant down jackets walking around out there, that can play in the water to cool off. 🙂 Thankfully, since we are in Zone 6, the winters and summers aren’t generally too severe for our birds.
So this was our experience brooding our first batch of goslings. Brooding these goslings on a shoestring with limited facilities was not very fun, but it does give us hope that these geese will do this brooding work themselves when they have babies. Cause the reality is…we don’t really want to do it again. 🙂