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Daily Diet, Treats And Supplements For Geese

When it comes to feeding the geese in your care, you may be overwhelmed initially by the number of choices and amount of information out there. By first understanding what a goose’s essential needs are, you can make informed decisions about how to feed and supplement the flock, and have the knowledge to backup your choices.

What Does A Goose Need?

Like every animal, geese have their own specific nutritional needs that must be met. In most ways, they require a diet similar to ducks, however there are a couple differences that are important to know:

  • The digestive tract of a goose has adaptations that allow them to efficiently digest high fiber foods
  • Their gizzards are able to grind food more powerfully than a duck or chicken
  • Geese, who evolved to prefer the leaves and roots of plants over filter feeding (though some still do), have shorter, narrower beaks that give geese a more forceful bite for pruning tough plant parts
  • Goslings also grow at a more rapid pace than chicks

In order to help them be happy and healthy birds, geese require the following:

Protein (Amino Acids)

Geese, like other poultry, do not actually require “protein” but the individual amino acids contained in dietary proteins. The proteins in the diet are broken down during digestion to amino acids, which are absorbed and used by the goose to make its own body proteins, such as those in muscle and feathers. Certain of these amino acids must be supplied in the diet because the goose cannot make them from other sources. These are called essential amino acids. When formulating food for geese, primary attention should be paid to meeting the goose’s essential amino acid requirements. Protein levels that meet the amino acid requirements for geese may vary slightly, depending upon the amino acid content of the ingredients used in each formulation.

Grains

Grains include any small, hard grass family seeds, like oats, corn, and wheat. They provide Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and Phosphorus, if you give them whole grains. If you scatter a whole grain scratch across the yard, geese get a dual benefit of food and some foraging fun! Whole grain scratch is much better than an only cracked corn scratch. However, scratch grains should only make up around 10% of a goose’s total diet, as they are not nutritionally complete sources of food. It’s critical to know that grains must not be allowed to get wet and moldy. This can be fatal to geese.

Greens

Among many benefits, fresh greens provide Vitamin E, important for a goose’s immune system, along with Riboflavin, Vitamin A, and Calcium. If you have a yard, greens are very simple to provide for geese. Let them out onto your grass and they’ll get some of these benefits, but do not allow geese onto your yard if it’s been treated with pesticides! Geese generally prefer clovers, bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy, and bromegrass over alfalfa and tougher grasses. You can also feed geese healthy greens and some green scraps, but avoid known poisonous greens (see “Things that are toxic to geese”, below).

Grit

Not to be confused with the diner classic, grit refers to small hard rocks and pebbles that a goose will swallow as an aid to digest food in their gizzard since they lack teeth. While geese have a more powerful gizzard than chickens and ducks, they still require access to grit.  If birds are free range, they’ll take care of their grit needs on their own. If in confinement, you’ll have to provide them with hard grit at least once a month. Make sure that this grit is the appropriate size for each bird in your care; a gosling can’t handle anything much bigger than sand! You can also leave a bucket of grit out for geese to access freely as they desire. If geese lack grit, they can develop digestive issues such as an impacted crop.

Niacin

Geese require more niacin in their diets than chickens in order to remain healthy. This is important to know if you are currently feeding geese chicken food, as it will not provide enough niacin needed for a goose. Niacin deficiency in goslings is particularly problematic and can lead to serious leg and joint issues. Be sure the diet you are feeding your resident geese is a special waterfowl formula, or supplement their diet with niacin.

Calcium & Vitamin A

‘If geese are eating a lot of greens or formulated food, they’ll get plenty of both vitamin A and calcium. However, you should monitor your residents’ eggshells. A soft shell means they could be calcium deficient and may require supplementation to protect them from reproductive illness and osteoporosis (though there are other things that could cause soft-shelled eggs, so you should always get your veterinarian’s opinion first). Laying geese may require more calcium than non-laying geese, so it’s important to have extra calcium sources on the ready, including natural sources like black oil sunflower seeds.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is typically produced in a goose’s body through exposure to sunlight (just like in people!). If you live in an area with long stretches of dark or cloudy weather such as the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to provide geese with extra supplementation of Vitamin D, especially in Vitamin D3 form. A Vitamin D deficiency in geese can lead to weak bones and shells. Their need for vitamin D is significantly increases if they have inadequate levels of calcium and (or) phosphorous. Kelp is a popular natural source of Vitamin.

Water

‘This should be a no-brainer, but geese need fresh water every day! Make sure to keep the water in or near their habitat so it’s always easily available and ensure that it’s clean, because (probably like yourself), they won’t drink dirty water. Consider investing in a poultry fountain if you want to prevent water waste and maximize cleanliness. In the winter, you have to make sure their water supply doesn’t freeze! Use a barn-safe water heater if necessary.

In addition to fresh drinking water, geese need water for swimming and bathing. It is important that their water supply is kept clean and well aerated. If you have provided them with an artificial pool, you will want to be sure to regularly remove dead leaves and other plants matter and be sure to drain and clean it regularly. If your geese residents are lucky enough to have a natural pond, make sure the water is not polluted by household or industrial waste!

Types Of Food

Food Storage

Store food in a cool, dry environment, preferably in a sealed plastic container. Try to avoid storing food in metal containers. Metal  can “sweat” and this may lead to the growth of toxic molds.

There are a number of waterfowl food brands on the market, though not nearly as many as there are for chickens. Many of them provide complete nutrition for geese without any antibiotics, hormones, or animal byproducts. Food typically comes in pellet or granular form, which is preferable to mixed seed as it prevents geese from picking and choosing (and missing out on essential nutrients).

It is preferable to choose a food made specifically for waterfowl, though chicken food can be used. However, chickens and geese, while needing many of the same nutrients, require them in different ratios. If you temporarily have to use chicken food, you’ll want to purchase brewer’s yeast to add to their food, as geese, especially goslings, require more niacin than chickens. You can ask your local feed store to order this if they don’t have it in stock, or order it online. One quality, though expensive, brand of food is Mazuri. Scratch can be served as a treat or motivator for residents, but should comprise no more than 10% of their diet as it is not nutritionally complete. You should only buy as much bagged food as your resident geese will eat in two to three weeks. After about a month, the food will likely go stale and lose much of its nutritional value.

Moldy Food

Do not feed geese old or moldy food, as this can have serious health consequences. Toxins in mold can cause serious damage to the digestive organs, liver, kidneys, muscles, and plumage, and can also reduce healthy growth in geese!

Feeding “Layer” Geese

You should consider having a discussion with a qualified avian veterinarian about food recommendations for different kinds of geese in your care. Geese have not been genetically manipulated as much as ducks and chickens, and will generally self-moderate their food intake. A goose that is laying may require a bit more food, but if they have access to a healthy piece of land, they can gain much of their nutrients from foraging.

Feeding Goslings And Young Geese

Ideally, goslings should eat a waterfowl starter food. If this is unavailable, chick starter can be used on the condition that it must be supplemented with additional niacin and must be unmedicated. Without the supplemental niacin, goslings can develop serious leg and joint disorders, often decreasing their lifespan. Niacin supplements can be purchased at many drugstores, or brewer’s yeast can often be found at animal food stores. If using a niacin supplement, add 100 to 150 mg of niacin per gallon of drinking water until 10 weeks of age. If using brewer’s yeast, add 2 to 3 cups per 10 pounds of food.

Do Not Feed Adult 'Layer' Food

No adult layer food should ever be given to goslings, not even as an emergency food source. It is toxically high in calcium to goslings and will cause serious health problems and even death. If you must provide emergency food, try 1:1 ratio of oats and cornmeal, blended to a crumble consistency. This should only be used as a one-time emergency ration. Do not continue feeding this as it cannot meet a gosling’s nutritional needs.

If you cannot locate a waterfowl starter, goslings should be fed 18-20% protein chick starter with a niacin supplement until 2-3 weeks of age. From 4 weeks to about 20 weeks they should be moved to a lower protein food (14-15%). You can provide chick scratch for goslings as well, but it should only make up a small percent of their diet.

Finely chopped greens like lettuce and dandelion greens can be put into the goslings waterer to give them treats to fish for, as long as they have access to grit.

Angel Wing

Angel Wing is a condition where flight feathers at the end of the bird’s wings twist upwards. This is generally caused by an unbalanced diet high in protein and carbohydrates. Goslings are most susceptible to this condition. Care should be taken to provide a balanced diet. Call your veterinarian if you see any signs of this condition. If caught early, it can be treated.

Things That Are Toxic To Geese

There are a number of plants and human food that should absolutely not be fed to geese, due to toxins and substances that geese cannot digest or tolerate. Do not feed geese the following:

  • Avocado, any part- contains the toxin persin
  • White potato, any part- contains the toxin solanine
  • Green tomato, as well as tomato leaves- contains the toxin solanine
  • Eggplant and pepper leaves- contains the toxin solanine
  • Green potatoes- contains the toxin solanine
  • Apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear, plum SEEDS/PITS (fine if cored)- contains cyanide
  • Rhubarb, any part- contains oxalic acid which can lead to soft-shelled eggs. Toxic leaf.
  • Dried beans, raw, and bean plants (fine if sprouted)- contains phytohemagglutinin
  • Raw peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans- may inhibit protein absorption
  • Onions, any part- contains the toxin thiosulphate
  • Chocolate- contains the toxin theobromine
  • Coffee or tea- contains caffeine which is dangerous to geese
  • Anything visibly moldy or rotten
  • Alcohol
  • Processed human foods, especially greasy, salty, or sweet foods
  • Anything sprayed with pesticides or herbicides

Additionally, you should limit feeding geese residents the following things:

  • Spinach- the oxalic acid interferes with calcium absorption
  • Citrus- can interfere with calcium absorption
  • Iceberg lettuce- can cause diarrhea in large amounts, has little nutritional value

Poisonous Plants To Avoid

There are a number of plants that you should work to prevent resident geese from accessing if you are keeping them in an open pasture. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these plants for the safety of your residents.

Most bulb-originating plants are toxic to birds, such as lilies, hyacinth, and daffodils.

  • Avocado
  • Azalea
  • Beans – castor beans, fava beans, scarlet runners, navy beans
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Burdock
  • Buttercup
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Clematis
  • Coriander
  • Datura – Angels Trumpet
  • Delphinium
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Elderberry
  • English Ivy
  • Four ‘o Clock
  • Foxglove
  • Heliotrope
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Honeysuckle
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Ivy
  • Jerusalem Cherry
  • Juniper
  • Larkspur
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lupine
  • Milkweed
  • Mistletoe
  • Mock Orange
  • Monkshood
  • Morning Glory
  • Mushrooms (some)
  • Nettles
  • Nightshade
  • Oak
  • Parsley
  • Potato plants
  • Rapeseed
  • Rhubarb – leaves
  • Sorghum Grasses
  • Tobacco
  • Weeping Yew

For a more detailed list of things toxic to geese, check out our resource here.

Appropriate Treats For Geese

It’s good practice to have the occasional treat for the flock. This keeps them happy and can also serve as a motivator if you need them to go to a specific area. Some good treats include:

  • Fruit and vegetables (but avoid toxic, moldy, or rotten fruits and vegetables!)
    • Broccoli
    • Cucumbers
    • Corn – warmed frozen corn (not hot!)
    • Peas
    • Cooked beans
    • Kale
    • Lettuce – romaine lettuce is the most nutritious. Iceberg lettuce holds no nutrients for the geese and should not be given with regularity. It can cause scours (diarrhea).
    • Sliced Apples – no seeds or cores
    • Pumpkin – chopped
    • Fruits
    • Grapes – chopped
    • Watermelon
    • Berries – raspberry, blackberry, black raspberry, strawberries, and blueberries are
    • Cantaloupe
    • Bananas
  • Oatmeal and other scratch grains like cracked corn in moderation

*Keep in mind that these should be supplemental to their diet, not the bulk of it!

Natural Supplements For Geese

You should always consult with a veterinarian or avian expert when deciding how to treat geese health issues, as natural remedies rarely will work as the sole solution for many ailments, especially when it comes to pain or infections. However, there have been reported benefits from certain supplements added to a goose’s diet. Here are some natural supplements that you can employ alongside medical treatment in order to help out the flock:

  • Flaxseed and turmeric sprinkled on chopped grapes can help as an anti-inflammatory treatment and, when supplemented in the diet of ducklings, it was found to reverse the aflatoxin-induced liver damage.
  • Chopped or powdered garlic can be fed to help eliminate worm infestations
  • Bee Balm can be used to promote a strong immune system and respiratory health
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE) in food can be used as a digestion aid and dewormer

There are many considerations when it comes to the daily needs and desires of a goose, but don’t get too stressed out over it! Stick with the basics at first and modify depending on what individual birds are looking for. They’ll let you know if changes have to be made!

 

SOURCES:

Waterfowl Care: Ducks And Geese | Farm Sanctuary

Angel Wing | Poultry DVM (Non-Compassionate Source)

List Of Plants Toxic For Ducks And Chickens | Knoji (Non-Compassionate Source)

Turmeric | Poultry DVM (Non-Compassionate Source)

Vitamin D Deficiency | Poultry DVM (Non-Compassionate Source)

Bee Balm | Poultry DVM (Non-Compassionate Source)

Duck Nutrition | Cornell University (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

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Updated on August 29, 2019

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