How To Safely Handle A Goose

If you’re caring for geese, it’s very important that you know how to safely handle and hold each of them. Some geese are more receptive to being held than others, but many geese aren’t very fond of the experience. Each resident in your care might have their own special handling requirements depending on their breed and health needs. Regularly picking up a goose will help familiarize them with the experience and can help make stressful events like health concerns, separations, and relocations a little less nerve-wracking.

Ask An Expert

If at all possible, have a veterinarian or care expert give you hands-on training for safe goose handling! Failing to use appropriate technique can gravely injure geese.

The Approach

When approaching a goose, it’s essential that you do not chase them. Chasing is going to stress them out and will likely make them skittish around you. Lowering yourself down to their level and offering a little bit of feed or a treat can help encourage geese to want to spend time with you! Some more nervous geese may actively avoid your grip, so they might require a bit more coaxing. If you’re gathering a goose for a health checkup, especially if they are showing signs of illness, remember to wear gloves and protective clothing in order to lower the chances of contracting or spreading any external parasites. And even if you aren’t conducting a health examination, you may want to wear thicker clothing and gloves when handling more skittish geese, because they may nip at you or strike you repeatedly with their powerful wings when you try to handle them.

The Pickup

Gently corral the goose into a corner before you attempt to pick them up. Scoop them up by putting one hand on their bottom and another behind their body. Carefully and gently secure both their wings against their body, optionally using your own chest to safely hold them against to maintain a free hand if they aren’t too large. This will prevent them from injuring themselves or jumping away from you. It’s not safe to hold a goose’s body under their wings for these reasons. It’s okay if their legs are free as long as you have their torso and wings safely cradled. Do not lift them off their feet until they are calmly controlled on the ground!

For larger geese and those who have compromised health, many are too large, too fragile, or have too much strain on their respiratory system to ever safely lift them off the ground. Instead, you should sit cross-legged near the goose and then hug them safely into your lap, securing their wings. You must be extraordinarily cautious when it comes to handling and rotating these birds, as it could cause serious bodily harm to them. Some birds can never be safely rotated onto their side or back.

Unsafe Holding

NEVER pick up a goose by their wings, feathers, legs, feet, or neck. This is extremely unsafe and unacceptable practice that regularly harms geese. Do not allow anyone else to pick them up by their wings either! Some veterinarians have been known to do this as it is a standard practice in animal agriculture environments.

Once safely in your grip, you can gently pet them (never stroking against their feather grain!) and talk to them softly in order to calm them down and make them more comfortable with human handling. There’s an optimal balance to be struck between holding them firmly, but not causing them injury. You always want the bird to be calm, not gasping or struggling under pressure, and feeling like they aren’t going to fall. If a goose is simply too stressed out to be held and rapidly breathing, you must set them down and let them calm down.

If you need to check a goose’s vent area, such as for external parasites, have another caregiver take note of their rear end while keeping them secured and comfortable. Due to their large size, rotating them onto their back or side can put unsafe stress on their bodies.

Watch Those Legs!

Geese have much more fragile feet and legs than chickens, so be extra mindful of them when handling! Never let them jump away from you if they’re high up.

Picking Up A Skittish Goose

If a goose is fearful or confrontational, it can be better to approach and pick up the goose from behind, to keep their head a safe distance from your face. Geese have been known to nip at whatever’s closest, and a nip on the nose is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved! For these confrontational geese, rather than coming from a low angle, it’s better to approach them standing up with a straight back to prevent the likelihood that they’ll strike at you.

Carrying A Goose

To carry the goose, keep one hand securely under their rear end. If they aren’t pleased to be carried, you can gently keep a non-dominant hand on their neck to limit their range of motion, but you shouldn’t put too much pressure on their neck as it could very seriously injure them.  You should not carry larger or health-compromised geese unless you absolutely need to as it can be a serious strain on their bodies.

Setting Down A Goose

When you set down a goose, safely and carefully let their feet back onto the ground while continuing to keep their wings secure until you’re confident that they will gently leave you. Never let a goose jump down! Consider giving them a diet-appropriate treat after handling so they have a positive memory to associate the experience with.

What Does 'Unacceptable' Mean?

At The Open Sanctuary Project, unacceptable means that we cannot condone (or condone through omission) a certain practice, standard, or policy. See a more detailed explanation here.


Catching & Handling Waterfowl | Majestic Waterfowl

How Do I Pick Up A Goose? | My Pet Chicken (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.

Updated on December 17, 2019

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