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    Daily Diet, Treats And Supplements For Geese

    a pair of hands hold a large handful of lettuce while a white goose with blue eyes reaches up to eat it.
    Alaska enjoys a handful of lettuce. Photo courtesy of Tiny Hooves Sanctuary

    Updated September 13, 2021

    If you’re reading this resource, there are likely some special goose residents in your life who you’d like to provide the best possible care for! The compassionate lifelong care of geese at animal sanctuaries starts with the food they’re provided. While geese are all individuals who have their own preferences and needs, there are some general principles to consider in their physiology and nutritional needs!

    Goslings Have Their Own Dietary Needs!

    For information on the dietary needs of goslings, check out our resource here.

    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.

    Please Don’t Feed Wild Geese!

    If you’re here looking for the right things to feed to wild geese, we know you probably have good intentions for their welfare! Although it’s a kind impulse, feeding wild geese populations anything can contribute to a number of serious concerns for the geese that end up doing far more harm than good (Especially do not feed geese bread products, which can cause the debilitating condition known as Angel Wing)! The nicest thing you can do for your wild neighbors is to leave them be.

    Check out this link for more information on the harm of feeding wild goose populations!

    If a wild goose looks like they’re in trouble and need your help, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation organization. If located in the United States, you can look one up via Animal Help Now!

    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 their 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 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.


    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).

    Insoluble Grit

    Not to be confused with the diner classic, insoluble 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.


    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 egg shells. Their need for vitamin D significantly increases if they have inadequate levels of calcium and (or) phosphorous. Kelp is a popular natural source of Vitamin D.


    ‘This should be a no-brainer, but geese need fresh water every day! Make sure to keep the water in or near their feeding area so it’s always easily available and ensure that it’s clean, because (probably like yourself), they won’t drink dirty water. Waterfowl always need easy access to water while eating to prevent issues with choking and to clean food out of their nares. Consider investing in a poultry fountain if you want to prevent water waste and maximize cleanliness, but you’ll need to offer an additional open water container for cleaning purposes. 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

    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. 

    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!

    Comparing Different Commercial Domesticated Waterfowl Food Formulations

    The following is a sortable, filterable reference guide to common commercial domesticated waterfowl food formulations. Please note that this is based on information provided by the suppliers and may be different than what is currently offered. Also please note that The Open Sanctuary Project does not endorse any product or brand, nor do we receive sponsorship from any product or brand.

    As a note, unlike ducks, geese are naturally herbivores, and although they tend to be fed the same foods as duck residents at sanctuaries, a vegetarian formula more closely matches their natural diet.

    Feeding Actively Laying 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 remain seasonal layers. A goose who is laying may require a bit more food or additional calcium, but if they have access to an appropriate diet and a healthy piece of land for foraging, they should be able to get all the nutrients they need even during the laying season.

    Suggestions For Food Storage

    In addition to feeding a high quality food, you must be sure to store the food properly to ensure your residents reap all the nutritional benefits.  Food will keep best if kept in a cool, dry, dark place. All food, including unopened bags, should be stored in tightly sealed metal cans or thick plastic bins to prevent rodents from getting into food.  You can contact the supplier to determine their food’s recommended shelf life, but in general properly stored bagged food will last about 3 months. Storing food too long or in undesirable conditions can not only lead to rancid or moldy food, but can also cause food to become depleted of vitamins and minerals.  Be aware that you should never feed rancid or moldy food to geese as it can make them very sick.

    Things That Are Toxic To Geese

    There are a number of foods that contain potential toxins or substances geese cannot digest or tolerate. You can find our list of potentially toxic foods here.

    Poisonous Plants To Avoid

    There are a number of plants that you should work to prevent geese from accessing. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these plants for the safety of the geese in your care.

    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
      • 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

    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!


    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)

    Geese | Science Direct (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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