If you haven’t added geese to your homestead or your small family farm, then you really are missing out. These big, hardy birds are more than just livestock to be raised and harvested for a meal (although geese are delicious); they are extremely useful birds that you can put to work.
Geese can do everything, from weeding your garden to guarding your chicken flock from predators, and can provide income from the down feathers used in winter wear, pillows, and comforter blankets, as well. Here are some great ways you can put a flock of geese to work for you today.
Geese can help keep the weeds under control in your garden. They have a knack for eating grasses and other invasive plants in a garden or field, while leaving the actual crops alone. Geese often will eat weeds in a garden all day long, and well into the night when there is a full moon. They will eat weeds whether it’s sunny or raining, and also will help keep hard-to-mow places — like fencerows — weed-free, too. As a general rule, four geese can effectively work an acre of cultivated area, although more may be needed initially if the weed problem is severe. While all goose breeds can act as weeders, typically the more active African or white Chinese geese are used in this role.
Geese make surprisingly good guard animals on the homestead. They can help protect your other poultry against predators, as most geese will hold their own against smaller predators like possums, skunks, raccoons, or the occasional wandering dog while sounding an alarm. Some geese can be exceptionally loud, and will make a racket any time they sense something is awry on the homestead.
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While some homesteaders (and their neighbors) may not appreciate this, others may want an early warning in case something unusual is afoot. The ancient Romans used geese as guards, and even the U.S. military has recently used geese to patrol its overseas bases.
Beyond meat and egg production, domestic geese also are valued for their fine feathers, commonly called down. Down is valued as a component of high-end products, such as winter jackets, pillows and comforter blankets. While the price of down fluctuates, prices of $16-$20 for one-fourth pound of this material are relatively common. Approximately 20 percent of the feathers on an average goose can be considered down; the larger, coarser feathers on the backs and wings of geese cannot be used in down products. Nine to 12 domestic geese will generally yield enough down to make a single pillow. Although you will not necessarily be able to quit your day job harvesting down from a modest flock of geese, you can nonetheless get money from the down feathers of the birds you slaughter, something your other poultry won’t be able to match.
Having animals to showcase at 4-H clubs and county fairs is a great way to draw attention to your small farm (and perhaps attract new customers), but it can be expensive to raise larger animals for such purposes on a modest homestead. Geese, however, are super hardy, and extremely easy to raise; as noted earlier, you can feed them simply by letting them loose on the weeds in your garden beds. And geese are popular attractions at these events. A giant, handsome dewlap Toulouse goose, for example, often can tip the scales at 25 pounds or more, and will almost certainly generate excitement at any exhibition or competition. Geese that consistently win at county fairs and 4-H shows will often be sought out as breeders, and selling goslings that come from champion bloodlines can be lucrative, too.
Have you ever owned geese? What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below: