Cream Eggs of Doom
Yes. Geese. They are the Cadbury Cream Egg of livestock. They either find them the endearing waddlers of Mother Goose Legends or testicle-snapping manure shoots of fear. And just like Cream Eggs, I have never met a person who shrugs and says "Eh, they;re okay I guess". People either like geese or they don't, and homesteaders either have very colorful and creative reasons (excuses?!) for keeping them as a non-food source or they aren't allowed on the property unless dropped by steel shot from above. Here is my goose story. Why I have them and what they do around Cold Antler Farm. As well as my plans for them in the future.
Since I started homesteading on the East Coast I always had a pair of geese. My reasoning? A parking lot incident in Idaho. I was at my day job at the time (A web designer for Coldwater Creek) and the office was located in a rural setting. Northern Idaho is not shy about it's western roots and I passed people on horseback aside the two-lane roads regularly. There were plenty of farms around and one day a very confused gray goose got stuck in our parking lot. Us corporate folks inside watched from behind glass as this regal animal walked among the SUVs and Subarus with her head held high and totally fearless. She was the kind of gray that glistened in the sunlight and her orange beak seemed plastic and fake, too bright to be real. A few of us brave souls tried to wrangle her, but failed and the whole time I was out there trying to outsmart a goose I kept thinking "If I ever get more land or a place of my own. I am getting geese."
And I did. In 2009 when I moved to the cabin in Vermont I ordered two goslings with my spring chick order from Whitman's Feed Store. They cost eight dollars each (straight run) and were a yellowish green, like big moldy ducklings. That ugly duckling story is true, friends. Very true. And my two goslings were no exception. I raised them by hand and spent a lot of time getting to know them. They turned out to be a pair, a gander and goose, and I named them Cyrus and Saro. Knowing nothing about geese when I ordered them, I treated them like chickens and they seemed happy to share the space with the hens. At night when the chickens roosted on their perches in the converted metal shed by the garden the geese would nest into the floor bedding of hay and pine shavings and tuck in. The only fuss between the species was the occasional tail biting and foot grabbing that happened in a chicken dared to roost above the geese bed. Watch out, little red hen, if you think you can sleep above 25 pounds of French Fury.
Well, those two geese are still here and will be here a long time. Geese can live to be forty years old! Over the years Cyrus and Saro have raised a fair number of goslings, all of which have been sold save one female named Ryan. (Who we thought was a male at first, thus the name). Now there is a trio of geese here at Cold Antler Farm and I can't say enough good things about them. My geese have never chased anyone, bit anyone, or caused any damage. The worst thing they have done is eat kale and lettuce I didn't have adequate fencing around. They aren't eaten for meat, but they do produce amazing eggs that I use for eating, quiche, and baking. (Check out this goose egg bread recipe!) They alert me of any intruders (human or wildlife) on the premises, holler when the mail is delivered, and sleep in front of the chicken coop door at night. That last one is important, since any ten pound fox would need to get past 75-pounds of three foot wing-spanned anger to get to a single chicken. And the best part? Geese are so good at foraging they eat half the feed of turkeys or a similar weight in chicken flesh. They love grasses, green things, and walk in a happy little flock around the farm enjoying the salad bar as they go.
So what are your thoughts on geese? Love 'em or leave 'em? Do you raise them as food, eggs, or comic relief? Share your goose thoughts!
top photo from buzzfeed