Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cream Eggs of Doom

Just a warning before you get too far into this post. I am going to talk about something very controversial among homesteaders. Possibly, the most controversial topic there is when it comes to livestock. I have seen marriages tried, women cry, and men run in fear. I have seen children bleed, teenagers laugh, and nostalgia kicked into overdrive. This animal (yes, it's one animal) has been either the bane or blessing to farmers across the world and you will either love them or hate them.


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.

Practical homesteading readers: if you are looking for a cheaper protein to raise than chickens or ducks, these may be the ticket. Goslings can be raised like chickens, in electric netting on green grass in moveable paddocks. Their size and pounds in meat is worth the daily pasture rotation and if that isn't your idea of a fun way tom spend an afternoon, you don't need high security measures once they are adults. Geese rarely stray from their homebase and care a lot more about grass than water. You can raise a small flock of goslings in a brooder, move them to safe electric pens as adolescents, and then let them range freee as adults. While I am sure large enough dogs and predators can take out a grown goose, it has never happened here. No hawk, fox, or coyote is going to take on an angry Cream Egg when fat meat chickens, laying hens, and ducks are plodding about. I personally haven't eaten my geese but that's only because I had a breeding pair and sold most of the offspring. If a big clutch was hatched this year I would have them raised up and set aside for the freezer. But these originals, they remain Goose Patrol around here. Probably for the next thirty years!

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


Blogger Jamie Woodside said...

I love my geese! I got them after your pair won my heart a few years back, and I'm so glad I did! I didn't know it was possible to bond with a goose, but they both connected with me instantly..... although I am the ONLY human they trust and don't want to bite..... They are definitely pets, but the eggs are delicious!

January 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Krysta Todice said...

Now I want geese!!!! We are finally building our little house on our dream farm and will be getting chickens/ducks/goats this summer once we are moved it. I was not thinking about geese, but you make them sound pretty great....

January 29, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy Holt said...

My cousin Jean kept a flock of geese. They were mean as hell and guarded the place better than a dog. Every night we would have to find them on the property and herd them back into the chicken coop, honking in dismay the entire time. I was petrified of them, but loved them all the same. If I had land I would totally have my own flock.
Love em!

January 29, 2014 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger anton said...

I wouldn't farm without them. Besides all the praise you've given them, I also just like watching them. They have the most regal air about them as they walk around the farm as if they own it. They set the rules, break up fights and get everyone in line. I raise goslings every year for meat and haven't been without goose for either Thanksgiving or Christmas now for years. Give them a try!

January 29, 2014 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

I love your intro, and that first picture--are those teeth!? That said, I don't enjoy eating goose and would agree with your description of "manure shoots of fear," so I doubt I'll ever raise any. However, I will grant their usefulness as border patrol, and have heard wonderful things about their eggs. So my vote is "Eh, they're ok...on someone else's place."

January 29, 2014 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Geese have teeth?! Who knew? Or is that something else in the mouth of that goose in the photo...?

January 29, 2014 at 12:00 PM  
OpenID amypatterson said...

I miss geese. I grew up with them but don't have any now, even though we have the perfect property to raise them on. Some day I will have some again.

January 29, 2014 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Love all the comments, and Anton! Mine break up chicken/duck fights (and mating) all the time as well. Geese are the UN of the farmyard.

January 29, 2014 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...


January 29, 2014 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Out of curiosity Alison? How do you feel about Cadbury Cream Eggs?

January 29, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

Friends had some very noisy guard geese, who alerted whenever anyone came up the driveway! They do always look so regal with their necks outstretched and chest held high! We helped out on slaughter day, and now have a whole goose in the freezer, and I'm not sure of the best way to cook it, roasted whole like chicken?

I am really enjoying this recent set of blog posts as you work round the farm focusing on updating us about each type of animal in more detail. So far we've had sheep, goats and geese, info about the pigs before the butcher came, - so will it be ponies, chickens, cats or dogs next?!

January 29, 2014 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I just want to say how much I enjoy seeing old "faces" and names here on thte comments again!

January 29, 2014 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

HA! You hit the nail on the head, geese are a farmy political hotspot. A few years back, we had four (which was fine). Then a wild Canadian goose with a wing injury showed up, and made himself at home. The next spring, his long lost Canadian lover arrived. They refuse to migrate. We've tried our best to chase them away, but they keep hanging around and have fully integrated into our flock. My German Shepherd will take on horned billy goats without hesitation, but she avoids the wild geese at all cost. Coyote worries? None here.

Then last summer a sad crying 4H girl asked if we would adopt her Grand Champion Waterfowl pair, no one else would take them and her mom said they had to go (etc etc etc). So.... they arrived. In the back of her truck was an unannounced THIRD goose (more tears ensued), and since we were adopting two geese, could we also take this old gander no one wanted?

Good grief.

Since then, I've stopped telling strangers that we "have geese" before we end up with every reject in the county. Hopefully you all live far, far away!

January 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger WillowBrookFarm said...

I love our geese, we have Sebastopols (white with curly feathers) so I've never ate any since I'll get a pretty good price at the auction for them. We have 7 which is a lot! Though we have lots of land, they still like to sit on a path to poop. When they hatch young I usually keep them until September, at that point you can see how curly their feathers will be, and they mainly exist on grass with very little chicken food. When I sell them in September I usually get from 75.00-100.00 per bird! Pretty good for a goose. This year a friend bought a really nice cabinet incubator so I'll be bartering with her to hatch some out. They are great guard and alert geese and the Sebastopols are supposed to be one of the friendliest breeds. The Chinese geese I think are the worst as far as being mean.

January 29, 2014 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

i love my geese so much. my husband hates is a problem in our marriage. our demon gander, OD, is the meanest thing in our barnyard. he's a convicted chicken murderer, a philanderer, and wants me to die. i dont care. no matter how long he lives i will always love him. note: we think he's probably 13 or 14. if i could i would have a whole field of geese. we havent butchered them..yet. but the day isnt over.
hey - is that my friend Anton? *runs over to see......*

January 29, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Sylvan said...

Are duck and geese eggs an acquired taste? I bought some at Whole Foods and could not eat them. The flavor was too strong for me. Yes, they were supposedly fresh eggs.

January 29, 2014 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

i would love geese! but i have no pond or anything...

January 29, 2014 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Lol, Jenna, I actually feel kind of "meh" about Cadbury Creme Eggs, too. I'll eat them if there's nothing better available.

January 29, 2014 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...'ve got me convinced. As soon as I get my own place, I'm getting geese. I was on the fence, but now I can safely say that I'll give them a try. :D

January 29, 2014 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Ive loved those geese from way back in the day for some reason, glad Im not the only one~ Thanks for the update Jenna

January 29, 2014 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger melody_cir said...

We had geese as I grew up. One am early (before dad got up to milk the cows) a frightful racket woke me up. I looked out the window to see our 13 cows surrounding the LOUD geese... apparently they were sick and tired of the geese noisily going thru their pasture each day to get to the pond! I woke dad, and he quickly whistled up Twinkle (our border collie) to break up the disturbance as he ran out the door! Our two geese hatched out 2 goslings every year, leaving lots of eggs in the nest. One day I was trying to figure out what on earth Tina (my german shepherd) was tossing way up into the air, then catching. Yep- one of those left-over eggs. Geese and duck eggs do taste stronger than chicken eggs, but they didn't take long to get used to.

January 29, 2014 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger Charity Weeks said...

We should have done more research before we got ours, but we have 6 Emdens. We've had them just shy of a year and no eggs, but I *think* we have 1 gander and 5 ladies. My daughter loves them and they are WAY better at alerting us when something is amiss outside.
We used to let them free range on our 8 acres, but neighbors came to us afraid they would eat their *special* crop and asked us to cage them. So they are in a nice fenced area (if you like being fenced in I guess), hubby says they'd be in the freezer if we had one, but I'm not too keen on eating them at all, but I would be ok with only having 2 as I can't make their area big enough for them to forage for much when we have snow.
When I was little we had geese and I was deathly afraid of them. Now, I am still afraid of being bit again, but at least I am bigger than they are. ;)

January 29, 2014 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Well, I don't farm but I do have a funny goose story. When I was a teenager, my parents and I used to take walks along an estate that had a pair of guard geese. My father studied tae kwon do for years and also happened to have very poor flexibility. What's this got to do with geese? The one and only time he was ever attacked, it was by one of those geese, and luckily for him his one and only attacker happened to be the same height as his side kick!
The goose was deterred and a bit huffy as it took off, and my mother and I nearly died of laughter!

January 29, 2014 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I have a pair of American Buffs. Love having them around. They aren't mean unless it's breeding/baby raising time. When they have goslings, I call them "the family" sort of like a mafia family. The sheep are no longer afraid of them, finally realizing that their bites can't hurt them through all that wool.
I like using the eggs to make goose egg custard.

January 30, 2014 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Laura Dinkins said...

I had a trio as well but for some reason when the only female of the threesome was killed by my boar hog, one of the ganders that I had for years decided it was my fault she was gone and proceeded to come flying at me like a bat out of...... every time I set foot out of the house. I do think I would like to raise some again some day though.

January 30, 2014 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger spinnersaw said...

In my family, my husband calls out to "babies", my children call them "devil's spawn". We have 2 hens and a gander.

January 30, 2014 at 9:33 AM  
OpenID victoriascribens said...

I've always wanted geese! I spent a couple of months living just outside Poitiers, France, and when I walked in to town I'd cross this river where six white geese lived. (I think they might have been Emdens? Something like that.) I loved watching them. ... And I love eating geese! My dad's English, and it's a tradition to have goose on New Year's Day. Plus goose fat really does make the best roast potatoes . . . we always save ours in the fridge.

Whenever I mention geese as something I will get when I have my own place (in a couple of years ... I hope ...), my mum always talks about the demon geese of her grandmother in Derbyshire which used to chase her. But it seems like getting them as goslings and raising them by hand will do a lot to make them calm around people.

January 31, 2014 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger thorntonol said...

Had them, loved them, got way to attached, sold most and the rest died from old age. Will get more.
If I said more we'd be in the same spot week later.

January 31, 2014 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger blind irish pirate said...

Ant good reading material out there for owning geese?

February 1, 2014 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger dinsdaledogs said...

Love all the goose comments, I am trying to select a breed for my little barnyard. Any suggestions? They would have to co-exist with an assortment of about 15 chickens, in a fenced 3/4 acre paddock

February 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
OpenID Dennis said...

We bought six American Buff geese last spring. We ate one this fall and would eat more except we want babies this spring. It is very hard to tell males from females so we are keeping five to be sure. Ours don't know about the concept of foraging and eating less poultry food. They are pigs at the food dish.

February 9, 2014 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

We love our geese! They're Toulousse crosses, Adam and Eve, and they serve no purpose but comic relief! They knock at our front door, play outside with the kids, we adore them! My husbands truck was in the shop for over a week with a mystery electrical problem...they eventually found several inches of chewed wire, the handiwork of a 'very hungry rodent' according to mechanic...but we know it was the geese, they sit under his truck all the time chewing on it. Just made us live them more LOL!

February 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM  

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