Geese

Breed We Have

The breed we have here at Olive Tree Farm is the Greylag Goose, which is large, and has grey and white plumage. Geese are monogamous, which means they mate for life.

What Do They Eat?

The geese are quite happy on a diet of grasses as they are natural grazers, but they are also known for consuming agricultural crops. They often like to have greens from the kitchen, and are quite partial to dabbling at the chicken seed and pig food which consists of broccolli leaves, cabbage leaves, spinach and acelgas (spanish chard). They are also known to eat bugs and insects.

Housing

We have built houses for them, two in fact, out of pallet wood… but, typically, they don’t seem to want to use them. They are happy to sleep under one of the many olive trees. We keep them free-range, so supplying a couple of houses for them was more of an option – it is up to the geese whether or not they use them.

Brooding, Incubating & Goslings

Brooding: Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the female to lay her first eggs. Geese mature at 9 months old, and only lay eggs (at least here in Spain) in around January – February, and then only for a couple of weeks. We will update this section in the future!

Incubating: The pair that we have were actually given to us as eggs. Goose eggs are placed into the incubator and the temperature is set to 37.7 degrees celsius. The humidity is set to 45-55%. They will stay in the incubator for 20-22 days, and are turned every 3-4 hours. On day 18, we stop turning them and up the humidity to 55-65%. The rise in humidity helps them to break through the shell and membrane.

Goose Eggs

Goslings: Goslings need to be kept warm for the first two weeks. Using a heat lamp and thermometre, we adjust the height so that the temperature reads at around 30 degrees celsius. The brooder we have is big enough to allow the goslings somewhere to go to get out from under the heater but enclosed enough to minimise drafts. We feed them on soaked chick crumb at first and introduce greens, putting a little crumb on the base of the brooder so they have something to peck at.

Geese are very maternal creatures.. As ours haven’t succeded in rearing a flock of their own as of yet, they have taken to babysitting the ducklings – which they are very good at. They take them into the water, help them out if they get stuck and walk around the olive field with them – protecting them from any prospective attackers.

Nanny goose with ducks

Care & Maintenance

Again, the geese are quite good at self-dependance. We make sure they have access to clean water so they may drink and swim. It needs to be deep enough for them to submerge their heads so that they can clean their beaks and airways.

Illness, Problems & Treatment

Here is a list of common illnesses, problems and how to treat them.
BumblefootCoccidiosisGape WormGizzard WormImpacted CropLiceMitesSplayed/Spraddled LegsStaggers (heat stress)

• Bumblefoot (plantar pododermatitis)

Symptoms: Swelling, limping, lameness, sometimes redness and often a black/brown scab on the underneath of affected foot/feet.

Treatment: Requires surgery to treat. We recommend that you take the affected bird to your local vet: but if you do not have access to one, there are various help-videos that will show you the procedure on YouTube (don’t forget to sanitize!).

• Coccidiosis

Symptoms: Unusual in mature geese, but can affect goslings. Blood-stained, white diarrhea, hunched-up stance, inability to stand properly.

Treatments: This condition needs veterinary intervention as an anticoccidial agent will be needed, possibly along with antibiotics. Your bird will not be absorbing enough water and electrolytes from its gut, so you will have to supplement it.

• Gape Worm

Symptoms: It gets into the throat and causes the bird to breathe harshly, cough and open & shut beak in distress.

Treatments: It is important to receive advice from your vet when it comes to treating gape worm, as some treatments used to kill the worms in infected birds can also result in dead parasites being inhaled, which could lead to pneumonia.

• Gizzard Worm

Symptoms: It burrows into the gizzard of the bird, causing weakness, listlessness and weight-loss. The goose may sit down a lot.

Treatments: There are certain treatments that you can attain from your vet, though prevention is the best way to deal with gizzard worm. Keep your geese on fresh pasture  and worm them regularly.

• Impacted Crop

Symptoms: Blockage in crop (it should empty over night). Feels like dough to the touch. Can be caused by tough strands of grass getting stuck.

Treatments: Give only water for first 12 hours. If crop still full, try using a bit of olive oil and massaging the crop. Do not feed the bird until crop is empty.

• Lice

Symptoms: If the goose is scratching, then catch it and part the feathers of the area being scratched so you can check for lice. Do so in good light as these parasites are very small. Feathers look dirty around the base, feather-pulling, weight-loss..

Treatments: There are sprays / powders that you can buy to put on affected bird. However, there are other ways of treating lice. Apply petroleum jelly to affected birds – the lice will suffocate, and the eggs won’t be able to hatch and will fall off.

• Mites

Symptoms: the bird may look pale from blood loss. You will be able to see the mites at night, as that is when they gather to feed.

Treatments: See Lice, above.

• Splayed / Spraddled Legs

Symptoms: Affects newly-hatched goslings. Feet pointing to the side, legs twisted out from the hip and remain in that position until corrected.

Treatment: The legs of the affected gosling must be restricted – bandaged in the proper position. This will provide stability to the gosling, and will allow the gosling’s bones / muscles to grow and strengthen in the correct position.

• Staggers (heat stress)

Symptoms: Goose will stagger about and fall over a lot. Is caused by overheating and lack of water & shade. Can also be caused by bad ventilation in housing.

Treatments: Take affected goose to a cool, shaded place and offer them a drink of cool water. Pouring some water over the goose’s head may also be beneficial. If you don’t see any improvement, perhaps plug in a fan to help them cool down.

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