As I become more excited and invested in the anticipated hatch of goslings, I am filled with questions. I have to admit that I haven’t had the guts to check the nest recently. The geese are staying very close to it, which is intimidating. Last time I checked, there were 10 eggs. I bet there are more now. I see the goose sitting on the nest when I look down on her from the barn upstairs through a missing board in the floor. But she doesn’t sit all day. She and Mr Big go off on little grazing and honking walks.
Hens sit all day and night for 21 days on their nests, with very brief breaks every once in a while. Does this mean the goose is not ‘setting’ yet? Is she still laying, and adding to her stash? If so, I hope she decides to start setting soon, because I’m getting impatient. How long can the eggs sit there waiting for mom to start sitting on them to begin the incubation process? Does burying them in the hay keep them at the right temperature and humidity to keep them on ‘hold’ until incubation begins? Does momma goose cover the nest differing amounts depending on outside temperature? Does she lay her eggs, get up, stretch, sniff the air, and carefully go about covering her nest… adjusting according to temperature and other conditions so her little potential babies get the best start possible??
My neighbor, Ruth Lapp, told me that a goose needs extra calcium at laying time. So I give my goose oyster shells along with her mixed whole grains. She’s been gobbling them up.
Marg Zillig, who is very experienced with raising geese and who encouraged us to get started, explained that sometimes the eggs need to be stored and then put back under the goose when she starts to set. “When the weather is cold, it is often advised to bring the eggs indoors, to prevent chilling damage to the germ. Also, lots of straw in the nest will help to protect them.”
In this case she takes goose eggs as they are laid, and stores them until Mother goose is ready to set. In her words: “Keep the eggs in an enclosed place, slightly cool, but not cold, and with some humidity. We have used a covered plastic tote box, with a flat in the bottom, and a plastic container with water in the corner of the box. This box is in a bedroom, where it is not warm, but not cold. Mark date, lightly, with pencil, on each egg, so when comes time to set, you can take the most recent ones, in case there are more than a goose can reasonably cover.”
“The eggs have to be shifted or turned regularly, if they will be held for 10 days to 2 weeks before setting. With the tote box for storage, one can just slide a block of wood under one end one day and then take it to the other end a day or two later, so the eggs inside tilt one way and then another. Alternatively the eggs can be turned end for end, every other day (more laborious!). The idea of moving them is that the germ not stick to the inside of the shell.”
Marg adds that “geese are quite finnicky about their nests! One of my old ones did not like the nest I set up and bedded deeply with straw in her night pen. She crawled into the north end of the sheep barn and made a nest in some old hay, beside a round bale. Result is that eggs are dirtier (not good!) than if she would lay in my nice straw!! The other geese are being more cooperative. They do like seclusion for laying.”
I know I’m going backwards, but Marg also gave some good advice about getting started with geese.
On January 11 Marg emailed with the following advice. I love her detailed and thorough descriptions!
“My mother always cited the old women of her home village in Pommerania, where geese were a common fowl, saying that any new pairings of geese should be made right after New Year’s, so they have time to bond before breeding starts.”
“To start with geese, there would be two basic options:
1. Try to obtain a pair of breeders between now and spring, with hope that they will settle in, breed, lay and hatch goslings.
2. Obtain a clutch of goslings in spring, to raise over summer, and then retain breeding stock from among them.”
“Geese are not a common farm animal nowadays, so they are not always easy to find! If you are going to try for option 1, the best age for breeding success is 2 – 4 yrs old. With goslings, they are often sold as day-old and sometimes as started.”
Is anyone else out there raising geese?