Monday this week was the first proper day back at work in the Wynlen House market garden. Not the best of days to commence our regular farm & garden work routine. To ease into things on this classic August windy day, we set up a new pond for the geese (recycled, from the Green Shed in Canberra) and prepared a new night pen for them as well. It’s August and by the beginning of Spring the geese will be entering the mating season. Manuel Toulouse the Goose, Manni for short is our relatively new male and we want the breeding season to go well. Toulouse geese are the largest of the geese breeds and as geese prefer to mate in water, our small plastic sandpit ponds are not suitable for breeding. Hence the deeper larger pond.
Through the Autumn and Winter months our geese and ducks have been living happily together, but once the mating season starts the harmony ends, not only is there sexual rivalry, but the breeds become totally intolerant of each other. Early separation of the waterfowl flock before the breeding season starts, makes life in the farmyard much calmer for us all.
Geese are the most majestic birds of the waterfowl breeds, and have traditionally been a part of the mixed farm or small holding. As large waterbirds they only breed seasonally (in Spring) laying up to a maximum of around 40 eggs. Geese mate for life with one gander to between 3 to 5 females. Geese should begin their breeding life in their second year and the females can continue breeding up to 10 years of age. Ganders maintain viable fertility for up to 6 years of age.
Unfortunately, geese have a reputation for being aggressive. This is certainly true during the breeding season. Ganders can be very unruly and protective of their partners and once the females are sitting they will also not hesitate to hiss and bite. Incubation can take 28 to 34 days. Once the goslings hatch out both parents are incredibly protective, just as most new parents are, and coming between the parents and their goslings is going to see you definitely attacked. An angry goose, neck extended, wings spread, charging at you, is definitely a scary sight. If that goose connects with you, it can be a very painful experience. However, being sensible around your geese during this time, in particular keeping young children away, will mean far less tears or life long psychological scars. And with all animals who are being protective maintain eye contact, and don’t turn your back.
So some would ask why would you keep geese. Apart from breeding season they can be delightful birds and very sociable. They are always ready to have a chat, and generally like to broadcast to the world. Geese are not silent birds! They are great as watch dogs or should that be warning birds, and of course young birds (6 months old) are a beautiful culinary addition to the table. We keep our breeding flock for this purpose. We enjoy sharing our farmyard with these wonderful birds.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm