Whatever you say about geese with conviction, they'll make a liar out of you, says Dave Holderread, waterfowl preservationist and author of The Book of Geese: A Complete Guide to Raising the Home Flock. They're very much like people, but on a less sophisticated level.
The American is a quiet and friendly goose. They are much more affectionate to their keepers than your average barnyard goose. You’ll find them to be very aristocratic looking with their long Roman noses posed toward the sky, gliding along through the barnyard with flock in tow on the way to grazing. They're curious but watchful and enjoy exploring new areas. And it's a real treat to see them acting a bit silly while splashing in the pond, bup-bup-bupping their conversations, and racing from one pool to another to jump in and out playfully.
Americans are good-natured and, on the whole, non-aggressive but they still retain the spirit of most goose breeds: they make noise when they sense danger. It’s this watchdog characteristic that geese are best known for. One of the most famous stories about Ancient Rome is the legend of the Capitoline Geese. When Rome was routed in 390 BC by the Gaul’s, the Romans took refuge on Capitoline Hill. For 7 months the Gaul’s held the city at siege but one night while the Romans slept the Gaul’s attempted to sneak up the hill. Before they reached the summit the Capitoline Geese honked and squawked until the Romans woke and forced the Gaul’s to the bottom and saved the city.
In The Garden
Not just good watchdogs, they also will help you maintain your perfect chemical-free sustainable garden - using geese to control weeds is an excellent practice. Their webbed feet don’t compact the soil the way machines or people do. They will happily and industriously work seven days a week, rain or shine. Their agile necks allow them to pull weeds close to and from within the crop plants, where machine or a hoe can’t. All of this is accomplished while the geese are naturally spreading nitrogen-rich manure all over the field. It’s important to start them on weeds as goslings rather than lush grass so they’ll look forward to eating the right greens, and provide them with plenty appropriate forage so they don’t resort to gobbling up your crop. Just be sure to lock them out of the strawberry fields before they ruin your plans for pie!
In The Nest
Geese don’t lay as many eggs as ducks each season; however, one goose egg is a meal for two. Primarily spring layers, if adequately fed in mild climates, they often begin laying the first part of February or early March. Unlike their next of kin, the domestic duck, who nearly always deposit their eggs in the early morning, geese lay throughout the day. Peak production is reached during moderately cool weather, and normally slacks off soon after the mercury consistently climbs to 80 degrees or higher during the daytime. That’s June or July in most regions.
Geese typically lay every other day although some females will ovulate two or more days in succession. Most Americans lay 30-45 eggs in the spring breeding season if eggs are gathered daily. They prefer to have a laying nest that’s in a shelter or in a barn so they can lay their eggs in a quiet and secure environment.
When allowed to set, Americans make excellent natural parents. The goslings are hardy, fast-growing and superb foragers. Females will often go broody and are good mothers, hatching out their fuzzy little goslings in 27 to 32 days. If fed a balanced ration with vitamins and minerals that has 18 to 20 percent protein a month prior to and throughout the laying season, American geese can produce goslings in their first year. When a year-old goose is allowed to incubate her own eggs, Dave Holderread suggests that the first clutch be removed, encouraging the goose to lay a second nest-full which should hatch better.
The American geese are such good parents that even a single gander will often adopt goslings. As sweet natured as the American’s are, ganders can still be aggressive during the breeding season. They know their big job is protecting their sitting goose wife and the young goslings.
True partners, you'll find that a gander will share in the brooding and rearing duties to give the mother goose a break to leave the nest from time to time. The gander may sit on the eggs to keep them warm while the goose gets a bite to eat and attends to the call of nature. And if a gosling hatches ahead of the rest, once it's dry the mother will often pass it off to the gander to care for while she hatches the rest of the brood.
In The ALBC
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists the American Buff goose as critically endangered in the U.S.; meaning there are fewer than 500 breeding birds and five or fewer primary breeding flocks. More information about ALBC and the waterfowl census can be found on: www.albc-usa.org.
On The Table
Because of their fast growth rate, medium to large size and white feathers, Americans are a wonderful choice for meat production. Goose is traditionally a more popular holiday bird in Europe than in the U.S., probably because in America, turkey (wild and plentiful at our founding) was a natural choice for the Christmas feast. However, goose meat is darker (including the breast), fuller bodied, and more intensely flavored than our common commercial turkey.
Of all fowl, goose meat offers the most opportunities to match with wine. Unlike turkey, roast goose can be served without a sauce, as the meat is moist, but would benefit from the use of chutney made using nuts and fall fruits (grape juice, apples, pears, figs, walnuts and hazelnuts).
For centuries goose fat has been hailed as tasty and texturally rich, the French are famous for their cassoulet using goose fat, beans and vegetable, but most famous of all now is confit of goose or duck. If properly prepared, a confit of goose or duck is crisp, deliciously rich, and delightfully satisfying.
A case for the return of the Christmas Goose: Turkey has been crossbred for the commercial market, so its meat has become more or less mushy (not the case with heritage turkey breeds). Geese have been spared this fate, and the natural cycle of raising geese is still intact: hatching, between April and July, and harvesting in September.
Moose Manor Farms | www.2Mooses.weebly.com | Pomfret, Maryland