I find geese to be extremely easy to herd. When first training new ones to go to their house at night, I set up a "corral" system that leads only to the inside of their house. I've used any and all things that I can prop up from chairs and plywood, to chicken wire and tables. This past winter I made "poultry panels" which are each 4' by 4' out of 1"x4" and chicken wire. They are fairly easy to move around and can be used for herding, makeshift hospitals, sectioning off parts of the yard, etc.
Generally I use a corral system for about a week, making sure to clap my hands and say, "time for bed, let's go," before the geese just go to bed when I start clapping and letting them know it's bed-time.
1) feed at night, and only in the pen. you need to make sure they have access to drinking water overnight as well. I feed mine early evening before the turkeys start to roost. 2 advantages, first they forage all day then top off with expensive feed, rather than filling up on expensive feed and then foraging for desert. second, the learn the feed is in the pen, and they're easy to get in there because they want the feed (this only works if they are at least a little hungry). if you feel the need to feed them in the morning, only feed half their ration, save the second half for bed time.
2) rainplace is right on the herding. geese herd very easily. having fencing set up like a funnel into their pen will help a lot at first. I have a trained herding dog to assist, but a person can easily herd them, and with two people its super easy. once you get used to moving them this way, you'll be able to put them in their pen any time you like. if you don't have a lot of experience with herding, here's how to learn.
- first you need to have a little authority with your geese. if they are not at least respectful of you, it's tough to herd them. if they're willing to stand you down, or peck you and push you around, you can read Olive Hill's post on managing goose pecking order.
If your geese will move off from you even a little when you get big or agressive body language towards them, you've got leverage for herding. so now to be an effective herder, you need to understand what pressure they respond to.
- observe their behavior when they are relaxed and foraging: standing or slow walk, necks bent, poking around.
- walk up to them at a medium pace until you see them become alert and then freeze. observe their alert behavior: standing more upright, heads and necks up, sometimes beak to the sky, watching you, honking. they may turn towards or away from you, or may just stop where they are.
- back up until they relax, then move forward slowly again... what you're looking for is the pressure zone where they shift from relaxed to alert. that distance is where you herd them from.
- once you discover their pressure zone, back off, then walk briskly and agressively right up to them as if you mean to catch them. now you'll see their flight-or-fight behavior. depending on your geese, they may flee, head up neck stretched, running and wings out, or they may turn to defend, upright posture, chest to you and honking maybe with flapping, or low posture, neck extended in threat with hissing. this is their full alarm behavior. in herding, this fight-or-flight response means you've moved too agressively into their space.
so basically you have 3 zones: the "too far away to be a threat" zone, the "pay attention" pressure zone, and the "DANGER!" zone. herding is done in that middle pressure zone.
now you need to understand what motions they react to, and how to recognize when they're about to yield before they do.
- stand right on the edge of the pressure zone, so the geese are alert and paying attention to you, but not alarmed. shift to your right foot, raise your right arm, open your hand, maybe wiggle your fingers or wave your arm. leave your left arm at your side. what you're lookiing for is what the minimum action is that causes the geese to turn or move to your left... that is, away from the action on your right side. do the same thing to the left... shift left, raise your arm, flutter or wave your hand, etc. Look for the minimum action that makes them turn or move to the right. If you don't get a response from the geese, take a step towards them and try again. once again, you're looking to find the pressure point that causes them to move left or move right. if they don't respond to your arm motion, move in a litte bit or get a long branch, broomststick or cane and try it again holding that to extend your reach.
- practice your forward drive by moving to the pressure zone, then stepping slowly towards them, getting them to move away from you while staying alert but not alarmed. the goal is to get them to walk softly off at a slow pace.
- practice your directional control by getting them to shift / turn right or left, then walking slowly towards them and getting them to move where you want them to go.
once these things are working for you, you've got both drive and directional control and you can herd them anywhere.
a couple of hints on what goes wrong.
geese are sensitive observers and will respond to smaller actions than you think. if the geese are making big changes of directions, or running, or dashing about, you're doing too much, either too close (too much pressure), too sudden or too big. as you get more practcice, you'll find you're more sensitive to their behavior and better able to read where they're headed and how they're responding.
be patient. if the geese turn in the direction you want them to go, but don't actually move off, wait a couple of seconds. often when they're alert, they'll turn, wait, then walk. if they're turning and dashing, you're applying to much pressure. if they turn, but don't walk on after 3 or 4 seconds, take a small step towards them to increase the pressure just a little.
If you apply too much pressure and get into the alarm zone, bold geese may turn to you to defend instead of moving away. usually this means your too close or too fast. take a half step or two back and wait a little. in general, geese would rather *not* fight, so they'll usually choose to stand down and move off. if you've got some that just won't yield, well, see Olive Hill's post...
as a last alternative for herding, you can up the pressure by bringing along a dog. even if you don't have a trained herding dog, any dog increases your authority. put the dog on a short leash, keep them at "heel" and do your herding again. you'll probably find you get alert response *much* further away, and they likely won't stand to argue about it.
herding's fun and can be used for moving your geese anywhere you want them to be foraging as well as into their pen.
zzGypsy - An excellent post on herding just about anything. I'm going to print this out and hang it up in the employee's break room. I've tried so many times to explain push points to no avail as it's something that came to me intuitively. Thank you for the the concise instructions!
you're welcome. if I'd known you were going to print it, I'd have spellchecked!
I know what you mean about doing it naturally, I did too. then I started working with herding dogs and I had to externalize what I did internally by instinct... I had to coach / control the dog to do what I did without thinking. it made me decompose what I was actually doing so I could give the dog clear instructions. I got very lucky with my first herding pup, she's an exceptionally talented dog... kinda like learning to drive on a ferrari... anyway to work with her I have to really be able to understand and see what the herd animals are telling me.
we use sheep for most training, but use ducks and geese for fine tuning because they're so much more sensitve and require such precise dog handling.
what do you do that your employees need to know how to herd?
I have never tried to herd geese, however my ducks go in their pen when I say 'in' (usually repeatedly) , or when they are done playing in the sprinkler/foraging, I think this is because when they were little (3-4 weeks) we began letting them play outside, and would say 'in' when it was time to go in.... we never fed them at night in their pen....
I herd my geese and ducks in there pen if they aren't in already. I have a mix of ducks and geese in one pen. My Indian Runner ducks will always go in first followed by my Sebbies and 2 male pekins then the youngest geese an American Buff and a Super African. Those two still need a little coaxing at times. If the runners come out then I have to herd them all back in. That can be a challange sometimes. If anyone had a video camera you would probably see me on that video show.
Anyway, all you have to do is walk behind them with your arms open wided and wiggle your hand or fingers depending on which way you want them to go. If you want them to go left you wiggle your hand or fingers on your right hand..... if they go to far to the left wiggle your left fingers or hand. Sometime you will have to move your arms but it really doesn't take much movement to get the birds in the direction you want them. Practice herding them until you get it figured out. You don't need sudden movements unless they pick up the speed and you want to stay ahead of them. You don't have to be super close either. It's a really cool thing to learn. You can do this with chickens as well. Just because you are behind them don't think for a moment they can't see you, they can.
Mine were really good until someone mentioned their ducks and geese like oak leaves for bedding. We tried it and no one would go in - not even close. We had to re do it that night. They usually have grass, dirt or bermuda grass we get for the goats. We tried straw once and they didn't like that either.
My geese and ducks weren't hard to train at all. After a couple of days I opened the gate and decided to go ahead and put out their feed and freah water. I heard something behind me and looked around and they were all following me. They just came in on their own. Now when I go out with their peas they recognize the cup and follow me in the fenced in area. When I'm running a little late they are gathered at the gate waiting (honking and quacking) for me to open up.