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geese and small children

 
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We have a flock of 8-20 ducks. The number sadly fluctuates as ducklings hatch (yay!) and predators eat our duck (not yay). Two days ago, we lost a duck to probably a bobcat. Today, we lost another. The ducks are so stupid that they stayed in the pond and on the banks of the pond, right after their buddy got snagged. (I literally fell neck-deep into the duck pond trying to get them out of the pond...today was not a good day.)

I've heard that geese can protect a flock of ducks, and was looking to get a pair of geese. We found a goose and gander that have been getting along with ducks, but just heard that the male Toulouse goose has been aggressive to mating ducks during the breeding season. I have a two year old daughter and a five year old son, and I'm hearing all sorts of horror stories of their kids--or themselves--being traumatized/attached by geese. I don't want the geese to hurt or traumatize my kids!

Geese can live 20 years. I don't want to bring an animal to our homestead that won't be a good fit, but I also want my ducks to be protected. Our ducks are not tame like our chickens are (they don't let us pet them, but they don't mind us being a few feet from them. They're nice animals who have never hurt my children). If I bring geese to my property, will that make my ducks even less tame? Will it make it so my kids can't visit their ducks?

I would love your feedback on dealing with geese and small children. Thanks!
 
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Would a goose stand a chance against a bobcat? I’ve never had geese, but have had friends/neighbors with them. Some seem benign, some very aggressive. If I were a child, I’d be intimidated by them when they run at you hissing. Is it a worthwhile gamble? Too, if a bobcat did kill a duck, he/she will no doubt be back to the buffet again. Might need to do high speed lead predator control- .223 works well. I’ve only ever lost ducks to dogs, it is sad when it happens. Hope you had a well earned long hot shower after the poop episode!
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I would love your feedback on dealing with geese and small children. Thanks!



Anecdotes:

1. When my older siblings were kids, my parents got them a puppy, but is was playful and always knocked them over. So they became frightened of it.

The result was, Mum would lock the dog up so the kids could play, then locked the kids up so the dog could play!

They all grew up to love dogs.

2. As a small child, I always got chased and pecked by aggressive hens and roosters, one even put me up on the roof of my Brothers car.

I grew up loving chooks: living, roasted, curried et al.


The moral of the stories: kids and livestock alike will learn from each other. Kids learn to respect animals - a few nips and bites grow character.

 
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I am not the voice of experience.  I had a friend though, who kept geese.  He swore by his method.  He said geese establish dominance by pecking.  He would hold the goose firmly while children "pecked" the goose several times in the head with there nose.  He claimed after this the goose would leave the kids alone.  

Anyone else try this method? Success?  Failure?  
 
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Raise a pair of geese from goslings. Let the children interact with them daily. They will bond. You'll find the geese protective of the kids, as well as the ducks.
 
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Last year I got geese. A pair of them. They seemed fine all summer, fall and winter. Spring they died. First they tried to attack my son. Then they tried to attack me. Then they attacked and nearly killed a laying hen. I have NO IDEA why they tried to kill this particular chicken all of the sudden but it was the last straw for me and we killed them.
 
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I come from a country whose national pride is a fear of geese.  If you weren't attacked by a goose as a child, then a close friend or relative was.  Like wearing toques instead of hats and having mittens on strings, a healthy fear of geese is a requirement for being raised in Canada.  

That said, I think domestic geese and children can get on really well.  It requires a lot of training.  Train the children to understand and respect the goose language and the goose will learn that this small human is part of its flock and will protect the child from harm.

When you are a kid, geese are HUGE, LOUD, and SCARY!  They are also very exciting.  When my friend's children come, I have to be careful to teach the children to respect the geese and not to get between the geese and the goose house.  

Did you know that some domestic geese can live over 100 years!?!  Some wild geese live up to 60 years!  These animals have very long memories and they seem to love a routine more than any other animal.  They love having a job to do - especially if that job involves things they do naturally (eat grass and guard).  

When my geese learned that we weren't going to try to interact with them physically, that we give them food, that we provide a safe place to sleep, and we listen to them when they ask us for stuff (If I'm in the garden, they will come to the garden gate, pretend to eat grass, then make funny motions at me that say 'thank you for kale' before I even gave them kale.  I know this means they want me to give them kale).  Every night I thank the geese for guarding and mowing the lawn.  

If someone new comes to the property and I introduce them with the password (friend), then the geese watch but leave the new human alone.  If I don't introduce the new human with the password, then the geese know I don't like that human and encourage the human to go away.  If the llamas are out, the geese and the llamas work together to keep unwanted humans away.  



conclusion - yes!  Geese and children can get on wonderfully well.  But it takes a lot of training the children.  Learn the body language of the goose.  If the goose charges, it means it's unhappy about something.  Running away from the goose means that you want it to chase you.  Knowing when to be big, knowing when to keep your hands and fingers against your chest (like when a dog attacks - don't give them things to grab hold of), but most of all, knowing and respecting the goose's personal space.  

Once the goose understands that the child respects it, the goose will know to protect the child.  

 
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I'm also not the voice of experience, with geese, but Julie has a point - I doubt the geese would stand a chance, in an actual battle with a bobcat - however, they WOULD very vociferously sound the alarm, which (depending largely upon how hungry the bobcat is, in the moment) could very well scare it off.

Not surprisingly, r.ranson makes a 'honk'-ton* of sense!

Elle also has a point. If all else fails, geese make a very nice meal.

*I'd normally say 'hoot'-ton, or 'crap'-ton, but... geese
 
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I also got a pair of geese (now a threesome) for animal protection - supposedly Toulouse X but X with what is unsure. I do recommend anyone who tries this to take a crash course in speaking goose! Their job was to protect from flying predators, but they can *only* do so successfully if the ducks don't wander off, and they also do so better if it's not spring and the male is more interested in protecting his females than anyone else.

If I were to start over, I'd be inclined to try to get 1 or 2 females. Our male "mistook" a female duck and tried to mount it and I had two Muscovy girls hurt that way, although they both recovered. I'm not at all convinced the male was trying to hurt them, but it happened none the less. Two females wouldn't suddenly get distracted in the spring which is when the ducks need the most protection around here.

That said, the male goose is a great babysitter for young ducklings when mom wants to go have a bath in the stock tank. I've also seen him collect everybody up into a big group if there's a predator spotted in a tree, but despite that we lost girls this spring. He will challenge strangers in our field. He ran from the strange dog that came in, but then turned and chased said dog away. The dog was just a jerk, not a wild predator. If the coons decided to hunt during the day when animals are out, I don't know how he'd react.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a definite right or wrong answer. There are many situations I've seen or read of where dogs have attacked children, and I've never heard of a goose doing that sort of long term harm to a child.
 
pollinator
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My voice of experience is a sadly short one. This spring I bought 10 chickens and after a lot of research, a gosling to be the flock guardian. We had rooster issues last year and we needed an alternative. In my research it seemed a common thread to hear that one goose will bond with a flock of whatever it is kept with, but if you get two geese they will pair off/buddy up and to a detrimental extent ignore the flock.

My goose was Lucy. Lucy Goosey. She grew fast and was taking flock management and protection very seriously and was doing great. She was very friendly and chatted regularly with my 4 year old daughter and 7 year old son. Sadly we had an invasion of racoons and they got to her one night. You don't realize how much you bond with an animal until they are gone. Two days later the coons took Roostina, our last laying hen from the previous year, right off her nest. She was very independant and nested where she please, thank you very much. From the feather distribution I am confident that she made the coons earn that dinner. Fought till the end. That was the last straw for me and I set about adjusting the local coon population. Many have gone to the great compost pile in the garden.

Back on track, geese are territorial. Like R said, children need to be taught the boundaries and to have respect for them. If you are dealing with grown birds it might be more challenging. If you have one gosling and it "grows up" with the children around they tend to treat respectful children as part of the flock.

After having Lucy I can tell you we will definitely get more geese in the years to come. She was so much fun to have around, and the kids were not terrified of her like they were the rooster last year. We had many great conversations.
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Last photo I have of Lucy.
 
r ranson
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I have two ganders and three geese.  They spend most of their time together, but they definitely know their job is to keep the other animals safe (although I wish they didn't include wild rabbits in their 'good' list).  

The biggest problem is they sometimes attack the drakes because they think the drakes are hurting the ducks.  Geese have very specific opinions about barnyard sex and feel that if it takes longer than 20 seconds, then the partner is saying she isn't in the mood.  Unfortunately for my drakes, Muscovy ducks take a really long time.  
 
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So sorry to hear of your losses Nicole, but the image of you taking an involuntary plunge into the drink does make me smile a bit.  Just a little bitty bit.  

I find that an old tennis racket does wonders to keep an aggressive goose at bay.  Even if your children are not the ones to give them a good firm swat, if they are with you when you "educate" the geese, I would imagine that they'll quickly learn to leave the kiddos alone.  "Apply" the instructional instrument with a nice firm and swift ground-stroke to their side/backside.  They have plenty of padding back there.  When I was a kid, we had a hockey stick that we used for that purpose.  

They'll get smart soon enough.

 
pollinator
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While I have never had a homestead goose, we lived a mile from a duck pond with a gaggle of domestic geese, and the yearly migration of Canada geese. The domestic geese were aggressive and mean, pecking at children. They spit and hiss and blow raspberries at everyone passing, even my pitbulls are afraid of them. Maybe if I only had a couple, and raised them from birth, I would trust them with my grandchild, but I'm not sure. If all else fails, geese are good eating, lots of fat to capture.
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:

Geese have very specific opinions about barnyard sex and feel that if it takes longer than 20 seconds, then the partner is saying she isn't in the mood.

Really? I always thought my male was saying, "Cut it out, I'm the only one allowed to do that."
 
r ranson
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Jay Angler wrote:r ranson wrote:

Geese have very specific opinions about barnyard sex and feel that if it takes longer than 20 seconds, then the partner is saying she isn't in the mood.

Really? I always thought my male was saying, "Cut it out, I'm the only one allowed to do that."



Not for mine.  My geese have no interest in interacting with other species in that way.

Although we did have to eat a cock for trying to impregnate ducks and geese.  
 
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While I have never had a homestead goose, we lived a mile from a duck pond with a gaggle of domestic geese, and the yearly migration of Canada geese. The domestic geese were aggressive and mean, pecking at children. They spit and hiss and blow raspberries at everyone passing, even my pitbulls are afraid of them. Maybe if I only had a couple, and raised them from birth, I would trust them with my grandchild, but I'm not sure. If all else fails, geese are good eating, lots of fat to capture.



Canadian Geese are no joke! My dog and I used to hike along the Green River in King County, WA. Ever hear of the Green River Killer? Yup! That's the river!

Sometimes my dog would jump in and swim around. There's this one place we really liked, but we had to watch out for snitches.

The Great Blue Heron would show up and the alarm, and Hello! Here come the Canadian Geese! Like in formation. They would swim past my dog and come at me on the shore. I'd slowly slowly back away until the geese had chilled and couldn't see me.

We went back all the time. I loved those geese!
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You know you've seen this photo :)
 
Jay Angler
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Our gander doesn't want to have sex with the ducks, he just doesn't want any drakes having sex with the ducks either. I can't tell whether he's actually being protective as you suggest, or if he's just being the dominant male. I just tell the ducks to go play where the geese aren't so closely supervising, although I would have thought by now they'd have figured that out on their own. The lot of them are certainly fun to watch!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Today we visited the two geese we'd found. They're currently at a local animal sanctuary that seeks to adopt their animals out. We brought our kids, to see how the geese would react. We were really impressed! My son scurried over to them to pet them, and they just walked calmly away, like, "Um, no thank you. I'm just going to go over here." We chatted with the the woman who directly cares for them, and they have never bit or even attempted to bite a person. There are lots of school groups that visit the sanctuary, and kids have chased after them and everything, and the geese have never shown aggression. There is one caregiver there that is scared of geese, and the gander always postures at her, but has never attempted to attack. And, he backs down when told a stern "NO." with a pointed finger. I'm thinking this is a good pair of geese!

The worst the gander ever did was nip at a drake...but they also had too many drakes and the lady ducks were getting too much attention. And, contrary to what I heard through the email, the geese are currently in the same yard as the ducks, and we watched their interaction for quite some time, and there was no problem. I'm hoping we'll be able to house them with our ducks, though we could build them their own shelter if need be.

Picture of the geese. They are 4-5 years of age. The girl is supposedly a tufted Toulouse. Can anyone tell what the male is?



Supposedly, a woman had adopted the geese a year or two ago, and had returned them. Something had violently attacked her flock, and she came home to find the geese alive with the gander having blood on his neck, and the ducks all dead. She thought the gander had killed them, but the injuries indicated something other than a goose. We're thinking this is nothing to worry about.

My son is really excited to have the geese, and can't wait to actually have them. I'm really hoping this works out well, because I hate having my ducks in their coop almost all day. Today I let them out to eat and bathe, and we took turns watching them. When I ran into make a phone call, my son came in, too, and in that time span an eagle cried and the ducks all ran and hid. Thankfully, the eagle didn't try to get the ducklings. But, we definitely can't walk away for more than a minute right now!

Thank you, all, for your stories! They really, really helped in guiding our decisions. I would love more information on how to interact with geese. These seem pretty laid back, but who knows what will occur when they get settled in a stable place that they can really call their own.
 
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Its good to hear that the story is getting better.  I can't wait for the next chapter.
 
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If you want the goose to protect the duck than you should only have one, if there is two then they will protect themselves. This is the same as llamas and donkeys that are used as livestock guardians. For best results raise a single gosling with your flock so it bonds to the ducks, that way it knows that is it’s job. In my experience with a pair of geese they will not protect anything but each other, they used to chase chickens away that would get too close, I’m not sure if the same would go for ducks.

Justin Rhodes has a few videos about guard geese, he uses one with each of his chicken flocks.
 
elle sagenev
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This may seem nutty but have you thought about peacocks? I can tell you each time I went out at night to see what was killing my stuff it was because I heard the peacocks screaming. They do not defend, exactly, but they scream like crazy when something happens. I do have a great video of one of my juvenille peacocks posturing to a great horned owl but I think he was feeling rather safe at the time as we were in the barn chasing the owl off. Of course, we were only in the barn because the peacocks alerted us it was there so..... perhaps look into peacocks. The only time I see them peck the other animals is when mama hen has her chicks. She'll attack satan himself to protect her chicks.
 
r ranson
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Rob Clinch wrote:If you want the goose to protect the duck than you should only have one, if there is two then they will protect themselves. This is the same as llamas and donkeys that are used as livestock guardians. For best results raise a single gosling with your flock so it bonds to the ducks, that way it knows that is it’s job. In my experience with a pair of geese they will not protect anything but each other, they used to chase chickens away that would get too close, I’m not sure if the same would go for ducks.



I've read that a lot too.

I think it's going to depend on the geese.  At the moment, I have five, and they understand their job is to protect the other animals (and the stupid wild rabbits that eat my veggie garden - wish they wouldn't do that).  

Every night, I talk to the head gander.  They seem to be matrilineal - most animals seem to be - but patriarchal to the point that one male is most in charge of discipline and guarding.  I talk to the head gander every night.  I thank him for things they did right (mowing the lawn, eating that extra kale I had, keeping everyone safe).  If they have done something wrong, I say nothing when I tuck them in.  They know they did something wrong and the next day they are extra careful to do their job properly.  They have remarkable memory over time.  

We also have two Canadian Geese the come to our farm every winter.  They have been coming here since before anyone in our neighbourhood can remember.  Probably about 50 or 60 years now.  They seem to understand that there is an agreement with us.  They can hang out in this safe farm and eat the food, on the condition that they do what they do naturally - alert the other animals about sky monsters.  Just having the big birds there frightens off a lot of trouble.  The warning does a lot of good.  I haven't seen these two attack a preditor but there is never a preditor attack when Goosey and Loosey are visiting.  

But they are like our domestic geese in many ways.  They know we give them space and food.  In return, they intimidate unknown humans (remember, being frightened of geese is a national pastime here) unless we introduce them with the password.  

 
Beth Johnson
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@Nicole: They are exquisite!
 
Jay Angler
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

She thought the gander had killed them, but the injuries indicated something other than a goose. We're thinking this is nothing to worry about.

The year our geese arrived, I went out to the field. One of the geese had blood on his breast and was standing over a duck and was clearly reticent to let me intervene. When I did, the duck was clearly injured and it clearly was a bird of prey injury, *not* damage done by the goose. The duck went to the chicken hospital for a few days, and protective custody for a week, and was back playing with the flock after than.

Until space requirement forced us to separate them, our geese lived in the same shelter as our ducks.

I think it's awesome that you're giving these two birds a good home. Just make sure your children know that they may be a bit more intolerant during mating season and it sounds from r. ranson that I need to try talking to my geese more. I shouldn't let the fact that my family already thinks I'm crazy for talking to animals, stop me!
 
r ranson
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We just had an adult human and her two young ones (four-ish years old) visit the farm for the first time.

The young were very excited about the geese and ran to the geese in their excitement.  They wanted to touch the goose sitting on the nest and get between the goose that stayed on guard and the goose in the house (the girls and boys take turns guarding the nesting goose).

This was not behaviour that respects the goose's space.  

Explaining how to act to the children had two problems.
1.  It would be easier if the adult human could have a 'stop' word for the children.  I have a word for my animals that they all stop what they are doing and pay attention while their human fixes something that was dangerous.  Having a 'stop' word is mandatory on the farm.  
2. The young humans didn't understand that they were new and scary.  how could they, they've known themselves all their life, so they aren't new or scary.  But the geese don't know this.  The young humans had trouble understanding from the geese point of view that these were scary, loud, and fast animals that were invading their space - even if they are young children and thus classified under 'must protect', they were acting like predators which classify under 'must get rid of'.  The geese were confused and if we weren't there, the geese would have acted on instinct (not a goose - go away).  Once we were there, the goose watched how we interacted and was able to see that the small humans weren't 'land monsters'.

It would have been better if the young humans could have stayed close to the adult human and had things explained to them quietly BEFORE interacting with the livestock.  Once they understood they were scaring the animals and the animals don't act nice when frightened, then things were better.  But this is too difficult to do while the kids are running around.  

But even still, we had impressed enough on the geese that young humans = must be protected.  So they were a lot more patient then they would have been if adult humans had attempted the same thing.  


my geese like simple catigories - they seem to have their own words/noises/body langugage for these things:
sky monster - danger from the sky
land monster - danger from the land
monster - generic danger
unsure danger - possible danger
I am watching you - very attentive
You are in my space - mostly body language, big wings, or lowering of head.
You are too bleeping close! - hissing, lowering of head, charging, biting
giving me food - I like this food - very loud thank you while looking at the thing that gave me delicious food
please give me food - looks like thank you but quieter
family - my flock members
must be protected - things the humans like
must go away - things the humans don't like or things that hurt my family
my humans - these humans belong to me and do my bidding in exchange I eat their lawn - this is a good exchange.
WHAT?!? I thought you were giving me food!  You call this food?!  You are seriously misinformed as to what is edible.  You suck and had better give me better food to make up for the disappointment or I'm going to sulk for the rest of the day.
wimper - ganders do this a lot to say "am I forgiven?" "we still friends?" "I understand that something I just did displeased you... I may or may not know what that is but will try better in future"

There are a lot of other goose words I don't know yet
 
Julie Reed
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There are a lot of other goose words I don't know yet

If she were still alive I could put you in touch with the mother of a friend of mine from high school. They had several geese (my first introduction to the birds) and Alice talked to them. A lot. We (her daughter and I) felt her to be a bit nutty about it- she was sort of a Mary Poppins type of person- but she loved those geese and they seemed to be attuned to her words. I’m sure she had a large goose vocabulary! I frequently talk to animals, and whether (or how much) they understand I don’t know. But it’s a connection we share, and I like most animals better than most people, so I probably talk as much or more to them than the humans in my life some days!
 
Nicole Alderman
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r ranson wrote:...
my geese like simple catigories - they seem to have their own words/noises/body langugage for these things:
sky monster - danger from the sky
land monster - danger from the land
...



This whole post was so helpful, Raven! Thank you SO MUCH!!!

My ducks seem to have such a much more limited vocabulary than geese do. The have a word for "sky monster"- which is craning their heads to look at the thing, and sometimes running for cover. Half the time, they don't even move--they just stay there in the open, staring at the eagle. They don't seem to have ANY word for Land Monster. They'll see a bobcat between them and the pond and try to run PAST the bobcat to get to the pond. Sometimes, after a flock member dies, they'll just stand there and talk about it it, looking around in every direction in a "What happened to Flock Member" look, but sometimes they don't even run away! I'm hoping the geese will teach the ducks a wider vocabulary and impart some intelligence to the flock!
 
Jay Angler
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

I'm hoping the geese will teach the ducks a wider vocabulary and impart some intelligence to the flock!

This is why I like to have Muscovy moms hatch and brood my Noisy Ducks (Golden 300's and Khaki-C's). The Muscovy still have some sense and do try to impart it on the Khakis, although sometimes it seems that Khakis are the equivalent to rabbits in the ecosystem - prey to everything else -  but even the rabbits are smart enough to run occasionally.





 
Nicole Alderman
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We have geese now! The sanctuary that we adopted them from was concerned that they might not do okay in the same house as our ducks during mating season, so we made them their own little goose house (or as my family calls it "Goose Hoose") attached to the duck house. We made it out of pallets, scrap wood, hardware cloth and a earthcrete floor, and metal roofing we had left over from the re-roofing of our house.

Patty and Clyde are currently hanging out in their new digs, getting to know it as their new home. We'll let them out tomorrow to mingle with our ducks. For now, I used my reel mower to cut them some grass clippings and gave them some Scratch and Peck feed and a some water so they can feel happy in their "Little Goose Coupe."

The kids are really excited about their new geese, and the geese are really calm. Far more calm than my ducks or chickens! I'm not worried at all about them becoming aggressive, and look foreward to getting to know them more.
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Patty and Clyde, chillin' in their new abode
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Finished Goose Hoose!
 
Nicole Alderman
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I let them out today, and it was really fun watching them. They came out trumpeting and flapping their wings and looking around in a "Where am I? Wherever I am, I will reign over it" kind of attitude.

So far, the gander has exerted his dominance over the ducks by being in the middle of the yards and stretching his neck toward them with a slight hiss a few times and herding them around. The ducks pretty much stay on the edges--where the water and food are--while the geese stay in the middle. The interaction between my cat and the geese was hilarious, too. Pretty sure Houdini the Cat had no idea there was going to be such a LARGE duck in there. Her ears were back and she walked closer to investigate. At which point, Clyde the Gander lifted his head in a regal appearance and hissed as he walked away in a "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I need to." That was enough to show the cat to know to keep her distance.
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Nicole Alderman
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I wish I'd gotten a video of them when they came out, but I didn't have my camera. I went in and got it, and snapped this little video of the geese's non-violent way of exerting their superiority over the ducks.

 
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I understand the advice you were given about having separate housing for the geese in the spring, but it's fall now, and I'm wondering if they all went to bed together near dark for a few days starting in another 3-4 days, whether it would help the geese to decide "these ducks are our flock, it's up to us to protect them". We use a mesh shelter with young ducks and their mom around 2 weeks of age, so that the geese decide that the younglings are "their flock" and shouldn't be chased off. When our geese didn't see the ducklings until their first "out day" it was harder to be sure the geese wouldn't chase them off as "strangers" than keep an eye out for them.

 
Nicole Alderman
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I was actually wondering about doing something like that, especially as the goose house is much warmer in the winter than the duck house. I'm thinking maybe we could saw out a duck-sized door in the wall between them--just saw out a chunk of the wall and then reattach it with hinges. When it's open, the ducks can go in and out of the section with the geese, but if the geese ever get bossy, the ducks can escape. The ducks are SO MUCH smaller than the geese, that I don't think it's be hard to make a door that only ducks can go through.

Either that, or I make a goose sized door, and they all go back and forth unless I close it. I'm not quite sure which would be best: goose-sized door, or duck-sized door?
 
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