Geese are herbivores, meaning that they mainly eat plants, fruits, and flowers. Many people mistake them for omnivores because they can also eat animals, bugs, and insects. So, what do geese eat and what can’t?
Let’s learn about the nutritional demands of geese, the toxic food types for them, and how to feed specific groups of geese in captivity to maximize their production rate, egg and meat quality.
Table of Contents
- What Do Geese Eat?
- What Do Geese Eat In A Pond?
- What To Feed Geese As Treats?
- Special Diet For Baby & Laying Geese
- What Should You Not Feed Geese?
- Extra Info: Nutritional Need Of A Goose
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- Final Words
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What Do Geese Eat?
Like other animals, geese of all subspecies need a well-balanced, varied diet to maintain their daily activities.
These birds mainly eat many types of food, including grains, alfalfa, grasses, wheat, clover, rice, beans, corn, aquatic plants, stem, roots, seeds, bulks, berries, and even some occasional insects. While on the fields, they are grazing for whole wheat and cracked corn.
Canadian geese are vegetarians. In the wild, they mainly rely on vegetation on ponds, fields, and marshes. These birds also fly to areas like golf courses, city parks, playgrounds, and lawns in urban and public places for extra treats from human. Sometimes they can also absorb mollusks, insects, crustaceans, and even small fish.
Geese follow a fixed meal schedule, with the two main meals in the early morning and the afternoon. They are on the water between these two meals to seek aquatic grasses or dig bottom silts for extra plant-based foods.
Before migration, geese need to eat more to have additional fat reserves before a long trip to the South. They also swallow grit to boost their metabolic level, which is crucial during migration flights.
Food for geese in the summer
In the early months of the year, or spring and summer, geese have an open food choice. They prefer grazing for the green vegetations to agricultural grains. Their frequent foods are leaves of eelgrass, skunk cabbage, sedges, and grasses.
Sedges, a type of grass with long, thin, sharp leaves, and tiny flowers, are these birds’ favorite food at this time of the year. There are over 5,500 varieties of sedges worldwide, allowing geese to access food anywhere, anytime, with ease.
Food for geese in the winter
What to feed geese in fall and winter? As the weather gets colder, geese require a higher carbohydrate intake to keep their body warm and protect themselves from the most frigid temperatures in winter. Their food choice in fall and winter is also less varied.
Adult geese mainly rely on agricultural grains, barley, and berries. In comparison, young ones eat alfalfa or winter wheat. When all food sources are scarce in the late winter, they will switch to roots and rhizomes of sedges.
What Do Geese Eat In A Pond?
Ponds, especially old ones, are an appealing source of food for geese. While in ponds, geese often eat aquatic plants on the surface (like algae) and in deep water (like crustaceans, insects, mollusks).
However, newly developed ponds don’t have this rich ecosystem.
What To Feed Geese As Treats?
Geese are friendly when they are fed special, tasty treats. Goslings are more curious about treats than adult ones. Thus, if you want them to be familiar with some snacks, provide them when they are young.
Here are some typical treats for geese:
Dried mealworms are nutritious treats for geese, ducks, and chickens in winter with no foraged bugs. This treat contains a high level of proteins, beneficial for your birds’ feathers and muscles.
You can mix mealworms in their feed or spread them on their water bowl or in a pool used explicitly for this purpose. They will love finishing for them!
Sweet and watery fruits like watermelon is a precious gift for geese. This fruit brings fun to them but also helps them stay well-hydrated when the outer temperature is high.
- Lettuce greens
You can feed your flock leafy greens like romaine or common types of lettuces, or tops of some root vegetables like carrots or beets. But avoid feeding them spinach because this vegetable contains oxalic acid, which will reduce the amount of calcium in their bones.
Also, iceberg lettuce should not be used to feed geese because it can cause scours (diarrhea).
Besides leaves, geese do love flowers like dandelions. That’s why some farmers let their geese clean dandelions on their farms in spring.
A moderate amount of bread crusts will make your geese happy. But be careful since bread contains no nutritional value. It is high in fat and low in proteins & vitamins. When absorbing a high amount of this junk food, geese will be malnourished. Instead of bread, you should feed them the above treats since they contain essential nutrients.
Besides, you can feed your birds these appropriate treats:
- Fruits and vegetables: broccoli, corns (warmed or frozen), cucumber, peas, cooked beans, sliced apples (with no seeds or core), chopped pumpkin (chopped), grapes (chopped), berries (raspberry, strawberries, black raspberry, blueberries), bananas, cantaloupe. Avoid moldy, toxic, or rotten ones!
- Oats and scratch grains: like cracked corns in moderation.
Special Diet For Baby & Laying Geese
What do baby geese eat after they hatch? Goslings can access feed and water right after being born. From their first week to 10 days after birth, feed them crumbled chick or poult starter.
After this period, you can switch to a pelleted grower ration mixed with cracked corn, milo, oats, wheat, or grains. Don’t forget to offer them free access to insoluble grit to help them digest food easier.
Grown goslings are ready for market when they are 24 to 30 weeks old. To make your flocks more profitable, feed them with finishing rations that contain a high level of protein.
When choosing feed for goslings, you should carefully read the feed’s label and ingredients. Choose only feed with additives that are safe for geese. Some starter and growing feed for controlling coccidiosis can cause lameness or death to your birds.
Another thing you should notice when feeding baby geese are their feed containers. Don’t use box tops for chicks or lids and paper with a smooth surface as a feeder for goslings. Otherwise, they will slide off the feeder, resulting in leg damage.
Laying geese have a higher amount of feed and an elevated calcium intake to maximize their reproduction rate. They also need a nutritious diet and have access to a piece of lush green land for foraging.
You should discuss with your veterinarian to know the appropriate diet for the species of geese on your farm.
What Should You Not Feed Geese?
Besides types of edible foods, some foods are harmful to geese. Some foods are toxic in high amounts, while a small amount of other food can cause fatal geese. The level of allergy differs by individuals or many factors like species/breeds, ages, health conditions, etc.
Below are some foods that can be toxic to geese. Since these foods are potentially harmful, you should better not feed them to your birds.
- Avocados: The skin, leaves, and pits of avocados contain high amounts of toxin persin, which is harmful to geese. Some symptoms of persin poisoning are trouble perching, weakness, respiratory distress, ruffled feathers. If these symptoms happen for an extended period, your geese can die. If you think your birds have eaten an avocado, bring them to the clinic ASAP.
- Citrus fruits: If being fed a large amount at a time or a small amount frequently, citrus fruits can slow down the calcium absorption in geese. Besides, these fruits contain acid, which can lead to gastric symptoms. Only feed your birds a small amount of citrus and don’t offer them citrus daily.
- Coffee or tea: Although there are some studies on the benefits of coffee pulp to geese, you should better not feed your birds coffee, coffee beans, coffee grounds, or anything related to coffee. Caffeine in coffee or tea can cause severe lung and heart damage or even death, so you should avoid it!
- Chocolate: Chocolate, incredibly dark chocolate, contains theobromine and caffeine, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and death to geese.
- Alcohol drinks: Alcoholic beverages under any form should be prohibited to your geese. These drinks can cause toxics with symptoms like incoordination, lethargy, disorientation, organ damage, and death.
- Salt: Salt should be provided to geese in a moderate amount of commercial food. Thus, don’t give them any foods that contain a high sodium chloride content. Too much salt in their diet can result in excessive water intake, abdominal swelling from fluid, excessive urination.
- Green potatoes: The skins and the “eyes” of green potatoes, or any plants under the same family like pepper, tomatoes, or eggplants, contain solanine. While solanine is often found in defense products against insects and fungus, a high amount of it can cause serious health issues or even death in geese. A goose that has eaten green potatoes will have symptoms like diarrhea, convulsions, respiratory problems, and paralysis. You should avoid the whole green potatoes in any form, since solanine can hardly be removed from these plants under high temperatures.
- Green tomatoes: Leaves and stems of tomatoes also contain some chemicals similar to solanine, glycoalkaloid, tomatine, etc. Exposure to tomatine can cause eye, skull, and beak deformities or swelling. While mature tomatoes have a lower level of tomatine, some specialty species have higher tomatine than others. Thus, you should only provide geese ripe tomatoes as treats.
- Raw dried beans: A small amount of phytohemagglutinin in raw or uncooked beans, especially red kidney beans, can cause poisoning in geese, with symptoms like changes in the liver, pancreas, and intestinal. If consuming a high dose of beans can result in death, you should offer them canned cooked beans that have been washed carefully to remove sodium.
- Onions: The thiosulphate in onion can kill red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia in geese. If this chemical is fed to geese at a high amount, it can produce many odd-shaped red blood cells. Onion poisoning can lead to weakness, stomach upset, lethargy, collapse, tachycardia, and finally, death to your waterfowls. Thus, avoid feeding them your powders or juice, raw or cooked onions!
- Tobacco: This nicotine-rich product is harmful to humans and geese. Eating tobacco products can cause serious health problems, like diarrhea, hyperexcitability, seizures, and vomiting. Inhaling tobacco smoke can cause respiratory disease, skin conditions, eye disease, or malformation of the kidneys, heart, and beak. Cannabis smoke can cause similar symptoms to tobacco smoke and should also be avoided.
- Mango peels: Similar to poison ivy, the peel of mangos also contains urushiol. This chemical can cause skin allergy or stomach upset in all living creatures like geese or humans.
- Nuts: Geese can quickly get choking hazards with big-sized nuts like walnuts. Besides, they can also be vulnerable to aflatoxins in nuts, especially old peanuts. Some nuts are safe to provide to geese in moderation since the high-fat content in nuts can lead to excessive weight gains.
- Unshelled nuts: Shells of some nuts, especially those not correctly stored or old ones, may contain toxic substances like aflatoxins. You can quickly notice some symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning, including purple legs and feet, feather picking, appetite loss, abnormal sounds, reduced growth. Some severe symptoms like incoordination, convulsions, muscle spasming can happen shortly before death.
- Raw nuts: Bitter almonds contain a high amount of cyanide, so they should be excluded entirely from your geese’s food list. Some symptoms of cyanide poisoning are heart issues, weakness, GI distress, seizures, respiratory problems, stumbling, and death.
- Rhubarb leaves: Never give your birds a large number of rhubarb leaves. These leaves contain oxalate crystals, which can cause renal damage. Some symptoms of this poisoning are swelling of the mucous membranes in the geese’s mouth, depression, lethargy, excessive drinking/urination, diarrhea, loss of body control, dehydration, weight loss, and lameness.
- Spinach: Like rhubarb leaves, spinach also contains oxalate, can slow down the calcium absorption in geese, and relates to egg-binding in laying geese. Some studies stated that a small amount of spinach is safe. However, you should discuss this with your veterinarian before feeding this vegetable to your residents.
- Rotten or moldy foods: Foods that have been rotten or have molds can contain mycotoxins, contributing to various health problems or even death. After eating these toxic foods, there will be ulcers in their mouth or crusty surfaces inside their mouth.
Extra Info: Nutritional Need Of A Goose
Like other animals, a goose needs nutrients to have a happy and healthy life. The nutritional demand of geese is similar to ducks. However, there are some differences.
Below are some essential nutrients to the physical function of a goose.
Amino acids play a vital part in the development of a goose. But it can’t directly consume protein from food. Its digestive system will break dietary protein into amino acids, then make its body proteins to form its muscles and feathers.
How much protein is sufficient for a goose? The protein levels depend on the amino acid content in the ingredients of its food. Generally, a goose needs 20% protein and amino acids from 0-4 weeks in its daily diet. After 4 weeks old and in its breeding period, this number decreases to 15%.
Geese have a higher niacin demand than chicken, and this number depends on their life stages:
- From 0 to 4 weeks old: 65mg
- From 4 weeks old: 35mg
- In their breeding season: 20mg
The niacin deficiency in geese, especially goslings, can lead to leg and joint issues. Thus, make sure that you feed your geese with waterfowl formula food. If you are using chicken food for them, you should add a niacin supplement so that your residents can always get enough niacin in their daily diet.
Vitamin A & calcium
Geese that eat greens and formulated food can get plenty of vitamin A and calcium. A goose needs an average of 1,500IU of vitamin A and 0.60-0.65% calcium.
Laying geese need more calcium and vitamin A than non-laying ones. More specifically, they require 4,000IU of vitamin A and 2.25% calcium per day.
To know whether your geese are getting enough of these two nutrients, you can check their eggshells or ask your veterinarian for consultation.
If the shells are soft, your laying geese might suffer from calcium deficiency. These geese should be provided calcium supplements soon before having reproductive illness or osteoporosis. Black sunflower seeds are great natural sources of calcium for these waterfowls.
Like humans, geese get vitamin D by exposure to direct sunlight. The deficiency of vitamin D will result in weak bones and soft eggshells. Geese that lack calcium or phosphorus also tend to need more vitamin D in their diet.
If you live in cloudy or dark areas like the Pacific Northwest, you should mix extra vitamin D supplements in your geese food, especially in the form of vitamin D3. Kelp is a vitamin D-rich vegetable and can be safely used for these birds.
A goose loves eating whole grains like oats, wheat, and corn. These small and hard grass seeds provide vitamin B, vitamin E, and phosphorus. If a medium-sized goose doesn’t have access to fresh grass, it will eat approximately 200 grams of wheat per day.
While grain scratching can bring food and fun for geese, it only takes up 10% of their daily diet and can’t be considered the main meal. You should not also feed them wet or moldy grains since it can lead to death.
Fresh greens provide geese with vitamin E to boost their immune system, along with riboflavin, vitamin A, and calcium.
Geese love eating various types of grass, like clovers, orchard grass, bluegrass, bromegrass, timothy. You can also feed them scraps of vegetables. But avoid feeding them poisonous greens or grass fields that have been treated with pesticides.
Since geese don’t have teeth like chickens, they need insoluble grit, or small hard rocks, peddles, and gravel, to support their gizzard to grind foods and aid their digestive process. Without grit, geese can suffer from digestive issues.
Wild geese can access insoluble grit, but the captivated don’t. Thus, you should provide these waterfowl hard grit at least once per month or offer them a bucket full of mixed grit with oyster shell, limestone, and flint for free access.
Another notable issue when feeding these herbivores grit is sizing. Goslings can’t swallow grit that is bigger than sand. So, make sure that you choose grit with a proper size for small residents on your farm,
Besides food, supplements play an essential part in a well-balanced diet of geese. Below are some plants that can be used as natural supplements for them in a moderate intake:
- Flaxseeds: anti-inflammatory
- Garlic (powder or chopped): natural de-wormer
- Pumpkin seeds: natural de-wormer
- Turmeric: anti-inflammatory
Please ask for approval from your veterinarian before feeding these home remedies to a sick or injured goose.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. How often do geese eat?
In the wild, geese eat twice per day in the early morning and the afternoon. However, in the captivated settings, they can browse for food all day long.
2. Why do geese eat feathers?
Feathers contain protein. So, if your geese eat feathers, they might suffer from a protein deficiency in their diet.
3. Can geese eat uncooked rice?
Uncooked rice is safe for geese if it is fed in a moderate amount. In its raw state, rice provides geese with many vitamins and minerals for their healthy development.
4. Do geese eat bugs and insects?
Geese often eat bugs and insects before their breeding season. These tiny creatures provide them with more protein and calcium to create firm eggs.
5. Do geese eat cicadas?
Geese of all life stages can safely eat cicadas with no limitations. This insect provides geese with various nutrients, including protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrate, to maintain their daily activities.
6. Do geese eat fish?
Although geese are herbivores, they can sometimes eat fish depending on the food availability and individual preference. Wild geese eat fish when they lack grass or plant-based food. Domestic geese eat fish when accessible or when other geese or other waterfowl teach them to eat fish.
7. Do geese eat chickens?
Geese don’t eat chicken. They can only attack or kill chickens because they are territorial birds.
8. Do geese eat apples?
Geese can eat apples, as these fruits bring many nutrients and energy to them. However, you should cut apples into small pieces to let them chew easily.
9. Do geese eat gooseberries?
There have been countless conversations on whether gooseberries are safe for goose and chicken or not. The truth is, gooseberries contain hydrogen cyanide. Consuming a small amount of hydrogen cyanide is known to improve goose’s respiratory complaints, but too much of it can lead to respiratory failure or even death.
While some have allergic reactions to this fruit, others don’t. Sensitive groups like goslings and pregnant geese might quickly get health issues with this fruit. Thus, you should better keep your domestic geese far from fresh gooseberry bushes.
10. Do geese eat lettuce?
Yes, lettuce is a tasty vegetable for geese. You can cut this veggie into sizable bits so that your animals can chew it easily.
After reading this article, you should better know what geese eat and what they can’t. Although geese are herbivores with a daily plant-based diet, they can occasionally eat insects, bugs, and wild animals.
I hope that these pieces of information can assist you in planning and managing their diet and help them maintain good health and physical development.