So you have yourself a small flock of geese and it’s coming in to breeding season. You’ve separated them in to your breeding pairs/flocks (read more on geese breeding habits here) and now it’s time to sort out nesting. You may know the basics on nesting, but here are some interesting things I’ve learnt by not just breeding geese, but by spending a lot of my time observing them in the paddock.
Did you know when geese lay their eggs they are laid with a protective film on them that helps to protect them from absorbing any bad bacteria that could harm the unborn gosling, but when the egg is first laid it takes about 20 seconds (or longer depending how cold it is) for the film to dry, so if there isn’t a clean dry nest for the egg to be laid in it has a much higher risk of absorbing something that could harm the embryo. Make sure fresh hay, straw, or shavings is provided in a dry clean area to help ensure their safety.
Also once your bird has gone broody check your eggs at seven days to see if they are fertile and remove any that are infertile. After that continue to check your eggs every seven days to make sure no goslings have died in the egg, or that any eggs have gone rotten. This is because Goslings breathe through the egg and if a rotten egg happens to explode on to the healthy eggs the toxins from it can be absorbed and kill the unborn gosling.
Since your goose will be on a forced diet due to not leaving the nest that often once she goes broody (about 28-35 days to be exact) you’ll notice that she will pack on the weight in preparation. Her body will store all the nutrients she needs to lay the best eggs she can, and she will look in peak condition… kind of like a glowing pregnant lady.
Once your geese go broody you may notice them rapidly losing weight. This is because they are spending so much time on the nest and not as much time eating. This is nature’s way of lightening them up for when their goslings hatch. It makes it easier to move around the nest without crushing their goslings, or hatching eggs. It will generally happen with the ganders as well because of the amount of time they spend protecting the nest.
Geese normally lay eggs every second day… especially the exhibition birds. They lay the egg, make a nice nest and cover the eggs up so the crows and predators don’t find the eggs, but in doing that also hide the eggs from you. So you may be looking at the nest thinking your geese aren’t laying and under a layer of the nesting material there could be 7-8 eggs sitting there. So make sure you check your goose’s nest regularly to make sure they’re laying
Bonus Mick’s Tip: Don’t get greedy with the amount of eggs you have in a nest. A good nest can take up to 10 eggs. You may be able to push to 15 if it’s a really well built nest, but if you have too many in there, the ones on the edges are at a higher risk of rolling out and also at risk of not being incubated properly.
You’ll notice that your geese will start mating more in the lead up to laying, but some other signs are…
She will also start to poke around bushes and in quiet private areas – behind a shed, or bush… somewhere out of the way of all the general hustle and bustle of the yard.
Another sign is they will start to pick up all sorts of bits and pieces off the ground that might be useful for their nest and throw them towards the area they plan to start nesting in (see video below). You can help them with this by scattering grass, or straw around -giving them plenty of material to build their nest with. It’s not just your goose that will do this… Her gander may help out as well. Sometimes they’ll still be going through the motions, even when they’re not close to the nest.
If you’re providing some sort of shelter for her to lay in, it’s important to do this before she starts laying so it’s not foreign. Each day move it a few inches closer to the nest and over a 3 to 5 day period eventually make your way with it over the top of the nest. It’s important not to just put it straight over the nest, as you may spook the goose in to moving her eggs.
Did you know that geese like to cover their tracks to protect their nest from predators? That’s right, in the wild geese will generally fly in and out of the nest, so they don’t leave a scent. During their flight it’s usually a good excuse to empty themselves as well ensuring they aren’t leaving any strong odours in or near the nest.
In captivity though obviously most of the time your geese won’t be flying (especially the heavier breeds of geese), so when you have geese nesting in a larger area and they get up from their nest to eat or empty themselves away from the nesting area (more on why your gooses food should be kept away from the nest below), they generally will take different routes back to their nest. They will zigzag, or even do an extra lap around the yard. This is because they are making sure there isn’t a clean path of their scent back to the nest. If they just kept using the same path then they may as well have a big arrow with a flashing light saying ‘FREE EGGS’, But by spreading their scent everywhere it makes it much harder for Mr Fox to find home base.
Continuing on from the previous point – It’s not a good idea to keep food and water close to you goose’s nest, because by doing so you can actually be putting their unborn goslings in danger.
There’s a couple of reasons for this… When your geese go broody they will often put themselves on a diet and shed weight making them lighter to move around the nest easier without crushing their eggs (as mentioned earlier), so having food and water near them during nesting can attract other fowl that you may have around and they can get in the nest scratching the eggs around. It can also attract rodents which not only carry all types of diseases and leave droppings in the nesting area putting goslings at risk. Also having the scent of rodents in the nest may attract bigger predators like snakes, birds of prey, and even foxes etc.
The benefit of placing the food further from the nest is… Obviously you avoid the above mentioned, but also the goose can be sitting there for up to 2 days and it gives them a chance to get up, get some exercise, flap their wings and empty themselves away from the nest ensuring a happier/healthier bird and a cleaner nesting area.
There is so much more to tell on this subject, but I thought it would start to get way too long winded. Instead I’ve decided to stop here and keep you hanging for part two of this post… Which will come at a later date. In the meantime make sure you join the newsletter below to be notified as soon as new tips, and tricks on all things waterfowl become available.