A big goose, one of the largest, the African is also one of the calmest. They are majestic birds, with a fairly significant dewlap under their chins.
African geese are an excellent roasting bird, producing lean meat, and they develop to market weight until about 16 to 18 lbs. They reproduce well as long as they are not bred to be too heavy in the keel or abdomen, and are excellent parents. They brood their own young, so they are good candidates for barnyard geese.
They can endure confinement, but will stay healthier and be more fertile if given access to forage and space to roam and swim.
- Type - Meat
- Size - Heavy
- Production Capacity - large roasting carcass, and limited numbers of eggs
- Special Features - one of the gentlest geese (they still need to be avoided during breeding season and while they have young to protect)
- Best for Farms - makes a great barnyard goose, and is terrific for production of large roasting geese, on pasture or in moderate confinement
- Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - extra large white eggs, and fine lean meat
- Other Products - some market for down and feathers
- Historic or Contemporary Significance - a goose that has been on farms in the US for a very long time, and which is still very useful
- Housing and Space Requirement - large goose needs expansive quarters and nesting areas. Should not be tightly confined.
- Regional Adaptations - well adapted to a range of conditions, though they can suffer frostbite in very cold climates.
- Feed Requirement - typical, but healthier with wheat germ or flax seed added to diet
- Other Considerations - Avoid Africans bred for show, they are less likely to be productive.
A NOTE ABOUT GEESE:
Geese are typically herbivores, and they require water where they can access it, both to wet their bills, and to keep themselves clean and neat. A kiddie pool is usually sufficient.
While geese are GENERALLY herbivores, some breeds do eat insects, and I knew an old man when I was a child, who kept geese to keep the slugs out of his grape vines. These traits vary breed to breed, and I do not know what breed he kept (my mother says they were probably Embden).
Geese lay fewer eggs than ducks do, being seasonal breeders and layers. Males may be aggressive. Even normally mild mannered males may turn aggressive during breeding season and while parenting young. They are not exhibiting unwanted behaviors - these are the instincts that allow them to survive, and you really do WANT them to show these behaviors because they are defensive, and also mean they will be more defensive with predators. Let the geese do what they do well, and stay out of their way when they have babies, and you and they will get along better.
Some geese will form pair bonds for life, but a single male may also mate with several females in a colony situation. Too many males, and things get kind of rough. But I am not sure that colony breeding is best either. When given sufficient space, geese are generally territorial, and that has a great benefit for the young, because when geese form pairbonds, the young benefit from the care of both parents. We tend to favor a single goose and gander in each run and housing setup - in combination with other types of poultry (in this way, we can control breeding bloodlines without having to have separate housing and runs for single pairs of birds). Geese can co-exist with ducks, chickens, and pigeons, but do not do well with Turkeys since both tend to be territorial and have similar defensiveness in breeding seasons. Whether in a colony, or stacked with other poultry, be sure to give them sufficient room to BE territorial over their nesting and breeding areas.
Geese breeds have not been corrupted for show purposes as much as some other birds, but neither have they been bred to maintain strong utility traits. Many are extremely good utility animals anyway, though productivity will be affected somewhat by bloodlines, and production run geese from a large hatchery are rarely sorted for quality. You'll have to over-order and sort for good breeders if you need to order geese that way, and send the surplus off to freezer camp.
Geese can be good watch animals, but not against canine predators or weasels. They need to be trained to come in at night to keep your goslings safe if you are breeding them.
To use them for weeder geese, you'll need to train them from the time they are young, to eat the weeds you want them to go after, and then they cannot be loosed in a garden where there are tender young greens, or they will gobble them instead of the weeds you want them to eat. Without training, they will go after grasses, and some other choice weeds, but not all the things you want.
When needing to improve fertility or health, wheat germ or flax seed may be added to their diet (whole wheat also works), and the addition of yellow veggies can be helpful. You can feed them on garden scraps also, but this is not a good idea if you want to use them for weeding in a garden. Personally, I'll give up having them weed the garden, in favor of making it easier to keep them fed with good and wholesome food.
Goose eggs are good to eat, but they are kind of rubbery when boiled. In baking, they are kind of like a more durable duck egg - they hold cakes and muffins up well, and make good meringues. My mother liked to pickle them - this monster boiled egg, pickled in the brine from a jar of pickled beets. One egg went around to several people - slices of bright fuschia egg with deep yellow yolk. Since pickling eggs makes them rubberier to begin with, you didn't notice the increased firmness in the goose egg as much when it was pickled.
Geese come in many sizes, and the largest are large indeed - comparing with turkeys. The smaller ones are not much bigger than a large chicken. Fighting geese, and geese that are excessively rare are not included in these listings.
A single goose and gander were traditional on old farms, and they produced a clutch of eggs every year from which that year's butchering geese were grown. This is still sufficient for most homesteads. Only those farms wishing to sell livestock, meat birds, or hatching eggs need worry about where to contain multiple breeding pairs.