What Can Geese Eat?

A flock of goose eating in the wild open farm.

Geese belong to a big family-the Anatidae family, where swans and ducks are also members. The geese you see in ponds or freshwaters have different species, but they have many similarities regarding their food choices and eating habits. 

These waterfowls eat plant materials from grasslands, ponds, and freshwater. When they eat, they do not have to soften their food by submerging it into the water. 

During mealtime, they can protect themselves from enemies who might be lurking somewhere. But, can geese eat other food, and what does a baby goose typically eat? Find the answers to these questions by continue reading this blog post.

What are the Feeding Habits of Geese?

Geese have similar features when it comes to their eating habits regardless of their genera. The two known genera of geese are Branta (black geese) and Anser (white geese and grey geese). An example of Branta is the Canada goose, and Anser is the snow goose and greylag goose. 

By nature, geese are monogamous, which means they live with the same partner throughout their lifetime. They become territorial during their short nesting season. Paired geese feed more as they become dominant, and lay more eggs. 

The feeding habits may have similarities, but as they become domesticated, they are more likely to get accustomed to eating other food varieties. 

Let’s take a look at the different food and eating habits of geese.

Raising Backyard Geese

Backyard geese have acclimatized to their new habitat. They have adapted to food that pet owners give them. Backyard geese eat plant foods, such as weeds and grass, with nutritional feeds. 

Raising backyard geese is very different from backyard ducks and chickens. Both domestic and wild geese are herbivores and eat lots of weeds and grass during summer. So, what do backyard geese eat? 

Winter feeding can be a different thing as the snow covers the ground. Pet owners need not fret as there are many alternative food sources during winter. You can feed your goose pet whole wheat, cabbage, fodder, and hay. 

Growing fodder for your pet allows them to graze and enjoy munching throughout the winter.  

What is the Ideal Diet for Backyard Geese?

Backyard geese thrive well if you feed them 20 percent grains and 80 percent grass. Grains include corn, wheat, and oats. Grass could be fresh or dried hay. Give your adult geese one cup or half a pound of food a day. 

Feed your geese during winter with dietary supplements, as fresh grasses may not be available. You can also feed them wheat, hay, and cabbage to maintain their weight throughout the winter. Provide them with commercial grit in winter to help digest their food. 

During laying season, geese do not need to feed on commercial food or given calcium supplements or high protein food. 

Feed the goslings in the brooder with balanced commercial food. Adult and young juvenile geese feed on a diet of weeds and grass, which make up to 80 percent of their diet. 

If there is an abundant supply of clover, herbs, plantain, and dandelion grass, your free-range geese can consume 100 percent of plant-based nutrients. 

Let Them Wander in Your Yard

Geese owners should allow their pets to exercise, swim, and get enough sunlight to keep them healthy. 

Goslings and juvenile geese should wander on your property to develop stronger bones and legs. Angel wing and spraddle legs are common health issues in geese because they lack nutrients and exercise.  

Placing your geese in their pens is disadvantageous because the area becomes odorous and nasty. Lock them out at night for safekeeping against predators like foxes and hawks. Letting them roam and poop on your farm help fertilize the grass naturally.  

Challenges in Raising Domesticated Geese

Raising geese as pets can be tricky if you do not have an orchard or a large area for grazing them. 

Geese need a large area to graze and forage fresh grasses and weeds. If you have a large property, ensure that it is safe from the possible entry of predators like foxes, snakes, or hawks. 

They do not swim even if water is available to them when they get startled. If you cage the geese, they cannot grow healthy as they cannot forage on plants, grass, or weeds. 

However, if you allow them to go free range, they can be heavier than wild geese because they eat lots of fresh plants besides feeding them with supplemental feeds.  

The nutrients they get in grazing depend on the type of grass they eat, time, and year’s season. Most domesticated geese are heavier, making it harder to fly. 

A medium-size goose consumes 200 grams of food daily if the grass is unavailable. If you feed them with pellets and wheat, they lay more eggs but do not overfed, or they become fat. 

Giving them bread is not advisable because eating processed foods can be unhealthy for them. You can feed them bread not as food but as a treat (in small portions only). Here is a list of food that should not feed to your geese:

  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Biscuits
  • Candies
  • Dry cereals
  • Popcorns      

What are the Supplements for Domesticated Geese?

Wild or domesticated geese have nutritional needs similar to duck needs. Take a look at the following dietary needs of geese: 

  • Vitamin A & D
  • Amino Acids
  • Greens
  • Greens
  • Calcium
  • Niacin
  • Insoluble grit  

Niacin is one of the essential nutrients that geese need for more muscular legs and bones. Geese get niacin from herbs, weeds, and grasses during grazing. They feed on sage, thyme, dill, alfalfa, chickweed, and dandelions.  

Mix their feeds with brewer’s yeast for your backyard geese to get enough niacin. Feed the goslings with brewer’s yeast within three weeks after hatching, and then feed them with grower feed for a couple of weeks.  

Here is a list of niacin sources: 

  • 3 milligrams per cup of peas
  • 4.2 milligrams per ounce of peanuts
  • 2.4 milligrams per cup of sweet potatoes
  • 4 milligrams per cup of wheat bran or whole wheat
  • 2 milligrams per ounce of sunflower seeds

Feed your domestic geese with layers pellets during breeding season. Layer pellets are high in calcium. The best time to feed with layers pellet is during bedtime or breakfast. 

Summer Feeding Your Geese 

Backyard geese find a lot of food on your property. They have a large appetite for grasses, herbs, plantain, dandelions, and clover. Teach young geese to eat abundant food in your yard by hand feeding them. 

Don’t you know that adult geese can consume more than two pounds of grass daily? Here is a list of food they eat in your yard: 

  • Herbs, such as fresh thyme, parsley, dill, oregano, and basil
  • Clover 
  • Chickweed
  • Dandelion flowers and greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Grasses
  • Plantain
  • Watermelon
  • Raspberry & blueberry bushes and leaves
  • Plantain
  • Hosta
  • Watermelon
  • Roses

Geese chew some plants in your yard but never eat them. Among the plants, they love to chew are dahlias, zinnias, peonies, and sunflowers. If you raise geese on your property, you must cage your plants to protect them. 

Aside from grazing them in your backyard, feed them with supplementary foods, such as wheat and barley. Soak the wheat before feeding the geese to get them hydrated during summer. 

Geese, like ducks, love to dunk their heads in water to clean their nostrils and eyes. Fill an artificial pond or large buckets with water and place them in different areas in the yard. 

Winter Feeding Your Geese 

Geese need to survive in winter by feeding them with a nutritious diet. Snow-covered grasses also lose their nutritional value. 

Give them a bowl or ½ cup of whole wheat in the morning. Feed them hay, orchard, or timothy grass if green grass is unavailable.  

You can feed them with half of a pumpkin or half a head of cabbage every few days.  

If you provide them with herbs, such as thyme, parsley, oregano, dill, and basil, dry them first and mix them into the grower feed or wheat.  

Help your geese acclimatize to new foods during the winter season, such as:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Cracked corn
  • Hay (orchard or timothy)
  • Herbs 
  • Leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach)
  • Oats
  • Grower feed
  • Pumpkins/squash
  • Wheat

Geese grow healthy in the free range and graze for natural food all day. 

Avoid giving them rotten, moldy, salty, and sugary food, chocolate, coffee grounds, onions, tea bags, white bread, and processed foods. Since geese digest their food while eating, they love to munch when awake. 

How do Geese Survive in the Wild?

Geese have different species and subspecies, and they consume similar diets. They have nutritional requirements like other creatures in the animal kingdom. 

Their primary food includes alfalfa, grains, grasses, wheat, clover, rice, beans, corn, berries, stems, seeds, insects, and plants. When grazing, they forage for cracked corn or whole wheat while wandering in the yard. 

Geese follow a daily routine and eat at a specific time. They fly to their feeding areas and on the water in the morning and afternoon. They use their beaks when grabbing aquatic grasses and jerk them out. Their long necks are helpful when they look for food in the water. 

Geese have high metabolic levels, so they need to grind and digest their food by swallowing gravel and pebbles. They devote half their day to feeding on land and water to satisfy their needs. They also eat a lot of food before flying to sustain long flights. 

What Do Geese Eat When the Season Changes?

Geese eat grasses, eelgrass, sedges, and cabbage during the spring and summer. Sedges look like grasses, and they have over 5,500 species that are available across the world. Geese love to munch the sedge seeds. 

During winter and fall, geese eat large chunks of carbohydrate food as they need to heat their body. At this time, they eat barley, berries, and grains. Juvenile geese feed on winter wheat and alfalfa. 

When food becomes scarce in the cold season, they look for food sources to survive, such as rhizomes, tubers, and roots of sedges.  

Geese Water Needs in the Wild

Geese need plenty of water not only for swimming and drinking. Water increases their fertility. Water is essential for geese to cleanse their nostrils and beaks every day. They love to bathe in clean water to maintain the best condition of their feathers.  

What do Geese Eat in the Wild?

Geese wander in the yard, ponds, lakes, and streams to look for food. They can eat almost all parts of plants (land or aquatic plants) and vegetation. If the grass is scarce, they may eat small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Here is a list of food that geese eat in the wild.  

Grains & Seeds

Geese’s tongues have a lingual nail that is capable of scooping up grains and seeds for food. They find them in your yard, farms, grasslands, plants, and trees. 

Grains provide nutrients to geese, especially in winter, when grass and weeds are scarce. They eat large amounts of seeds and grains for migration, such as wheat, oats, corn, maize, and barley.      

Berries & Fruits

All birds, including geese, have a large appetite for fruits and berries. It is one of their sources of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep them healthy. But it is not their leading food; they eat them when they have a low food supply. 

They find fruits and berries while foraging in the woods and farms. But they are choosy when it comes to fruits. Their beaks cannot break tougher rinds and skins of fruits. Domesticated geese can eat them if you chop the fruits into smaller bits. 

They only eat those chewy, soft, and easy-to-digest fruits, such as strawberries, cranberries, grapes, blueberries, mulberries, blackberries, cherries, and plums. 

Weeds & Grass

Grass, weeds, and clover are a favorite food for geese. They keep grassy areas at their best as they trim the short grasses for food, such as fescue, bluegrass, orchard grass, bromegrass, and timothy grass. They can consume one kilogram of grass in a day. 

Grass abounds in the city and the countryside, providing food throughout the summer, spring, and autumn, but not in winter as snow covers them.  

Geese are cautious when eating grass by checking the quality before pulling it out. Healthy grass provides essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep them healthy.

Flowers & Plants

Geese are picky eaters when it comes to plants as food. They prefer to eat those parts that are young, soft, and green. But they eat parts of a plant like bulbs, stems, roots, buds, shoots, leaves, and flowers. They can eat almost all kinds of plants for as long as they are edible and reachable to their height. 

When they are in a pond or lake, they dunk their heads in the water to look for aquatic plants. If you raise them as pets, secure your ornamental plants, vegetables, and herbs. 

Their favorite aquatic plants include duckweed, sedges, wild celery, milfoil, and mares tail.

Small Fishes

Geese do not feast on fishes because of their digestive structure and lack of digestive enzymes to break them down. But when grass and weeds are scarce, they have to eat small fish. Big fishes are difficult to snap up during filter feeding. Sometimes geese accidentally catch fish when dunking their head to look for aquatic plants. 

Crustacean 

Geese may eat crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, lobsters) and shellfish if needed. They eat them in small amounts as their stomach cannot digest them due to their digestive structure. 

Freshwater snails are the most popular food for geese if they have nothing to eat. They usually snap them when they submerge their head while munching plants in the water. 

Geese prefer to eat snails than other crustaceans because they have a juicy taste and soft texture. Snails are good sources of protein for juvenile geese. 

Insects 

Geese eat insects if their food supply is scarce. They also teach their young to forage on insects as a protein source and develop their bodies. 

However, they are selective when it comes to insects, such as beetles, crickets, moths, termites, aphids, earthworms, and caterpillars. Insects are easy to trap when they are in a horde. 

In most cases, geese accidentally catch them while grazing and foraging.  

What is the Best Food for Goslings?

Gosling’s main diet is clovers and plain grass. If you grow gosling, you can give them chickweed. When they grow in the wild, gosling learns to forage in grassy lands where the female geese hatched their eggs. 

Goslings in the wild do not need dietary supplements as they can eat soft plant parts. They grow so fast when they are in the wild due to the abundance of nutrients from plants. They leave their family unit when they are grown up, about nine months.  

Wrapping Up

Geese are herbivores, yet they can also eat insects, small fish, and crustaceans when there is a low food supply. They accidentally snap them when they eat aquatic plants. Their favorite aquatic plants are kelp, watercress, and seaweed, or what is available to them in their geographical region. Meat is not their primary diet. Domesticated geese have learned to adapt to what pet owners feed them, like commercial feed, especially during the winter.

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