Geese

Geese have somewhat of a reputation for being aggressive birds, and, while some have grumpy tendencies, they are actually very intelligent and charming animals. Many people keep geese as pets, but sadly, these fascinating animals are historically farmed for their meat and eggs as well for the production of foie gas.

Meet our flock of rescued geese

Our geese came from a variety of different backgrounds, but now they all enjoy peaceful days swimming in the ponds and exploring the sanctuary grounds. We catch up with the flock to find out more about our feathered friends (keep an eye out for a cameo appearance from Jess the cat!)

Everyone needs a friend like Biscuit

When avian flu restrictions ended in 2021 our rescued birds were very excited to be free to roam the sanctuary again, but Biscuit the goose wanted to make sure no one was left behind and stepped in to help Animal Care Assistant Abby to herd the rest of the gaggle out of their enclosure, so they could all start their adventures together

Fascinating goose behaviours

Why do geese preen themselves?

Like other waterfowl, geese carry out preening on and off the water to keep their feathers in top notch condition. They run their bill along each feather, removing dirt, dust and parasites and realigning any stray feathers. An important part of this is coating their feathers is an oily substance, which is secreted from a gland at the base of their tail. This coating keeps feathers waterproof and in their best condition.

Why do geese love water?

Geese absolutely love water and should always have easy access to a bathing spot. As well as to aid preening, heading to the pond is also a social activity carried out by a goose gaggle for pure enjoyment. In ponds or pools, you may see geese with their bottoms up in the air. This allows them to keep their heads underwater while they search for aquatic plants and insects to nibble on.

Why do geese hiss?

Goose “hissing” is, as it sounds, a territorial and protective noise used to ward of animal predators or humans who get too close for their liking. This sound will often be accompanied by a head bobbing which sends a very clear message of “back off! The classic loud “honking” made by geese is more of a general vocalisation used between members of the same gaggle, for example to greet a mate or let companions know where they are.

Do domestic geese migrate?

Most domestic geese have been bred to be larger and more upright, making it very difficult for them to fly long distances. As a result, they don’t take part in a typical migration like wild geese, who will typically fly to warmer shores to overwinter.

Lifespan

  • Geese have a natural lifespan of between 10 and 15 years but some have been known to live up to 40 years!
  • Geese within the egg-laying industry are usually given up or slaughtered between 4 and 5 years old or when their fertility begins to decline. Geese reared for foie gras are typically slaughtered when they are just 3 or 4 months old.

Natural life expectancy
20 years (on average)
Geese reared for foie gras
4 months
Goose welfare issues

Life in an intensive farming system

  • In many intensive settings, geese and ducks reared for meat will spend their whole lives in dark, cramped spaces with little access to water. These conditions are extremely stressful for the birds, who will peck at one another in distress.
  • In order to produce the pricy dish ‘foie gras’ (which literally means fat liver), geese and ducks have pipes thrust down their throats three times a day to pump them full of food, causing their liver to swell to ten times its normal size.

  • Down and feathers are usually removed after slaughter, however, it has been estimated that about 1 to 2% is still collected while the birds are alive, via what’s known as “live plucking”.

Life at our sanctuary

  • Geese are natural grazers, so we make sure that our gaggle has access to plenty of grassy spots where they can feed and explore to their hearts’ content,
  • With an expansive pool beside our drive and a large pond behind our classroom, our geese are free to enjoy a refreshing dip whenever they please.

  • At night, our ‘tame’ flock, who patrol the yard, are herded into their cosy overnight enclosure, while our ‘wild’ flock, who prefer to keep themselves to themselves, head to their secure island on our pool, safe from any predators.

Adopt a goose

Get to know the gaggle

Biscuit

Like many of our residents, Biscuit came to us when her old owner could no longer care for her. Despite her limp, she lives a life full of fun and exploration with her feathered friends. You can help us care for animals in need by adopting her today!

Brucey's rescue story

Brucey had been dumped on a mere which contained toxic algae. He had lost his mate and was at risk of severe illness and starvation when a kind stranger alerted us to his situation. Brucey now has a whole gang of new friends here at the sanctuary and can spend his retirement years in safety and happiness.

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Learn more about our mission

Find out more about our 3-pronged approach to making the world a better place for farmed animals… ​

Lamb-with-bottle

Goodheart Farm Animal Sanctuary, in Worcestershire, opened in 2017 and is already home to over 300 rescued farm animals.

Education1

By providing reliable information, we aim to help everyone think more clearly about the way we treat some animals.

Pig2

Our campaigning will expose areas of cruelty and neglect, highlighting the need for better animal welfare legislation.