Ducks, Guineas, and Other Poultry Gardening

What Are Weeder Geese?

weeder geese

Sick of wielding a cumbersome hoe each time you need to get rid of weeds in the garden?

If so, you might want to give weeder geese some thought.

This kind of unique task force won’t work for every kind of crop – or in every garden – but where it does, it’s a great way to control pesky weeds and to get your garden back into fighting shape.

All without chemicals or intense manual labor, to boot!

Here is some more information on weeder geese – and what you need to know in order to be successful in raising them. 

weeder geese

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What Are Weeder Geese?

weeder geese
Photo: Unsplash

For many years, geese have been used to control unwanted vegetation. Although they’re most commonly used in Asia, they’re starting to gain popularity in the United States, too, where they are effective at grazing in orchards along with potato, mint, coffee, cotton, and berry plantations.

Geese will eat many kinds of plants, but they prefer grasses. They generally dislike broad-leafed plants so they can successfully weed various crops that are known to have weed problems. This can reduce your reliance on herbicides, which are not only dangerous and expensive, but largely disallowed in organic farming.  

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Plus, geese are light on their feet. They won’t compact the soil like people or heavy machinery will and they will work diligently to keep weeds trampled down for you. They will work every single day, regardless of the weather, and can be used in situations that are ill-suited for heavy machinery. 

For example, they can work on wet pastures (where machines would get stuck and ruin the soil) and they can pull weeds from very close to crop plants. 

Plus, when the season is all said and done, you can still process the geese for their feathers and meat. They’ll even spread tons of natural, nitrogen-rich fertilizer for you!

Everything You Need to Know About Weeding With Geese

weeder geese

Plants to Graze

Weeder geese tend to be the most effective on crops like cotton, corn, and strawberries. The goal is to pick plants that geese won’t touch – they’ll focus on the weeds instead. 

These animals are most effective when allowed to graze on broad-leaved plants. Some of the best include:

  • Sugar beets
  • Onions
  • Blueberries
  • Hops
  • Carrots
  • Evergreen and deciduous nursery crops
  • Most orchards
  • Cotton
  • Mint and other herbs
  • Tobacco
  • Potatoes 
  • Strawberries
  • Garlic
  • Cane berries (like raspberries) 

Some even say they can be used on bananas! Of course, knowing how and when it is appropriate to use weeder geese will largely depend on the time of year, the nutritional value of the weeds around the plants, and how you manage your geese. 

Since geese are vegetarian, you can keep ducks with your geese to control insect pests, snails, and slugs, if desired, too.

How Many Weeder Geese Do I Need?

The number of geese you need will depend on the kind of weeds you are growing, how prevalent those weeds are, and what kind of crop you are growing. Of course, your climate will come into lay, too. 

In general, you’ll need at least half a dozen geese for an acre of land. This again depends on the crop. You also might need to adjust the number of geese that you have depending on the time of year.

For example, weeds tend to be most prevalent in the early spring in some places. Therefore, you might want to start with additional geese at the beginning of the season and slowly downsize as the year progresses. 

Toward the end of the summer, many weeds lose their nutritional value. As a result, your geese may start to turn toward your crops as a source of food. This is why good management is integral. You’ll want to remove your geese (they’re easy to herd!) before this becomes an issue.

Best Breeds of Geese for Weeding

Any breed of goose can be used for weeding. However, White Chinese geese are most commonly used. They are active foragers and have long, agile necks that make it easy for them to get to all kinds of plants. They are also lightweight, meaning they’ll inflict minimal damage on nearby crops. 

Instead of breed, it’s important to consider the age of your weeder geese instead. Goslings tend to forage more voraciously and they are also lighter in weight (again, less damage to your plants). They need to be at least six weeks old before they’re put in fields. 

Caring for Weeder Geese

weeder geese
Photo: Unsplash

Feed

If you’re doing your job right, you shouldn’t have to provide much in the way of supplemental feed for your weeder geese. They will eat all kinds of weeds but prefer to target grasses such as:

  • Puncture vine
  • Chickweed
  • Horsetail
  • Clover
  • Bermuda grass
  • Sedge
  • Nut grass
  • Johnson grass 
  • Horsetail 

Of course, your geese may occasionally nibble on windfall fruit along with unharvested crops. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this will provide your geese with ample nutrition and will clean up fruit that would otherwise rot and attract pathogens and pests. 

When weeds are depleted, you may want to provide some supplemental feed. This is a good option. It’s not a bad idea to provide just a small amount of supplemental feed every day to make sure your geese are getting enough to eat. 

Even more importantly, make sure your geese have access to fresh water at all times. The easiest way to do this is by putting out five-gallon buckets. They do not require water to swim in, like other poultry, such as ducks. 

Housing 

In terms of housing, there’s not much you need to do for your geese. Ideally, they should have access to shade so they can get out of the hot sun in the middle of the day. That doesn’t mean you need a barn, though – even just a few shade trees or a hedgerow can be adequate.

For many growers, predator control is a primary concern. Therefore, you will need to construct or purchase some sort of covered shelter for your birds. They aren’t quite as easy to train to a coop as chickens, but you can still use an automatic system like the ChickenGuard to lock them in at night. 

Many farmers use moveable fencing like this to confine their geese and keep them concentrated where they are most needed. However, this can be costly and time-consuming when it comes to daily labor. You can also use materials like chicken wire and rebar to keep your birds in, but permanent electric fencing is not terribly effective for geese unless it’s relatively high voltage.

Are Weeder Geese Right for Me?

weeder geese
Photo: Unsplash

While weeder geese are highly effective for use in fields, they may not be as ideal in smaller gardens. If you only have a tiny patch of garden to weed, sorry! Sounds like the hoe might be the better option for you.

It’s also important to note that there are some significant challenges associated with raising geese. They can be a bit noisy and they aren’t effective on broadleaf weeds (remember – they don’t like broadleaf plants). They should be carefully trained and you’ll want to make sure you are fencing and monitoring them effectively. 

Other than that, geese are a smart choice for the modern garden. No work required! Ok…some work. But it should at least pay off!

Next up – solar farm-weeding sheep!

Do you use geese for weeding? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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