Guard Geese

We raised some Brown Chinese geese this year because we heard that they can be effective guards for other birds.  I’m not sure that was a great idea.

Last year we had some predation losses among our young turkeys due to a persistent owl.  Eventually the turkeys outgrew the owl, but for a few weeks the owl would kill one turkey any night I didn’t sit out there.  Needless to say, it was a terrible experience for the turkeys and for me, but I suppose a great year for the owl.

The problem is that we also added a trained Maremma livestock guardian dog to the farm this year.  And this leads to guardian conflicts, where the geese and the dog both try to do their guard activities to the detriment of the other.  The geese repel predators by being endlessly meddling and loud.  The dog prefers to be orderly and to reserve her aggression for real threats.  Hence the geese manage to protect the turkeys while also pestering them, which causes the dog to chase them away.  And since geese never take a hint, they just circle right back moments later causing the dog to perpetually chase the geese.

Here comes the goose patrol.

Despite the chaos caused by the combination of geese and dog, we have only lost one turkey to predators this year (and that was the night that neither the dog nor the geese were stationed out by the turkeys).  So they are doing their job.  But I think next year I’ll just stick with the dog unless I can figure out a way to assign the geese in some other guard duty on another part of the farm.

Goose up close.

2 Comments on “Guard Geese

  1. Please do not forget that the geese are keeping hawks away!

    • That’s possible. Although this year we just have the dog with the turkeys, and there hasn’t been any aerial predation either, so I don’t have evidence that the geese contributed anything that the dog couldn’t have done on her own. The sample size is N=1 so my observations are obviously limited. If I had different flocks of turkeys all over the farm I could test these ideas rigorously.

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