Our neighbors have just got bought a pair of geese that get pretty noisy when you walk past their yard. We didn’t know why they got them until we found out they’d recently been burgled. So do geese make good guard animals?
Geese have been used as guard animals for thousands of years since ancient Rome, and make even better security guards than dogs as they can see in the dark and have a loud honk. Honking geese make good early warning sirens to prevent burglaries and stop predators from taking chickens and ducks.
Let’s consider the topic of ‘guard geese’ in more detail, and discover the best breeds to protect your home and other poultry…
Are Geese Good For Security? (Why Are Geese So Protective?)
Geese have been guarding stuff for over 3,000 years. The “farmer’s alarm” can be truly alarming, aggressively chasing intruders while hissing, honking, snapping their bills, and flapping their large wings.
In fact, some folks think geese do a better job of guarding than either humans or dogs. How? Geese can see in the dark. Not super well, but much, much better than humans. Birds can see ultraviolet light (aka UV light or “beyond violet”).
Most animals can see UV light. Human eyes can only see light wavelengths between 380 and 700 nanometers. UV light begins at 700 nanometers. Human eyes have yellowish lenses that block out ultraviolet rays, while animal eye lenses are clear.
Naturalists think that animals have the ability to see UV rays because they need to find prey – or avoid becoming prey – in the night.
Geese also have a well-developed voice. They garrulously talk to each other and sometimes their humans. When they are alarmed, their honks are loud and shrill.
Interestingly, because geese have rather poor hearing and not the sharpest night vision, it makes them famously jumpy.
The first account of guard geese goes back to ancient Rome. According to Plutarch, the goddess Juno had a flock of sacred geese that guarded her temple in Rome. In 390 BC, the Gauls had laid siege to Rome. One night, they decided to stealthily breach the walls via a steep cliff.
While the Romans and their dogs slept on, the sacred geese sounded the alarm and woke the Roman guards. The Gauls were turned back. According to Plutarch, the geese were honored and the dogs shamed thereafter in a yearly festival called “the punishment of the dogs”.
In Scotland, home of the sublime Ballantine’s whiskey, geese were used to guard the warehouses from 1959 to 2012, when CCTV replaced the geese. The flock of geese was dubbed the “Scotch Watch”.
During the Vietnam War, pens of geese were set up around barracks to guard sleeping US troops.
In China, geese have been used to guard police stations. In a 2013 interview, a Chinese police chief said that dogs had previously done the guarding but were being poisoned. While poisoning a single dog is pretty easy, an entire flock of geese is much more difficult.
Check out this fascinating video about my namesake Larry – on the pros and cons of guard geese…
Which Geese Make the Best Guard Dogs?
The ancestors of today’s Tufted Romans famously guarded Juno’s temple and alerted the Romans to those stealthy Gauls.
These geese are short and plump, weighing up to 12 pounds. Plumage is bright white and the eyes are bright blue. The neck is stout and only slightly arched.
The most distinguishing feature of both male and female Tufted Romans is the tuft. Tufted Romans have a cylindrical crown of feathers that start at the back of the eyes and ends at the back of the head.
Owners of Tufted Roman geese say that they are a friendly breed.
Descended from the wild swan in China, the Brown Chinese goose resembles a swan except for the pronounced knob on their head, particularly the males. Males are the largest, weighing up to 12 pounds.
Chinese Browns are known to “talk” to their owners. They can become quite aggressive if not handled regularly. Chinese Browns are light brown and white, with dark brown bills and knobs.
Brown Chinese geese are particularly beautiful while swimming, a relic from their wild swan origin. Experts say they are the best layers of all goose breeds. Also known as “weeder geese” these geese are excellent foragers.
Even George Washington had a pair of Chinese geese.
Embden (aka Emden or Bremen) geese were imported from northern Germany to the US in the early 1800’s. Embden geese are a popular breed thanks to their large size (around 20 pounds) and abundance of pure white feathers.
Embdens have clear blue eyes, reddish-orange bills, short tails, and graceful necks. Embdens can fly on their strong wings. They are not good layers.
Due to their large size, compact bodies, and pure white feathers, the Embden goose is the most commonly grown for commercial purposes.
The African goose, like the Embden, is massive, weighing in at around 22 pounds. Like the Chinese goose, a distant relative, it has a large knob on its forehead. It also has a distinctive dewlap and jaunty, upturned tail.
The African has three color varieties: grey, brown, or white. Beautifully feathered in browns, greys, buffs, and whites, the colored African has a striking black bill. White Africans have orange bills.
The African goose is also known for its weeding capabilities.
Saddleback Pomeranian geese have white bodies with brown heads and brown or buff patches on their bodies, distinctively on their back, like a saddle. They have pinkish-red bills and blue eyes.
Native to Germany, the Pomeranian (Pomerania is now part of Poland) geese weigh up to 15 pounds. Because these geese have stout necks, rounded bodies, and large chests, they can be described as having an “arrogant” posture.
Amongst all the chatty, noisy geese, Pomeranians are some of the noisiest. Pomeranians seem to be particularly good at reading nervous human body language – so house visitors and delivery people beware!
Are Male or Female Guard Geese Best?
A pair of geese is best because the male goose will be more alert with a female to guard. Experts say to keep one pair of geese for each of your flocks.
More than one pair of geese kept together, may bond to each other and not the chickens. There are accounts of a flock of geese so bonded that they wandered off together – leaving their charges behind. Some flocks have even turned on the chickens.
If you are considering getting a couple of guard geese, be aware that geese can live up to 25 years. Here’s another honest article about the pros and cons of having guard geese.
Are Geese Good at Guarding Chickens?
Yup. It’s a great idea. Most poultry get along, but consider getting a pair of geese at the same time as your chicks and let them grow up together for a tighter bond.
Chickens and their eggs are at risk from a lot of predators: weasels, skunks, snakes, rats, foxes, house cats, big cats, minks, raccoons, stray dogs, possums, and even bears.
But many chickens benefit from free-ranging or were actually bred for it. While dogs can also protect free-range chickens, geese are naturals – no training needed.
An addition of a pair of geese will allow your chickens to range safely. Chickens learn to heed the goose alarm bell and run for cover.
Geese also make excellent guards against predators from the sky, like hawks. Their eyes can spot a hawk flying overhead long before the human eye can.
Goose experts even say that the peace-loving goose will break up the occasional hen fight.
Here’s a good article about attack geese.
Will Geese Protect Chickens From Coyotes? (Can a Goose Fight Off a Fox, Snake or Raccoon?)
Geese will sound the alarm but probably not attack, especially with a snake around.
And the best bet if your chickens are at risk from foxes, raccoons or coyotes (or all three), are aggressive and loud geese and – good fences.
Consider locating your chicken and goose coup where you can hear the ruckus from the geese because they will send up the alarm. It’s important you react to this as although they’re aggressive a goose cannot fight off a coyote, fox or raccoon – or even a snake for that matter.
Their honking may scare them off though before you’ve even had a chance to get there.
But just remember that geese need protecting, too.
Geese don’t roost like chickens do, so they need a safe, enclosed space to sleep safely.
So they’re well rested to raise the alarm! 🙂