The main egg-laying period for geese is in the spring, commencing about August or September. Chinese breeds can start laying in winter. Encourage early seasonal egg production, so goslings are of marketable age and weight in time for the Christmas market.
Early onset of egg production can be encouraged by the following:
To reduce the incidence of egg breakages, provide nest boxes (shown at right) and encourage their use for laying. Line them with suitable nesting material, such as shavings or straw, and allow one 50 cm × 50 cm nest box for every three geese in the flock. It is best to have nest boxes in the shed and throughout the yard if large yards are used.
Natural incubation produces the best percentage of goslings hatched. Using geese to hatch out their own goslings is expensive and wasteful, since geese are not laying while they are sitting on the eggs. Turkeys, hens and Muscovy ducks may be used satisfactorily to hatch out goslings — best results will be obtained from Muscovy ducks (which are really geese). Goose eggs can be hatched artificially, but results are better if Muscovies are used.
Depending on the size of the bird, 4–6 eggs may be placed under a broody hen whilst a Muscovy duck may sit on 6–8 eggs. Since the eggs are too large for most hens to turn by themselves, turn the eggs by hand daily when the hens leave the nest to eat and drink. After 15 days, eggs should be sprinkled with lukewarm water each time they are turned.
Candling, that is, passing eggs under a bright electric light to view the contents, can be carried out on the 10th day and all infertile eggs removed.
Where a goose is to be used for hatching out the eggs, 10–15 eggs may be placed under her (the number of eggs depends on the size of the eggs and the size of the goose). If geese have access to swimming facilities, the eggs need not be sprinkled with water.
Unless machines are properly managed, goose eggs do not hatch very well in artificial incubators. Hatches often are no better than 40% of the eggs set, even though fertility is about 90%. This is because of poor management and because incubators available in Australia are not manufactured specifically for geese.
With forced-draught machines, maintain a constant temperature of 37.5°C throughout the incubation period. The desired humidity will be obtained if the wet bulb thermometer is kept at a reading of 32.2°C to the 29th day. Then increase it to 34°C for the rest of the incubation time, using moisture trays and adjusting the ventilation.
Incubators with a slow air movement over the eggs will hatch goose eggs better than those with a fast air movement. Slow air movement ensures complete distribution of air over all parts of the egg to maintain uniform and equal evaporation.
Experiments in France, using 2000 eggs in eighteen incubators, have substantiated the need to place eggs horizontally (see Table 1).
|Eggs set on pointed end||Eggs set horizontally|
|Turnover angle||Turnover angle|
|All eggs set||49.0%||66.6%||69.2%||69.8%||69.2%|
* Artigueres Research Centre, France
In the incubator:
In the hatcher:
Thoroughly clean and sanitise all incubator trays and incubators when not in use. Fumigate incubators with formaldehyde gas which is produced by combining formalin with potassium permanganate (Condy’s crystals). Note: A respiration mask fitted with a suitable gas cartridge filter should be used in the presence of formaldehyde.
To fumigate the incubator:
The sex of day-old goslings can be identified in a similar manner to that used for chickens, by examining the vent. Sexing of day-olds is best left to a qualified chicken sexer, as an inexperienced person may damage the sexual organs.
With experience, day-old goslings can be identified by holding the legs firmly between the first and second fingers of the left hand, with the neck between the third and fourth fingers and the breast away from you. Then press gently with the left thumb on the abdomen while at the same time pressing down on the tail with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. Do this quickly to remove the contents of the bowel, making examination easier.
The vent is then everted by pressing gently down on the abdomen with the thumb of the left hand near the vent. Simultaneously place the first finger and thumb of the right hand close together on the opposite side of the vent and slowly separate with a gentle but firm pressing motion, stretching and everting the cloaca to expose the penis if the gosling is male.
Mature birds (that is, birds over the age of 7 months) can be identified by physical examination. The identification is made easier if two people are available. One method of exposing the penis is by pushing back the tail towards the head with one hand and exerting a steady downward pressure on the abdomen with the other.
The vent will then be everted and the organ exposed. The penis, spiral shaped and white, is just over 1 cm long in immature birds but up to 4 cm long in mature ganders. The colour of the area inside the gander’s vent is pink and the surface is smooth.
The illustrations of the exposed reproductive organs of an immature male, a mature male and a maturing female will assist in sex identification:
It is difficult to distinguish the sex of growing goslings and mature birds other than by examining for the presence of the male’s penis. The characteristics listed in Table 2 may also help you to distinguish sexes:
Mark birds according to their sex using leg bands, web punching, or wing bands.