Pilgrim Geese – Breed Profile and Facts
If you’re interested in a domestic bird that’s fun to keep and easy to maintain, you should consider getting pilgrim geese. These birds are not only a great source of eggs and meat but can also provide you with companionship and lots of entertainment.
That said, pilgrim geese aren’t ideal for everyone. So, if you’re thinking of rearing these birds, it’s important to be aware of their characteristics and care requirements. In this complete guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about pilgrim geese including their history, physical traits and temperament, and how to care for them.
History of Pilgrim Geese
The pilgrim goose is a domestic breed of geese predominantly found in the United Kingdom. While the exact origin of this breed is not known, several theories have been put forward to attempt to explain how these birds were developed.
Many believe that pilgrim geese originated in England and were exported to the US and other parts of the world during the early 20th century. However, others attribute the development of this breed to Oscar Grow, a renowned American waterfowl breeder, during the 1930s.
Whichever the case, pilgrim geese rapidly grew in popularity during the 1930s and the breed was admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1939.
Pilgrim Geese Characteristics
Here is an overview of the physical traits and temperaments of pilgrim geese:
– Size and Weight
The pilgrim goose is a medium-sized breed with a full and plump body. Male pilgrim geese, also known as ganders, generally weigh more on average compared to females. The average weight of a male pilgrim goose is between 14 – 18 lb whereas the average weight of a female is 12 – 16 lb.
– Physical Appearance
Like most breeds, Pilgrim geese have a thin head with a flattened crown. However, unlike other breeds, Pilgrim geese are sexually dimorphic, which means males and females can be distinguished by their physical appearance.
Males typically have creamy-white plumage although some individuals may also have grey markings on their wings and rump. On the other hand, female Pilgrim geese have predominantly white plumage with varying amounts of white on their faces.
Another key difference between male and female Pilgrim geese is eye color. Ganders typically have blue eyes, while geese have dark brown eyes.
The average lifespan of a Pilgrim goose is 20 – 22 years although some geese can live for up to 25 years or more. In general, domesticated Pilgrim geese tend to live longer compared to wild ones, perhaps due to the better quality of care they receive.
Likewise, Pilgrim geese with lean bodies typically live longer compared to fatter and heavier ones. This is because overweight geese are more likely to suffer from cardiac problems, arthritis and other health issues.
Pilgrim geese are naturally docile and easy to domesticate which makes them ideal for beginners and experienced pet owners and breeders alike. Likewise, Pilgrim geese are excellent parents that take good care of their offspring.
With that being said, males tend to be overprotective of their nests and can become aggressive if they perceive any encroachment by humans or other animals. However, they will relax and maintain their naturally calm disposition once you leave them alone.
– Egg Production
Like other breeds, Pilgrim geese lay eggs that are significantly larger compared to chicken eggs. On average, their eggs weigh about 6 – 7 ounces. They also contain more yolk, which makes them rich in protein and fat. However, most people typically maintain the eggs for breeding purposes rather than consumption.
A female Pilgrim goose can lay between 35 – 45 eggs in a year, provided the eggs are removed from the nest as soon as they are laid. However, when allowed to hatch her own eggs, a Pilgrim goose will lay and set an average of 8 – 12 eggs per hatch.
– Meat Production
Pilgrim geese are mainly kept for meat in the US due to their rapid growth rate. In fact, newly hatched goslings can gain several pounds in two weeks. Compared to other breeds, Pilgrim geese produce less greasy meat with a good flavor.
Pilgrim Geese Care Guide
As highlighted at the outset, Pilgrim geese are relatively easy to maintain compared to other domestic fowls. They are not only very self-sufficient birds but they’re also very nurturing towards their young.
Even so, Pilgrim geese have different care requirements compared to other domestic birds. So, if you’re looking to keep them as pets or for breeding purposes, it’s important to ensure you’re rearing them in the right conditions.
While Pilgrim geese do not require expensive accommodation, it’s important to ensure that their habitat is spacious and secure.
If you have an old shed in your garden or yard, you can use it to house your Pilgrim geese. Consider replacing the windows with wire mesh to promote better ventilation inside the habitat.
A typical garden shed with dimensions of 6ft by 4ft is enough to fit a pair of medium-sized or large Pilgrim geese and still has room left to accommodate any goslings they may eventually have. However, if you intend to keep more than two mature geese, you’ll need a much larger shed, say 8ft by 6ft.
Since Pilgrim geese are preyed on by various animals including badgers and foxes, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure that the habitat you’re housing them in is secure. One way to ensure the safety of your flock is to fence the habitat with a wire mesh fence.
– Feeding and Nutrition
Pilgrim geese are natural foragers that spend most of their time grazing on pastures, yards, and gardens. They mainly feed on grass, orchids, and other plants so if you have a reasonable-sized lawn on your property, you’ll only need to supplement this diet with commercial pellets.
Pilgrim geese also feed on weeds, which makes them a biological solution when it comes to weed control. Other foods that this breed of geese feed on include seeds, small fish, crabs and snails.
That said, there are various foods you should avoid feeding your Pilgrim geese as they are indigestible or toxic. These include:
- Raw nuts
- Dried or raw beans
- Fruits including apples, peaches, pears, cherry, plums, apricots, avocado
In addition to providing the right diet, you should also ensure your geese have a clean source of water to drink and bathe in.
– Health Problems
Like most breeds, Pilgrim geese are very resilient and don’t fall sick often. Furthermore, when they do fall sick, they tend to hide signs of illness until it progresses to a severe level. For this reason, early signs of illness in these geese tend to go unnoticed, particularly with inexperienced breeders and pet owners.
With that being said, there are various health problems that are common in Pilgrim geese. These include:
Coccidiosis is a gastrointestinal infection that is caused by protozoa parasites known as Coccidia. The parasite generally attacks the intestinal epithelial lining and the underlying tissue of the mucosa. While there are numerous strains of coccidia disease that affect different poultry, the type that’s most common in geese is caused by Eimeria truncata.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of Coccidiosis infection in geese include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Ruffled feathers
- Lethargy and weakness
- Skin lesions
It’s worth bearing in mind that Coccidiosis is a highly contagious infection. So, if one or more of your geese is being treated for the illness, you’ll need to isolate them from the rest of your flock to prevent transmission.
Botulism is a toxic disorder caused by ingestion of the exotoxin produced by the bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum. Some of the factors that can contribute to botulism outbreaks in Pilgrim geese and other waterfowl include low or fluctuating water levels in their environment and exposure to or ingestion of infected carcasses and rotting vegetable material.
Common symptoms of botulism in geese include:
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination
- Drooping wings
Treatment for botulism typically involves the administration of botulism antitoxin injections.
Fowl cholera is a highly contagious disease that is caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacteria. While this illness is generally less common in geese compared to other poultry, birds with existing respiratory problems are typically more susceptible to contracting it.
Symptoms of fowl cholera in Pilgrim geese include:
- Ruffled feathers
- Oral and/or ocular discharge
- Swollen joints
Since fowl cholera is caused by bacteria, treatment for it usually entails the use of antibiotics. The mortality for fowl cholera is not high and most affected birds usually make a successful recovery within a few days of beginning treatment.
That said, it is recommended to take the necessary precautions to prevent the illness from developing in the first place. Some of the things you can do to protect your geese from developing the illness include maintaining good hygiene in their habitat and having a rodent control program.
Aspergillosis is a fungal illness caused by Aspergillus fumigata which lives in the soil. Pilgrim geese are highly susceptible to the illness since they tend to forage and graze a lot and are therefore more likely to be exposed to fungal spores. The illness mainly affects the respiratory tract and is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Labored breathing
- Tail bobbing
- Lethargy and weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
Treatment for aspergillosis usually involves the administration of antifungal drugs such as itraconazole. If your geese are receiving treatment for the illness, you should also take proactive steps to reduce their exposure to harmful fungal spores.
Make sure the housing your fowls are living in is clean and dry to prevent the growth of fungi. You should also replace any moist bedding materials and improve ventilation within your fowls’ enclosure.
How Much Do Pilgrim Geese Cost?
The average price of a mature Pilgrim goose is between $40 – $90 whereas prices for goslings start at about $7 and go all the way to $30. Female geese are generally more expensive compared to ganders, perhaps owing to the high demand for this rare breed of fowl.
Are Pilgrim Geese Good for Beginners?
Yes. As previously stated, Pilgrim geese have very reasonable care and habitation requirements, which makes them less demanding compared to other waterfowls. They are also naturally docile and less prone to bouts of aggression. As long as you don’t encroach on their nests, you should have no reason to worry about your geese attacking you.
Pilgrim geese are also much quieter compared to other breeds like Chinese geese and African geese. This makes them ideal domestic fowls if you have neighbors.
Are Pilgrim Geese Hardy?
Yes. Pilgrim geese are incredibly resilient birds that can go for long periods of time without falling sick. As long as you provide them with the right habitat, maintain good sanitation in their enclosure and offer them a nutritious diet, your Pilgrim geese can maintain good health for many years.
Even so, it is important to keep a close eye on their health since these birds are very good at hiding signs of illness.
Can Pilgrim Geese Fly?
Yes. Pilgrim geese are capable of flight and will often take off to other locations in search of food in the wild. However, like other heavy birds, they typically only fly short distances. That being said, you need not worry about your geese flying off and getting lost since they adapt well to life in captivity and form bonds with their human caregivers.
Tips On Keeping Pilgrim Geese
If you’re planning on breeding Pilgrim geese whether as pets or for commercial purposes, here are some tips that will help you ensure your fowls thrive under your care:
– Keep them in small flocks
Although Pilgrim geese are naturally social and tend to form flocks, rearing them in pairs or small flocks is recommended as it minimizes aggression between males, particularly during the breeding season.
– Provide a water basin
While Pilgrim geese do not require a large pool of water to be comfortable and happy, they do enjoy swimming and bathing like other waterfowls. As such, it is recommended to provide a tub or small water basin for your birds to play and bathe in whenever they want to. Providing a source of water also allows your geese to flush out sinuses from the nostrils thus allowing them to breathe better.
– Allow them to spend time outdoors
While having the right kind of housing is crucial when rearing Pilgrim geese, spending time outdoors is equally important for these birds. Letting your geese enjoy time outside within the confines of your yard allows them to indulge their instincts for foraging thus keeping boredom and stress at bay.
With so many different goose breeds out there, deciding which type to add to your flock can seem like a daunting exercise. But, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance bird that’s easy to raise and will fit right in with the rest of your flock, then it’s worth considering getting Pilgrim geese.
Not only are they less demanding compared to other waterfowl care but they are also quite personable and friendly which means they will coexist fairly well with other pets you may already have.