These breeds are known to be in New Zealand:
Click on the name above for details and photographs
Geese are special. They are very intelligent birds and have many more uses than becoming the Christmas roast goose as they do in many European countries. In Poland and Germany gaggles of domestic geese are often seen grazing around farms. They keep the weeds down where cattle are not welcome to graze and they will announce any visitor – welcome or not.
In spring, a pair of geese will produce up to 15 goslings and as the grass and the weeds grow the goslings eat more and more of it, helping to keep the yard tidy. In autumn, when grass growth slows down, the goslings will have grown into good sized geese to fill the freezer, leaving only the parents to overwinter. In spring the cycle starts again. Geese can live and be productive for over 20 years.
Here in New Zealand domestic geese are quite rare but a few different breeds are available. All domestic geese can fly but they hardly ever do unless their life is in danger. They are strong animals, well able to defend their young against humans and sometimes even dogs. Ganders become very territorial during the breeding season and are a force to be reckoned with. They are not safe to keep around small children who may unknowingly enter the gander's territory.
Geese are not usually kept in an enclosure. There are few predators in New Zealand that are a danger to adult geese, they are waterproof and can stay outside over night, and a large proportion of a goose's diet is grass. The more fresh grass geese are able to consume, the smaller the portion of grains that is needed to keep them well fed. Keeping geese in an enclosure with limited or no grass makes for a very expensive roast that is not nearly as nutritious as a grass fed goose.
Geese have never been selected for being good layers which means that most of them lay a dozen or so eggs and then sit on them. It takes up to 32 days for goose eggs to hatch and up to 37 days for Cape Barren goose eggs. If eggs are taken away as soon as they are laid, the goose will continue to lay for a few weeks but will eventually stop and give up.
Most geese raise their young successfully and not many people bother with artificial incubation of goose eggs. This is largely because goose eggs are too big to fit into most small incubators and hand raising goslings is a messy job as they grow very fast and produce an amount of excrement to match. In general the same rules as for incubating and raising ducklings apply, just on a bigger scale.
Chinese geese are very popular due to their elegance and relatively calm temperament and are available in New Zealand. Sebastopol, Pilgrim and English Grey (or Greylag) geese are domestic geese able to be sourced in New Zealand. Other breeds may surface from time to time but have never reached much popularity in a country where very few people keep geese.
Cape Barren Geese are in a class of their own. They are kept in domestication but are not one of the traditional domestic goose breeds that only fly when their life is in danger.
Canada geese are wild geese who fly to New Zealand from North America to overwinter here. They are often seen grazing in paddocks in the vicinity to wetlands and are considered a pest. Canada geese are not domesticated and there is very little meat on them.Thanks to Marina Steinke for the above the above text and photograph. See also her book Feathered Friends.
The Cape Barren Goose, a threatened species in its native Australia, is kept in limited numbers in New Zealand. The Cape Barren is not strictly speaking a goose – its closest relative is our own Paradise Shelduck – but it is usually classed as such for convenience.
It’s a handsome bird, a strong flier and comes in grey, with soft darker spottings, long pink legs and black feet. Its bill is covered with a fleshy, yellow-green cere. The sexes can be distinguished only by their call – a loud honking by the male, with a deeper grunting by the female.
The China or Chinese breed, as the name implies, originated in China, and is also known as the Knob, the Asiatic, and the Hong Kong. It is not a large breed and is characterised by a pronounced head knob (larger in the male) – actually a rounded protuberance at the base of the bill. The breed has attractive colouring (see photo) and is usually kept for ornamental purposes.
The English Grey has always been the most widespread domestic goose in New Zealand; it was actually first introduced here by Cook in 1773, although there is no record to suggest that those birds survived.
The English Grey goose was once frequently seen grazing in small flocks on New Zealand farms. Some groups still remain, although they are much rarer today. They were kept almost exclusively for eating, particularly at Christmas.
It has become trendy, especially among rare breeders, to refer to Greys kept in a semi-feral state – particularly if they have regained the power of flight – as Greylags (often spelled as two words), but this name should strictly speaking be reserved for the wild species in Europe from which they derive.
The Pilgrim is an old English, dual-purpose breed which has been recorded in Britain since early in the 1600s. There is a colour difference in the sexes – the whites are males, the greys females.
The Sebastopol is an unusual goose which has the Greylag as an ancestor, although it originated in Russia. It has long curled feathers which reach, and often drag upon, the ground. It’s usually kept for purely ornamental purposes although, like most geese, it is also a good table bird.
Sebastopols have become popular among Rare Breed enthusiasts in recent years.