Grumpy about Geese

My fields are wet.  It’s winter, we are on heavy clay, so when we’ve had a lot of precipitation it takes a while for things to dry out.  Swales would probably help, but that’s a topic for another day.  When the fields are wet, the rule is to stay off them.  Except that I am force to go for a brisk walk down to the bottom almost daily to send off the wretched Canada Geese (and who decided these things are Canadian anyway?)

I’ve never been crazy about these birds since I worked on a naval base where there was a nesting goose right near the door of the building I worked in (low traffic zone) – and every time I had to enter or leave, the mate that was off the nest would attack.  Those birds are big, I’m telling you.  Fearless military type that I was, I made sure to carry a broom with me going through that door.

Back to my fields – one of my kids suggested that I should be happy to have them because of the poop.  And if that was all they were doing, that would be great.  But they are grazers, these geese, and they eat grass, and their favourite is the greenest tenderest grass.  Where I’ve had the broiler pens, or where I’ve spread composted bedding, they congregate in the “good” spots and their webbed feet and their sheer numbers do pug up the ground.  Their constant grazing of patches of grass in a season when nothing is growing is doing some real damage.

So I shoo them off most days.  It’s kind of a routine between us now. They see me coming through the gate and start honking. but not moving, waiting to see how far I’m going to come. I usually have to get within about 20 feet of the outliers before they’ll take off, and depending on the size of the group, the ones on the other side might decide to hold their position in case I stop there.  I’m onto that.  And I’m onto them flying over the hedge into my other field too.

Today was the first day I remembered to take a camera with me, and the group in the photos is small – about 50 birds.  Most days I’m sending off about 100-150 and one day about a month ago, I counted more than 200.  They don’t very far – Hay Guy’s field usually (sorry, bud).  They live here year round now, probably due to lack of hunting and predation, and the number of corn fields around here.  They are a nuisance in corn season too, and the air guns go off at any hour of the day or night.  Bryce of Saanichton Farm has a right old time with them in his wheat and barley.  Chasing them used to be easier when the dog was still with us, because it gave her great joy to go running at them, and she was far more effective than me with my pitchfork.  But younger daughter might just have hit the best solution yet.  If she gets sent down in my stead, she takes a big frisbee and wings it ahead of her into the group from a good 50 or more feet away.  Works a charm.

23 thoughts on “Grumpy about Geese

  1. Fishing line in a mesh held up with stakes?

    We saw a presentation some years ago about how a guy keeps raptors from eating his birds. He has a post at the center of his chicken house and fishing line coming down from that post to make a web thing from the post to the ground all around the house. He had some way to keep it from tangling when he moved the house too. He said a hawk would only break one wire and never return.

    • Somewhere in my blog there MUST be a picture of a crude proximity to just what you’re describing here. I use string, usually tied together from feed bags, but sometimes a roll or two from the dollar store – and I run it across from fence to fence over the chickens – sometimes using an electric fence post in the wider parts to hold it up. It’s extremely effective against the eagles, hawks and ravens.

      I admit, I have never thought of doing it out on the field against the geese. That’s a lot of line, but fishing line is cheap. It wouldn’t have to be high, it could be on short stakes. I would have to make sure I take it all up before Hay Guy wants to get on for fertilzing (I know, I know), but that’s a good month or so away – the fields are way too wet for him right now. Thanks!

      • I did some more reading and it appears that is often used to keep geese out of golf course ponds. Dunno if it will work to keep them from landing in a field. Might be a tangle. Good luck.

      • I started putting some electric fence posts out this morning. About half done, I’m going with where the goose poop and worst damage is. I’ll put some string on this afternoon when number two kid gets home from school – young legs :). I have yet to sit down and research this properly and will probably have to change my post pattern or something later, but at the very least, I’ll probably disrupt the landing patterns. Sent up a big flock the first time I went down this morning, that felt good.

  2. Any plans to get another dog (or two)? Maybe train them to run the geese off. They’d probably enjoy chasing Frisbees too.
    I’m still chuckling at the image of a military officer armed with a broom fending off enemy geese. 😃

    • The old dog used to love chasing the geese – about the only time I could trust her off leash (my boundaries with my neighbours are not dog proof) – she was so focussed, she never got out of control and burned off a ton of energy in a positive way. She was a great rat catcher too. Yep, we need another dog (or two), but the vote isn’t unanimous for that in the family, so I’m biding my time. I did win on getting a couple more cats (for rodent control) :).

  3. df says:

    This must be your best blog post title yet! Those pests do tremendous damage. I have to say the frisbee method for dispersal sounds like great fun, and the fact that it’s effective is a bonus! I must say, a dog does sound like the best solution. Of course, I know you know that. Good luck with winning over the remaining hearts and minds.

    • Thank you. I acted on HFS’s advice today and put out a number of electric fence posts – not in nice linear fashion as demonstrated in the link he gave me, but kind of random – I basically followed the poop! I don’t have enough posts to do the 12 acres, so I’m just going to do the worst hit areas and hope that it discourages them completely. Actually, I haven’t put any string on the posts yet, and even so, I’ve had no birds since I did that this morning. Cross your fingers. A dog would still be very useful apart from geese….

  4. farmerkhaiti says:

    so sorry to hear about troubles with wild geese, hopefully you will have success with these new methods, and I think you should just get another dog as well.

  5. Locally we have had a problem with Canadian Geese since the quakes – their numbers have boomed and the conservation types are beginning to talk about a cull. Apparently goose (or should that be geese) sausages are very tasty…could that be a solution?

    • I saw plenty of these geese in NZ, not just Christchurch. I gather they were yet another species introduced to NZ early in the 20th C for game hunting. Interesting that you are having more problems with them after the quakes, I wonder why?

      Goose sausage, sounds lovely. Unfortunately, I won’t be finding out just how lovely, not from these geese. Hunting is illegal locally, we’re too densely populated in this area. The geese are hunted elsewhere, but unfortnately, as you probably know, some groups of these geese have adapted to a particular area and live there year round. Such is the case with the local ones. Probably 500 or so acres (200 hectares) of sweet corn is within sight of where I live, and there is increasing production of barley and wheat. Part of our area is a natural wetland. They can’t be hunted – why would they leave goose heaven? The greater regional district has been dithering on this for years – for a while one could take an egg addling course, and be certified as an addler (wouldn’t that look good on a c.v.) , but that’ s about as lethal as it gets here. I am not an addler – couldn’t get on a course, and besides, I’ve always been so assiduous about chasing them off, there are no nests here. And I do have experience with a nesting pair, I’m not sure I want to get in there to addle their eggs anyway. I don’t think egg addling has bee hugely successful. Culling by the conservation officers (or rather under contract from the Conservation dept – we only have a handful of officers for the whole Island) is theoretically possible and something the farmers have been requesting for years, but the districts have really resisted this option because it’s very unpopular with urbanites. I’m totally in favour of it – except – and this is where we get back to the sausage I’ll never have – birds killed under a damage and danger permit cannot be used for food. That’s to prevent the clause being misused for hunting out of season. So if they took out 200 birds here, they’d all go to the dump. This appalls me and makes me keep my tongue between my teeth in discussions about this issue with local farmers (my friend Bryce, with all the barley and wheat). The sheer waste. It seems an abuse of privilege somehow.

      • There’s a multitude of theories as to why their numbers have grown since the quakes. Where we live it’s simply because our neighbouring suburb is now a wetland.
        Now you have me wondering regarding what happens to animals that are culled here in NZ; I know they use the skins from opossums and deer but as for the meat…hmmm. Killing them to dump them is ridiculous. I will make it my mission to suss this out.

  6. Bill says:

    We’ve had a lot more Canadian geese around here lately but nothing like that. Good grief.

    How about a shotgun blast (aimed over their heads). Or would they just quickly get used to that (the way our deer do)?

    Good luck figuring it out and in the meantime may their damage be minimal.

    • No shotgun. The farmers with the cornfields use air guns. We can have guns in Canada, but our laws are pretty restrictive, and they’re really only for collectng or hunting. And even the air guns cause a lot of complaints from neighbours. A friend with a cherry orchard was using one during her season a few years back and the two equestrian properties on either side of her took it to council as a bylaw complaint. Even with the arguably flawed clause about allowable nuisance from farms (smell, noise, machinery) she was fined and banned from using the air gun.

      On the upside, I adapted HFS’s idea of pegs and fishing line out there, and used some of my electric fence posts – I placed them where the poop is, and haven’t had a chance to get out there with string to finish it off, but the posts themselves seem to have had an effect – perhaps they interrupt the landing area or something. Anyway, no geese on the big field in 2 days.

  7. Hmm, the permaculturist in me says the problem is an opportunity. With chicken and grazing paddocks the idea is to use feed and water to keep moving annimals around and avoid compaction. So what can the geese provide? What is missing from your ecosystem that would have kept geese on the move? How might you attract them to places you actually want them? When pushing something doesn’t work try pulling.

    • Hmmm. Good points to ponder. My first response to your comment was – I need a dog to keep them moving. But the concept of pulling instead of pushing and getting them where I could use them, well now. Have to think about that. What would you do?

    • I had an aha moment. Pheasants, grouse, and quail use tall grass for cover. Geese however are adapted for ponds and lakes. They need to see what is around them, hence their periscope necks. In a pond environment compaction around the edge is a good thing and slows errosion. I wonder if NOT mowing in the fall would leave the grass tall enough to make them anxious about hanging out. Even just leaving patches of tall (goose tall) grass in areas you especially don’t want them might work. The added bonuses might be: less compaction even if they do use the area because you have a layer of “padding”, less compaction because of more root mass (keeping in mind root shear that happens with mowing and grazing), less work as opposed to lines and wires, and in the event they do still use the areas better poo dispersal instead of direct contact with the ground. Given that they prefer tender shoots they’d really have to work for it to get to any. Then mow when the rains stop. (July? 😉 )

      • That’s got some possiblities. Each of my fields has a big low spot that fills with water during the winter, and which is probably attracting them. If Hay Guy were to not cut around those areas and just leave the grass high, it might make the area lose it’s appeal. I’ll have to talk about this with him. He has trouble with the geese too on probably about half the acres he cuts (about 600 acres around the district).

  8. OK, for the ultimate in “pull thinking” where would you LIKE the geese to do their thing? Goose manure is 22-11-10 NPK wet…
    …and given that phosphorus is hard to come by my little brain is twisting with possibilities.

    Let’s say you have 4 or more good sized rows where you do your kitchen crops. If you were to seed it with a tender little cover crop as a goose ATTRACTANT you could cover all but the one in play with Reemay and literally do rotational grazing for short periods (to avoid compaction) in a row at a time. Cover the heavily pooped and munched area with a layer of straw then put the cloth back over and let it compost in place. With a cover cloth on the row you may even find that the crop rebounds a bit and lets you put it back into grazing one more time, and add an additional layer of straw. When you are done you have compost and soil that is pretty close to being ready to plant (a little heat and less rain goes a long way to an early start on crops up in our neck of the woods.)

    Your cost is reusable cover cloth, some seed you probably are already buying, and moving one cloth every week or so. Just keep the chooks off the patch for 30 days post goose graze to avoid any avian flu worries.

    • Wow, I’d say a busy brain, not a little brain, lol.

      After your “pull” comment, I was wondering about how to harness the geese instead of repel them. This is certainly one way. I don’t grow veg on this scale. What if I grew grain? A local brewery is trying to get all the barley it can so it can have a mainstream “locally grown” brew….I could sure use the straw for bedding, mulching etc. The geese would love to glean…I just cover the bits of field I don’t want goosed, so to speak, and let ’em rip. I’m going to talk to Bryce about this one. You deserve a nice local brew yourself for this! (you brew your own, don’t you?).

      • Yeah, you could do patches for grain the same way, if it were me I’d just stay away from over-wintering grains so they didn’t get chomped and stomped. With grain crops i would encourage you to think about timing more intently. When do the geese move on? Will you get enough time to plant and get past succulent sprouts? Really track them and take notes to see how they behave.

        We do brew! But mostly hard cider and kombucha at the moment. I’ll raise a glass of our local gin to you tonight. Good luck with your new goose resource to harvest and keep us posted.

      • Good points, which is why I’ll have to sit down and talk to Bryce at Saanichton Farm to see if it would work with grain. Hard cider. We bought some great stuff from Finnriver back in August. Habanero – yum!

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