After violent outside agitators nearly decimated her farm, Emma, 24, decided to put an end to the foul play. Foxes were sneaking onto her property with ease and helping themselves to helpless chickens. Emma lost 10 birds over the span of two weeks. Still, she wanted to bring a peaceful end to the violence.
“Our property isn’t huge and we’re here all the time, so rather than needing something to attack the foxes that were eating our birds, we wanted something that alerted us to them,” she says. “Turns out, geese are perfect for that.”
In the two years since Emma has employed geese to guard her property, she hasn’t lost a single bird. This wouldn’t be a surprise to most people living on farms, however. Geese have incredibly strong eyesight and hearing, and when you consider how insanely territorial they are, it’s no wonder they’re often used in lieu of high-tech security systems. Historically, they’re credited with saving Rome from being sacked by the Gauls, but more recently, they’ve been dispatched to guard American military bases and Chinese police stations.
Emma’s first two geese, Oscar and Olive, lived up to their ancestral pedigree so well that she decided to hatch one of their eggs and bring a third goose, Pumpkin, onto the force. “Oscar and Olive are angels when it comes to people and are great at defending against predators,” she says. “Pumpkin, however, is a little crazy. [As a baby], he spent most of the day with me in the house, where we had him in diapers. At night and when I had to look after the other birds, I built him a pen that had a few baby toys in it to give him something to interact with. It seems it was there that he developed a love — although now it’s more of an obsession — with children’s toys.”
Had he bonded with Emma instead, she believes he’d be a bit more protective of her. But he didn’t, and as a result, Pumpkin is more interested in fervently protecting his toys more than anything else. “His love for toys has worked well for us in that regard, because we have a lot of things like kids cars, scooters and mini tractors strategically placed around the yard so he’s defending them at all times,” Emma explains. “In the meantime, Olive and Oscar stick to the backyard, protecting the smaller birds in the flock from predators.”
Pumpkin has therefore taken over as Emma’s “main guard,” where he patrols the house and front yard. “You’ll regularly find him sitting in one of the cars or trying to ride a scooter,” Emma says.
However, Pumpkin’s overzealous dedication to protect and serve has led to a few “incidents.” “A family member had been out walking and decided to pop in for a visit, but they came onto the property over the fence,” Emma says. After hearing Pumpkin let out his “panic honk,” Emma found her guard goose holding onto her family member’s trouser leg, “repeatedly ramming into her.”
“He knows I’m the one who feeds him and that I’m the ‘head of the flock,’” she adds. “But my sister comes into the yard and is already scared to death of him, which I think he knows, so he chases her into the house.”
For her part, Amy, a 28-year-old in Texas, laments losing the guard geese she had for four years, both of whom “were lost in the line of duty.” “I try not to name the working animals. I don’t eat them, but stuff does happen and I’m a huge softie,” she tells me. “This is grim, but guard geese’s last job is to get in between predators and the other smaller birds — and sadly, that’s what happened to this pair.” Amy isn’t sure exactly what attacked them, “but it was big, maybe a mountain lion,” she says. “The goose and gander died protecting the rest of the flock, and for that, I can only thank them.”
Before they suffered a hero’s fate, Amy chose her goose and gander pair to be guardians because of how easy they were to train. That said, most of the guard goose’s job comes down to “being big enough to deter something coming by in the first place,” Amy explains, meaning they hardly need any training at all. “They should only be doing goose stuff — honking, hanging out in bird areas, being big,” she says. “Predators see a 20-pound bird waddling around, and they think, ‘Hmm, I’ll find an easier dinner somewhere else.’”
“Their secondary purpose is to be a klaxon with judgement,” Amy continues. “The geese got to know what was ordinary and what wasn’t, so when anything weird came snooping around, they’d yell loud enough to get a human to come out and check on them.”
“Plus,” she admits, “how fun is it to say ‘guard goose’ all the time?”
Part of the reason guard geese don’t simply fly away is because they’re just that territorial, but it also has to do with how they’re bred. “They’re a domestic breed that’s too fat to fly. Domestic ducks are the same way. A wild bird will fly, but a domestic bird is too chonky,” Amy says. “Also there’s food, so why leave?”
Ultimately, she believes, guard geese deserve all the accolades that a good watchdog gets. “Geese might not be a solution for everyone, but if you’ve got a personal flock and neighbors that are either really cool or far away, you should try getting a pair,” Amy concludes. “They’re huge, they’re loud and they can be bribed with kitchen scraps — just don’t let them into the town square.”