Building Goose Nests Silver Prairie Style!
Updated: Jan 30
The key to successful nesting behavior in waterfowl is enticing them to nest in a place where they feel safe and secure from predation. The best way to do that is to do most of the work for them in a way that naturally mimics the nests they would make themselves, and is not only easily maintainable, but accessible as well.
For this article we are going to rely on pictures quite a bit. Silver Prairie Stock & Poultry Farm recently added our nests to the Toulouse Geese enclosure. It was an excellent opportunity to take pictures of the steps we took along the way. It's a much simpler way to explain what really amounts to an even more simple design. What you are looking for is something that is slightly raised and capable of retaining the eggs that they will eventually contain, but not too high that goslings have a difficult time gaining entry once they are born. Goslings are clumsy little darlings when they first arrive and can easily escape the nest. It is important that it is not difficult for them to regain entry should this occur. Unlike wild geese, most captive held breeds do not benefit from nests that are raised excessively in the same way. The key is to make it as easy as possible to ensure the maximum benefit.
Silver Prairie Stock & Poultry Farm purchased a few enclosures from a waterfowl breeder years ago that they referred to as "lego boxes". The designation stuck and continues to this day. The large 8' square boxes are built to be capable of being disassembled and are fully insulated. They could do with a good coat of white wash at this point, which is on the "to-do list", and we are going to rebuild the roof of each of them with tin at an increased angle to aid in winter snow removal. TheY are only 4' high, which does make cleaning them out a bit difficult but the larger access door helps a bit in that regard. We have been working diligently to convince our geese to lay in nests inside their enclosure this year, rather than wherever they choose throughout the yard as in the past. Over the course of the last year we have been getting the geese accustomed to living in one designated to them and they are quite habituated at this point. The challenge we faced was building a nest that they were interested in using. Luckily we already have a sure fire system to implement that will assist in doing that very thing.
First off, we always keep our castoff tires for projects rather than send them to the recycler. A standard sized car tire is sufficient. You don't need it to be overtly large like a big truck tire or anything of that sort.
Silver Prairie Stock & Poultry Farm currently have four Toulouse geese that should set this year so we are using a full set of car tires for this particular installation. We prefer to allow our geese to do the job of hatching and rearing their offspring instead of collecting their eggs and incubating them ourselves. We also have a couple of ganders as well but they don't require nests like the geese do. Clean the tires out of any sorts of debris, and be sure to quickly wipe up any moisture that may be inside. You want them to be dry so the straw won't wick the moisture into the nest when you are finished.
Pack the tires with straw, pushing as much of the material as possible into the cavity in the tire. There is no such thing as too much in this regard. This will be the walls of the nest itself and will help keep the eggs from being pushed into the tire once the nest is full. They should look like donuts with the sprinkles inside the hole when you are finished.
Line the floor of the enclosure with 8"-10" of straw in the area that you choose to position your nest. This is an incredibly important step. This is the bottom of the nest and must offer both protection from breaking as well as a solid base to hold the tire aloft.
Use straw to shim the straw-filled tires to make them as level as possible without getting too carried away. The important thing is simply that they aren't at an incredibly uneven angle.
Fill the tires till over brimming with straw. Don't be shy, this is the body of the nest. You want enough to just overfill the tire and slightly cover the sides but not mounded in a heap.
Taking your hand in the center of the tire, push down towards the floor of the enclosure to create a bowl-shaped divot in the nest. Be sure to push down as close to the bottom of the tire as possible, working your way toward the outside to fill the area within the tire with straw.
Cover the nest with more straw. This is the top dressing for the nest so you only need enough to fill the divot you have created and more of the sides of the tire that may have become exposed when you pushed the straw into the middle. You don't need to make it perfect. Chances are the geese won't have any trouble making it the way they find most comfortable, ruining any extra time fussing with it on your part anyway.
That's it. Now you just have to wait and see. To encourage them to use them further, we tend to keep them locked up late in the morning and split the first eggs up amongst the nests. Geese prefer to lay in a nest that already contains eggs. If you leave the eggs in only one nest, you might find your hens in a row over who gets to set them.
Some people add dividers or A-frame tops to these nests to give the geese an added level of seclusion. Silver Prairie Stock & Poultry Farm have had our geese set on nests next to each other so close that it seemed like they were on a single nest, but if you find that you are having difficulty getting them to use them. it's something you might try. We may even ad a divider between them yet ourselves but it would need to be something that, like the nests, are removable. Once the goslings have left the nests we like to remove them from the enclosure altogether to make additional floor space for the growing goslings. In the winter months when the geese tend to stick closer to home, it's of benefit not to have the nests, or dividers, taking up the extra area as well. Should we ad dividers in the future we will be sure to update this article with the details.
Hopefully we've given you some good ideas that you can use in your program. These nests are also equally suited to ducks too, although ducks do tend to do better with a more solitary environment, so dividers, boxes, or A-frames become more necessary. We will be using this same nest design in our Royal Palm turkey enclosure this year as well. If they work as good for them as they do for our geese and ducks, this simple design will prove to be a true winner!
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