Geese tend to be herbivores out in the wild, living primarily on a diet of plant matter. This includes grass, their staple food, along with leaves, shoots, seeds and other things.
It makes you wonder just what all plants are safe for geese to eat, or what parts of these plants. Now that I think of it, cocoa grows on trees.
Cocoa is of course used to make chocolate, so can geese eat chocolate since it is plant-based?
No, geese must never eat chocolate or cocoa. Both contain dangerous amounts of theobromine, a compound that is highly toxic to birds including geese. Eating chocolate can cause loss of motor control, tremors and cardiac arrest in geese.
Wow, scary stuff. I guess you won’t be sharing any of the sweet stuff with your geese, not if you care about them anyway.
It seems strange to consider that human beings can eat something all day long that is so toxic to geese and other animals, but that’s just the way it is.
You should never give your geese any chocolate, ever, period. I’ll tell you more about why in the rest of this article…
Warning: Chocolate is Dangerous for Geese
The bottom line is that geese should never, ever eat chocolate or any other product containing cocoa.
This is because cocoa contains theobromine, a compound that the plant relies on to protect itself from predators that might eat it, including birds and mammals.
This isn’t some chemical additive used in the factory production of chocolate: To be totally clear, this compound is something that exists in the cocoa plant itself, and persists when the cocoa is turned into chocolate and other products.
That means there is no safe type of chocolate or cocoa product for geese.
Depending on the type of chocolate, and the concentration of the harmful compounds therein, even a few small bites of chocolate could be enough to send a goose into seizures, or even kill it. How can this be?
Another thing to know is that the concentration of theobromine varies significantly depending on the type, or quality of cocoa.
Your lighter varieties of cocoa and chocolate typically contain proportionally less theobromine, whereas the darker varieties contain much more, and that extra dark cocoa is absolutely packed with the stuff, lethally so.
A goose that eats a little bit of common milk chocolate might just become sick. A goose that gets a few bites of super dark chocolate might be dead before you can intervene!
Symptoms of Theobromine Poisoning in Geese
The symptoms of theobromine poisoning increase in severity in direct proportion to the dosage.
Small but still significant doses will result in a serious digestive upset, typically manifesting as bad diarrhea and loss of appetite.
More severe doses will escalate from there, from quivering and full body tremors to full-blown seizures and loss of motor control, meaning affected geese won’t even be able to stand.
At this stage, an elevated or erratic heartbeat is guaranteed and this will eventually terminate in a deadly heart attack, killing the poor goose.
And, if all that isn’t bad enough, many chocolate products also contain naturally occurring or added amounts of caffeine, and caffeine itself is similarly toxic to geese.
The theobromine is bad enough by itself, believe me, but the added stress of caffeine in the affected bird’s system is only going to make things worse.
Does Chocolate Have Any Health Benefits for Geese?
No. Absolutely not. Even if it did have some fringe benefits, there is no dose of cocoa or chocolate that is small enough to realize the benefit without risking a goose’s health.
Don’t give your geese chocolate or cocoa for any reason.
Can Geese Eat Milk Chocolate?
No. Milk chocolate, though it typically contains far smaller quantities of theobromine compared to dark chocolate, is still dangerous to geese and also contains tons of sugar and dairy- two more things that geese just do not need.
Can Geese Eat Dark Chocolate?
Absolutely not, never! Dark chocolate is the very worst thing you can feed your geese, because as mentioned it contains very high amounts of theobromine in direct proportion with how dark the chocolate is.
Some of the more common types of extra dark chocolate contain enough theobromine to cripple a goose or kill it outright if it were to eat a few bites.
Is Any Chocolate Safe for Geese?
No. Any chocolate that contains cocoa contains theobromine, and that means it is dangerous for geese.
Chocolate products that have no cocoa, while arguably they aren’t really chocolate at all, might otherwise be safe or at least less dangerous, but then they typically have tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners which are similarly bad for geese.
Just forget about it: never, ever try to give your geese any product labeled or having chocolate.
Can Goslings Eat Chocolate Safely?
No way! The only thing worse than giving chocolate to a goose is giving it to a gosling. Goslings are extremely vulnerable to theobromine poisoning.
This is because they are young, small and still developing, and also because they have nowhere near the overall body mass of an adult.
Giving chocolate to a gosling is probably going to make it deathly sick if it doesn’t kill it outright, and giving dark chocolate to a gosling is virtually a death sentence.
One thing to keep in mind is that you might need to watch children who are allowed to have sweet treats if they are going near the geese.
Many children instinctively want to share their food with animals, especially friendly animals, and it will be a tragedy if this misguided intention wound up killing one of our feathered friends.
Is Any Amount of Chocolate Okay for Geese?
No. And it’s not worth playing the game of figuring out how much and what kind of chocolate is okay to give to geese on what schedule where it won’t hurt them.
If you’re that crazed with the idea that you just have to share your favorite food with your geese, even though they should never have it, I don’t know what to tell you.
Chocolate is dangerous for geese, end of story. You shouldn’t give it to them- ever!
Chocolate Products Also Contain Tons of Sugar Which is Bad for Geese
I mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating here. Many kinds of chocolate, and many products made with chocolate, are bad enough for geese as they are, but they’re made even worse by the presence of other ingredients that geese should not eat.
Sugar, as you might imagine, is the chief offender, but there could also be other kinds of candy in there, various sweet fillings and certainly milk products which are in no way okay for your birds to eat.
What Should You Do if Your Geese Eat Some Chocolate?
If, for whatever reason, you have reason to believe that your geese ingested chocolate, you need to take action quickly…
If you’re in any doubt and you have the means, take the geese to the vet right away or summon the vet to your property.
Preventative care is possible, but you must act fast to head off the effects of a large dose of theobromine.
Now, if you think your geese got a little piece of candy, something like an M&M maybe, you probably don’t have too much cause to worry.
But definitely do keep an eye on the goose or geese that you suspect are affected.
You start to notice them acting differently, feeling bad, looking depressed, or if you see any of the other symptoms discussed above, a trip to the vet might be warranted.
In cases of the smaller doses, though, assuming the symptoms are mild adult geese are likely to make a full recovery on their own.
Consider keeping them separated, provide plenty of fresh water, and reduce other stressors until they recover.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.